“Not long ago I had your portfolio of gravures in my hand and also your book Naturalistic Photography. Both took me back many years–and both seem still alive.”
– Alfred Stieglitz 1933
Peter Henry Emerson and
American Naturalistic Photography
May 3—September 7, 2008
Minneapolis, April 22, 2008—America’s first movement of creative photography and its revolutionary founder, Peter Henry Emerson, are the subjects of a new exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA.) Nearly one hundred naturalistic photographs by Emerson and twenty other photographers will be on view May 3 through September 7, 2008. Drawn largely from the MIA’s permanent collection, these sensitively portrayed images span the movement’s history from the 1890s to the 1930s. Other images on display include those by Edward Curtis, Alfred Stieglitz, Henry Troth, and Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr.
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He has made Apollo his own engraver.
– Brighton Gazette, 1858
A ‘photogenic drawing’ erroneously attributed to Henry Fox Talbot was recently pulled from a high-profile Sotheby’s auction because the “worlds leading Talbot expert” pronounced that the image may not be Fox Talbot’s and in fact might predate any photograph known to exist. (“An Image is a Mystery for Photo Detectives”, New York Times 4/17/08 p. B1.)
The expert quoted in the article is Dr. Larry Schaaf, an independent photographic historian based in Baltimore, Maryland. Schaaf is the founder and Director of The Correspondence of William Henry Fox Talbot archives http://foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk and was elected the 2005 Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University. Schaaf’s books include Out of the Shadows: Herschel, Talbot & the Invention of Photography (Yale University Press); The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot (Princeton University Press); and In Focus: William Henry Fox Talbot Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum.
According to Dr. Schaaf, “It often surprises people that the inventor of photography on paper, William Henry Fox Talbot, was also the father of photogravure… Equally striking is the fact that Talbot actively worked on photogravure for the last twenty-five years of his life, a span of time more than double that which he devoted to photography itself.”
Photogravure.com is privileged to be able to include in its text section the essay by Dr. Schaaf, “Etchings of Light” written as the introduction to the exhibition catalog, Sun Pictures; Talbot and Photogravure that accompanied an exhibition of the same title at the gallery, Hans Kraus, Jr., in October of 2003. Included in this catalog is a selection of outstanding Fox Talbot photogravures and it alone is an invaluable resource for anyone serious about studying the history of photogravure.
Many thanks to Dr. Schaaf and Hans Kraus, Jr. for allowing the inclusion of this important essay on this site and for their continued support.
Photogravure made a strong showing in this years spring auction season. Here are some of the highlights:
Lot 2 Thomas Annan, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow $10,000 USD
Lot 3 Alvin Langdon Coburn, London $13,750 USD
Lot 4 Alvin Langdon Coburn, Men of Mark $5,000
Lot 5 Alvin Langdon Coburn, London (Chesterton, 1914) $3,750 USD
Lot 7 Paul Strand, Camera Work 49/50 (presentation copy) $34,600 USD
Lot 38 Doris Ullman, Roll Jordan Roll $39,400 USDSotheby’s Sale No. N08424
Lot 154 Alfred Stieglitz, Spring Showers (large format) $49,000 USD
Lot 156 Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (large format, signed) $91,000 USDSotheby’s Sale No. N08425
Lot 10 306 Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (large format) $32,200 USDChristies Sale No. 1968 (off season)
Lot 306 Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage (small format) $10,000 USD
With APAID and the spring auctions fast approaching, it seems an appropriate time to post Penelope Dixon’s article, ‘A Short History of Photograph Collecting.’ Dixon is perhaps the most qualified appraiser of fine art photography practicing today. In this essay she lays out for beginning and experienced collectors a concise and thoughtful overview of the history and practice of collecting photographs.
To learn more about Penelope Dixon and Associates you can visit their visit their web site
We are fortunate to have recently added to the collection a complete set of “Sun Artists”, an excellent example of photogravure’s influence on the evolution of the art of photography.
From the introduction…” In producing ‘Sun Artists’ it is their endeavour to emphasize the artistic claims of photography by reproducing the best work in the best possible manner…The whole series, it is hoped will form a true, because comprehensive, representation of modern artistic photography. In this sense, the promoters confidently believe that ‘Sun Artists’ discovers virgin soil…The plates in the first number have been executed by the Typographic Etching Company to whom great credit is due for the delicacy and perfection of their reproduction… The day is dawning when Nature as rendered by photography will occupy a much larger share in the esteem of cultured men, when Truth as Truth will also be conceded its claim to beauty. The ripeness of Time my not have yet of come; should such prove the case, “Sun Artists” will help to prepare the way. In however small a degree, it is at once the ambition and the pride of the promoters of this serial to be associated with a movement which strives to gain for Photography a recognition until now denied her.
Sun Artists No. 1, Joseph Gale
Sun Artists No. 2, Henry Peach Robinson
Sun Artists No. 3, J.B.B. Wellington
Sun Artists No. 4, Lyddell Sawyer
Sun Artists No. 5, Julia Margaret Cameron
Sun Artists No. 6, B. Gay Wilkinson
Sun Artists No. 7, Mrs. F.W. H. Myers
Sun Artists No. 8, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Sun Artists (original series). Edited by W. Arthur Boord. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co. …, 1889-1891
While the focus of this site is traditional, I think Pieter Myers’ comments are noteworthy…..
Photogravure enjoys a reputation for excellence in crafting the photographic image. Perhaps because it is a relatively new among graphic media, photogravure has yet to exhibit the freedom of expression that has become the norm in much older graphic techniques. Complicating this evolution, photogravure is a chameleon, encompassing many manifestations of printmaking, and is therefore hard to classify. Since this confuses almost everyone in the art world, people tend to focus on what they know, i.e., beautiful prints of classic black & white images. As a result, publishers, collectors, and galleries tend to overlook much of the contemporary work being done, such as creative interpretation of the original image and, yes, color. So I would like to open up the dialogue and suggest that it might be time to update the definition of photogravure.
I recognize that definitions are not popular in today’s ecumenical art world. Yet the blurring of the boundaries between media diminishes the uniqueness and identity of any of them. Because of this, some exhibitions don’t know what to do with photogravure, and interestingly, the American Color Print Society will not accept photogravure no matter how obscured the original photographic image may be. Should we care about this? And how far away from “photographic” can a subject be before it is no longer a photogravure? Regardless of how you feel about historical purity, I submit that photogravure is uniquely suited to contemporary subject matter, social realism and (why not?) Pop Art. In my own work I prefer to stay within the traditionally held definition of hand pulled copper plate photogravure in order to keep the integrity of the medium intact. But I am not comfortable with photogravure as primarily a purely photographic medium. I like to balance the scale, and even tip it more to the graphic side by using a variety of darkroom and etching techniques. If the subject suggests color, I use color. Already I have lost the photogravure traditionalist. Perhaps “avant-garde photogravure” will remain a contradiction in terms. If this is the case, the medium may even be able to hold the line against the horrors of digital manipulation.
I hope I have stirred up some discussion with these thoughts, but it is not the photogravure police we should be worried about. The real battle is with all the mechanical reproductions sporting fancy names that masquerade as original prints.
Pieter S. Myers
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."
Louisiana native Debbie Fleming Caffery makes photographs that are anchored at the intersection of earth and spirit. An early series documents the sugarcane harvest that was part of the fabric of her childhood. The haunting images of the cane workers in the fields, often made in the shadowy light of dawn, portray a vanishing culture familiar to those who have lived with it, but a world apart to most. Composed in lush black tones, the photographs suggest an atavistic relationship to earth and fire, light and darkness. In 1984, Caffery began Polly, a poignant and moving collective portrait of the late Polly Joseph, a solitary and proud African-American woman living in the sugarcane country of Louisiana. Shot in the dim light of Polly’s cabin, these masterfully printed photographs not only capture the extraordinary expressiveness of Caffery’s subject, but the expressive characteristics of the medium itself. It is clear in these portraits – collected in a book published by Twin Palms Publishers in 2004 – that Caffery seeks nothing less than the spirit. Whether working in the cane fields or among rural cultures of Mexico, her photographs collect visual mysteries that always hint at that undefined territory between this world and the next. Her newest project, Deseos Sobre Todo (Desire Overall), has won her the 2005 Guggenheim fellowship and focuses on prostitutes and their customers at a rural Mexican brothel. Since moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Caffery has worked on photographic projects for several area agencies, including Futures for Children, an Albuquerque-based Native American mentoring program aimed at keeping children in school.
-from the University of Kentucky Art Museum – May Lecture Series , Feb.2006
Paul Taylor, Howard Greenberg and Debbie Fleming Caffery worked tirelessly to produce this exquisite photogravure. For information contact Howard Greenberg Gallery.
“Every number of Camera Work was published complete when issued. The way it happens that plates are missing is that frequently Camera Work came out of the bindery with plates to be inserted by me personally after binding. Some years ago many of the insets were either destroyed or mislaid. Hence the impossibility of completing many issues at present I know of no way of acquiring missing plates except in keeping one’s eyes open for numbers of Camera Work as they may appear in the market. Absolutely complete sets of Camera Work are very, very rare & are priceless. No I have no reproductions either, there are none. The Plates in Camera Work for the major part are photogravures made directly from original negatives & were made under my direction as were the prints. -So from a certain point of view many of the Plates might be looked upon as a species of originals".
From a letter written by Stieglitz to Grace E. Titus, December 18,1933 (ebay item 290030212499)
New technology is presenting opportunities for ateliers to prepare plates more efficiently, safely and cost effectively. Photopolymer technology offers an alternate to copper plate etching. In order to limit the scope of this site, I have chosen not to include ateliers practicing the modern photopolymer method. However I recently met Chris Pulos, a long time practitioner of photogravure. Chris has practiced both traditional and photopolymer methods. He sent me an example of photopolymer and I must admit it was quite beautiful. His comments…
"I have been working in photogravure since the early 1970’s when I viewed the first unveiling of the Edward Curtis’ Prints in Boston, Mass. I had the privilege of reprinting the Edward Curtis plates in Santa Fe, NM in 2005. Holding the original early 20th Century copper plates was daunting. The plates had an ageless connection to not only a race of people and an American visionary but to a process that was considered the finest form of printing a photographic image. The early masters all had their images immortalized in this process. The experience led me to set up my own atelier printing limited edition portfolios.
In 2006 I was introduced to Photopolymer Gravure, the 21st Century evolvement of Photogravure. The process utilized contemporary chemistry and physics without the deleterious affects of acids and caustic chemistry; thus environmentally safe. Imagery and positive preparation are done digitally, ground asphaltum is replaced with stochastic screens and acid bath bite becomes a water wash out. Printing with an etching press and intaglio inks is the same as copper. The final print maintains the lushness and depth of tone of copper gravure while creating crisper detail and cleaner imagery. The evolution of photogravure in the contemporary polymer process facilitates the process for the artist wishing to create timeless imagery."
Jon Goodman believes that the digitalization of photography could be the demise of photogravure if an adequate and affordable digital alternative to preparing film positives from digital files is not incorporated.
With regard to the aquatint, traditionally a screen is created by ‘dusting’ the plate with rosin. New ‘prefab’ screens incorporating stochastic technology however are available today further streamlining the process. At Lothar Osterberg’s studio in Brooklyn recently, I was able to compare a traditional dust-grain print with a stochastic screen print. Under a loupe, the traditional method is superior. Without magnification, however, the differences were much more subtle.
It’s hopeful to believe that these advancements will ensure a healthy future for the photogravure process rather than chip away at the organic qualities that bring it to life.
Please feel free to comment on this topic…..
In 1864 Julia Margaret Cameron, at the age of 48, took up photography. Her motivation was, “to arrest all beauty that came before me.” One of her first successes was an image created for her close friend, the painter George Fredrick Watts. The photograph, which she titled, “Sadness,” was a study of the Shakespearean actress, Ellen Terry.
Terry came from a theatrical family and had her stage debut at age nine. In 1862 she was introduced to Watts when she posed for one of his paintings. Conceding to the pressure of others, Terry and Watts were married in February 1864, when she was just sixteen. Within a year, the couple had separated, and they were formally divorced in 1877.
It is likely that this portrait was made on their honeymoon. And while Terry may have been striking a pose for Cameron, the picture’s title and Terry’s expression suggests that Cameron was probing Terry’s conflicted and anxious soul. Later, in her autobiography, Terry recalls how difficult her relationship with Watts actually was.*
Why did Stieglitz choose to reproduce Cameron’s, “Sadness” as a photogravure in Camera Work (entitled Ellen Terry, at the Age of Sixteen) ? Stieglitz believed that Cameron was one of fine art photography’s earliest practitioners and “Sadness” a classic example of her intentions.
* from In Focus: Julia Margaret Cameron. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
2 October – 1 November 2007
Fancis Kyle Gallery
9 Maddox Street, London WIS 2QE
T: 0207499 6870
For his second exhibition with Francis Kyle Gallery American printmaker Peter Miller is showing a range of his characteristic work over the past seven years in photogravure. The new exhibition centres on journeys Miller has made in northwest Mongolia. In this frontierland where the Gobi Desert, steppe grasslands, Altai Mountains and lake country come together, the artist travelled by horse or camel, staying close to the surface textures of landscape which have always fascinated him: rocks, sands, gopher holes, stream crossings, perhaps most of all those seas of grasses responding in endlessly shifting, semi-circular patterns to the pull of wind and weather
Another perspective on the importance of Camera Work from the epilogue of Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1983
"A lasting testament to Stieglitz and his ideas was his periodical Camera Work. It offered a visual record of the achievements of the American and foreign photographers in whom he believed, a living history of the Photo-Secession, and a digest of the aesthetic theories and intentions of both the progressive photographers and the burgeoning avant-garde in painting, sculpture, and criticism. As a reflection of what Stieglitz stood for, Camera Work remains a vital wellspring from which creative individuals may still draw nourishment and inspiration."
– William Innes Homer
Recent portfolios added to this database include selections from:
G.L. Arlaud’s Vingt Études de Nu en Plein Air
Various plates from Camera Notes
Frantisek Drtikol’s Les Nus de Drtikol
Various plates from The Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899
Recently I had the privlege of meeting David Spencer – collector, photographer and curator of The Spencer Photographic Archive. David is perhaps the most dedicated person I have met when it comes to the preservation of this material, especially from the pictorial era in Europe when photogravure played such a key role. I am excited to be working closely with David and bringing to this site many of the works from his outstanding collection.
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