Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Sunday, July 16, 2017
The problem a photographer faces when trying to photograph protesters in fair weather is that many of them are wearing shades. While I believe the eyes are the most important element of any portrait, whether taken on the street or in the studio, I think it's still possible to get an idea of the subject's character even with the eyewear in place.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
The rally that extended down Central Park West to Trump Hotel at Columbus Circle was supposed to have been a march. The problem is that NYPD has devised a new method of crowd control that it routinely uses at large events such as New Year's Eve at Times Square. Central Park West was blocked off not only along its length, but barriers were also erected across its width at cross streets. As a result, protesters were essentially placed in holding pens. As the barrier was lifted at one pen so that the crowd could move forward, the protesters at the pen behind it were kept in place until the first had entirely emptied out and then the process repeated itself. While this allowed the police to contain any rowdiness (not that there was any in evidence), it also took the spirit out of the protesters since they were forced to stand idle for relatively long periods. In the end, the protest became more a slow shuffle than a march.
Friday, July 14, 2017
It's difficult to believe now, so completely has she been forgotten, that at the turn of the twentieth century Gertrude Käsebier was one of America's most successful and best known photographers. So important did Stieglitz consider her work that he dedicated the first issue of Camera Work to displaying her photographs rather than those of his disciple Steichen.
Käsebier was lucky enough to have been born into a family of moderate wealth and then married, however unhappily, to a successful businessman. As a result, she did not have to worry about earning enough money to pay the rent. In fact, Käsebier was already age 36 and her children nearly grown when she first took up the study of photography. While it's true that her social standing enabled her to secure many wealthy clients for her lucrative portrait business, Käsebier was a strong minded business woman who worked hard to make herself a success. She also had enough foresight to ally herself with Stieglitz when he first began to seriously promote photography as an art form and she thus became a charter member of the Photo Secession.
If Käsebier is passed over today, it's most likely because so much of her oeuvre was given over to the celebration of motherhood and children. Ironically, those photographs that first established her reputation, such as Blessed Art Thou and The Manger (both from 1899), are the same that now cause her to be rejected on the grounds that her work is too cloyingly sentimental to be worthy of serious consideration. Actually, shortly after it was created, a print of The Manger sold for $100, at the time the highest price ever paid for a photographic work. In contrast, the photograph for which Käsebier is best remembered today is her sensual portrait of Evelyn Nesbit, reproduced on this book's cover, whose cocaine addled husband gained notoriety when on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden he sensationally murdered the showgirl's former lover, the playboy architect Stanford White, who was also Käsebier's friend and patron.
The other reason Käsebier is given so little attention today is that her photographic style was unabashedly "pictorialist." This term has been given a pejorative connotation since at least the 1930's when Ansel Adams and other members of the f64 Group began to relentlessly promote "straight" photography at the expense of all other forms of photographic representation. Their closed minded insistence on their sharp and straightforward style as the only viable approach to the medium did incalculable harm to mid-twentieth century photography. Käsebier was, on the other hand, the pictorialist photographer par excellence. She had no hesitation at all in painting in backgrounds or details on her prints or in using alternative printing methods such as platinum and gum bichromate. Although some pictorialists no doubt did go too far in their image manipulations, by and large they created works of incredible beauty that were far more imaginative than the literal, matter-of-fact reproductions of reality favored by the f64 Group.
Gertrude Käsebier: The Photographer and Her Photographs, is a highly sympathetic biography written by Barbara L. Michaels. It is a short work, really not more than an extended essay, that would have benefited greatly from more detail regarding Käsebier's associations with some of the greatest artists of her time. These included not only Stieglitz and Steichen, but also such seminal photographers as Alvin Langdon Coburn (who once worked as Käsebier's assistant), F. Holland Day, Clarence White and Baron de Meyer as well as leading painters and sculptors in both Europe and America, most notably Auguste Rodin whom Käsebier photographed extensively at his home near Paris. The book, published by Abrams, is handsomely designed and filled with excellent reproductions of Käsebier's black & white photographs, including all her most famous works as well as many with which I had previously been unfamiliar.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
This is the last of the 2017 Easter Parade photos. I had a lot of fun taking them and was surprised I got so many interesting photographs in so short a time. There were a lot of wild outfits on display but what interested me most was capturing the expressions of the parade-goers themselves. It was fascinating to see the wide assortment of New Yorkers who came out to enjoy the great weather and show off their finery.