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.
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
I posted this after finding Fred Holland Day’s monograph Suffering the Ideal in a used bookstore (not the best quality reproduction). His subject matter and technique, the pictorial symbolism, went out of date even in his lifetime. But what attracted me to the book and his images are the same thing that still brings people back to his images despite long being overshadowed by better photographers.
The unique blend of religious tropes and homoeroticism. Day might have been one of the first great photographers of the male nude. The friends he kept and the works he published as part of his publishing firm Copeland and Day helped fuel questions about his sexuality and marginalized him in his own lifetime. An exhibit he arranged in 1900 called New School of American Photography was called by one reviewer:
“of a diseased imagination, of which much has been fostered by the ravings of a few lunatics… unacademic …and eccentric”
His platinum prints, for which he often only produced a single image (and would lead to the loss of much of his images after a fire in 1904), rendered detailed images with a full range of soft tones. It was a popular approach for pictorialists and often set this type of work aside for other photographic approaches. Day and others working in the genre considered and promoted photography as a fine art on its own. He would abandon the process and shortly after, photography, at the outbreak of WWI when platinum became scarce.
“And if it chance that [a] picture is beautiful, by what name shall we call it? Shall we say that it is not a work of art, because our vocabulary calls it a photograph?”
– Fred Holland Day
If you are interested in seeing more of Day’s work, the Library of Congress has the best collection of images that I could find.