Sunday, April 26, 2009

Photographs from Beaumont Newhall's Autobiography

These are the photographs that came with the press packet for Beaumont Newhall's autobiography, Focus: Memoirs of a Life in Photography (Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown and Co., 1993.) They're the same photos as are in the book itself. Still, they depict the intersection of some rather luminous lives.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I remember it full of interesting vignette's from the history of photography. You can read Vicki Goldberg's review at the end of this post.

The first one is Newhall by Henri Cartier-Bresson followed by Newhall signing a print of his portrait of Cartier-Bresson.

Next up, Newhall in Ansel Adam's backyard by Nancy Newhall and Nancy Newhall and Alfred Stieglitz by Ansel Adams.

And finally, Newhall with Arthur Rothstein at the George Eastman House and Newhall with Edward Weston.

All photos are 7 x 5 inch silver prints.

From the New York Times, Sunday, August 15, 1993:

Depth of Field
By Vicki Goldberg

FOCUS Memoirs of a Life in Photography
By Beaumont Newhall
Illustrated. 264 pp.
Boston: A Bulfinch Press Book/ Little, Brown & Company.

BEAUMONT NEWHALL (1908-93) has a secure place in photographic history, for he himself made that history widely available to Americans. In 1937, at the Museum of Modern Art, he mounted "Photography 1839-1937," the first comprehensive show in this country to trace the course of photography. The catalogue from that exhibition became in effect the first textbook on the subject; generations of students used it, partly because little else was available. The book has often been criticized as being too narrow -- few women or non-European photographers appear -- and Newhall made some attempts at correcting its defects in the fifth edition in 1982.

In 1940, Newhall also became the first curator of MOMA's department of photography, the first such department in any American museum; then in 1948 he became the first curator of George Eastman House, the museum of photography in Rochester, and later served as its director, from 1958 to 1971. "Focus: Memoirs of a Life in Photography" turns out to be a very pleasant if quite undistinguished account of a distinguished career, nicely illustrated with portraits by Newhall, his wife, Nancy, and others.

Scholarship was Newhall's long suit, writing mainly a means to stay in the game. Although he wrote movingly in letters to his wife about their shared passion for photography when he was overseas as a photo interpreter in World War II and she had taken his place at MOMA, his style in this book is easy but colorless and his passions disguised. "Focus" is a good deal more valuable for its history than for its literary charm or its insights into character.

It also serves up generous supplies of information. Newhall's mother was a "semiprofessional" photographer in Massachusetts, but his intense involvement in the medium was precipitated when he saw a German experimental film in 1926. Ph.D. candidates will be relieved to note that he failed his orals in art history at Harvard. (He does not mention that the university gave him an honorary degree 43 years later.) Though he was hired by MOMA in 1935 as a librarian, the staff soon knew he was interested in photography because he set up his darkroom in the men's lavatory, making it difficult to use the room for standard purposes. His own photographs weren't exhibited until he was 70; he was a good photographer, a better historian.

He rolls out some revealing and amusing anecdotes. Ansel Adams was so appalled at the print quality of an abstract composition by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy that he requested permission to reprint it, then tore up his newly detailed version when he realized it was no longer an abstraction. Moholy-Nagy, on the other hand, liked to look at Edward Weston's pictures upside down, which did not endear him to Weston. And Man Ray used the arm of a dressmaker's mannequin rather than a pointer when lecturing.

One of Newhall's more absorbing accounts is of his early commitment to Alfred Stieglitz's view that photography should be seen primarily as art, whether that pleased a large audience or not, and of the countercommitment to large audiences at MOMA. "Photography 1839-1937" had 841 items, including scientific, X-ray and infrared photographs. It failed to get Stieglitz's blessing but attracted good crowds and traveled to 10 major museums. (Newhall pointedly omits mentioning the nonart aspects of this show.) In 1938, when the catalogue was revised and published, Newhall dedicated it to Stieglitz. By then, both the Newhalls were acolytes.

In 1946, he resigned rather than work under Edward Steichen, who became director of the department, and whom Newhall thought self-centered, difficult and cursed with aggressive megalomania. Steichen had mounted two shows of war photographs at MOMA that had kept the turnstiles clicking. He planned to expand vastly the activities of the department, and he was devoted to the idea of photography "only as documentation of the social scene, or as a journalistic medium used for propaganda," as Newhall disparagingly remarks.

Long before Thomas Hoving invented the blockbuster show for the Metropolitan, museums needed crowds. As an officer of MOMA told Newhall, "Steichen's plans are the equivalent of Harvard football, while what you propose can be compared in popularity to crew on the Charles River." The populist-versus-elitist position in museum programming has seldom been put more succinctly; the populists, then as now, generally had more muscle.

Still, Newhall -- curator, teacher, lecturer and author of several books and more than 650 articles -- was a trailbreaker who influenced a great many people. This book is not his most engrossing, but in it he writes, as he often did, a few more footnotes to history.

Vicki Goldberg's most recent book is "The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives."
© The New York Times

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photographers Have to Make a Living Too, Part 2

Ansel Adams, Dmitri Kessel, Joel Meyerowitz and James Balog in advertisements for photography products:

James Balog
Photo District News, November 2007

Dmitri Kessel
American Photography, August 1946

Ansel Adams
American Photography, April 1946

Joel Meyerowitz
Photo District News, November 2007

Going through some old issues of American Photography lately, I've found some very interesting ads featuring well-known photogs. Coming up in a couple of weeks...

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Social Landscape

Here's a mixed bag of announcements and invites for three photojournalists interested in the social landscape: Guy Tillim, of South Africa; Esther Bubley; and Marvin E. Newman.

Marvin E. Newman

Stiff card stock; 10 x 7 inches,
folded once to produce a 5 x 7 card that opens horizontally




Marvin E. Newman (b. 1927) was a freelance photojournalist who contributed extensively to Sports Illustrated, Life, Look, Newsweek, Smithsonian and Esquire. He had a one-man show at Roy DeCarava's “A Photographer's Gallery” in 1956. In 1952, he was one of the first students to earn a Masters Degree in Photography from Chicago's Institute of Design, where he studied with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. While at the ID, he and Yasuhiro Ishimoto would shoot on the street together. They also made the film The Church on Maxwell Street, which documents the sights and sounds of a revivalist church. Prior to that, Newman got his BA from Brooklyn College under the tutelage of Walter Rosenblum and Berenice Abbott.

Now, as I was researching Newman's biography, I repeatedly came across the claim that he won the national contest for American Photography magazine in 1950. He did not. He was however one of 6 winners in the 1951 American Photography contest. That was the first year that it was decided that the judges were "reluctant to designate a 'first' or 'second' prize winner from among the half-dozen prints that they agreed upon as having the most merit." One of the three judges was Walter Rosenblum, by the way.

(If there is any interest, I'll post his winning photo.)

Esther Bubley

Stiff card stock; 7.75 x 5.5 inches



Esther Bubley by Gordon Parks

Esther Bubley was born in Wisconsin in 1921, studied photography in Minneapolis and eventually ended up in Washington, D.C., where she was hired by Roy Stryker to work in the FSA darkroom. In her off-hours, she made photographs of life in the city's boarding houses for war workers. Based on this work, Stryker hired her to work with the Office of War Information, the U.S. government agency created during World War II to handle all foreign and domestic propaganda. One of her best known projects was documenting long-distance bus travel by war workers which she later reprised for Standard Oil, where she went to work after the war, having followed Stryker there. Shortly after, she struck out on her own as a freelance photojournalist shooting extensively for Life. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and she had a one-person show at Helen Gee's Limelight. In 2005, Aperture published a book of her work. She died in 1998.

Guy Tillim

Stiff card stock; 8.25 x 11.5 inches,
folded once to produce an 8.25 x 5.75 inch card that opens vertically




Guy Tillim from BOOKphotoSA's photostream on flicker

Guy Tillim (b. 1962) started his career as a photojournalist with the group Afrapix, a South African collective of photographers. Since the tail-end of the 90s, he has concentrated on documentary work of the lives of third world Africans and of people in war-stricken areas. He has garnered many awards and has quite a few books to his credit. This piece is an invite to a show of his work commissioned by the DaimlerChrysler corporation after he won the 2004 DaimlerChrysler Award for South African photography.

On the difference between a news photographer and a documentary photographer, the latter being what he now considers himself, he was quoted in the Harvard University Gazette:

"A news photographer thrusts an image in your face and says, look how different this is from your world. A documentary photographer shows you an image and says, look how much the same this is. I like to show similarities between people. I think that's a worthwhile thing to do."

Here is a 2005 interview with Tillim from the Natal Witness and here is one from 2008 in a.Magazine.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Callahan

"A photographer whose work has inspired both peers and casual viewers and a teacher whose ideas and methods have influenced university curricula, Harry Callahan is a national treasure. More than 50 years ago, he discovered the camera’s power to capture the sublime and seemingly everyday subjects: nature, the city, and people. His subtle, contemplative pictures convey an intensely personal vision of the world. They have graced photography exhibitions in some of the finest museums around the world. A native of Detroit, his work reminds us that there is always much more than meets the eye."

So said President William Jefferson Clinton, on presenting Harry Callahan with the National Medal of Arts, 0n January 9, 1997.

The previous year, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., mounted a large retrospective of Callahan's work--only the fifth photographer to be accorded such an honor. The first piece is related to that Corcoran show, announcing a panel discussion about Callahan's work featuring Emmet Gowin, Ray Metzger and Jim Dow and a talk by Sarah Greenough about photographic education.

Stiff cardstock; 11 x 8.5 inches; blank back



Stiff card stock, 7.75 x 5.5 inches




Stiff card stock, 11.5 x 8.25, folded once to produce a 5.75 x 8.25,
horizontally opening card

The accompanying press release

Paper, 5.25 x 8.25 inches

Postcard, 6 x 4.25 inches

Postcard, 6 x 4.25 inches
Blank back

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Human Body

We've some random items here, grouped together as they happen to depict the human body. Included are gallery cards for Lois Connor, John Coplans, Chan Chao and Nick Nixon.

And I guess I should say: If you're offended by nudity, go away. It is after all the human body.

Lois Connor
Laurence Miller Gallery, 2004
4 by 9 inches



John Coplans
Andrea Rosen Gallery, 1998
5.5 by 5.5 inches
(Back is blank)

Chan Chao
Yancey Richardson Gallery, 2005
5 by 7 inches



Nicholas Nixon
Yossi Milo Gallery, 2008
8.25 by 10.25 inches



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Garry Winogrand

The Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson, holds Garry Winogrand's Archive. In 2001, they presented 3 months of Winogrand: two exhibits in that time plus a symposium. The first two items are related to that. The third item is 1992 show announcement and finally, his obit from the NY Times.

Stiff card stock, 27 x 9 inches, folded twice
to produce a 9 x 6 inch exhibit announcement
that opens horizontally in an accordion fold





Postcard, 6 x 4.5 inches, announcing the participants in the symposium

Stiff card stock, 7 x 10 inch, folded once
to produce a 7 x 5 inch announcement that opens vertically




Winogrand's obituary in the New York Times

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Photographers Have to Make a Living Too, Part 1

Edward Weston, Arthur Rothstein, William Wegman and Joel Meyerowitz in advertisements for photography products:

Joel Meyerowitz
Photo District News, December 1996

Arthur Rothstein
American Photography, January 1952

William Wegman
Photo District News, October 1997

Edward Weston
American Photography, October 1946