Finding these thoughts particularly relevant today as photogravure has played such a significant role in the evolution of the communication technology…
No one really knows how to cope with the revolution sweeping the world. It is a technological revolution, yes, and the lords of Silicon Valley spin endless hours of jargon about its magical possibilities. But its social and political impacts already overwhelming and rapidly multiplying are coming much faster and more furiously than governments can digest them.
What does it mean to put a computer in the palm of every human being, and to link each palm instantaneously with every other? When Gutenberg’s revolution of movable type first made it possible to share ideas widely across space and time, the political and social follow-on effects included the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the rise of democracy and the industrial and scientific revolutions. In other words, everything from daily routines to international order was scrambled and re-scrambled. How much change, and how rapid, will this massively more powerful technology cause?
Trump was the first successful candidate to realize that these same forces must disrupt the political sphere. Communication is the wiring of democracy; the more communication you have, the easier it is for people to find what they want, and to organize with others who are seeking the same thing. This is true whether the people want the right thing or the wrong thing, whether they seek evil or good. For this reason, many of the Founding Fathers feared an excess of democracy. T. — from ‘Message Delivered” by David Von Drehle , Time Magazine Nov. 12, 2016
Tyler Craft was introduced to photogravure when he volunteered to program this site. He has since become a savvy collector and now has made a photogravure of his own. Tyler is a highly sought-after programmer. His interest in photography is recent, and it is a hobby. His (very thoughtful) wife gave him a photogravure workshop with Paul Taylor at Renaissance Press as a birthday gift last year. I was floored by the image he produced from his first attempt. The point is, while this is a very complicated and laborious process, with the right workshop and teacher one can achieve beautiful results with little to no experience.
If you are interested, Paul’s summer workshop schedule and more information can be viewed here.
It is a stunning and surprisingly modern original-negative, hand-pulled, dust grained Talbot Kilc photogravure by Frank Eugene, which appeared in Stieglitz’s Camera Work 30 in 1910 – one hundred years ago. The artist and the image are both icons in the history of photography. The image is held in the collections of the most prestigious photography museums in the world and there are fewer than 200 copies in private collections. So how was it possible that I purchased this rare vintage print, beautifully framed, for only $250? It was not damaged, faded or in any way compromised.
The Ebay seller told me she spent over $250 to frame it.
The photographer, Frank Eugene (1865-1936) is regarded as one of the most significant figures of the Pictorialist movement at the turn of the century and is mentioned in almost every anthology written on the history of photography. His revolutionary work incorporated a synthesis of painting, etching and photography and was often the subject of heated debates over weather or not a photograph should/could be ‘manipulated’ in order to achieve an artistic effect.
Borrowing from his experience as a painter, Eugene aggressively scratched on his negatives to remove or reduce unwanted details and to enhance the expressive characteristics of an image.
“What made Eugene so attractive not only to his contemporaries but also to Stieglitz was his totally unorthodox method
of rubbing oil onto the negatives and adding cross hatching with an etching needle sometimes leaving only small portions
of a picture recognizably photographic.” Naef p.96
Critic Charles Caffin, who authored the landmark book Photography as a Fine Art (1901), also validated Eugene’s technique …
“only a trained and gifted photographer was in the position to create such delicate images and alter their power of
expression so masterfully by manipulating them… The print, printed as it is on Japan paper, conveys every impression
of an etching, having the beautiful characteristics that one looks for therein: spontaneousness of execution, vigorous and
pregnant suggestiveness, velvety color, and delightful evidence of the personal touch. The art is still in the womb of time,
its possibilities becoming wider and more appreciated; being new, one learns that the old standards and points of view
do not necessarily apply to it, and more and more realize the need for an open mind”
The publishers of Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888-1918 felt it deserving of one of the few two-page spreads in its 350 page publication.
Eugene’s unorthodox methods were controversial to say the least, and struck a nerve in the American ‘photography as art’ movement of the day amplifying the ongoing debate over weather manipulating a photograph to make it art is acceptable and justifiable.
In Eugene’s own words…
“It has often been said that the [Horse] photograph was reminiscent of an etching. But that was in no way intended.
The banal surroundings which were inessential and disruptive to the photograph as a whole were removed from the
negative with a retouching knife, but nothing else was changed, neither the light nor the shadows, nor the form and line
of the animal’s body.”
Eugene’s aim was to suppress the inessential in favor of the essential.
Very little of Eugene’s work survives today – a typical fate of much that has to do with the history of photography and an indication of how little is known about the medium and how low esteem that part of our cultural heritage is held.
If interested in this image, I will be donating it to the 2011 George Eastman House Benefit Auction and hopefully there it will command a price more in line with its pedigree.
Caffin, Charles H. Photography as a Fine Art: The Achievements and Possibilities of Photographic Art in America. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1901
Naef, Weston. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz – Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. New York: The Viking Press, 1978
Pohlmann, Ulrich. Frank Eugene: The Dream of Beauty. Munich: Nazraeli Press 1995
Prodger, Phillip. The Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888 – 1918. Merrell and the Saint Louis Art Museum, 2006
From the December 23 review “When Subjectivism Ruled” in the Wall Street Journal written by Richard B. Woodward.
The Pictorialists were a loose confederation that encouraged artists to be subjective with their cameras. Impressionist suggestion was preferred over clinical frankness, allegory to journalism. Prints visibly altered by the hand of the photographer were judged to be the most beautiful prints.
Stieglitz’s gradual disgust with this creed and his conversion to the idea that “objectivity is of the very essence of photography”—announced in a 1917 article—slammed shut the pre-World War I chapter of his past. Thereafter, the superiority of sharply focused images and “straight” printing became fundamental for his league of followers and for modernists everywhere.
“TruthBeauty” illustrates what must have been obvious, most of all to Stieglitz: Modernist photographers owed a lot to their despised predecessors, and the line between them was fuzzier than the triumphant upstarts later wanted to admit.
Read the Review
Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Tunnel Builders, New York 1913
Annie Brigman, "The Bubble" variant poses
The Gorge Eastman House has recently launched Notes On Photographs which aims to compile and illustrate relevant information that characterizes a photographer’s work. It intends to be used as a reference database for illustrating key attributes documented by conservators, curators, collectors and scholars dedicated to the study and observation of photographs. The capabilities of the wiki system allow for the resource to be a stage of discussion on meaningful information in better understanding fine photographs. There is currently a demonstrated need for a greater sophistication in the study of photographs. This is due essentially to three aspects: the rise in market value of these objects, the lack of reference resources for works of masters, and the closure of chemical imaging that is leading to a need for re-reading the history of photography. Curators and collectors have been calling upon conservators to answer questions relating to issues of authenticity and understanding of photographs–authorship, photographic processing, dating and provenance. Conservators, who have the tools and knowledge to analyze photographic materials, have in recent years directed the research focus towards characterization protocols. In order to compile and surpass platforms of knowledge it is important to create reference resources. Newly developed imaging and information tools allow for the creation of such a resource using the wiki system that will be added to and serve conservators, curators, registrars, catalogers, and all those involved in the study, observation and valuation of photographs. Visit the site.
Two color photogravure, 11” x 11”. Courtesy of Moeller Fine Art, NY.
THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS ANNOUNCES 2010 ART AWARD WINNERS
New York, March 25, 2010 — The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced today the eight artists who
will receive its 2010 awards in art. The awards will be presented in New York City in May at the Academy’s
annual Ceremonial. The art prizes, totaling $62,500, honor both established and emerging artists. The award
winners were chosen from a group of 37 artists who had been invited to participate in the Invitational Exhibition of
Visual Arts, which opened on March 11, 2010. The Invitational Exhibition continues through April 11, 2010, and
features over 120 paintings, sculptures, photographs and works on paper. The members of this year’s award
selection committee were: William Bailey, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl, Jane Freilicher, Judy Pfaff, Martin Puryear,
Robert Ryman, and Ursula von Rydingsvard.
Five Academy Awards in Art of $7500 each are given to honor exceptional accomplishment and to encourage creative work. This year’s winners include:
Theodor and Oscar Hofmeister, The Solitary Horseman, 1904
Swann Galleries Photographs and Photographic Literature
Sale 2191, October 22, 2009
Camera Work made a strong showing at Swann last month. While many lots in the sale passed or sold within or below their estimates, seven of the ten Camera Work lots commanded prices that exceeded their high estimates (including buyer’s premium.)
Numbers 2 & 19 $5,280
Numbers 7 & 8 $3,360
Numbers 13 & 15 $6,960
Numbers 16, 17 & 18 $4,560
Number 22 $3,360
Numbers 25 & 31 $6,480
Number 27 $4,560
To learn more about Camera Work pricing, visit Photogravure Gallery.
This summer Eric Lutz, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs for the St. Louis Art Museum, asked me to give a talk to the museum’s Friends of Photography collectors group. It was my first opportunity to present my research to a captive audience. I was concerned that it might be hard to fill the 90 minutes with relevant information, so I edited together a Keynote presentation complete with video clips, sound bites and fancy graphics.
The problem was, I never timed it. Well best laid plans…turns out the talk I prepared would have taken 90 hours! I shifted from plan A to just winging it and the 90 minutes went by in a flash and resulted in just a brief overview. The good news is everybody not only stayed awake, but also left excited about photogravure. Eric later said it was some of the best group energy he had seen at a Friends talk.
The experience was an affirmation that the topic is broad, relevant, rich in detail and able to be appreciated by a wide audience.
Thanks to David Spencer forh is help and for supplying this image of Karl Klic’s first published photogravure.
Welcome. Thanks for taking the time to checkout photogravure.com. This struggling medium needs all the attention it can get. And while Toky has done a great job interpreting the spirit of photogravure for the web, its true essence, like fine letterpress printing, can only be fully appreciated in person. Photogravure pushes ink-on-paper to its limits.
So, head to a museum’s print viewing room or your local library’s rare book room and see for yourself. Find some examples of Stieglitz’s Camera Work or Coburn’s London and then spread the word. Or if you are in the neighborhood, stop by the studio and I will personally give you a tour of the history of photography in photogravure.
Thanks again for your interest.
Sincerely Mark Katzman
Ferguson and Katzman
EXCELLENT RESULTS FOR PHOTGRAVURE AT SWANN GALLERIES’ AUCTION OF PHOTOGRAPHIC LITERATURE & PHOTOGRAPHS ON DECEMBER 13
“This was an exciting auction in which the synergy between Photographic Literature and classical photography was reconfirmed…” Daile Kaplan Photogravure highlights included several editions of Camera Work, among them Number 36, with 16 photogravures by Alfred Stieglitz, New York, 1911, which brought $28,800. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Theaters, special edition, issued with a signed photogravure, New York, 2000 brought $4,800. And Roy De Carava’s Roy De Carava, with 12 dust-grain photogravures printed by Paul Taylor in 1991, was the auction’s top lot at $81,000.
Roy DeCarava’s (American, b. 1919) photographs have documented African American life in New York from a deeply personal and yet socially conscious perspective. DeCarava explained his feelings when taking the 1964 photograph of five men coming out of the church service: "The motivation at that moment was my political understanding of the treatment of black people and their response to injustice…I wasn’t at the bombing, I wasn’t in the church, but I knew what it was and I wanted to make a picture that dealt with it. The [five] men were coming out of the church with faces so serious and so intense, and the image was made."
This past week I had a telephone conversation with Jon Goodman. We discussed many topics including techniques of conserving Chine-collé gravures, the production history of Steichen’s Early Years portfolio as well as the collective state of consciousness with regard to appreciation of the photogravure process.
Jon has been fighting an uphill battle from day one. Unless one takes the time to study photogravures and the process, it is difficult to appreciate their significance. Photography is an art that is closely tied to craftsmanship. In many cases, it is the combination of the content of an image and the craftsmanship employed in its printing that brings it to life. The subtle qualities of a print have a potent influence on its impact. These qualities mostly operate on a sub-conscious level. Many casual consumers of photography as well as some active collectors are not aware of the potent influence that print quality has on the effectiveness of the art. Thus a lack of appreciation of the fine qualities of photogravure combined with steady growth of computer generated pigment printing techniques is creating a challenging environment for those, like Jon, who make their living printing photogravures.
A function of this site is to promote photogravure so that workers like Jon and others will continue to be appreciated. Any information I come across that can strengthen photogravure’s position in this rapidly expanding arena of fine art photography, I will try to post on this blog.
Below is a letter written by Paul Strand to James Craft in 1968. Mr. Craft was writing his Doctoral Thesis on photogravure and was able to hear some of Strand’s opinions first hand.
I hope this letter serves as further evidence that many photogravures are not merely mechanical reproductions, but closely supervised original prints.
Read the rest of this entry »
Sunday April 1, 2007
Museum Lecture Hall, Getty Center
Emerson was an influential and controversial polemicist for a new movement in art photography. In this lecture Hope Kingsley, historian and curator of photography, traces Emerson’s sources in art and optical theory and discusses their relevance to photography in the 19th century. Complements the exhibition The Old Order and The New: P.H. Emerson and Photography, 1885-1895.
University of Delaware, Homer Lecture on Photography
Douglas Nickel, director of the Center for Creative Photography and associate professor of art at the University of Arizona, will be the featured speaker at the William I. Homer Lecture on Photography today at 5:30 p.m. in 006 Willard Hall Education Building.
Nickel’s lecture, “Physiological Optics: The Photography of Peter Henry Emerson,” is part of UD’s Department of Art History lecture series, “Liminal Visions, Elusive Objects.”
Widely regarded as the father of art photography, Emerson was both a key theorist of photographic esthetics and one of the medium’s most advanced practitioners. In his lecture, Nickel will examine Emerson’s ideas about photography as a case study in how the history of photography might be conducted and revitalized as an aspect of art history. Nickel has won several awards and fellowships for his work and has lectured and written extensively on a broad range of topics in photography.
The lecture is free and open to the public. An informal question-and-answer session will follow the talk. The event is sponsored by UD’s Department of Art Conservation and the Committee on Cultural Activities and Public Events. For more information, call (302) 831-4523.
Well folks, photogravure has finally made it! On the January 29th episode of the Antiques Roadshow Camera Work was introduced to a nation of treasure hunters.
The owner of the 25 volumes must have been quite pleased to hear that Daile Kaplan at Swann Galleries would estimate their worth somewhere between $60,000 and $90,000 (hammer).
Surprise, surprise… The partial set is on the block next week (Feb. 15th) at Swann. Check it out…..
The value of the hand pulled photogravure is emerging as witnessed in last weeks aution entitled, ‘Photographic Literature’
at Swann in New York. The three top lots of this red-hot genre contained hand-pulled photogravures.
Doris Ulmann’s Roll, Jordan, Roll
(New York, 1933) sold for $33,600. Alvin Langdon Coburn’s, New York
(London & New York, 1910) netted a record $28,800, and an issue of Camera Work, Number 36
, with 16 Stieglitz photogravures was had for $20,400.
More encouraging is that these lots were purchased by dealers, implying that the retail value of this work is significantly higher.