The Legacy of Matthew Brady (1823/4-1896)

MATTHEW BRADY AND HIS OPERATIVES “The camera is the eye of history.” Matthew Brady From Portraiture to the Civil War It is unclear precisely when Matthew Brady was born, in fact, in an 1891 interview, the photographer himself said “I go back to near...

Carleton Watkins (1829-1916)

PHOTOGRAPHING THE AMERICAN WEST PART ONE Carleton Watkins in Yosemite  In a virtually unreadable book on the discovery of the California territory called “Yosemite,” the first owner of a tourist establishment in what became a national park, James M....

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Artful Photography Julia Margaret Cameron and the Eminent Victorians Julia Margaret Cameron knew absolutely everyone worth knowing in Victorian England or she was connected to someone who knew those she did not know. Her connections to the...

Censorship Redeux: The Smithsonian and MOCA LA

SCOUNDREL TIME, AGAIN—CENSORSHIP RETURNS Art of the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2011 Like the swallows return to Capistrano, censorship of art returns every time forces of morality feel emboldened or threatened.  Two decades ago, it...

The Cult of Images and Celebrity

NADAR AND THE CELEBRITIES Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910) The poet and art critic, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), who never met a camera he didn’t pose for, wrote a famous diatribe against photography and its narcissistic pleasures. After a long preamble...

Through the Looking Glass with Lewis Carroll

THE TROUBLESOME AMATEUR Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) A Question of Interpretation For early photographers one of the most astonishing aspects of camera vision was the lack of control of the maker. The plethora of detail must have been particularly shocking for those...

Photographing the American Civil War

THE CAMERA AND THE WAR Matthew Brady’s Operatives “My greatest aim has been to advance the art of photography and to make it what I think I have, a great and truthful medium of history.” Matthew Brady Without a doubt the best book written on the...

Maxime Du Camp and Travel Photography

IMPERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY Maxime Du Camp (1822-1894)  The Camera’s Vision Photography inherited the conventions of painting and these conventions are artificially organized into hierarchies that emphasize contents according to the subject matter. Other objects are...

Roger Fenton: Photographing Crimean War

ROGER FENTON IN THE CRIMEA The Beginnings of War Photography The Crimean War It would be interesting to create a history out of the importance of maps and the stories they tell. Take the map of Russia for example. The nation is huge but it is locked between the Arctic...

Roger Fenton and the Victorian Era

PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE VICTORIAN ERA Roger Fenton (1819-1869) Royal Patronage and Photography By the middle of the nineteenth century, the dominate power in the world was Great Britain, a pair of small islands off the coast of continental Europe. Thanks to its powerful...

The Insurgency of Independent Publishing

THE NEW AVANT-GARDE: RETURN TO CHANGE presented by Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette to the College Art Association, New York, New York Saturday, February 12, 2011  A hundred and forty years ago, the art world in Paris faced a self-imposed crisis—or to be more...

Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) Part Two

PHOTOGRAPHING WATER AND SKY  Jean-Baptiste-Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) Whether he wanted to be or not, Gustave Le Gray was a child of his time, deeply engaged in creating a national heritage for France through his photographic practice. After the French Revolution,...

Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) Part One

PHOTOGRAPHING THE FOREST OF FONTAINEBLEAU Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884) “Watch the horizon, watch the horizon. . . that’s Le Gray.” Sam Wagstaff, 1987 Gustave Le Gray lived what is called a “slipping down life.” At the beginning of his...

Mission Héliographique, Part Two

PRESERVING THE PAST  Mission Héliographique: The Project Part Two The invention and development of photography straddled a transition period in both French and English art. The fact that photography was developed in the gap between a declining Romanticism and a rising...

Mission Héliographique, Part One

PRESERVING THE PAST  Mission Héliographique: Origins Part One One of the major problems raised by the French Revolution was the status of the Catholic Church. With everything old swept away, including the monarchy, the nobility, and religion itself, the brave new...

The French, the Holocaust and Sarah’s Key (2011)

REMEMBERING SARAH The deportation of French Jews to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps raises questions similar to those asked of the Germans—how could such supposedly “civilized” peoples enter into a cold-blooded program of mass extermination?  Sarah’s...

Art and Technology in Paper Photography

PAPER: THE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHIC METHOD Artists and Photography The Directorial Mode From the beginning, paper and plate had vied for being the appropriate support for a photographic image. It was by a mere series of chances that the daguerreotype gained ascendancy over...

The Daguerrotype Revolution

THE DAGUERROTYPE AND PORTRAITURE Daguerreotypomania  “Readiness” for Photography, Part Two In 1989 the French photographer, Gisèle Freund wrote Photography and Society in which she attempted to explain the role of photography in mid-nineteenth century...

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

WITH WERNER HERZOG  IN “THE CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS” Thirty thousand years ago.  This is when art began.  Chauvet Cave. This is where art began.  Southern France near the Pont d-arc formation.  This is where the first art was made.  This is the oldest and...

Hippolyte Bayard (1801-1887)

HIPPOLYTE  BAYARD (1801-1887) Another Inventor, Another Process The First Fake Photograph Among the many oddities of the history of the invention of photography is that not only was photography invented by so many people at the same time, but also that few of these...

Édouard Detaille, The End of a Tradition

The Panoramas: Rewriting History Representing history in France had always been fraught with difficulty for centuries. Not until the Third Republic (1870-1940) was it possible to report, write or make art without the threatening overhang of censorship, but, after the...

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