Jacob Epstein is shown here next to Christ in Majesty, a commission from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, Wales. Epstein waived part of his fee for this sculpture so that it should be cast in aluminum instead of being made from gilded plaster.
Artist: Edward J. Steichen (American (born Luxembourg), Bivange 1879–1973 West Redding, Connecticut)
Medium: Platinum print with applied color
Dimensions: Image: 39.7 x 48.2 cm (15 5/8 x 19 in.)
Frame: 73.7 × 86.4 cm (29 × 34 in.)
Credit Line: Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
Accession Number: 33.43.40
Using a painstaking technique of multiple printing, Steichen achieved prints of such painterly seductiveness they have never been equaled. This view of a pond in the woods at Mamaroneck, New York is subtly colored as Whistler’s Nocturnes, and like them, is a tone poem of twilight, indistinction, and suggestiveness. Commenting on such pictures in 1910, Charles Caffin wrote in Camera Work: “It is in the penumbra, between the clear visibility of things and their total extinction into darkness, when the concreteness of appearances becomes merged in half-realised, half-baffled vision, that spirit seems to disengage itself from matter to envelop it with a mystery of soul-suggestion.”
Originally Appeared in “Beyond Google Earth,” Places Journal, May 2015:
In our image-saturated culture, it’s natural to feel skeptical about the veracity of photographs — we understand that an image shows nothing more than a decontextualized slice of space, a particular spot at a moment in time. Yet certain types of photography have yet to earn our distrust. I am thinking especially of satellite photos. Offering what can appear an almost definitive god’s-eye view, and avoiding the subjective biases of human picture makers, machine-made satellite images might seem the ultimate example of neutral, just-the-facts visual documentation.
It’s natural to question the veracity of photographs. Yet certain types of images have yet to earn our distrust.
Once limited largely to weather forecasts and military operations, satellite-based photography has in recent years become an integral part of our daily lives through Google Earth and other networked mapping services. Easy access to satellite imagery has indeed provided us an apparently infinite source of information about the surface of our planet. Yet this neutrality is illusory: satellite imagery is constructed by systems which do not simply present but also interpret and transform the raw visual data, affecting how and what we see.
In 1969 Caravaggio’s Nativity was stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in the heart of Palermo.
For many years the empty frame was a witness to its absence.
While making an exact copy of a painting is a painstaking and technologically challenging task, making a meaningful re-creation of a painting that no longer exists presents a different set of challenges. The aim was to produce an image that was in dialogue with Caravaggio’s masterpiece – and with Caravaggio himself – to make a performance of the Caravaggio painting that is faithful to the spirit of the original but made with today’s technologies and seen through the filter of today’s understanding. The gradual move from a 5×4 inch colour transparency to a physical re-materialisation of a painting that is almost 2 meters wide and over 2.5 meters high is a slow and collaborative affair that has involved many people with skills in photography, image processing, digital restoration, painting, restoration, art history, digital printing and varnishing.
In 2009, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the death of Caravaggio, the Municipality of Caravaggio commissioned the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and Factum Arte to make facsimiles of three paintings by Caravaggio in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.
The quality and accuracy of the documentation carried out by the team from Factum Arte was unparalleled at that time. Two photographic stages were necessary in order to capture every detail in the paintings. The first was high-resolution photography. All the paintings were photographed in small sections as 1:1 images taken at 700 dpi. This was done using equipment specifically designed to position the camera within the confined space of the chapel. The mosaic of photographs was then stitched together in Madrid to create one huge file for each painting (approximately 6 gigabytes for each painting). Factum Arte’s conservation experts also made exact colour charts which were an essential tool to ensure the correct hue, tone and colour when making the facsimiles. As 3D scanning of such dark glossy surfaces was impossible at that time macro raking-light images were also recorded. These images reveal subtle changes in the surface, the complex texture in the ground and paint layers, as well as the cracking and interventions made during restoration. This information was vital for recreating the texture and surface on the facsimiles made in 2010 – but it became the central tool for understanding how the Nativity was painted and how it would have looked when Caravaggio completed the painting.
The superficial qualities of paintings (those qualities pertaining to the surface) are critical to the way that we read and respond to them. The relationship between the surface and the colour works on many levels. Factum Arte has spent years trying to record and understand this relationship – it is this obsessive interest that differentiates the facsimiles produced with our specially designed equipment from normal copies. The process of digitally layering information, printing in multiple-layers onto specially prepared canvas on a flatbed printer, manually adjusting in paint, re-photographing at high-resolution, digitally checking every intervention to ensure that nothing is changed, digitally restoring the resulting photographs and then repeating the whole process lasted for almost 5 months.
For the past decade, the artist Myoung Ho Lee has been wandering around his native South Korea, shooting trees like some kind of arboreal Avedon, in stark relief against a plain white canvas. His pictures possess the glamour and focus of studio portraits, yet they’re set in the landscape — be it a golden meadow or a cloudy blue sky dotted with balloons. It’s a deceptively simple trick, a way of foregrounding what would ordinarily be background. The purity of the final image belies the incredibly complicated rigging that makes it possible — a process that usually involves industrial cranes, ropes and numerous artisans. Lee, 37, retouches the photographs to erase any trace of his own hand. “If the mechanics of the artwork were visible, it would be easier for people to recognize the scale and the method,” he said. “But I want to hide them, to infuse a magical and vague aspect to my work, so that viewers may question and try to find answers themselves.”
John Dugdale’s “Stillness of Spirit” from 1996
I think the blue is so patently false, it’s such an obvious fiction… In our post-modern world, I think we are drawn to that… We tend to relate to photographs as a representation, or symbol, of what they represent.. Cyanotypes are the object.
– Kristina Wilson, Clark University associate professor
Something about the monochromatic result appears to encourage conceptual thinking. “The simplicity of them means you give up control, but the limitations are interesting.
– Marco Breuer