Gallery of Fine Art Photography - Atlanta GA

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Berenice Abbott – Inventor

House of Photography

In addition to her artistic accomplishments, Berenice Abbott invented photographic equipment and held four patents on her inventions. In 1947, she and several business associates established The House of Photography, which was a commercial venture designed to bring her inventions to market.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Diagram from patent for candid camera, 1958

Diagram from patent for candid camera, 1958

Abbott’s biographer Hank O’Neal discusses some of her major inventions in his book, Bernice Abbott American Photographer. These devises include a distortion easel, an autopole, a cloth vest with many pockets, a candid camera and a precursor to the monopod. The House of Photography was a financial failure, and Abbott eventually lost her backers, though the company existed on paper for many years after it ceased to function.
O’Neal remembers looking through Abbott’s attic in Monson, Maine, where she lived at the end of her life, and finding models for inventions, stock certificates and other corporate documents, as well as the corporate seal. Though the business was a bust, O’Neal says her journals and notebooks from that time frame reveal a river of ideas and questions. Interestingly, Abbott wrote registered letters to herself as a way of documenting and dating her most evolved ideas.

Posted in: Snap Shots

Imogen Cunningham – The Chop

Ideas Without End

When examining Imogen Cunningham Estate prints, one cannot help but notice the Chinese characters that lie to the right of her signature. A chop is an East Asian printing stamp that is used in lieu of a signature made with a pen in some Asian countries. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Imogen_ChopThese stamps can be made of metal, stone, plastic, ivory and so forth and make an indentation on paper when pressure is applied. Imogen’s chop is very special as it was developed by Imogen and designed by Shen Yao, a friend of Imogen’s and a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii.
The chop is composed of three Chinese characters, Im-o-gen, spelling out “Imogen” phonetically and also translating literally into the phrase “ideas without end.” A fourth character, the customary seal was added. Shen Yao’s role is even more special, Imogen’s granddaughter Meg Partridge 
says, because Imogen knew Shen Yao since the professor was a young girl.

Posted in: Snap Shots

Route 1: Berenice Abbott’s Unusual Bargain

Imagine this: Berenice Abbott, her trusty view camera, a portable darkroom, a giant schnauzer named Schoen, and a pair of newlyweds, cram into a station wagon and head down Route 1 in the summer of 1954 to photograph small towns along the coast for months on end. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia, 1954

Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia, 1954

How did this unlikely party form? A cash-strapped (and carless) Abbott happened to meet Damon Gadd, son of a New York developer, who was eager to learn the craft of photography. Ever inventive, Abbott traded Gadd photography lessons for transportation and off they went. The group, including Gadd’s newly wed wife Sara, left New York on Route 1, traveled south to Key West, Florida, and back north again, concluding the journey in Maine.
By the trip’s end, Abbott had made 2,400 negatives, which translates roughly into one photograph per mile of the trip. Route 1 is the longest north-south road in the US, and connects major cities including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Miami.
This bargain has to be one of the most creative ones struck in the history of photography. As Abbott was nearing her 60s, she found herself struggling with a lack of funding as she had most of her career, despite her great achievements.
A selection of these stunning Route 1 photograph can now be seen in the Lumière exhibition Circle of Light. The magnitude of this achievement was not fully recognized during her lifetime, though the pictures were occasionally exhibited. “I think almost more than any other work she did, this (Route 1) really got to the heart of what she was interested in illustrating, which was the sense of a changing landscape through photographs that were truly objective in their presentation,” said David Prince, curator of the University Art Collection at Syracuse.
Route 1 echoes many of the same themes in Changing New York, only on a national scale. Abbott saw that the federal highway program, begun in the Eisenhower era, would forever change the country. Interstate 95 would eventually divert traffic from Route 1, and life along the road would also shift from villages to exit ramp clusters. Though Abbott had an idea for a similar trip in the 1930s, her teaching schedule at The New School in New York prevented her from taking the long absences needed to pursue her personal projects. But by the 1950s, time was running out to capture this fading way of life. “Before bulldozers and derricks moved in,” Abbott said.
“It’s so different…Now, if you just drive the freeways down to Florida, you won’t see that much of an interesting, different world. I think it will help remind people of a world that isn’t all strip malls from Maine to Florida,” Abbott told an Associated Press reporter in 2003.
As for Damon Gadd, not much is known about the specifics of his lessons with Abbott. The Gadds settled in Vermont after the trip, and 4 years later, went on to found the Sugarbush ski resort in 1958. Sugarbush became popular with the jet set, by introducing innovations such as an enclosed Italian-built gondola lift, during the Gadd’s tenure.The resort attracted the Kennedys, actress Kim Novak, fashion designer Oleg Cassini, and many others. The Gadds eventually sold the resort to Roy Cohen in 1977 and retired to Florida.
Additional information about Abbott’s work, can be found on her Artist Page.

Posted in: Snap Shots

Zeng Yi – The Love of Father and Daughter

Private Enterprise in Communist China

Zeng Yi’s iconic 1982 image, The Love of Father and Daughter, depicts a tender moment between a man and his young daughter as he weaves baskets in the Shandong province of China. The girl and her dog snuggle against her father as he constructs a basket with reeds. Finished baskets line the background in a pleasing pattern of repetition that forms a kind of wall sheltering this happy trio from the rest of the world. A teapot and thermos wait on the left side of the frame, making the workplace seem even more domestic.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE
© Zeng Yi - The Love of Father & Daughter, 1982

© Zeng Yi – The Love of Father & Daughter, 1982

By choosing to focus tightly on the interchange between the three characters and eliminating the horizon and sky, Zeng creates a cozy, private world. The photographer seems to imply that at this moment, the family has all they need.
Changes in Chinese government policy were beginning to affect timeless pursuits, such as the creation and sale of local crafts. Under Communist rule, private business had long been outlawed, but beginning with Richard Nixon’s historic visit to china in 1972, the country began to slowly open to the outside world. President Jimmy Carter granted China formal diplomatic recognition on January 1, 1979.
In 1978, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping led governmental reforms, which allowed for private enterprise and foreign corporations to begin operating in China. Before these important reforms, private business activity was considered to be the root of evil behavior—the so called “Capitalist tail”—which should be cut down by “revolutionary thought,” according to scholar Yingqui Liu, writing in her thesis, Development of Private Entrepreneurship in China.
Zeng Yi was aware of this political shift, when he made the photograph. In a recent lecture at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, he spoke of the change this picture represents. “In 1980s most peasants in the rural area began to benefit from the nation’s economic reforms. Peasants were free to sell their products freely in the market. This activity had been forbidden for many years and punishable before.”
The Love of Father and Daughter won a UNESCO Asian culture award in 1985, which generated some economic development for the region, as tourists and photographers came to the area, Zeng said.
More than 50 photographs by Zeng Yi were were exhibited from October 1, 2015 thru January 17, 2016 at the Carter Library and Museum. The People’s China: Village Life by Master Photographer Zeng Yi took viewers on a journey into the villages of China for a personal look at the people and how they live. Zeng Yi has spent a lifetime telling the story of the common people of China through his photography.
Now on view at Lumière is thoughtfully curated selection of these Chinese Village Life images
Additional information about Yi’s work, can be found on his Artist Page.
Posted in: Snap Shots

Zeng Yi – Our Classroom

Universal Education: Key to China’s Economic Success

Zeng Yi’s classic photograph, Our Classroom, 1982, shows several rows of small Chinese children lined up at narrow primitive tables listening to a teacher who is off camera. A few students have stone tablets and pencils; others have nothing to write with. Holes can be seen in the shoes of some of the children. Most of the children are paying attention, but some are obviously tired and struggling to stay alert in the dimly lit room.
READ ENTIRE ARTICLE
© Zeng Yi - Our Classroom, 1982

© Zeng Yi – Our Classroom, 1982

The photograph could just have easily have been taken in 1882, as evidenced by the timelessness of their clothing and utensils, as well as the impoverished conditions.
Bing Zeng, Yi’s daughter, who often works as her father’s interpreter, described the image last month during an interview on Atlanta’s public radio station, WABE. “In the early 80s, China had just opened up, and in order to get out of poverty the only way, is to get universal education in every corner of China, not just in the cities. In this village, the families are still living in a relatively poor situation.” She noted that one child had to bring his younger sibling to class because the parents were working in the fields. Still she said, “They are very eager to learn.”
Another by product of the opening of China to outsiders in the 1970s has been the Chinese government’s renewed effort to educate its people. Competing in the global economy requires an educated populace. Though the children shown in Zeng Yi’s 1982 photograph had few resources, according to remarks made by the photographer at a recent Carter Center event, these students went on to receive a quality education.
“This situation was typical of the rural education of China in the 1970s. This paved the way for the prosperity and achievement we witness in China today. Those kids have become very talented and artists, scientist and business people in China, some are engineers or teachers. Their descendants are able to attend Kindergarten, high school and colleges. Some of them are even studying abroad.”
These children and their parents were able to take their place in the twenty first century marketplace because of the careful maneuverings of Deng Xiaoping, who emerged from two periods of exile following Mao Zedong’s death to lead China towards modernization, according to Henry Kissinger’s 2011 book, On China.
Deng skillfully maneuvered his way through the Chinese Communist Party leadership and was able through carefully worded statements, to suggest that China must embark on an economic revitalization program that would rival the Japanese.
Deng recognized that science and technology, which would require vast improvements in the country’s education system, would partly drive this new economy, as would the easing of restrictions on private and individual business endeavors.
“Mao had governed by counting on the endurance of the Chinese people to sustain the suffering his personal visions would impose on them. Deng governed by liberating the creativeness of the Chinese people to bring about their own vision of the future,” wrote Kissinger.
President Jimmy Carter granted China formal diplomatic recognition on January 1, 1979. This recognition was a formal acknowledgment that China was entering the world stage.
More than 50 photographs by Zeng Yi were were exhibited from October 1, 2015 thru January 17, 2016 at the Carter Library and Museum. The People’s China: Village Life by Master Photographer Zeng Yi took viewers on a journey into the villages of China for a personal look at the people and how they live. Zeng Yi has spent a lifetime telling the story of the common people of China through his photography.
Now on view at Lumière is thoughtfully curated selection of these Chinese Village Life images
Additional information about Yi’s work, can be found on his Artist Page.
Posted in: Snap Shots

Paul Strand – Mexican Landscape

Near Saltillo, Mexico, 1932

Paul Strand was immediately smitten with the Mexican landscape upon seeing the terrain from behind the wheel of his Model A Ford in the early days of his sojourn there, according to scholar Calvin Tomkins. In contrast with his earlier mode of photographing landscapes, Strand made some of his best pictures here at first sight.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Near Saltillo, Mexico, 1932

Near Saltillo, Mexico, 1932

Prior to his travels in Mexico, Strand was of the opinion an artist needed to have a deeper knowledge of a place before beginning to take pictures.
“The minute you get into Mexico, you begin to see a range of mountains that must be part of the American chain but are completely different,” Strand is quoted as saying, “They have a different feeling-something I found a little threatening and sinister.”
Landscape, Near Saltillo, Mexico, 1932, depicts the northern region of Mexico where Strand initially traveled and began making images. This image was very important to Strand, and he chose it as the opening photograph in his Mexican Portfolio. Landscape, Near Saltillo, Mexico, 1932, compels the viewer to look closely at the picture, as the eye travels through a dark shadow at the bottom of the frame, and moves into the lighter sky, a small white structure is revealed through a thicket of Cactus. This interpretation of the Saltillo landscape implies that while there is much to see here, the viewer must make a commitment to truly see the land and the structures within it.

Posted in: Snap Shots

Berenice Abbott – 1411 9th Street, Augusta GA, 1954

Story Behind the Picture

Berenice Abbott’s 1411 9th Street, Augusta, Georgia, 1954
One of the major topics Berenice Abbott addressed in her Route 1 series was racial tension in the south, primarily in Georgia and Florida. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

1411 9th Street, Augusta Georgia, 1954

1411 9th Street, Augusta Georgia, 1954

Abbott was uncomfortable documenting poverty, according to colleagues who knew her, but she felt strongly enough about the disparity between the races to push past her reticence. Abbott also brought a different sensibility to the face of poverty than other photographers, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans, and other Farm Security photographers, who tackled the same subject. There are subtle shadings of hope in her images, and Abbott was careful to respect peoples’ dignity when she made artistic and technical decisions about the construction of an image.
Abbott always maintained that the physical placement of the view camera was critical for the meaning of the resulting picture, as well as its compositional structure. Because Abbott placed her camera to the left of the home, one of the first objects a viewer sees is the thriving stalks of Sun Flowers abutting the family’s porch. Martha Wheelock points out that this indicates to the viewer that the family is not defeated by their situation, though Abbott still clearly documents their deprivations.

Posted in: Snap Shots

Mexico – Paul Strand

When Paul Strand first went to Mexico in 1932, at the invitation of Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, he had no clear intentions to photograph. The Great Depression was underway, and Strand was facing a failing marriage and the dissolution of his relationship with his mentor, Alfred Stieglitz. Mexico, which had just emerged from revolution beckoned many artists of Strand’s generation, whose politics leaned left, towards Communism and Marxism. Mexico was not yet industrialized, and seemed full of promise.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Woman and Boy, Tenancingo, 1933

Woman and Boy, Tenancingo, 1933

As Strand began to make still images and films, his work shifted towards a more humanistic approach. His subjects included churches, small towns, religious iconography, and the Mexican people. Strand sometimes photographed with a modified camera using a trick lens. A prism feature allowed Strand to photograph a subject off to the side of the scene while the lens pointed straight ahead. Strand wanted the candid feel of a small format camera but the large negative and gravitas of a view camera. He employed this method in his earlier New York portraiture.
“Strand was a kind of iconic figure as far as introducing a modernist type photography in this country,” Strand expert Anthony Montoya said, noting that his images dealt with abstractions and social commentary more common in painting than photography. “There was a movement away from the predominant photography at the time, called Pictorialism, which had a soft focus that looked like Impressionist painting, to the hard-edge grittiness of modernism,” Montoya added. “Strand was a link between the two.”
Strand created over 175 negatives, as well as 60 plus platinum prints during his time in Mexico. His classic film, Redes (The Wave), reflects the post-revolutionary influence of Mexican culture and politics on Strand. The film was financed in part by the Mexican government.
Complete information about Strand’s work, can be found on his Artist Page.

Posted in: Snap Shots

Before It Disappears – Berenice Abbott

There is a tradition in photography of photographers and photo enthusiasts devoting significant portions of their own careers preserving the work of their artistic heroes whose work was on the verge of extinction. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Contemporary master Lee Friedlander discovered, printed and published the evocative French Quarter portraits of E.J. Bellocq. In a stroke of good fortune, photographer Peter Miller moved to tiny Heber Springs, Arkansas, in the 1970s, where he unearthed the neglected portraits of Mike Disfarmer, the town’s studio photographer, who turned out to have been a powerful and unsentimental documentarian of small town life.
Eugene Atget, Paris, 1927

Eugene Atget, Paris, 1927

In recent years, John Maloof discovered and brought to light the incredible archive of Vivian Maier. Though their work is very different, both Disfarmer and Maier were working in a kind of vacuum, never imagining or seeking fame.
Bernice Abbott saved Atget’s Paris archive from oblivion, and in a karmic circle, her own forgotten pictures of Route 1 were brought to light by writers Hank O’Neil and Ron Kurtz decades after they were created.
Abbott documented life along Route 1 from Maine to Florida, but in 1958 she abandoned the project for lack of a publisher. The work, as well as some of her unknown New York photographs, was largely unseen until recently.
Complete information about Abbott’s work, can be found on her Artist Page.

Posted in: Snap Shots

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