History of Photography

History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 7



ALFRED STIEGLITZ  (collection) 
FRANK EUGENE  (collection)








Art is not so much a matter of methods and processes as it is an affair of temperament; of taste and of sentiment. . . . In the hands of the artist, the photograph becomes a work of art. . . . In a word, photography is what the photographer makes it—an art or a trade.

William Howe Downes, 1900



THE PROMOTION OF THE PHOTOGRAPH to the Status of an art object was the goal of a movement known as Pictorialism. Based on the belief that camera images might engage the feelings and senses, and nourished initially by the concept of Naturalism articulated by Peter Henry Emerson, Pictorialism flourished between 1889 and the onset of the first World War as a celebration of the artistic camera image. The aesthetic photographers who were its advocates held that photographs should be concerned with beauty rather than fact. They regarded the optical sharpness and exact replicative aspects of the medium as limitations inhibiting the expression of individuality and therefore accepted manipulation of the photographic print as an emblem of self-expression. Animated by the same concern with taste and feeling as other visual artists, Pictorialists maintained that artistic photographs should be regarded as equivalents of work in other media and treated accordingly by the artistic establishment. Many of the images made under the banner of Pictorialism now seem little more than misdirected imitations of graphic art, as uninspired as the dull documentary images to which they were a reaction, but a number have retained a refreshing vitality. More significantly, the ideas and assumptions that sparked the movement have continued to inspire photographers, even though as style Pictorialism became outmoded around 1912.

Why the growing interest in artistic camera images in the last decade of the 19th century? It followed from the simplification of processes and procedures discussed in Chapter 6, and reflected the divergent uses to which the medium was being put as industrialization and urbanization proceeded. The dramatic expansion in the number of photographers (owing to the introduction of dry film and hand cameras) permitted many individuals to regard the photograph simply as a visual record, but it encouraged others to approach the medium as a pastime with expressive potential. Simultaneous with the publication of photo-graphs of daily events, social conditions, and scientific phenomena in reading matter for the increasingly literate public, the wide dissemination of accurate reproductions of masterworks of visual art—also made possible by photographic and printing technologies—made the public more aware of visual culture in general. Furthermore, the emphasis on craft: and artistry in journals and societies devoted to amateur photography was specifically aimed at fostering an aesthetic attitude toward the medium on the part of photographers.

This multiform expansion in photography took place against a background of stylistic transition in all the arts. As a consequence of greater familiarity with the arts of the world through reproductions, art collections, and increased travel, artists were able to expand their horizons, confront new kinds of subject matter, and embrace new concepts and ideologies. Within the diversity of styles that emerged, an art of nuance, mystery, and evocation, an art "essentially concerned with personal vision" held a special attraction. Realism, the ascendant motif in the visual arts during much of photography's early existence, was challenged by Symbolists and Tonalists who proclaimed new goals for the arts. Less involved with the appearances of actuality, or with the scientific analysis of light that had engaged artists from Courbet to Monet, Symbolists maintained that while science might answer the demand for truthful information, art must respond to the need for entertainment and stimulation of the senses. However, in photography the situation was complicated by the fact that while some aesthetic photographers held truth and beauty to be antithetical aims, others viewed the medium as a means of combining the aims of art and science and imbuing them with personal feeling.

Pictorialism: Ideas and Practice

During the 1890s, serious amateurs as well as professionals deplored the "fatal facility" that made possible millions upon millions of camera images of little artistic merit. In seeking to distinguish their own work from this mass of utilitarian photographs, Pictorialists articulated a dual role for the medium in which images would provide an unnuanced record on the one hand, and, on the other, provoke thought and feeling. Aesthetic photographers were convinced that in the past "the mechanical nature" of photography had "asserted itself so far beyond the artistic, that the latter might... be described as latent," and they sought to redress this perceived imbalance by selecting subjects traditional to the graphic arts, by emphasizing individualistic treatment and by insisting on the artistic presentation of camera images. Photographs, they held, should be regarded as "pictures" in the same sense as images made entirely by hand; that is, they should be judged for their artistry and ability to evoke feeling rather than for their powers of description. In their insistence that photographs show the capacity to handle "composition, chiaroscuro, truth, harmony, sentiment and suggestion," Pictorialists hoped to countervail the still prevalent attitude among graphic artists and the public in general that the camera could not duplicate "the certain something . . . personal, human, emotional... in work done by the unaided union of brain, hand and eye." They hoped also to appeal to collectors of visual art for whom aesthetic quality and individuality were important considerations. Individuality of style was expressed through the unique print, considered by many at the time to be the hallmark of artistic photography. Using non-silver substances such as bichromated gelatin and carbon (see A Short Technical History, Part II)—materials originally perfected to assure permanence—photographers found that they were able to control tonalities, introduce highlights, and obscure or remove details that seemed too descriptive. Many of these effects were accomplished by using fingers, stumps, pencils, brushes, and etching tools to alter the forms in the soft gum, oil, and pigment substances before they hardened, or by printing on a variety of art papers, from heavily textured to relatively smooth Japanese tissues. In that no positive print emerged as an exact version of the negative, or an identical duplicate of itself, these manipulations and materials, in addition to serving the expressive needs of the photographer, also satisfied collectors who preferred rare or singular artifacts. Gum printing, which involves a combination of gum arabic, potassium bichromate, and colored pigment, became popular after 1897 when photographers Robert Demachy in France and Alfred Maskell in England together published Photo-Aquatint, or the Gum-Bichromate Process. In 1904 a method of printing in oil pigments evolved, resulting in a greater range of colors available to the photographer. These procedures could be used only if the print were the same size as the negative, but in 1907, the Bromoil process made it possible to work with enlargements as well as contact prints.

These procedures, sometimes called "ennobling processes" because they permitted the exploration of creative ideas by hand manipulation directly on the print, provoked a lively controversy among aesthetic photographers themselves as well as among critics. Excessive handwork produced photographs that at times were indistinguishable from lithographs, etchings, and drawings and led some Pictorialists to deplore the eradication of the unique qualities of the photograph; others cautioned discretion, observing that gum printing "is only safe in exceptionally competent hands," which regrettably were not numerous. During the early 1900s, the viewpoint that initially had held that the artistic quality' of the final work would justify whatever choice of printing materials and techniques had been made gave way, as prestigious figures in artistic photography joined with less sympathetic critics to decry murky, ill-defined photographs as "fuzzygraphics."

Pictorialist advocates of straight printing did not usually intervene directly in the chemical substances of the print, although on occasion they might dodge or hold back portions of the negative. In the main, they followed the course marked out by Emerson, finding in carbon- and platinum-coated paper (Platinotype) the luminous tonalities and long scale of values they believed were unique to the expressive character of the medium. Again like Emerson, many preferred to make multiple images by the hand-gravure process—a method of transferring the photograph to a copper plate that was etched, inked, and printed on fine paper on a flatbed press to produce a limited edition of nearly identical prints.

Pictorialism: Styles and Themes

In looking to painting for inspiration, late-19th-century aesthetic photographers were confronted by a confusing array of outmoded and emerging artistic ideologies and stylistic tendencies, from Barbizon naturalism to Impressionism, Tonalism, and Symbolism. Not surprisingly, many were attracted by motifs that already had been found acceptable by art critics and the public, among which the idealization of peasant life, first explored by Barbizon painters at mid-century, ranked high. This concept in the work of Emerson and Frank Sutcliffe is expressed with down-to-earth robustness, while other aesthetic photographers turned such scenes into embodiments of the picturesque and artful. In one example, Waiting for the Return (pi. no. 353)—a photograph of the wives of fishermen waiting on the beach at Katwyck, Holland, for the boats to come in—Alfred Stieglitz selects a vantage point from which he can create an uncluttered arrangement; he controls the tonalities to suggest an atmospheric haze that softens the forms and at the same time endows the women with larger-than-life stature. The horizontal format, the flat tonalities of the figural groups, and the treatment of recessional space also suggest the influence of Japanese woodblock prints.

A theme that attracted both aesthetic photographers and painters was the pure natural landscape. In common with the Symbolist and Tonalist painters who viewed nature as the only force "undisturbed by the vicissitudes of man," aesthetic photographers in Europe and America regarded landscape with a sense of elegiac melancholy. Taking their cues from the Nocturnes of Whistler, the mystic reveries of the Swiss painter Arnold Boecklin, or the poetic impressions of the Americans George Inness and Henry Ward Ranger, they regarded suggestiveness as more evocative than fact, and preferred the crepuscular moment to sun-drenched daylight, the quiet, intimate pond to dramatic mountain wilderness. Instead of the crisply defined forms and strong contrasts of earlier topographical imagery, they offered the vague shapes and subdued tonalities visible in Woods Interior (pi. no. 354) by Edward Steichen, a work obviously related in its organization, treatment, and mood to Ranger's scene, Bradbury's Mill Pond, No. 2.

The female figure, both as a study in beauty and a symbol of motherhood was another subject of common interest to painters and aesthetic photographers. Softly focused portraits of elegantly attired enigmatic women— favored by Pictorialists everywhere—stressed stylishness and charm rather than individual strength of character. A related theme, women and children engaged in leisurely domestic activity or at play in home and garden, appealed to both men and women photographers, who produced idealized visions of intimate family life, transforming what formerly had been a prosaic genre subject into a comforting visual idyll of middle-class gentility. With its seemingly random arrangement, curvilinear forms, and delicate tonalities, The Picture Book (also called Instruction pi. no. 356) by the renowned American portraitist Gertrude Kasebier isolates its two intertwined figures in a peaceable terrain untroubled by domestic or social friction.

Few motifs better illustrate the gulf that developed between aesthetic camera "pictures" and straight camera documents than the nude figure. Around the turn of the century, Pictorialists on both sides of the Atlantic approached the unclothed body with great diffidence, picking their way timidly through the "canons of good taste." Camera studies of the nude by artists, among them those made by Czechoslovak painter Alphonse Marie Mucha for various decorative commissions in his native land, France (pi. no. 357), and the United States, or the numerous studies of the undraped figure taken by Thomas Eakins (or his students) as study materials for paintings, or for anatomy classes as celebrations of the human form (pi no. 254) were not intended for exhibition or public delectation. Convinced that "ART alone"12 might sanction this troublesome yet attractive subject, photographers avoided ordinary or coarse-looking models and selected ideally proportioned females whose bodies, it was believed, would suggest beauty rather than sensuality (pi, no. 358). Combining classical poses in landscape settings, to which props suggestive of the "Antique" were sometimes added, with artistic lighting and handwork (at times, extensive) to obliterate telling details, aesthetic photographers hoped to prove that in photography "nude and lewd" need not necessarily be "synonymous terms."


see also:

(see collection)

Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

354. EDWARD STEICHEN. Woods Interior, 1898.
Platinum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933.

see also:
EDWARD STEICHEN  (see collection)

356. GERTRUDE KASEBIER. The Picture Book, 1903.
Gravure print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

  (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

American portrait photographer Gertrude Käsebier (née Stanton) (1852 - 1934) was a part of the PhotoSecession movement along with Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn and Clarence Hudson White and a founder of the Pictorial Photographers of America.
While studying painting in her late thirties, she shifted her interests to photography. With minimum professional training, she opened a studio in 1897, and used the proceeds to support her ill husband. She was a founding member of the Photo-Secession group along with Alfred Stieglitz, who printed several of her photographs in the first issue of his magazine Camera Work.
Using relaxed poses in natural light, emphasizing the play of light and dark, Kasebier let her subjects fill most of the frame. She was also noted for her printing process and ability to produce images with a painterly quality. She was the first woman to be in the Linked Ring and the founding member of the Pictorial Photographers of America. Motherhood is a central theme for her work.



357. ALPHOSE MARIA MUCHA. Figures Decoratives, 1903.
Gelatin silver print. Collection Jiri Mucha, Prague.

358. CLARENCE WHITE. Nude, c. 1909.
Platinum print. Private collection.


CLARENCE WHITE  (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Clarence Hudson White (April 8, 1871 – July 7, 1925) was an American photographer and a founding member of the Photo-Secession movement. During his lifetime he was widely recognized as a master of the art form for his consummate sentimental, pictorial portraits and for his excellence as a teacher of photography. Toward the end of his career he founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography, which produced many of the best-known photographers of the Twentieth Century including Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, and Paul Outerbridge.

CLARENCE WHITE. The Torso (Miss Thompson), 1907

Other than those engaged in a commerce in erotic images, early photographers of the nude had been constrained by the realistic nature of the medium and by Victorian attitudes toward the unclothed human bodv to endow their images with allegorical dimension (when they did not direct them to the needs of graphic artists). Attitudes began to change shortly before the turn of the century, and as the nude in painting and graphic art emerged from a long history of masquerading as goddess or captive slave (or as in Edouard Manet's Olympia as prostitute), the female nude figure became a motif in and for itself in both painting and aesthetic photography. Some photographers still cast their nude figures as sprites and nymphs, but others no longer felt the need to obscure their attraction to the intrinsically graceful and sensuous forms of the unclothed female. Indeed, the very absence of allegory or narrative in this treatment served to emphasize the new role of the photograph as a strictly aesthetic artifact.

While Pictorialists everywhere photographed the nude, aesthetic photographers working in France and the United States most enthusiastically explored the expressive possibilities of this motif. Conventional academic poses and extensive manipulation of the print, typified by the works of French photographers Demachy and Rene LeBegue and the American Frank Eugene (pi no. 360), rendered some photographs of the nude almost indistinguishable from etchings and lithographs, while a group portrait of nude youngsters by American Pictorialist Alice Boughton (pi, no. 361) exemplifies the less derivative arrangement and more direct treatment of light and form that also was possible.

360. FRANK EUGENE. Study, 1899 or before.
Platinum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.

  (see collection)

(1865-1936) was born in New York but moved to Munich in his 20s where he studied art and soon became well-established as a portrait painter before he took up photography about 1885. He was elected to the Linked Ring in 1900 and was a founder of the Photo-Secession movement, undoubtedly because of his close personal and professional relationship to Alfred Steiglitz. A biography, The Dream of Beauty, was published in 1955. Eugene was known for his substantial manipulation of his negatives—so much so that the output was often a cross between a graphic work and a photographic print. In that he anticipated a number of contemporary artists and printmakers.

 FRANK EUGENE. Nude study, 1900

361. ALICE BOUGHTON. Sand and Wild Roses, 1906.

The great majority of aesthetic images of the nude were of adult females, the undraped male body being considered by nearly everyone as too flagrantly sexual for depiction in any visual art intended for viewers of mixed sexes. However, articles on nudity in photography (written largely by men), which had begun to appear in camera journals after 1890, suggested that young boys would make especially appropriate models because their bodies were less sensually provocative than those of women. Wilhelm von Gloeden and F. Holland Day were two significant figures of the period who chose to photograph not only adolescent boys but older males, too. Von Gloeden, a trained painter who preferred the mellow culture of the Mediterranean to that of his native Germany, worked in Taormina, Sicily, between 1898 and 1913 (pi. no. 362), while Day, an early admirer of Svmbolist art and literature, was an "improper" Bostonian of means working in Massachusetts and Maine during the same period. Their images display a partiality to the trappings of classical antiquity, perhaps because they realized that to be artistically palatable the male nude—youthful or otherwise—needed a quasi-allegorical guise. However, although the head wreaths, draperies, and pottery that abound in Von Gloeden's works may have suggested elevated aesthetic aims, and the images were in fact proposed as "valuable for designers and others," his young Sicilians often seem unabashedly athletic and sexual to modern eyes. On the other hand, Day handled the poses and lighting of the nude male presented in the guise of pastoral figures with such discretion that a contemporary critic observed that "his nude studies are free of the look that makes most photographs of this sort merely indecent."

Some Pictorialist photographers embraced allegorical or literary themes, posing costumed figures amid props in the manner of the Pre-Raphaelites and Julia Margaret Cameron, with results that ranged from merely unsuccessful to what some consider ridiculous. Among the more controversial examples of this penchant for historical legend were reconstituted "sacred" images by Day, by the French Pictorialist Pierre Dubreuil, by Lejaren a Hiller (an American photographer who eventually turned this interest into a success in commercial advertising), and by Federico Maria Poppi, an Italian Pictorialist. The fact that Day's series of religious images were obviously staged, with die photographer himself posing for the Christ figure (pi. no. 363), prompted the critic Charles H. Caffin to call "such a divagation from good taste intolerably silly."

Possibly even more misguided because they lacked any originality, subtlety, or psychological nuance were camera images that aimed to emulate high art by appropriating actual compositions painted by Renaissance masters or Dutch genre painters. Guido Rey and Richard Polack (pi. no. 364), from Italy and the Netherlands respectively, pho-tographed costumed models arranged in settings in which props, decor, and lighting mimicked well-known paintings. In view of the absence of conviction or genuine emotion in all of these works, one could conclude that the orchestration necessary to re-create religious or historical events or painted scenes conflicts with the nature of pure photography. As one critic noted about Day's tableaux, "In looking at a photograph, you cannot forget that it is a representation of something that existed when it was taken."

A strong interest in light and color, which for some Pictorialists had found an outlet in pigment printing processes, prompted others to experiment with Lumiere Autochrome plates when this color material reached the market in 1907. In general, European Pictorialists who favored gum and oil pigment processes for working in color regarded Autochrome as too precise for artistic effects. An exception was the Austrian Heinrich Kuehn (see Profile), who joined with the Americans Alvin Langdon Coburn, Frank Eugene (pi. no. 350), Steichen, and Stieglitz to investigate the range and possibilities of the material. Kuehn was highly successful in harmonizing the dyes—cool, airy blues and greens—to achieve a sense of spontaneous intimacy in views of family life , despite the long exposures required. Works in Autochrome by members of the American Photo-Secession (see below), several of which also pictured family members and their activities, are somewhat more static in organization and more mellow in color, reflecting the somber harmonies of some fin-de-siecle painting in Europe and the United States. The fact that Autochrome transparencies were difficult to exhibit and to reproduce may account for their relatively brief popularity among the leading Photo-Secessionists, but other (later) American Pictorialists, including Arnold Genthe and Laura Gilpin, continued to use the material into the 1920s.

362. WlLHELM VON GLOEDEN. Study, Taormina, Sicily, 1913.
Gelatin silver print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

  (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (September 16, 1856–February 16, 1931) was a German photographer who worked mainly in Italy. He is mostly known for his pastoral nude studies of Sicilian boys, which usually featured props such as wreaths or amphoras suggesting a setting in the Greece or Italy of antiquity. From a modern standpoint, his work is commendable due to his controlled use of lighting as well as the often elegant poses of his models. Innovative use of photographic filters and special body makeup contribute to the artistic perfection of his works.
Famous in his own day, his work was subsequently eclipsed for close to a century, only to re-emerge in recent times as "the most important gay visual artist of the pre–World War I era" according to Thomas Waugh.
Von Gloeden claimed to be minor German aristocrat from Mecklenburg. Suffering from what appears to have been tuberculosis, he came to Taormina in Sicily in 1876. He was wealthy, and also scrupulously shared the proceeds of his sales with his models, providing a considerable economic boost in this comparatively poor region of Italy, which might explain why the homosexual aspects of his life and work were generally tolerated by the locals.
The von Gloeden family and its heirs have always insisted that no such person existed in their family records and his claim to The Barony von Gloeden was without warrant; the barony become extinct in 1885 with the death of Baron Falko von Gloeden.
Von Gloeden generally made different kinds of photographs: The ones that garnered the most widespread attention in Europe and overseas were usually relatively chaste, featured clothes like togas and generally downplayed their homoerotic implications.
More explicit photos in which the boys were nude and which, because of eye contact or physical contact were more sexually suggestive were traded by the Baron "under the counter" to close friends.
The popularity of his work in Germany, England, and America can possibly be attributed to three major reasons:
The Classical and painterly themes in which his work wreathed itself served as a cultural "badge of protection". At that time male-male-love was unthinkable to many who saw his images. New printing technologies enabled the mass reproduction and sale of his work in postcard form. In total the Baron took over 3,000 images, which after his death were left to one of his models, Pancrazio Buciunì, also known as Il Moro for his North African looks. Il Moro had been Von Gloeden's lover since the age of fourteen, when he had first joined the household of the Baron. In 1936, over 2,500 of the pictures were destroyed by Mussolini's police under the allegation that they constituted pornography. Most of the surviving images therefore come from private collections.
Von Gloeden's cousin, Guglielmo Plüschow, similarly photographed male nudes in Rome, Italy. From an artistic standpoint, Plüschow's work is somewhat inferior to von Gloeden's as the lighting in Plüschow's works is often too harsh and the poses of the models look quite stilted.
It is worth noting that Plüschow was already a firmly established photographer when von Gloeden started doing photographs of his own in the early 1890s. It is even speculated that von Gloeden was taught the (then difficult) art of photography by Plüschow himself. However, von Gloeden soon eclipsed Plüschow, and later works by Plüschow were frequently erroneously attributed to von Gloeden.
Up until 1907, his assistant Vincenzo Galdi secretly made work which he tried to pass off as von Plüschow's own. However, Galdi's pictures lack elegance, often also feature females and generally tend to border on the pornographic.





363. F. HOLLAND DAY. An Ethiopian Chief, c. 1896.
Platinum print. Libran' of Congress, Washington, D.C.

  (see collection)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Fred Holland Day (July 8, 1864 - November 12, 1933) was a noted photographer and publisher.
At the turn of the century, his influence and reputation as a photographer rivalled that of Alfred Stieglitz, who later eclipsed him. The high point of Day's photographic career was probably his organization of an exhibition of photographs at the Royal Photographic Society in 1900. It presented 375 photographs by 42 photographers, 103 of them by Day, and evoked both high praise and vitriolic scorn from critics.
Day belonged to the pictorialist movement which regarded photography as fine art. His photographs allude to classical antiquity in manner, composition and often in theme. He often made only a single print from a negative. He used only the platinum process, being unsatisfied with any other, and lost interest in photography when platinum became unobtainable following the Russian Revolution.
Day's life and works have always been controversial. His photographic subjects were often nude male youths. Pam Roberts, in F. Holland Day (Waanders Pub, 2001; catalog of a Day exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum) writes: "Day never married and his sexual orientation, whilst it is widely assumed that he was homosexual, because of his interests, his photographic subject matter, his general flamboyant demeanor, was, like much else about him, a very private matter."
Day spent much time among poor immigrant children in Boston, tutoring them in reading and mentoring them. One in particular, the 13-year-old Lebanese immigrant Kahlil Gibran, went on to fame as the author of The Prophet.
Day co-founded and self-financed the publishing firm of Copeland and Day, which from 1893 through 1899 published about a hundred titles. The firm was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris's Kelmscott Press. The firm was the American publisher of Oscar Wilde's Salomé, illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley; The Yellow Book, also illustrated by Beardsley; and The Black Rider and Other Lines by Stephen Crane.
From 1896 through 1898 Day experimented with religious themes, using himself as a model for Jesus. Neighbors in Norwood, Massachusetts assisted him in an outdoor photographic reenactment of the Crucifixion. This culminated in his series of self-photographs, The Seven Words, depicting the seven last words of Christ.
Day became all but forgotten for a number of reasons. He was eclipsed by his rival, Stieglitz. The pictorial photographic style went out of fashion. Most of his prints and negatives were tragically lost in a 1904 fire. And Day himself lost interest in photography and withdrew from the photographic scene.
Day's house at 93 Day Street, Norwood, Massachusetts is now a museum, and the headquarters of the Norwood Historical Society.

Youth sitting on a stone (Nicola Giancola), 1907




364. RICHARD POLACK. The Artist and His Model, 1911.
Platinum print. Roval Photographic Society, Bath, England.

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