Gallery of Fine Art Photography - Atlanta GA

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Cibachrome Prints: Elusive and Beautiful

Cibachrome is the Moby Dick of rare photographic printing processes. Many a Captain Ahab has gone trolling through deep waters in search of the scarce paper and chemicals that are needed to produce these sought after prints. After the chemistry needed to create Cibachrome was discontinued a few years ago, some photographers squirreled away enough supplies to last a few years in large freezers. When this hoard runs out, no new Cibachromes can be printed.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Noatak Rainbow, 1997

Noatak Rainbow, 1997

Cibachrome, which later came to be known as Ilfochrome, after the Ilford Company bought the process, is a dye destruction positive-to-positive photographic process used to reproduce film transparencies (slide film) on photographic paper. What makes Cibachrome unique is that instead of having a traditional paper base, Cibachrome prints are made on a stable polyester base. It also uses 13 layers of Azo dyes sealed in the polyester base. Most papers have a surface that is coated with an emulsion. Cibachrome’s design lessens the chances that prints will fade, discolor or deteriorate for an extended time, according to archival experts.
Sumac Along the Chattahoochee, 1987

Sumac Along the Chattahoochee, 1987

Robert Glenn Ketchum, whose work can be seen in this post and additional images on his artist page, is one of several well known landscape photographers who value Cibachrome’s ability to faithfully reproduce the images captured on slide film in the pre-digital era. Natal Rainbow, 1997, Blossoms in the Twilight, 1986, Sumac Along the Chattahoochee, 1987 and The Te-conic Parkway, North to Albany #27, 1983 are but a few examples.
As an environmental activist, Ketchum feels that his photographs must reflect the grandeur of nature with few embellishments. Since Ketchum regularly takes on projects that defy the interests of big business and industry, his work must be a realistic document of the land he is trying to preserve. At a recent symposium at the Booth History Museum in Georgia, Ketchum said his photographs can not be open to charges of manipulation.
Blossoms in the Twilight, 1986

Blossoms in the Twilight, 1986

Though Cibachrome’s complicated history of ownership and production, is too lengthy to elaborate on completely, here are some of the basics. Hungarian scientist Dr. Bela Gaspar created Gasparcolor, the dye bleach process upon which the Cibachrome process was originally based, in 1933. Gasparcolor was used primarily in animation and for United States military reconnaissance photography during World War II.
Though Gaspar turned down many offers to sell the rights to his process, after his death, his associate, Paul Dreyfus, later developed the process for a Swiss company called Ciba AG, according to the book, Frozen Moments by Richard C. Miller. Ciba acquired Ilford in 1969,
and sold it to International Paper in 1989.
In 1992 the product was renamed “Ilfochrome”.
Eventually, like many other analog processes, Cibachrome and most of the slide films it was printed from, have given way to digital capture and ink jet printing. Unlike other art forms such as painting or sculpture, the availability of photographic materials has often been driven by the consumer market. Cibachrome was always more in the provenance of professional and fine art photographers because it is difficult and time consuming to use.
In our current digital era, slide films and Cibachrome printing have been come almost as rare as sightings of the great white whale.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Harold Feinstein and the Korean War

When Harold Feinstein, then a young photographer from New York, was drafted and sent to Camp Kilmer for basic training during the Korean War, he applied to be an official Army photographer. Even at this tender age, Feinstein’s abilities as a photographer had been recognized by some of the most influential curators in the United States, including Edward Steichen of the Museum of Modern Art.
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The Army, however, must not have shared Steichen’s view as his request was denied, and Feinstein was sent to Korean in the early 1950s to fight as an infantryman on the front lines. Upon his arrival in Asia, Feinstein realized the benefits of not being an official Army photographer.
Confidence Course, 1952

Confidence Course, 1952

Feinstein wrote how lucky he came to feel that his wishes had been denied by the Army. “In retrospect, this was a great boon, because I was able to carry my camera everywhere and simply capture the day-to-day life of a draftee and not the official handshakes and medal ceremonies I would’ve been required to shoot as an official photographer.”
Feinstein suffered a non-combat related injury after a few months on the front lines and was sent back to Pusan (after a stint in a Kyoto hospital) to spend the rest of his tour as a sign painter and illustrator at Army Headquarters away from heavy combat. This location gave him even greater access to the Korean people, as well as an independent view of the day to day lives of GIs and civilians alike.
Standing Guard, 1952

Standing Guard, 1952

As Americans celebrate Memorial Day this year on Monday, May, 29th, Lumière is highlighting Feinstein’s contribution to war photography, as part of our on-line exhibition Memorial Day.
“As I look at these photographs now I see again through the eyes of a 21-year-old from Coney Island, fresh off the boardwalk and thrown into a situation with my peers who could’ve been at Coney Island with me riding the cyclone or flirting with their girlfriend under the boardwalk, or cruising around town on a Saturday night. No one could have prepared us for the hell of war, and that’s as true now as it was then. But in spite of it all, we gravitated toward the one thing we all shared – being a bunch of young men, wanting to be home with the people we loved, and seeking the comraderie and comfort of each other to fend off the anxiety of going to war,” he wrote.
It seems fitting that Feinstein brought back humanizing pictures from Korea, since that conflict is sometimes referred to as America’s forgotten war. Feinstein never forgot the war, nor the price paid by Americans and Koreans alike. Standing Guard, Korea, 1953 is a stark image of an American soldier protecting a desolate stretch of road on a rainy day. Like the solider, the viewer’s ability to see down this foggy road is obscured, perhaps reflecting Feinstein’s feelings about this war that claimed the lives of well over 36,000 American soldiers.
According to the data from the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States suffered 33,686 battle deaths, along with 2,830 non-battle deaths. South Korea reported some 373,599 civilian and 137,899 military deaths. Western sources estimate the Chinese army experienced about 400,000 killed and 486,000 wounded, while the North Koreans suffered 215,000 killed and 303,000 wounded.
Korean Children on Village Bridge, Pusan, 1953

Korean Children on Village Bridge, Pusan, 1953

Though Harold Feinstein passed away in June of 2015, one of his blog posts from 2014 recounts his feelings about his military service and the Korean War in general.
“As a GI, I remember arriving in Pusan and receiving instructions not to ‘fraternize’ with the local people. But, I confess that I broke that rule. I…got to know the local children. I also witnessed their sacrifices and suffering,” he wrote. “(I) remember, with great fondness and sympathies, those GIs who were conscripted with me and those civilians who I came to know. I respect them now as I did then.”
Korean Children at Bridge, Pusan, 1952 is a compelling photograph that both depicts an everyday scene of children congregating on a local bridge but also captures their uncertainty at seeing a western soldier in their midst. The shacks that line the river in this image point to their poverty, but also reveals the intimacy with which Feinstein looked at the country.
A viewer can easily tell that Feinstein was standing among the children, when the image was made. He was not surveying them from afar. His physical proximity is an extension of his closeness to the Korean people.
Boots Stowed Under Cot, 1952

Boots Stowed Under Cot, 1952

Other Feinstein photographs taken in the United States during basic training and on leave, reveal a similar closeness and empathy for American soldiers. In Boots Stowed Under Cots, 1952, a young soldier rests in the barracks, appearing vulnerable under his blanket deep in sleep. This picture foreshadows the powerful series made by Tim Hetherington of American soldiers sleeping in their makeshift quarters in Afghanistan more than fifty years later.
Feinstein acted as both an active member of the United States Army and independent eye. Today’s “imbedded” photojournalists would love to have the access that Feinstein carved out for himself in Korean through his own ingenuity and force of personality.
These photographs of the Korean War are one of many ways Harold Feinstein contributed to the history of photography. An online gallery of Feinstein’s images drawn from the course of his entire career can be seen on his Lumière Artist Page.
Posted in: a Deeper Look

The Spiritual Impact of Ansel Adams’ Work

Looking at Ansel Adams’ pristine rendering of the natural world in all its unspoiled glory can be a spiritual experience. Standing in the scene, feeling the sting of the wind and the warmth of the sun, being immersed in a silence punctuated only by weather and animal song must have been truly special for Adams. His lifelong devotion to a deeper understanding of the wilderness, beyond physical beauty, proves its importance to the artist.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Tetons and the Snake River, 1942

Tetons and the Snake River, 1942

Adams often said he enhanced what he saw in nature by isolating parts of the landscape as well as using all the tools (red filters, the zone system) and skills he had to recreate his vision in the final print. Because Adams was building pictures rather than recording them, his emotions and ideas are embedded in the prints. A sense of spirituality, in its myriad incarnations, shines through.
“His pictures have enlarged our visceral knowledge of things that we do not understand. Although he devoted a lifetime to the cause of wilderness preservation, Adams did not photograph the landscape as a matter of social service, but as a form of private worship. It was his own soul that he was trying to save . . .. Ansel Adams’ great work was done under the stimulus of a profound and mystical experience of the natural world,” wrote curator John Szarkowski.
 Trailside, Alaska, 1947

Trailside, Alaska, 1947

After a camping trip in the High Sierra in the 1920s, Adams said later, “I was suddenly arrested in the long crunching path up the ridge by an exceedingly pointed awareness of the light . . . . I saw more clearly than I have ever seen before or since the minute detail of the grasses, the clusters of sand shifting in the wind, the small flotsam of the forest, the motion of the high clouds steaming above the peaks.”
Szarkowski contents that “Adams spent the next quarter century trying to make a photograph that would give objective form to this sense of ineffable knowledge.”
The fact that Ansel rejected the idea of merely recording nature, allowed him to express spiritual ideas, including those of Transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
David Peeler, a scholar writing in the Colby Review, explores the spiritual roots of Adams and Edward Weston, who shared many of Adams’ beliefs. “Weston and Adams were photographers, not philosophers. But they had their metaphysical moments, and both engaged in some heady speculation about the world they photographed. They believed that reality had two distinct dimensions, one that was merely physical and perceived by the senses, and a higher, transcendental one that the mind alone understood.”
Mono Lake, 1948

Mono Lake, 1948

Others have suggested that Adams’ early devotion to music shaped his transcendental views. Michelle Janine Lanteri, writing about a past Adams exhibition at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, makes this assertion.
“Originally, Adams trained to be a concert pianist, and through his musical practice, he learned the abstract qualities of ‘architectural’ depth and fineness. Adams’ acute understanding of musical aesthetics gave way to his life-long career of creating transcendental landscape photographs which reinforced the tradition of portraying the sanctity of the earth, albeit with a modernist approach to detail.”
Lanteri asserts that by eliminating the foreground in most of his pictures, Adams was adding a sense of spiritual immediacy to his work that could be understood intuitively by the public. “To encourage viewers to experience an intimate view of the earth, Adams compositionally eliminated the distance between the landscape and the viewer and offered a personalized, close-up view of the earth’s materiality. Moreover, in an effort to formally describe the earth’s spiritual power in his artworks, Adams adopted Stieglitz’s philosophy of “equivalents,” where physical entities, like the earth, embodied such subjective qualities as emotions.”
Mountain and Sky - Lake George , 1924  © Alfred Steiglitz

Mountain and Sky – Lake George , 1924 © Alfred Steiglitz

Alfred Stieglitz, who had a profound influence on the young Adams, used cloud formations, as his best-known equivalent. The abstract nature of a cloud makes it a malleable metaphor for whatever the artist or viewer desires it to be.
Adams absorbed the idea of equivalents and expanded it. This coupled with his transcendentalist leanings and technical ability, gives his prints a powerful spirituality. Ansel Adams: Before and After, an exhibition co-curated by the Booth Western Art Museum and Lumière, displayed over 25 Adams prints and explored their own notions of spirituality. The exhibition included younger photographers who were influenced by Adams’ ideas or learned directly from him during workshops, as well as the generation of early 20th century photographers who preceded Adams. This exhibition was on view from November 2015 – March 2016.
This is the third article in a series of four providing a Deeper Look at the work of Ansel Adams.
ANSEL ADAMS & TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY (1 of 4)
ANSEL ADAMS – EARLY MODERNIST (2 of 4)
ANSEL ADAMS – EXTRACT OVER ABSTRACT (4 of 4)

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Ansel Adams – Early Modernist

Group f/64 – Pivotal Role in 20th Century Photography

Modernism is a slippery word. When we hear this term, many of us think of sky scrappers or avant-guard furniture. The timeless beauty of a snowy Half Dome at Yosemite or or El Capitan as captured in the photographs of Ansel Adams may not be the first images that leap to mind, but increasingly scholars are considering Adams as an early modernist.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Modernism is a slippery word. When we hear this term, many of us think of sky scrappers or avant-guard furniture. The timeless beauty of a snowy Half Dome at Yosemite or El Capitan as captured in the photographs of Ansel Adams may not be the first images that leap to mind, but increasingly scholars are considering Adams as an early modernist.
Ansel Adams: Mills College, 1931

Ansel Adams: Mills College, 1931

It is ironic, but the immense popularity of Ansel Adams’ work has at times limited new examinations of his work to that of a conservationist. Simply put, for years, curators felt they knew Adams’ motivations and themes, and many overlooked the breath of his achievements. Traditional analysis of Adams began to change in 2002 when The San Francisco Museum of Art organized Adams at 100, an exhaustive exhibition curated by John Szarkowski, the influential former curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
A definition by Encyclopedia Britannica: “Modernism in the arts is a radical break with the past and the concurrent search for new forms of expression. Modernism fostered a period of experimentation in the arts from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, particularly in the years following World War I. In an era characterized by industrialization, rapid social change, and advances in science and the social sciences Modernists felt a growing alienation incompatible with Victorian morality, optimism, and convention. New ideas in psychology, philosophy, and political theory kindled a search for new modes of expression.”
Edward Weston: Chambered Nautilus, 1927

Edward Weston: Nautilus, 1927

One of the most important moves away from Victorian ideals was the break with pictorialism, which emphasized soft focus pictures that drew on the imagination and emotions found in painting and Japanese woodcuts, towards what we now call straight photography. This crucial shift was manifested in Group f/64, a small group of San Francisco photographers, including Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston, who were devoted to photography that was sharp focused and carefully framed. The group was interested in applying modernist aesthetics to the natural world around them. Group f/64 is associated with western photography.
Their name is derived from the smallest f/stop on a view camera, which gives its user the sharpest amount of space in photographs. This name signaled the groups’ intention to show the world as it was, rather than a romanticized version. Adams and Weston referred to pictorialist photographers as belonging to the “fuzzy-wuzzy” school.
Naomi Rosenblum, a photography historian, expands this idea. “What surrounded them in such abundance: the landscape, the flourishing organic growth and the still viable rural life. Pointing their lenses at the kind of agrarian objects that had vanished from the artistic consciousness of many eastern urbanites – fence posts, barn roofs, and rusting farm implements – they treated these objects with the same sharp scrutiny as were latches and blast furnaces in the East. However, even in California, these themes look to a vanishing way of life, and the energy contained in the images derived in many instances from formal design rather than from the kind of intense belief in the future that had motivated easterners enamored of machine culture.” To see more photographs by Cunningham, Weston and Adams please visit their artist pages.
Imogen Cunningham: Magnolia, Tower of Jewels, 1925

Imogen Cunningham: Magnolia, Tower of Jewels, 1925

The group’s first major exhibition was held at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco in 1932, following the success of an earlier Edward Weston show at the same venue. Group f/64’s manifesto called for frequent exhibitions and for group members to promote photography as its own art form. The constraints and advantages of working with cameras and lenses – optics – were to be celebrated.
Though the importance of Group f/64 is well established. Sometimes Adams’ concentration on subjects found in nature, obscure the modernist viewpoint imbedded in his work. Group f/64 only lasted a few years due to the increasing hardships of the Great Depression and the relocation of several members, but its influence was vast. Straight photography eclipsed pictorialism in short order.
Adams’ close ups of nature: pine cones, roses, the crevices between rocks are examples of modernist work that are not as well known as his pictures that reveal a wider view of the landscape.
Curator Trudy Wilner Stack, writes about this body of work. “Experimenters and modernists, Ansel Adams and his fellow California photographers developed a straight and highly formal, sometimes even abstract, approach to their subjects. Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others shared Adams’s interest in photography’s ability to capture nature’s most intimate details, those aspects of form and texture, as realized through light and shadow, which parallel actual experience in nature—the appreciation of what is close enough to touch and smell. These elemental, personal interpretations are not offered in contrast to Adams’s exalted distant views, but stand as complements—allowing for a truer understanding of the photographer’s complete vision of the natural world.”
Though Adams’ work is not avant-guard, like some art of this period, his methods and ideals are firmly rooted in the overall tradition of modernist thought. The success of Adams as a poet of the majestic west can obscure his origins. Ansel Adams: Before and After, was on view (Nov 2015 – March 2016), at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville GA, it gave viewers the chance to see the master through many lenses, including modernism. Other early modernists, such as Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz were also featured in the exhibition.
This is the second article in a series of four providing a Deeper Look at the work of Ansel Adams.
ANSEL ADAMS & TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY (1 of 4)
THE SPIRITUAL IMPACT OF ANSEL ADAMS’ WORK (3 of 4)
ANSEL ADAMS – EXTRACT OVER ABSTRACT (4 of 4)

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Pirkle Jones – Forged His Own Identity While Collaborating with Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange

Pirkle Jones was a student in the first class taught by Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts in 1946, but their relationship quickly moved beyond that of student-teacher and became a lasting friendship and professional collaboration. When Jones married fellow student, Ruth-Marian Baruch, in 1949, the ceremony was held in Adams’ living room.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Grape Picker, 1956

Grape Picker, 1956

The photographs of Pirkle Jones were hung near that of his friend and mentor in Ansel Adams: Before and After, an exhibition co-curated by the Booth Western Art Museum and Lumière. This show displayed over 25 Adams prints that place the master photographer in the context of art history. The 106 print exhibition featured four by Pirkle Jones.
The exhibition included prominent photographers that preceded Adams, as well as younger photographers, such as Jones, who were influenced or taught directly by Adams. The exhibition was on view from November of 2015 – April of 2016.
Jones became Adams’ assistant in 1949 and was part of an influential circle of Bay Area photographers that included Imogen Cunningham, Minor White, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. In 1952, Jones began a 28-year career teaching at the California School of Fine Arts, which is now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. Jones also taught at the Ansel Adams Workshops.
Worker, Saratoga, 1958

Worker, Saratoga, 1958

When Adams was commissioned to document wine-making at the Paul Masson Vineyards in California in 1958, he asked Jones to join the project. The resulting body of work by both men depicts the planting and harvesting of grapes, portraits of workers, wine, and the architecture of the winery. The Smithsonian organized the photographs into a traveling exhibition called Story of a Winery in 1962. An online version of Story of a Winery is available on our Exhibition Page.
Dorothea Lange was another photographic luminary who played an important role in Jones’s career. In 1956, Lange asked Pirkle Jones to collaborate with her on The Death of a Valley project.
The Last Memorial Day, 1956, From: Death of a Valley

The Last Memorial Day, 1956, From: Death of a Valley

Their work depicts in heartbreaking detail the end of the Berryessa Valley: the exodus of its inhabitants, human and animal, abandoned possessions and the submersion of the land itself, which took place once the Monticello Dam was completed. The valley was destroyed to provide water for the Solano County. The land was considered to be some of the most fertile in the region, but the government engineers saw it as a natural site for a dam.
Dorothea Lange, McKenzie Store, 1956

Dorothea Lange, McKenzie Store, 1956

Jones and Lange photographed during the community’s last year, as a way of life experienced for generations came to an unnatural end. Jones later described the project with Lange as “one of the most meaningful photographic experiences of my professional life.”
Though Adams and Lange have garnered more acclaim within the canon of photography, the work of Pirkle Jones stands solidly on its own merit.
“Some (critics) acknowledge the debt owed to both of these camps (Adams and Lange) yet fail to look further. To understand the full range of Pirkle’s images and the issues that have continually interested him, however, it is necessary to acknowledge a complex and idiosyncratic visual sensibility,” wrote Tim Wride in the Aperture monograph, Pirkle Jones California Photographs. “And while this sensibility may have been informed and abetted by those whose work is better known, Pirkle’s images have, nonetheless, a strength and conviction that is visually sophisticated, intellectually grounded, emotionally charged and unique.”
Jones, who passed away in 2009 at age 95, did not go unappreciated by the photography community during his lifetime. His most notable subjects ranged include the natural world, the San Francisco counter culture scene, the Black Panthers, migrant workers and even treasures found at local flea markets. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group shows across the United States and abroad.
“I think that Pirkle Jones is an artist in the best sense of the term,” Adams once wrote of his colleague. “His statement is sound and resonant of the external world as well as of the internal responses and evaluations of his personality. His photography is not flamboyant, does not depend upon the superficial excitements. His pictures will live with you, and with the world, as long as there are people to observe and appreciate.”

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Southern Heritage – Commerce

The Role of Commerce in the Southern Colonies

Economics and power struggles drove the exploration of the new world. Europe’s need for new markets and resources to support commerce were key reasons for the colonization of the Americas by England, Spain and France.
Lumière’s current exhibition Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making uses photography as a metaphor for exploring the history of the American South, viewed, in part, through the lens of commerce. This exhibition also looks at other motivations for the founding of the Southern Colonies including religious, political and cultural conflicts.
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In the 15th and 16th centuries, England was a minor player in the world of trade dominated by the Spanish, Habsburgs, Persians and Ottomans. Knowledge of England’s place in the constellation of trade with more powerful empires of the time is one key to understanding the economic motivations that led to colonization of the New World.

When Elizabeth I ascended to the throne, the British began to challenge the existing power structure. The Age of Exploration began at the end of the 15th Century and lasted through the 18th. This period was marked by extensive global exploration and the rise of a European culture, including Mercantilism and Colonialism.

Queen Elizabeth I established a model trading company in 1585, called the Barbary Company, which granted England exclusive rights to trade with Morocco for 12 years. Elizabeth also sent her ministers to live in Morocco to cement the relationship and ensure the British advantage. The Barbary Company was a model for the eventual colonization of America.

The emphasis on trade and exploration that began in the Elizabethan era laid the ground work for the establishment of a close economic relationship between England and the Colonies.

Within this environment England and her colonies were part of a complex interlocking economic system that affected the flow of people, products and ideas back and forth across the Atlantic. This parallels the establishment of commerce in the Middle East and Indies.

The commonly held perception that the Colonists were self-sufficient is incorrect. In fact, the well-being of the Colonies was closely tied to England. Between 1700 and 1770 the volume of shipping between the Colonies and the homeland tripled. The Colonies’ economy grew from 4 to 40% percent of England’s Gross Domestic Product.

Commerce1marshThe economy of the American South was centered on agricultural exploitation of the land, climate, and access to water and labor. This potential attracted capital from London, which was vital to the economies of the Colonies. The commercial foundation of the lowland South was further dependent on the shipping capability of its inland rivers and ocean harbors in locations such as Charleston, Savannah and Beaufort. These port cities played a significant role in the economic cycle of goods crisscrossing the Atlantic between the New and Old Worlds.

The Carolina Colony and the Georgia Colony operated on two different models of labor. The Carolina Colony was founded by West Indians familiar with a plantation system dependent on large tracts of land. These large plantations required a massive amount of cheap labor to operate. Indentured servants eventually earned their freedom or perished trying to do so; disease wiped out Indian labor, which left African slaves as the eventual primary source of labor in the plantation economy.

Drayton Plantation, a rare survivor of the Civil War and centuries of natural disasters is a prime example of a slave based economic model. This large rice plantation was founded at the mouth of the Ashley River by John Drayton in the early 1750s. The Drayton family originally ranched cattle but soon realized the value of growing and exporting rice. Historians consider Drayton Hall to be a masterpiece of Palladian architecture.

Drayton Plantation

Drayton Plantation

“Drayton’s palace was the first fully executed example of Palladian architecture in North America; his gardens were composed of idealized English landscapes and the interior spaces were finished with the finest examples of European and Charleston-made material goods, furniture, a wealth of imported ceramics, and fashionable artwork. Taken as a whole, Drayton Hall was one of the most significant elite plantations assembled in colonial America, and its rare survival makes the estate an icon of American history, design, and historic preservation.”1

The Drayton family history in some ways mirrors the larger economic and political role the Colonies began to play within the British system. For example, John Drayton went from being a local farmer to obtaining a seat on the Royal Governor’s Council. He went on to educate his sons in the tradition of English gentlemen. The splendor of the house and gardens was a reflection of the family’s power and prestige.

Cotton, an important cash crop and export, flourished in the Southern Colonies from Maryland to Georgia thanks to the mild winters and sub-tropical climate. Originally cotton would only grow along the coast, which is why some cotton is still known as Sea Island cotton. Later developments in agriculture, led to cotton being planted inland.

The size of the average plantation ranged from 500 to 1,000 acres and produced about 5,000 plants per acre. Cotton exports were not only important in England but also critical to New England’s textile business.

Georgia was founded on a different economic and political model. The English trustees who founded Georgia wanted a colony of many small farms worked by free people. As a result, the trustees provided farms to almost 2,000 “charity” colonists. Others paid for their own transportation drawn by the offer of free land. Georgia was the first and only colony to outlaw slavery, under its original charter written by General James Oglethorpe. However, slavery was allowed in Georgia after the British crown issued an official decree in 1751.

Savannah Cotton Exchange

Savannah Cotton Exchange

Shipping and the transfer of goods among the Colonies and across the Atlantic was another important aspect of the economy. Though built after the Colonial period, the Savannah Cotton Exchange is a tangible reminder of just how important cotton was to the overall economy.

The original Savannah Cotton Exchange was built in 1872 when export revenue from cotton was listed at $40 million dollars, and Georgia was the leading cotton producer in the country. The city’s reputation was cemented by the 1880s when the area around the Cotton Exchange was known as the “Wall Street of the South.” The exchange was built to facilitate the needs of planters and cotton brokers as they brought crops to market. The exchange was also a place to congregate and set the market value of cotton that was then exported to larger markets such as New York and London.

The Cotton Exchange was rebuilt in 1886 in the Romantic Revival style and is one of the best surviving examples of this type of architecture.

The commercial foundation of the lowland South was further dependent on the shipping capability of its inland rivers and harbors. Recognizing the importance of safeguarding shipping routes in Georgia, James Oglethorpe, the Governor of the 13th Colony, ordered the construction of the Tybee Island Light House in 1732.

Tybee Island Light House

Tybee Island Light House

Though the lighthouse itself has been rebuilt several times after being ravaged by storms, many of the original support buildings are intact. The 1916 version of the lighthouse and the surrounding structures can be visited today. Tim Barnwell’s powerful image of the Tybee Lighthouse guarding the Savannah harbor is a highlight of this exhibition.

While economic success was dependent on cash crops, such as tobacco, rice, indigo, and cotton, the harvesting of timber, was another economic boon for the Colonies and England. Georgia and the Carolinas were full of virgin forests that could be harvested to build ships and other goods. The timber trade also created economic dependence between the Southern and Northern Colonies.

The role that commerce played in the discovery and development in the American South and the growth of European counties has been a key element in Worl History since the 15th Century. The exhibition, Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making, Illustrates this role through photographs of the region.

1 draytonhall.org

See the exhibition here: Southern Heritage.
Posted in: a Deeper Look

Southern Heritage – Conflict

Black and white photographs by Tim Barnwell and others of coastal fortifications in Georgia and South Carolina are an important element of Lumière’s current exhibition Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making. This expansive exhibition uses photography as a metaphor for the heritage of the American South.
In the early 1700’s, England established a string of forts along the Georgia and South Carolina coast to act as a check on Spanish aggression.
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As far back as 1513, Spain had been a presence in Florida, beginning when Juan Ponce de Leon landed near land now called Cape Canaveral and established “La Florida” in the name of the Spanish crown. Ponce de Leon’s arrival took place a mere 21 years after Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Bahamas.
Almost 200 years passed as Spain fought off French Huguenots, built a mission system, which was later destroyed, and battled to subdue the Indians and convert them to Catholicism. As British power grew in the American colonies in the 1700’s, English leaders realized they needed to take measures to protect their assets north of Florida.
Fort King George

Fort King George

Fort King George

By 1721, tensions were rising between Spain and England, which led to the creation of Fort King George in what is now Darien, Georgia. Though long decommissioned, Fort King George is the oldest remaining English Fort on Georgia’s coast. The original structures have been rebuilt.
From 1721 until 1736, Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America. The facility consisted of a cypress blockhouse, barracks and palisaded earthen fort built by Colonel John Barnwell and his men.
The next seven years were marked by terrible hardships, including fire, disease and the threat of attack from both the Spanish and the Indians, as well as a harsh coastal environment. Eventually the suffering was too great and the fort was abandoned by the soldiers. All totaled, 140 men died, though none in battle. The fort itself was formally abandoned in accordance with an agreement signed by Spain and England.
However, General James Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736 and named it, Darien. Darien eventually became an important center for exporting lumber until 1925.
Fort Frederica

Fort Frederica

Fort Frederica

Meanwhile, Oglethorpe had sailed south in 1734 looking for another military site. He decided that St. Simons Island was strategically located, as it sat on bluffs overlooking an inland river passage. The fort and town were known as Frederica, in honor of Frederick Louis, the Prince of Wales. Tim Barnwell’s photograph of the of the fort today document the remains of its battery and gun positions facing the Frederica River.
Aware that the Spanish saw the new fort as a renewed threat, Oglethorpe felt the need to strengthen his position so, he sailed to England in 1737 and returned a year later with a force of 1,000 men. The fort was filled with colonists from England, Scotland and Germany, in addition to its’ military contingence.
By 1739, the British and the Spanish were at war over the slave trade and fighting swept through the Caribbean and up the Georgia coast to St. Simons. Spanish ships and troops invaded St. Simons Island but were ultimately defeated by Oglethorpe in 1742.
This British victory not only confirmed that Georgia was British territory, but it also signaled the end of a need for Fort Frederica. When peace was declared, Frederica’s garrison (the original 42nd Regiment of Foot) was disbanded, and eventually the town fell into decline.
Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

As Charleston Harbor became an increasingly important location for colonial commerce, the British built Fort Moultrie. During the American Revolution, Fort Moultrie proved invaluable as it withstood attack from nine British warships. The soft Palmetto logs that the fort was built from absorbed cannon shot, rather than cracking. Some soldiers even reported seeing cannon balls bouncing off the Palmetto logs.
Following the War of 1812, President James Madison recognized the importance of coastal forts, and Congress created a national sea front network to protect the young country from foreign invaders. Fort Pulaski and Fort Sumter were part of this network which was known as The Third System. These two forts would later play important roles in the Civil War.
Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski was a massive five sided structure whose primary purpose was to protect Savannah from naval attack from its position on Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Savannah River. In 1830, a new West Point graduate named Lieutenant Robert E. Lee headed up the preliminary construction of Fort Pulaski. Lee chose the location and oversaw the implementation of a series of drains and dykes to support the weight of the masonry fort. Lt. Joseph Mansfield soon took over the construction which lasted 14 years.
By the time construction was completed in 1847, the fort boasted 147 cannons, some of which were mounted on the top walls of the fort and some inside casements inside the walls.
In the years before start of the Civil War, Fort Pulaski fell into disrepair, its moat filled with mud and its cannons in place but unmounted. Confederate military forces realized its strategic importance and hurried to return repair the damages using slaves from nearby rice plantations and five companies of troops from Macon and Savannah.
Though Pulaski was repaired in time for battle, its impenetrable appearance proved illusory, and Fort Pulaski fell to Union troops after a siege in 1862. With its new rifled cannons, Union troops were able to blast two 30 foot holes in the southeast side of the fort, and Confederate forces were forced to surrender after just 36 hours. This was a blow to the Confederacy, as the port of Charleston was crucial to the chain of supply.
Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

The name Fort Sumter is etched into American memory as the site of the first shots fired during the Civil War. At the start of the war Fort Sumter was in Union hands, since the South had only recently seceded from the United States in 1680 to form the Confederacy.
Fort Sumter was originally constructed in 1829 as a coastal garrison on an island in Charleston Bay, named after Revolutionary War hero Thomas Sumter. Seventy thousand tons of granite were imported from New England to build up a sand bar in the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The fort was a five-sided brick structure and towered 50 feel over the low tide mark. Though it never reached capacity, Fort was designed to hold 650 men and 135 guns in three tiered emplacements.
Sumter was the site of two important Civil War battles. On April 12, 1861 newly formed Confederate forces forced the Union troops to abandon the fort the next day, by cutting off all contact with the mainland. Civilians watched the battle, reportedly in a festive mood.
During the The Second Battle of Fort Sumter on September 8, 1863, Union troops tried and failed to re-take the fort. It remained – albeit in ruins – in Confederate hands until General William Sherman marched through South Carolina in February of 1865.
Fort Fremont

Fort Fremont

Fort Fremont

In 1898, with the Spanish-American War in progress, Congress authorized construction of Fort Fremont on South Carolina’s Saint Helena Island. In its heyday, the fort covered 70 acres and contained a hospital, barracks, stables, guardhouses, commissary, and many support buildings. Approximately 110 men and officers of the 116th Coast Artillery were garrisoned here. The fort never saw battle and was decommissioned in 1901. Only two batteries and the hospital building remain.
The coastal forts of Georgia and South Carolina played an important role during 200 years of conflict with the French, Spanish and English, and later during the Civil War. Though these forts are no longer active military sites, they remind us of the strategic importance of the Southern coast from Colonial times to the end of the 19th Century.
See a portion of the exhibition here: Southern Heritage.
Posted in: a Deeper Look

Southern Heritage – Indian Civilization

Lumière’s new exhibition Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making uses photography as a metaphor for the Heritage of the American South.
American history, as described by European settlers and their descendants, is often couched in terms of discovery, though native peoples arrived in the Americans many thousands of years before Europeans.
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At the end of the last Ice Age, tribes crossed the Bearing Land Bridge, which connected Asia to the Americas approximately 15,000 years ago. Scientists believe at this time, the Bering Land Bridge was a 600-mile wide region linking Siberia and Alaska. Once filled with small shrubs, which could be used to fuel fires and sustain human life, the Bering Land Bridge now lies underneath the waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas.
The Indian Confederations of the South were part of this 15,000-year-old American civilization. The largest of these, the Mississippians, occupied a wide expanse from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean for a thousand years. These industrious peoples constructed towns with plazas and earthen mounds surrounded by defensive fortifications made necessary by wars with regional tribes. The prime mound was usually topped by a temple for ritual and was the residence for the tribe’s chief.
Etowah Indian Mounds

Etowah Indian Mounds

One of the best examples of these mounds is the 54 acre Etowah Indian Mounds in Bartow County, Georgia, that was once home to several thousand Indians from 1000 AD to 1550 AD. According to the State of Georgia park service, the Etowah Mound is the most intact Mississippian site in the southeast and encompasses six earthen mounds, a plaza, village site, and a defensive ditch. By the time Hernando de Soto travel through the area in 1540, archaeologists generally agree that the Mississippian culture was in decline and the Etowah Mounds site was abandoned.
Mississippians tended to be small farmers who lived near rivers, which provided water and nutrients for crops. The social structure of these communities usually revolved around elites and commoners. However, social standing was not based on wealth and military power, as much as spiritual beliefs held dear by the tribes. Elites, like the chief and his family, were thought to have descended from deities such as the sun god, and therefore possessed unusual supernatural powers.
The Gaules, a branch of the Mississippian nation, occupied the area around the sea islands of Georgia and Carolina. It was the Gaules who welcomed French explorer Jean Ribault in 1562 at Parris Island, which is now part of South Carolina. Ribault, a protestant, played an important role in colonizing the southeastern region for France.
Two years after the landing at Parris Island, Ribault took command of Fort Carolina, a French colony in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. A larger Spanish force soon landed a few miles south near modern day St. Augustine, marched on Fort Caroline during a hurricane, easily destroyed the fledgling French outpost. Now the Spanish ruled over the land of the Gaules.
Gaule Village Site, on Darien River

Gaule Village Site, on Darien River

The British also desired this strategically located land. In 1661, a Gaule village at a Darien River site was destroyed by Westo Indians (allies of the British) in order to drive out the Spanish.
Eventually the Gaules came into conflict with Spanish missionaries. There was a general insurrection in 1597 during which most of the missionaries were killed and the missions destroyed. This led to the Spanish settlement with England in the “Disputed Territory” that is now Georgia. The Westos themselves were later driven from their village at the navigation head of the Savannah River (near what is now Augusta) by the Shawnee.
Like so much of American history, a look beneath the surface reveals a complicated and fluid world. For example, policies regarding treatment of the Indians by the Spanish, the French and the English were not uniform. Different European powers managed the Indians in ways driven by their individual economic interests and cultural beliefs.
Spanish flag

The Spanish

Sailing under a commission from Queen Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492 and claimed the land for the Spanish Crown. When word reached Isabella, she immediately decreed that the natives were her subjects and were morally equal to all her other subjects including Spaniards. The Indians were to be treated humanely, without slavery, but she demanded they be converted to Christianity and taught European ways.
Columbus immediately disregarded her decree, and these Caribean Indians were treated as prisoners of war, forced to work and even to pay tribute – giving gold and other valuables – to the Spanish.
Some influential Spanish clergymen found these policies abhorrent, and tried to work out a more peaceful and just way of converting the Indians.
The Spanish built a mission system in the new world. “Beginning in the middle years of the sixteenth century, Spanish priests, with the support of the Crown, began to establish supervised communities in frontier areas. A few priests would go into an area, learn the local Indian dialect, and begin to preach the gospel. They would persuade the Indians to build a village, accept Christianity, and settle into a sedentary life. The process was extremely dangerous and sometimes the friars lost their lives; however, they often succeeded,” according to historical documents quoted in The Encyclopedia. By 1675, the Spanish ministered to 20,000 Indians at 35 missionaries in the Southeast.
However, the Spanish also treated the Indians with great brutality, compelling them to work as slaves, until their dwindling numbers, forced the Spanish to import slaves from Africa.
English flag

The English

The English settled Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 and Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, almost a century after the Spanish made their first permanent settlements in the New World. However, like the Spanish, the settlers were faced with co-existing with the Indians.
The English tried to trade trinkets, firearms and blankets with the Indians in exchange for furs. They also tried to buy land from the Indians, but since the Indians did not believe in a system of ownership and exchange of title, these attempts failed. In the. Indians had a spiritual relationship with the natural world – they did not think the earth was built for mankind to tame and parcel out in tracts.
Eventually, like the Spanish, the English tried to enslave the Indians and convert them to Christianity. However, they were far less successful in these endeavors than the Spanish, for several reasons. Most the English settlers were families, not single men or soldiers like the Spanish, so there was less intermingling of the races. Also the Indians of Virginia and the Carolinas did not die out as quickly as the Caribbean Indians that the Spanish first encountered.
While the English tried to convert Indians to Christianity, they did not go about it with the same ferocity and with an organized system of Missions, as the Spanish did. The English colonists basically set up towns that mimicked their villages back home in England. They did not invite the Indians to come and live with them in these towns. In 1651, the English did establish “praying towns” which were settlements where Indians were encouraged to live like Europeans and embrace Christianity.
The Encyclopedia, a resource that synthesizes original historical sources, gives a succinct account of the British attempts to manage the Indians:
In the English Colonies, the pattern was a succession of trade, attempts to secure land, misunderstanding, and conflict. The result was that the Indians were generally in retreat after the first few decades of the colonial period, especially as the Indians learned that close association with the colonists was likely to result in sickness and death from European disease, like smallpox. Efforts to enslave the Indians were given up fairly early and the effort to Christianize them, although part of the agenda of the early period of colonization, never developed as extensively as it did in Latin America. The most important difference, however, was the absence of intermarriage.
France flag

The French

The French colonies in the New World were generally organized around the fur trade, instead of agriculture. This meant they did not view the acquisition of Indian land as critical to their success as did the English. The French moved northward fairly early in the colonial period, as they were outmanned by the Spanish in Florida and coastal Georgia. The French exploited inter-tribal relationships to establish trade with the Huron, Montagnais and the Algonquin along the St. Lawrence River and inland towards the Great Lakes.
There are instances of French land grabs and brutality towards the Indians, such as their enslavement and sale of members of the Natchez tribe in the 1700s. French Jesuits also had some success in converting the Huron tribes to Christianity, though the French did not practice mass conversion as did the Spanish and English. The French colonists are generally considered by historians to be the most humane of the European powers.
The patterns established by the European leaders basically continued as colonists pushed ever westward, seizing or buying land as they expanded. After the American Revolution, the “new” Americans continued their journey towards the Pacific. This expansion guaranteed continual conflict, violence and a population shift favoring colonists, who became independent Americans.
When The United States Congress passed the 1830 Indian Removal Act, it established what was perhaps the most impactful example of Indian mistreatment, as the entire Cherokee nation was forced to leave their land.2 When by 1838 only 2,000 Cherokees had migrated, the U.S. government sent in 7,000 troops, who forced the remaining 16,000 Cherokees into stockades at bayonet point. This began the march known as the Trail of Tears, during which 4,000 Cherokees died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.
2 John Alexander Williams, Western Carolina University
See a portion of the exhibition here: Southern Heritage.
Posted in: a Deeper Look

Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making

Lumière’s new exhibition Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making uses photography as a metaphor for the Heritage of the American South.
It reflects the intersection of Christianity & Islam; European Aristocracy & Commoners; Colonists & Native Peoples; Agriculture, Arms & Disease; Tolerance & Intolerance. One of unintended consequences from the interaction of people, animals, plants and microbes.
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Trade Routes, (circa 1670-1730)

Trade Routes, (circa 1670-1730)

The starting point is 500 years ago with the birth of Henry VIII and Columbus’ discovery of Hispaniola. At that time, “the Muslim world was larger, wealthier, more powerful and more scientifically advanced.”1 The Europeans’ ambitions led them around the cape of Africa to the “East” Indies and across the Atlantic to discover the “West” Indies: then to the main lands. The map illustrates the extensive trade routes that evolved.
In the Americas, it began a 200 year period of Spanish colonial occupation of Florida. The French yielded to the Spanish in favor of Canada and the Mississippi River territories… opening the door for the English on the Atlantic coastline north of Florida.
By the time Raleigh and Smith arrived in Virginia, there were 2.2 million native peoples who had occupied North America for some 15,000 years. Theirs was a successful, geographically dispersed society. One with extensive trading arrangements…and almost 375 languages.
English colonization was sparked by merchant promoters. Shown below is the skyline of Charleston… founded in 1670 by planters from Barbados.
Skyline - Charleston, South Carolina

Skyline – Charleston, South Carolina

In 1733, Oglethorpe founded the Georgia Colony at Savannah. It became the first planned city in the U.S. with some 20 parks. The colony was the only one to ban slavery, focusing instead on “charity colonists”.
Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

What was an economic boom for Europe was a disaster for Native Americans due to aggressive exploitation. When disease decimated European indentured servants and native Indian slave labor, it led to expansion of the African slave trade dominated by the Portuguese and English, with New England also profiting greatly.
The struggle for land, labor and capital influenced the development of the Caribbean, and later the American South. This new economy was driven by the demand for tobacco, sugar, rice, timber and clothing in Europe. It was reinforced by ship building and the carry trade of New England.
Mountain Farm, North Carolina

Mountain Farm, North Carolina

As colonists moved inland – first to the Piedmont, then to Appalachia – a new backcountry culture evolved – including interaction with the Cherokee and other tribes.
The exhibition tells the story of the Indian Civilization, Explorers & Colonists, Conflict, Commerce, Religion and Art… as well as the Colonists as Pioneers.
Featuring the photography of Tim Barnwell and Thomas Neff. Also including works by Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Peter Sekaer, Berenice Abbott and Arnold Newman.
1 Source: Alan Taylor, University of California
See a portion of the exhibition here: Southern Heritage.
Posted in: a Deeper Look

Julieanne Kost: Passenger Seat

October 26, 2016

As a highly sought after speaker and Principal Evangelist at Adobe Systems, Julieanne Kost is always on planes, trains and automobiles heading to the next speaking engagement. Kost’s profession is about teaching other photographers how to marry practical tools, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, to their imaginations to produce enhanced images.
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New Hampshire #0431, 2009

New Hampshire #0431, 2009

It is not surprising that her curious mind would find inspiration in the necessary act of traveling and her creative eye would see the world rushing by in a uniquely photographic way.
The series Passenger Seat uses blur to transform relatively ordinary scenes into magic swirls of color that allude to the transformative side of travel – the kind of journey that takes viewers to a different emotional space, not just the next business meeting.
“We drove all day looking for iconic New England landscapes, and between the small towns, I started taking images out the window of the car. At the end of the day, the images that I had made ‘in between’ were the images that resonated with me. I found myself capturing a distinct yet ephemeral moment that was not entirely apparent or observable when the image was made, yet these photographs conveyed the mood, colors, and transient notion of fall better than anything that I had mindfully composed,” Kost said.
Maine #0648, 2009

Maine #0648, 2009

What is most surprising, coming from a postproduction expert, is that these images were created entirely within the camera. Kost did not use software to create this effect.
“The basic premise for capturing these photos was fairly simple. Because all the images were taken while moving forward in some type of vehicle, I slowed down the shutter speed and then panned the camera, trying to stay focused on my subject as the vehicle drove by. As a result, the subject would be in focus, while everything around it would be enveloped in blur,” Kost explained.
The unpredictability of photographs like, New Hampshire, #0431, 2009 or Maine #0648, 2009 reveals colors that zig in energetic swaths of movement like a tennis racquet slicing through the air.
“Although creating movement while the camera’s shutter is open seems straightforward, the variations of motion blur that result are as endless as your choice of motion. I panned the camera with elements in the landscape, with a slow shutter speed the result was that the subject is seen as being motionless while its surroundings are in motion.”
This technique taps nicely into the idea of fall as a transitional season, when nature prepares to sleep through the long winter after one final rush of color and beauty. After her initial trip through New England, Kost began applying this principle to places as diverse as Iceland, Poland, Maine, Vermont, New York, and Virginia, among others.
Kost’s ability to straddle the worlds of technology and art came in part from her parents. Her father was an engineer who studied why systems fail, and her mother was a multi-disciplined artist. Like many people of her generation, Kost learned photography from her dad when he converted their laundry room into a dark room.
“The one thing that I really am grateful for from my parents is that I not only had to master the creative side but also the technical side of whatever it was I wanted to achieve,” Kost said.“I kind of feel like I am Cinderella, I have to know all the technology before I can go to the dance of creativity.”
Passenger Seat transports Kost and the viewer to the season’s most vibrant ball.
To see more of Kost’s work visit her Lumière artist page.
Posted in: a Deeper Look

The National Park Centennial: Bob Kolbrener’s Portrait of Half Dome

Bob Kolbrener first experienced the work of Ansel Adams on a trip to California in 1968, and has spent his photographic career exploring the American west since then, often in national parks. Over the last 50 years, his work has been exhibited and collected internationally.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Kolbrener considers Portrait of Half Dome, a 2006 image he made in Yosemite National Park, to be a vital component of his body of work. This striking image is a marriage of beauty, vision, timing, and skill. Kolbrener recounts the story behind the picture:
Portrait of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Portrait of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

“The moments leading up to this photograph are of value. We travel to Yosemite in the winter when major snowstorms are eminent. The snow was constant for two straight days. On the third afternoon, we had pulled off the road to make some popcorn, and I was out of our vehicle just for a minute or two when looking toward Half Dome I saw a slight glow at its base. As I literally ran back to our van, my wife, Sharon saw me in flight and had the Hasselblad case out as I was arriving. Grabbing the camera body and the 150mm lens along with the tripod, I set up the camera close to the truck as things started to clear. I then realized that the foreground trees were too high into the face of Half Dome. Clomping through the thick snow I retreated around 100 feet until the face was unobstructed. I made 7 exposures total – the last three with a red filter to darken the sky more and best reveal the rising fog. In a dramatic twist worthy of a play, within moments of my last exposure, the clouds closed the scene like a curtain after a fine performance!”
More than being a remarkable image, Portrait of Half Dome, asks the viewer and photographer, himself, to consider the question, “Is this beautiful image the result of just being at the right place at the right time?” Kolbrener replies, “This assertion places its value on mother nature and not on me. The artist must be able to respond in the moment. My window of opportunity was maybe 10 minutes.” Nature often presents a photographer with a beautiful scene, but composing all the elements of the scene in a striking arrangement with limited time is a mixture of experience, skill, and talent.
The introduction to his book, Kolbrener’s Yosemite, best sums up his thoughts on landscape photography. “I have always responded to the grand, ephemeral gestures of nature. When there is lightning, fog, or winter storm, I am alive with emotion. Through the teaching of Ansel Adams, I have been able to direct this energy to the making of exciting photographs.”
Kolbrener expanded on this thought in a recent interview, “I would like to contend that everything that I have learned, experienced, and photographed all come together when nature presents the opportunity. I believe that all great photographs, by serious photographers, strike a balance between vision and craft. With an abundance of one of these over the other, the result is unsatisfactory.”
Having vision is more than having a good eye, Kolbrener says. “Good vision is the culmination of who we are – which is our past, present, and accumulated aesthetics.”
Kolbrener was born and raised west of St. Louis, Missouri, on his family’s 70 acres of ponds, woods, and fields. They had no neighbors, and after school, he and his three brothers spent the hours till dinner romping and climbing or catching frogs and fish. “I have to think that this environment was a contribution to the love I have for the natural world which I still maintain. Far different from an urban existence where as an adult the person decides to be a photographer and then travels to Yosemite to make photographs,” he said recently in an interview.
Kolbrener attributes his love of the land to those early years spent in close proximity to the natural world. The land, itself, with its beauty and variety, was his orbit. Kolbrener contends that industrialization moves us away from an agrarian way of seeing the world. For example, many people think that food comes from a grocery store, he said. “The farther we get from the natural world; the more trouble we are in.”
More of Kolbrener’s work can be seen on his Lumière Artist Page.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Outside Time – Documents Lawson’s Photographic Achievements

Stephen Lawson describes his artist book, Outside Time, as his “mongrel brain-child.” This description belies the complexity and depth of his lifetime of work in photography, but is surprisingly apt at describing his unconventional career. In the early 1970s, the Scottish-born Lawson studied conceptual sculpture and earth art, which led to his epic exploration of time using photography in his adopted home, Morgantown, West Virginia.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Lawson, himself is an interesting contradiction, a photographer in his 70s who never used a traditional darkroom, but built cameras from the screws up to create his own brand of time-lapse pictures. This Scotsman is not interested in f-stops and shutter speeds, but his photographs, some of which take a calendar year to expose, must be calibrated down to the smallest increment of time in order to succeed.
Lawson has spent much of the last three years creating Outside Time so future artists and scientists will be able to understand his mechanical process. Though artists using digital technology can approximate his methods, his one-of-a-kind cameras render his pictures different from other images, both in theory and in practical execution.
“The photo-based works grow from my background as a sculptor. These are four dimensional in concept and execution, but only two in the presentation. The concept of space and time is reconstructed in the mind of the viewer,” Lawson wrote. “The year and day-long works could be thought of as bringing a concentrated gaze; the brief, dynamic shots read as a glance, in the turn of the head, as the eye itself sees, before the mind edits this to a visual memory, often as a “still.” Indeed, all of the images could be thought of as movies presented as stills.”
Though Lawson has used a variety of techniques, he is perhaps best known for his collage like images that combine narrow strips of photographic prints, each strip depicting a place at a specific time, and taken in equally specific increments, such as every 10 minutes or once an hour on the hour. When Lawson assembles these strips into one whole picture, the viewer can see the landscape over a year or a day or whatever unit of time Lawson employed for that particular photograph.
“The unique cameras required to produce these time based works have been constructed by me and evolved over the years, one capability leading to the next. The first “rig” was put together in 1980. These have been very labor intensive, built with simple hand tools, hard work and patience, the conceptual skills as with the manual ones deriving from a background in sculpture,” he wrote. “The work is presented in a poetic mode that asks one to stand briefly outside the usual flow of time, hopefully causing us to reflect on our “time-in-the-world,” individually, culturally, and even as a species.”
Outside Time is more than an artist’s monograph, it is a metaphor for his career: hand-made, hard-won and unique. Many distinguished institutions, including The Chicago Art Institute and the Princeton University libraries, have acquired the handmade version of Outside Time, in recent days. Lawson is looking for a publisher to issue a commercial version of the book.
Like his cameras, some versions of Outside Time were made by Lawson with a stainless steel cover and back that contain nearly 200 pages of text and pictures describing his artistic roots, development, tools and ideas. The book is a house for his legacy, much as his cameras provide a sturdy home for the film he must protect during long exposures.
Lawson writes that the book came together in a piecemeal fashion much like the trajectory of his career – winding from sculpture to earth works to photography. “Youth is not the best vantage in writing an autobiography. So now I have a better stance to make a panoramic picture of my own landscape,” he wrote.
Lawson first began to think of writing a book, as he was preparing for a 2011 exhibition at Lumière, because his cameras were on display along with his photographs for the first time.
Though technical details are crucial to Lawson’s work, more so than most photographers, all of his mechanical creations are in the service of an almost literary interpretation of time. Lawson proves himself a poet when he writes:“Time can be tedious, time can be fleeting. Time is elastic to our emotions, in response to our awareness. Like the air we breathe, we live within it, unnoticed until a sensation draws out attention to it. Now at a certain age, I wonder where so much of it went; it is no longer here. Mostly, I swam in it, luxuriating in the buoyancy, assuming it an ocean, an endless resource, if thought of at all.”
Despite such modesty, Lawson most certainly thought of the hours and the moments and what they mean – Outside Time is the proof.
More of Lawson’s work can be seen on his Lumière Artist Page.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

The Intertwined Careers of Lewis Hine, Paul Strand & Bernice Abbott

Social documentary photographer Lewis Hine’s career intersected with two of the Circle of Light artists, Paul Strand and Berenice Abbott. At the dawn of the Twentieth Century, Hine, who was making iconic Ellis Island photographs, taught an extracurricular course at New York’s Ethical Culture School, and one of his students was a young Paul Strand. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Lewis taught this small class of six students the mechanics of the camera, how to use magnesium powder in flashes, and most importantly, he introduced Strand to Alfred Stieglitz at the Photo-Secession Gallery on Fifth Avenue. This was a fortuitous meeting, as Stieglitz eventually became a major advocate for Strand, publishing his early photographs and heralding Strand’s accomplishments through the gallery.
Child Labor - Lewis Hine

Child Labor – Lewis Hine

Though he was only 17, after visiting the gallery Strand declared that his only goal to be “an artist in photography.” After this pivotal encounter, Strand never veered from a life in art. After finishing high school, Strand decided not to attend college, and after brief stints working for his father, and serving in the army, he embarked on a life of photography and filmmaking.
Portrait of Lewis Hine, by Berenice Abbott

Portrait of Lewis Hine, by Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott played a role in Hine’s career at the end of his life. She visited Hine when he was ill and had been rendered impoverished by the Great Depression. The artist who exposed the evils of child labor, unsafe working conditions, the plight of immigrants and the slums of the Lower East Side of Manhattan had been largely forgotten. Abbott organized an exhibition of his work that re-established Hine’s contribution to the medium of photography and the progressive movement.
Much has been written about Berneice Abbott’s heroic efforts to preserve the Parisian negatives of Eugene Atget. She played a similar role in cementing Hine’s place in art history. Martha Wheelock, who made a documentary of Berenice Abbott’s life, recounts the Hine-Abbott connection. “Lewis Hine was penniless and had all these interesting pictures of people working in the mills. Bernice Abbott alone got his work in the press and also staged an exhibition of his work, but she never did that sort of thing for herself. I think that says a great deal about her as a human being and as an artist.”

Posted in: a Deeper Look

The Lunar Landscape – Moonset at Donahue Pass

Image and Narrative, by Peter Essick

Some of most famous and popular photographs by Ansel Adams have a moon in them. There is, of course, Moonrise, Hernandez, NM, the most famous of them all. But there is also Moon and Half Dome and Autumn Moon from Glacier Point.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

However, when I took this photograph of the moon setting behind Donahue Pass, I was thinking of another Ansel Adams photograph with the moon. It is titled High Country Crags and Moon, Sunrise, Kings Canyon National Park, California. It was made in 1935, before all the others and was made in a similar high elevation of the Sierra Nevada.
Moonset, near Donohue Pass, 2010

Moonset, near Donahue Pass, 2010

When I thought about doing a story about the Ansel Adams Wilderness, I wanted to pay homage to the work of the master but not copy his work. It didn’t make any sense to go and photograph the same places or even in the same style as Adams did 75 years earlier. However, it didn’t feel right to totally go in the other direction and photograph in a completely different style. I realized I had been influenced by the work of Adams and I wanted to celebrate that. In my mind, I came up with the idea of “referencing.” By this I mean that when I took my photograph of the moonset at Donahue Pass, I had seen and admired High Country Crags and Moon. There are some similarities in that both were taken at of a granite landscape in the Sierra Nevada above tree line. Also, both feature triangular shapes. My intent was for the photograph to be my interpretation, while also acknowledging the work that came before.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that photographs of the moon in conjunction with a natural landscape are special. It is hard to even imagine a photograph such as Moonrise, Hernandez, NM without the moon, even though the moon is a small element in relative size in the photograph. The moon is both the focal and the exclamation point, telling the viewer that rhythms of the natural world aligned for the fortunate photographer.
In my case, I did time my trip so that I was in the wilderness during a full moon. The full moon rises over the eastern horizon at exactly the same time as the sun sets in the west. So if you want to photograph the moon rising with sunlight on the landscape in the foreground, the best time is a two days before the actual full moon. At this time the waxing moon will look almost full, but it will have been up for two hours because the moon rises one hour later each day. It also moves about 15 degrees each hour, so it will be about 30 degrees above the horizon. The same effect happens in reverse with the moon setting. Two days after the full moon it is possible to photograph the sunrise light hitting on the landscape with the waning, almost full moon still 30 degrees above the western horizon.
In the Sierra Nevada at around 9,000 feet there becomes fewer trees and they grow shorter. At 10,000 feet is about the limit that trees can survive, so above this elevation the landscape takes on a different feel. The marks and polish of the glaciers are more evident without any trees or soil to hide them. Together with the usual cool wind and direct exposure to the elements, it feels like you have entered another world. The only description that comes to mind is that of a lunar landscape. So what better element to place in the background than the real moon, especially if it is seen large enough to reveal the craters and cool beauty of a world beyond.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

The Persistence of Vision

Creativity and Longevity in the Careers of:
Imogen Cunningham, Bernice Abbott and Paul Strand

Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham
In a CBS This Morning video segment called Note to Self, the painter Chuck Close declares, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” Close believes art is created from a steady diet of work, rather than the gift of a muse descending from the heavens bearing a brilliant painting or novel or photograph. Imogen Cunningham, Berenice Abbott and Paul Strand would likely agree with Close’s view.
READ ENTIRE ARTICLE
All three photographers had impressive work ethics that drove them to create photographs until the end of their long lives. Cunningham died at 93; Abbott at 93 and Strand at 85.
Perhaps an abiding interest in the world beyond one’s self is a key to longevity. These photographers drew their inspiration from the external world, whether the impetus was to document changes in the way people live and work or a desire to explore different values and political systems. Curiosity is a trait linking these three very different photographers. The camera represented a kind of fountain of youth for Abbott, Cunningham and Strand, who were determined to use this still young medium as a powerful tool of understanding. These three Americans traveled the globe in search of photographic success in their own unique ways.
Berenice Abbott, NYC, 1986 - by Arnold Newman

Berenice Abbott, NYC, 1986 – by Arnold Newman

Bernice Abbott was part of the American expatriate community in Paris in the 1920s. After studying sculpture in Europe for a few years, she found her calling when she convinced Dadaist Man Ray to hire her as a darkroom assistant, despite her lack of experience.

“America was no place for the artist, and it was no place for me. Nothing would have happened to me here. A poor girl from the middle west with nothing open for me except marriage,” Abbott says in Martha Wheelock’s excellent film, Bernice Abbott, A View of the 20th Century. “There was a general feeling of hope. The war had lifted off of people’s shoulders. There is a café life there that’s very wonderful. People come there late in the afternoon after a days work. You exchange ideas and you’re alive.“
Paul Strand, NYC, 1966 - by Arnold Newman

Paul Strand, NYC, 1966 – by Arnold Newman

Paul Strand moved to Mexico in the 1930s to photograph labor and farming communities, after being invited by Carlos Chavez, director of the fine arts department of the Secretariat of Public Education, to document the changing landscape and people of Mexico. During the two years Strand spent there, he traveled the countryside photographing small towns, churches, religious icons and the people who inhabited the land. Eventually, Strand moved to France permanently in the 1950s. His adopted country became a base to explore Europe and Africa.

Imogen Cunningham, NYC, 1969 - by Arnold Newman

Imogen Cunningham, NYC, 1969 – by Arnold Newman

For part of her career, Imogen Cunningham was restricted geographically by familial duties, but she also traveled to Europe at the end of her life and photographed extensively there. Though her photographic endeavors were primarily centered on the West Coast, her projects where as diverse and expansive, as those of her peers in the Circle of Light exhibition.

Science backs up the anecdotal evidence that imaginative pursuits can fuel longevity, as Jeffrey Kluger writes in a 2013 Time Magazine article, “Increasingly, brain research is showing that in the case of creative people, this mortal cause-and-effect pays powerful dividends–that it’s not just the luck of living a long life that allows some people to leave behind such robust bodies of work but that the act of doing creative work is what helps add those extra years.”
Though what scientists call “fluid intelligence,” which includes memory and computational speed, almost invariably decline with age, the brain can actually repair itself and strengthen right and left-brain connections as it ages. Kruger continues. “Studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), however, show that in the older brain, one hemisphere is not shy about calling on the other for help if it’s having trouble with a task. ‘There may be a decline in function, but it’s partly compensated for by a reorganization in function,’ says cognitive neuroscientist Roberto Cabeza of Duke University. ‘The brain shows these changes into the 80s.’ That can pay particular dividends for the artist, Cabeza says. Language conveys meaning, but if you want to give it particular resonance, it helps to attach a picture to the words. So the left-brain has to reach into the right for help–the poet borrowing one of the painter’s brushes. That’s not easy to do–which is why not everyone can be a poet–but when the walls between the hemispheres get lower, the job gets easier.”
Posted in: a Deeper Look

Ansel Adams – Extract Over Abstract

A Blend of Philosophy and Technique to Create Majestic Photographs

Meticulous. Premeditated. Studious. Considered. Designed. Projected. Predetermined. All synonyms for the word deliberate. Ansel Adams just might have been the most deliberate photographer to traverse the American West. Adams crafted his exacting approach to photography by employing both technical and philosophical processes.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

In terms of technique, Adams literally wrote the book. In the late 1930’s working with Fred Archer they invented the zone system. His heralded prints were the culmination of this film exposure and development system combined with his darkroom wizardry. Adams shooting credo included the ideas of previsualization and extraction.
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941

The zone system is a process where the photographer understands and controls every tone, from black to middle grey to white to their best advantage, based on a numbered system of 0 to 10. The artist decides what tonality they want to assign to a specific part of the scene. This gives the photographer the freedom to interpret what is before them, rather than merely plugging settings into a camera based on what a light meter alone says.
Though the Sierra Club and other organizations (as well as the photographer himself) used his majestic images to promote conservation and protection of the wilderness, Adams did not consider himself a documentarian of nature. That category is too narrow to encompass all the ideas and skills Adams brought to the medium.
He extracted photographs from what he saw as an act of creation, not an act of recording. “When I’m ready to make a photograph, I think I quite obviously see in my minds eye something that is not literally there in the true meaning of the word. I’m interested in something which is built up from within, rather than just extracted from without,” Adams said.
Monolith Face of Half Dome, 1927

Monolith Face of Half Dome, 1927

When a viewer suggested that one of Adams’s photographs looked abstract, Adams corrected him. “I prefer the term extract over abstract, since I cannot change the optical realities but only manage them.” This distinction is important and ties in with Adams’ idea of previsualization. Adams always imagined how the final print would be created while he was still out shooting.
In the opening lecture for Ansel Adams: Before & After, at the Booth Museum, Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, projected an un-manipulated image (Monolith Face of Half Dome, 1927), by his father and the same image after Ansel has worked his zone system magic. The difference was astounding. Not so much because it proved Adams’ technical prowess, but because viewers could see that Adams was able to imagine something completely unique in that scene that most people would miss.
This approach is more significant than it may appear to 21st century eyes – Adams’ approach was a break from the past. Early landscape photographers such as William Henry Jackson are referred to as “survey” photographers, because that is exactly what they were doing, making a document of the land, often for the US government on official expeditions.
Afternoon Thunderstorm, Garnet Lake, 2010

Afternoon Thunderstorm, Garnet Lake, 2010

National Geographic photographer Peter Essick, who has photographed extensively in the High Sierras, now called the Ansel Adams Wilderness, puts this shift in perspective. “That was Adams’ huge leap forward in landscape photography. Back in his day the equipment was so heavy and cumbersome that most photographers just did survey photography. They weren’t thinking of it as personal expression or art, they were simply documenting. Adams, though, captured just a section of a landscape. He used to say that nature is made up of shapes, and the artist’s job is to make form out of them. The way you do that is by including your own emotional response as a photographer. He revolutionized nature photography by bringing in the feeling of the extract.”
Some critics have suggested that Adams’ impact remains so pervasive that modern day visitors to Yosemite experience this large and diverse national park through the prism of Adams’ photographs – an extraction of enormous proportion.
This is the forth article in a series of four providing a Deeper Look at the work of Ansel Adams.
ANSEL ADAMS & TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY (1 of 4)
ANSEL ADAMS – EARLY MODERNIST (2 of 4)
THE SPIRITUAL IMPACT OF ANSEL ADAMS’ WORK (3 of 4)

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Bradford Washburn – Renaissance Man

Bradford Washburn was truly an American version of a 20th century Renaissance man. Cartographer, scientist, esteemed climber and explorer, museum director, and photographer were some of the pursuits at which he excelled. Among his many activities, Washburn spent 60 years making stunning aerial photographs of frozen vistas, most notably in Alaska.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Mount McKinley from North East over Muldrow Glacier, 1938

Mount McKinley from North East over Muldrow Glacier, 1938

“Washburn’s breathtaking photography shows mountains within their dynamic, violent surroundings: wind swirling off peaks, faraway glaciers glinting in the sun. He took many of these photos squeezed into the doorway of a small airplane, his 53-pound Fairchild K-6 camera in tow. Other times, he would pack it with him, his wiry frame trundling up towards the summit,” wrote Ryan Bradley in the National Geographic magazine.
Many photographers have stellar wilderness skills, but Washburn amassed at least 15 first ascents on Alaskan mountains between 1933-1955. An impressed Ansel Adams wrote, “Bradford Washburn is one of the very few people who have combined spectacular experience in the wilderness with equally spectacular achievements in the world of civilization. One never knows what next to expect from this roving genius of mind and mountains…”
Barnard Glacier, 1938

Barnard Glacier, 1938

Three of Washburn’s photogravures from Alaska are included in Ansel Adams: Before and After, an exhibition co-curated by the Booth Western Art Museum and Lumière. This show displays over 25 Adams prints that place the master photographer in the context of photographic history.
Viewers will learn about the pioneers who influenced a young Adams, witness Adams at the pinnacle of his powers, and see Adam’s influence running through the generation of photographers who followed him. The exhibition is now open and has been EXTENDED until April 3, 2016.
Mountaineering captivated Washburn from an early age. By the time he enrolled at Harvard, he had already been inducted into the prestigious New York Explorer’s Club and was a member of the French Alpine Club’s élite Groupe de Haute Montagne. In fact, the young Washburn hoped to pay his college fees through lecturing gigs.
Mount Huntington, 1978

Mount Huntington, 1978

Tireless and fearless, Washburn excelled at all the activities he undertook, but he was proudest of his work as the director of the New England Museum of Natural History. Washburn took what has been described an “uninspired collection” and turned it into a leading science museum now called the Museum of Science, Boston.
Under his leadership, the museum organized the first traveling planetarium in 1948. The 1950s ushered in 20 years of physical expansion, and the museum has not stopped evolving. Washburn was the director from 1939-1980.
Washburn passed away at the age of 96, in 2007 – he is said to have been mapping the grounds of his retirement home when he died – but his legacy lives on at the Bradford Washington American Mountaineering Museum (BWAMM) in Golden, Colorado. His work can also be seen online at his Lumière artist page.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Ron Partridge – A Unique Vantage Point

Photographer Rondal Partridge had more than a front seat view to the golden age of West Coast photography, he drove the car – literally. Partridge, who was the son of Imogen Cunningham, often assisted Dorothea Lange as she photographed in California during the Great Depression. One of his duties was motoring Lange through the countryside as she hunted for images. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Asparagus Worker, Sacramento River Delta, 1940

Asparagus Worker, Sacramento River Delta, 1940

Ron also assisted Ansel Adams, carrying Adams’ heavy gear up and down the mountains of Yosemite. Ever irreverent, Ron was once fired (then rehired) by Adams after he tied Adams’ shoelaces together, causing the great photographer to fall flat on his face.
Ron, who passed away in June of 2015, was one of the last witnesses to this pivotal time in photographic history. Partridge’s hand is very much present in the recent Lumière exhibition Circle of Light, as he printed all of his mother’s European photographs. For many years Partridge was the keeper of her legacy, running The Imogen Cunningham Trust and printing her work after Cunningham’s death in 1976.
Mother and son shared an interest in platinum printing, as well as other darkroom explorations. Partridge also experimented with gold printing, which is an unusual process.
The young Ron was profoundly influenced by his experiences working with documentarian Dorothea Lange. “It was completely pivotal experience for him. He was still a teenager when he drove Dorothea through California on assignment. The experience really focused his drive,” said Meg Partridge, his daughter and current director of The Imogen Cunningham Trust. “He was technologically advanced by the age of 15 or 16, so when he worked with Dorothea Lange, he could take advantage of what she had to offer. He could see what photography could do to reveal injustice and perhaps promote change.”
Pave It and Paint It Green, Yosemite National Park, 1965

Pave It and Paint It Green, Yosemite National Park, 1965

Lange’s commitment to social change left its mark on Partridge. Though Partridge often photographed beautiful objects, when he documented the landscape he was sure to include the damage inflicted by mankind. Adams photographed the gorgeous peaks of Yosemite, but Ron stepped back and included the parking lot at Half Dome (a famous Yosemite landmark) when he created his own iconic image of the national park called, Pave It and Paint It Green in 1965. Ron also made a short film of the same name.
Ron’s work was exhibited at Lumière in the exhibition, Dorothea Lange and Her Impact, which is available online through this link.
The mantle of history can weigh heavily on the child of famous and accomplished parents, but not so for Ron. He discussed his feelings on this subject with reporter Robert Taylor of the Contra Costa Times newspaper in 2003.”I am consciously not an icon,” he says. “I was exactly what I wanted to be. I’ve always done what I wanted to do — with small excursions into cash-related fields.” Partridge has taken all kinds of photos in all kinds of places, from the Orinda Hills to shipboard in the South Pacific, but he’s never been good at taking orders or following assignments that didn’t make sense to him. “You can’t believe the opportunities I missed — or didn’t take,’ he says, without a touch of regret.”
Additional information about Partridge’s work, can be found on his Artist Page.

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Paul Strand and The Photo League

“The Photo League was a remarkable and unique organization, at that time or at any other time. It had no equivalent. They (the members of the Photo League) felt as I have, that the function of art was to speak to people about the world in which they exist.” — Paul StrandREAD ENTIRE ARTICLE

Paul Strand - Tailor's Apprentice

Paul Strand – Tailor’s Apprentice

Paul Strand was a vital member of The Photo League, not only because he served on its advisory board, but because his work resonated so clearly with the group’s mission. Strand is known for pictures examining labor and the working class in North American, Europe and Africa, but also for his groundbreaking early work as a modernist. As a leader in the League and a teacher there, he was able to help other photographers hone their own visions, so they could also reveal the world to their audiences.
The Photo League was a cooperative of photographers and filmmakers in New York who banded together around a range of common social and creative causes. The League was active from 1936 to 1951 and included among its members some of the most influential American photographers of the era.
Photo League artists with ties to Lumière, include Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Harold Feinstein, Dorothea Lange, Aaron Siskind, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Strand. The links above will take you to these artists’
specific pages on the Lumière site.
Berenice Abbott - Pier 21, NYC

Berenice Abbott – Pier 21, NYC

The League was founded to train photographers in the social documentary tradition. As such, it ran a school, published a newsletter, sponsored talks and exhibitions by leading European and American photographers, as well as providing a community for photographers to grow professionally and personally. The League also maintained Lewis Hine’s archive.
Many passionate discussions about what photography could or should be – reverberated through its halls. For example, an intense debate erupted when Aaron Siskind turned from his documentary exploration of Harlem to an examination of abstraction inspired by graffiti.
Strand, whose work can also be seen online in Lumière’s Circle of Light exhibition, was an especially influential member of the Photo League. His work defined what was best about both the documentary and modernist models of photography, according to League members. As such, he was immune from much of the criticism leveled at other members whose work was not as successful in uniting social content with impeccable form. Though published after the Photo League disbanded, Strand’s book, The Face of France, is an example of his fluidity.
“The Photo League was a remarkable and unique organization, at that time or at any other time. It had no equivalent. They (the members of the Photo League) felt as I have, that the function of art was to speak to people about the world in which they exist,” Strand said in an interview with Anne Tucker, former curator of the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
Paul Strand - Woman & Boy (Mexican Portfolio)

Paul Strand – Woman & Boy (Mexican Portfolio)

The Photo League was one of the few places Strand exhibited The Mexican Portfolio, where it was shown in 1941. Strand did not often exhibit his work during his life, so his exhibition at The Photo League speaks to the intensity of his feelings about the organization. Strand’s prints were laborious to make, as he was a perfectionist, so he did not often make multiple copies of individual images. Later he turned to bookmaking and photogravure as means of expressing his vision.
The Photo League was rooted in leftist and labor politics of the 1930s, and though it had diversified its political thought somewhat since its inception, the League was not able to withstand attacks mounted by the supporters of McCarthyism.
Though the League disbanded in 1951, Paul Strand felt the League had succeeded because it trained a generation of photographers and encouraged them to reach the public through their efforts.
Even as the League was winding down, Strand maintained his commitment to the organization. In fact, Strand was the only photographer to teach a documentary class after 1947. In Tucker’s words, the class was Strand’s last gift to the League.
Additional information about Strand’s work, can be found on his Artist Page.

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Imogen Cunningham – Out Man Raying Man Ray

The Art of Photographing Photographers

While in Europe, Imogen tracked down the great American expatriate artist Man Ray and made a stunning portrait of this multi-disciplinary artist. Often in her long career, Imogen used darkroom magic to transform an ordinary photograph, into something much more.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Original Portrait of Man Ray

Original Portrait of Man Ray

Meg Partridge recounts her grandmother’s method: “Imogen did whatever it took to make a photograph go from good to great. She took a straightforward picture of Man Ray sitting at his desk and in the darkroom she made it into something fabulous by moving the image in the enlarger as many as eight times to create a layered, cinematic effect.”
“Imogen had gumption. She was never shy about photographing other photographers. You just have to bring your best game to photo sessions with great artists.”
A Man Ray Version of Man Ray

A Man Ray Version of Man Ray

Berenice Abbott, another Circle of Light photographer, had a very different relationship with Man Ray. Cunningham met Man Ray, later in life, when she was an established artist, but Abbott was not even working in the medium when she met Man Ray in 1923, through the expatriate community in Paris. Abbott was trying her hand at sculpture, when she heard through Marcel Duchamp, that Man Ray was looking for an untrained assistant. A previous assistant had been too aggressive in his questioning of Man Ray’s methods, and Man Ray was looking for a more malleable employee. Abbott fit the bill since she had never printed a photograph or seriously used a camera. Abbott was quickly smitten with photography and abandoned sculpture permanently.
Berenice Abbott, 1921, by Man Ray

Berenice Abbott, 1921, by Man Ray

Man Ray taught Abbott to print negatives and use a camera. Abbott was an avid learner and within three years or so, she had established her own studio. Jean Cocteau was her first official sitter. James Joyce, Eugene Atget, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes are among her most notable subjects. Her portrait of Joyce is one of the most widely reproduced images of the great Irish novelist.
The practice of photographers switching roles and becoming the subject of an image is deeply rooted. Cunningham’s portrait of the mature Man Ray reminds us of his portrait of the young Berenice Abbott taken nearly 4 decades earlier.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

Ansel Adams & Today’s Technology

Would He Embrace Photoshop?

Would Ansel Adams sit behind a computer in his Carmel home, editing his latest photograph in Photoshop? Would the man who wrote dozens of books, including volumes called: The Negative and The Print, archive his RAW files in Lightroom? Would the man who championed the zone system, now create apps and plug-ins? More than 30 years after this influential photographer’s death, younger generations of artists are asking similar questions.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Michael Adams, Ansel’s son, said in a recent lecture at The Booth Western Art Museum, that his father “absolutely” was interested in the latest technology and eagerly looked forward to the next wave of photographic innovation.
Jeanne & Michael Adams - recent visit to Lumière

Jeanne & Michael Adams – recent visit to Lumière

Ansel Adams passed away in 1984 when digital photography was still referred to as electronic, but given the amount of effort and time Adams spent perfecting traditional black and white printing, it seems logical that he would continue advancing the medium.
“I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them. ” Adams wrote in the final printing of his book, The Negative, in 1981.
One indicator of Adams’ forward thinking is the little known fact that he worked extensively in color, mainly on commercial projects. During his life, Adams made close to 3,500 color photographs beginning with the invention of Kodachrome film (color slides) in the mid 1930s.
One reason Adams published so few color photographs during his lifetime, is that color reproduction was inaccurate and limited at that time. Other photographers of Adams’ generation, such as Wynn Bullock, worked in color but also did not trust the printing processes of that era to show their work in its best light. An online examination of Bullock’s work, which was printed using archival methods in recent years, is available here, “Adams didn’t believe that the color processes of his day could produce results to compare with the rich visual deliberation, the fine-grained luxuriance of his work in black and white. To put it bluntly, he didn’t think he could control the outcome with color, and for Adams control over the artistic process meant everything. But he valued the richness of color transparencies, looked forward to the day when it would be possible to print them to his own high standards, and came close to producing a book about color theory and practice that would include some of his own work,” wrote Time magazine critic Richard Lacayo, in a 2009 article.
Lacayo goes on to ask the same question that readers may be thinking right now – how can we know what Adams would do today? “Digital color correction now allows us to make fine adjustments in Adams’ pictures to produce prints with subtleties that weren’t possible in his lifetime. But can we be sure that pictures printed after his death give us just the colors he would have wanted? Of course not. He was an exacting man, and there’s no way of knowing precisely what shade of gray-green or yellow-beige would have worked best for him or whether he was sure of what it should be until he saw it.” “He was smart enough to know that pictures are just fictions that point us back to realities with a fresh eye and that an artist is someone who adjusts the fictions to match his instincts. We value his pictures as much as we do because his instincts were first-rate, but all we can hope to do is approximate his intentions,” concludes Lacayo.
Adams’ work with Dr. Edwin Land of the Polaroid Corporation on the evolution of instant films provides further proof of Adams’ openness to the future. There’s a world of difference between the contemplative process of using a view camera and the instant result of a Polaroid camera. Land and Adams met in 1947 at an optics convention, and once Adams saw what Polaroid cameras could do, he immediately became a consultant. Adams was still testing films and cameras for the company up until his death.
“There it was, (a Polaroid image) brown and of rather awful quality. But, by gosh, it was a one-minute picture! And that excited me to no end,” Adams said.
Type 55 film, which debuted in 1961, was an Adams favorite, because it contained both a print side and a reusable large format negative. El Capitan, Sunrise, Winter, Yosemite National Park, California, 1968, was shot on Polaroid film.
According to The Economist, the success of Adams’ collaboration with Dr. Land laid the groundwork for Polaroid’s later sponsorship of younger artists. “When Land saw how useful Adams was in suggesting improvements to his product he began Polaroid’s Artist Support Program which offered grants of cameras and film to artists such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg in order to have his products tested to their limits.”
Previously on view (Nov 2015 – March 2016), Ansel Adams: Before and After, an exhibition co-curated by Lumière at the Booth Museum in Cartersville GA, generated many ideas about Adams’ legacy through an examination of his work and the artists that came directly before and after him.
This extensive exhibition featured over 100 images, including a cross-section of 25 original photographs by Adams. Other photographers in the exhibition included: Alfred Steiglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Laura Gilpin, Brett Weston, Pirkle Jones, William Garnett, Bradford Washburn, Barry Goldwater, Cole Weston, and Philip Hyde. Contemporary photographers included, Al Weber, Robert Weingarten, Jay Dusard, Bob Kolbrener, Peter Essick, Tim Barnwell, Douglas Keats, Cara Weston, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Tom Murphy, John Mariana, Julieanne Kost, and Rex Naden.
Additional information about Adams’ work, can be found on his Artist Page.
This is the first article in a series of four providing a Deeper Look at the work of Ansel Adams.
ANSEL ADAMS – EARLY MODERNIST (2 of 4)
THE SPIRITUAL IMPACT OF ANSEL ADAMS’ WORK (3 of 4)
ANSEL ADAMS – EXTRACT OVER ABSTRACT (4 of 4)

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Imogen In Paris

Though Imogen Cunningham is often associated with West Coast photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, who also came to prominence in the greater San Francisco area in the 1930’s, her photographic origins are equally rooted in the European tradition. As a young woman Imogen traveled to Dresden, Germany to study chemistry and photography in 1909. This was a bold step for a woman at the turn of the Twentieth Century; one of many pioneering courses Imogen would chart in her long life. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

In 1960 and 1961, Imogen again crossed the Atlantic to reconnect with old acquaintances and meet photographers she admired, according to Meg Partridge; an Oscar nominated filmmaker and Imogen’s granddaughter. “She really felt a part of the European photography culture because she had studied in Germany as a young woman, and she had kept up with the work of Europeans. She was curious about the icons of photography…she just sought them out her whole life. Imogen had relationships with other artists that lasted 50 years. She never stopped making connections.”
The Marche’ Aux Oiseaux, Paris, 1960

The Marche’ Aux Oiseaux, Paris, 1960

During these two trips in the Sixties, Imogen made iconic photographs of artists August Sander, Alvin Langdon Coburn and Man Ray, as well as evocative street scenes in Paris and other European cities.Lumière is proud to exhibit a selection of Imogen’s European works as part of the Circle of Light Exhibition that opens September 26, 2015.
While reconnecting with her circle of friends, Imogen’s sense of curiosity also led her out into the streets of Paris. “She sought out places were people would be accessible and active, such as The Marche’ Aux Oiseaux, a French bird market,“ said Partridge. “A lot of humanity goes on in the streets of Europe because the spaces are so much smaller than in the United States. Public places in Europe can be very intimate.” Imogen…was always looking for a spark of connection or recognition that would transcend the language barrier
American Bar, Strasbourg, 1960

American Bar, Strasbourg, 1960

In American Bar, Strasbourg, 1960, Imogen trains her lens on an elegant woman whose gaze seems to slice through the crowded bar and directly connect with the photographer. While looking at this image, a viewer can almost feel the room fall silent when the shutter is clicked. Imogen cleverly uses subtle architectural details, such as a piece of an awning hanging from the top of the frame to guide the eye straight through the crowd towards her subject. Imogen contrasts this woman with a younger man off to the left side of the image who looks out into the distance, as if contemplating his fate, while the elegant woman seems to know hers. “That glance speaks to me of how Imogen persisted and responded to someone, and she got that picture – that special flash of recognition that passes between subject and photographer,” Partridge said.
Child, Near Place des Vosges, Paris, 1961

Child, Near Place des Vosges, Paris, 1961

The openness of children is another of Imogen’s favorite subjects. Child, Place des Vosges, Paris, 1961, which depicts a young boy who pauses in the act of snapping a rubber band to scrutinize Imogen, is a vivid example of this interest. A viewer can imagine that Imogen appeared to this child like a character in a fairy tale with only she carried a camera instead of a magic wand. Edna Tartaul Daniel, an interviewer with The Regional History Project of the University of California at Berkley described Imogen’s appearance around the time Child, Place des Vosges was taken, “A small blonde person, neither thin nor thick; She dressed in garments of easy cut with accents in either color or design of pleasant and occasionally picturesque nature. Without concern for fashion, she wore clothing useful and interesting to herself, and shoes appropriate to a working photographer, who transported herself, with photographic paraphernalia slung about her, on train or bus.” “She sought out children who engaged her on the street – she did that time and time again – children without their parents. She was looking for that honesty and innocence found in children. Children are transparent, and that’s what Imogen was going for,” says Partridge.
Bourget, Strasbourg, 1960

Bourget, Strasbourg, 1960

Bourget, Strasbourg, 1960, is a photo of a shop window full of lingerie that seems to have come alive, despite the absence of a mannequin or human. A single stocking clad foot seems to tip toe through the frame while a girdle leans provocatively against it. What sets the picture apart are the unusually angular shapes the fabric makes, as if the shopkeeper wanted to emphasize how uncomfortable, yet still beautiful, these garments must be. This tableau seems familiar because it is part of a continuum in the medium. “This image speaks to the history of photography in Paris and references Atget. All that living was just over the top,” said Partridge.
The photographs in this exhibition are part of a larger body of work created in Berlin, Munich, Paris and London in 1960. More photographs were created the following year, when Imogen returned to Paris and also journeyed to Norway, Finland, Sweden Denmark and Poland. Her friend and fellow photographer Edgar Bissantz drove her around the continent, visiting their friends and making images. The European images were largely printed by Imogen’s son Ron Partridge in the 1980s and 1990s.
Complete information about Cunningham’s work, can be found on her Artist Page.

Posted in: a Deeper Look

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