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Peter Henry Emerson
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Adolf Fassbender

ADOLF FASSBENDER made his living teaching amateur and professional photographers, but during the 1930s and 1940s he also produced heavily manipulated pictorial images. He harbored an idealized vision of photographic beauty, formed by traditional values and conservative aesthetics. He exhibited hundreds of individual prints throughout the United State but his most enduring contribution to the field was his 1937 book Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful.

Pictorial Artistry is the most lavish publication of pictorial photography produced after World War I. This five-and-a-half pound volume contains forty hand-pulled gravures, spiral bound on ample pages, in an edition of one thousand numbered copies, all signed by the photographer. Fassbender produced the film positives used for making the plates, supervised the platemaking, chose the ink colors, and oversaw the printing. Each gravure is accompanied by a full-page of text describing the photographer's reaction to the subject, the composition, and the equipment used. Many of the images in the book are rural scenes, atmospherically soft and morally uplifting. Fassbender was an inveterate optimist who wished to portray only the good in life.

Pictorial Artistry was initially praised for its rich photogravures, but its timing was unfortunate. In 1941, the United Stated entered World War II and anti-German sentiments (against both Fassbender and the publisher) halted distribution of the book until the end of the war. Fassbender had personally covered much of the publisher's expenses, ultimately losing several hundred dollars on what is today a highly collectible title.

Adolph Fassbender, 1884 - 1980.
At Dusk. 1937.
Photogravure print.
20.3 x 27.8 cm
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