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Posted April 2016 in Exhibitions, History of Photography, New Additions, Publishing, Significant Photographers
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.
-From As You Like It, Act II. Scene VII, Jaques’s speech
In life, Birthdays typically get all the attention. At least while your friends are around. Not so much death. But for certain souls long departed this mortal coil, it’s just as important. This is especially true for English playwright and poet William Shakespeare, whose passing on April 23, 1616 at 52 years of age- or 400 years ago today- seems like a perfectly good excuse to throw a party as well. Cincinnati portrait photographer James M. Landy (1838-1897) would have readily agreed, and he used the excuse of another anniversary-America’s first Centennial held in 1876 in Philadelphia- to showcase his new series of “character photographs” illustrating the Bard’s Seven Ages of Man from his play As You Like It . (1.)
Come along on a short photographic journey exploring these ages of the male species, according to Shakespeare. Have they changed with the passage of time?
1. James Landy: from: Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary, Mary Sayre Haverstock et al: Kent State University Press, 2000: p. 506
Posted January 2016 in Alternate Processes, History of Photography, Journals, New Additions, Publishing, Texts
Sigismund Blumann, (1872-1956) an American who became an important editor and photographer after moving to San Francisco, California from New York City in the early 1880’s is our subject for this post, along with his involvement with and history of Camera Craft magazine. Never heard of him? A few relevant but by no means comprehensive list of details about this gentleman whose friends addressed him as “Sig” for short:
⌘ West Coast champion for photography in his role as Editor-in-Chief of Camera Craft magazine from 1924-1933. Prolific writer for said journal whose love of language sometimes lead to his mangling of it, but only with the best of intentions.
⌘ Significant pictorialist photographer from the same period and earlier whose darkroom work was equally inventive and important.
⌘ So gregarious in affect, photographic historian Christian A. Peterson duly notes, (1.) that as editor, he personally answered all correspondence sent to him by his 8000 monthly Camera Craft readers in addition to his regular duties of penning multiple articles for each issue.
⌘ Possession of a sly sense of humor: look no further than a ca. 1930 self-portrait in which his suit lapel sprouts a long cable release rather than a floral boutonnière.
⌘ Conservative writer in print who often took a while to accept new ideas: as one example, Peterson notes his use of the made-up word “Sewereelism” included in a 1938 editorial written by him on his feelings towards the failings of the art movements Surrealism and Dada for the magazine Photo Art Monthly, a publication he owned himself. (2.)
⌘ Pipe smoker extraordinaire. Featured not only in the above referenced self-portrait but immortalized by artist W.R. Potter in print every month as artistic caricature shown smoking and reading a book used for his Under the Editor’s Lamp column in Camera Craft beginning in April 1926.
Sigismund Blumann: Short Biography
For the past three years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of corresponding with Thomas High, Sigismund Blumann’s grandson, and been equally fortunate in acquiring a small archive of Sig’s vintage work for PhotoSeed previously kept in the family. Unlike Sig’s friends, Tom tells me, as a boy of perhaps five or six, he would of course address him as Grampa Blumann. Tom goes on to say:
”I only wish I had known him better – he died when I was a child, and my only real memories of him were playing rummy and whist with him.”
Tom has also agreed to let me reprint for purposes of introduction the following short biography of his grandfather written in October, 2009, for which I’m very grateful.
Sigismund Blumann (1872-1956) by Thomas High
Sigismund Blumann was born on September 13, 1872, in New York City, the son of Alexander Blumann and Rosalie (Price) Blumann. He came to San Francisco with his parents in late 1881 or 1882, and subsequently became a professional pianist and music teacher.
Sigismund Blumann married first on August 30, 1894, to Adele Morgenstern. They divorced in May of 1895. He married second on June 4, 1901, to Hilda Axelina Johansson and they subsequently had four daughters, Ethel, Amy, Lorna, and Vera.
In the 1890s, Sigismund Blumann became interested in photography and had begun taking photos seriously by 1900 while living in San Francisco. At the time of the San Francisco earthquake on April 9, 1906, he and his wife were still living with his parents on Army Street. He volunteered to help the recovery and, with his official permits, got through the lines and took a number of photographs.
Mr. Blumann was also a prolific writer and he authored numerous articles, commentaries, and poems.
After the 1906 earthquake, the Blumanns moved to Davis Street in Fruitvale (later part of Oakland). From that time, all of his photographic work was done in his darkroom at the Davis Street home.
Photography increased in importance in his life, and at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition he combined all of his talents: he played in an orchestra, photographed the Fair, and worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and other newspapers.
In the early 1920s, Sigismund retired from an active career in music and entered the profession of efficiency engineering, with offices in the Monadnock Building in San Francisco. His principal client was the Forster Music Publishing Company.
He continued his interest in photography and in 1924 he became editor of Camera Craft magazine. In addition to editing the publication and writing numerous articles for it, he also wrote the Photographic Workroom Handbook, published by Camera Craft in 1927.
Mr. Blumann’s last issue as editor of Camera Craft was in August of 1933. Several months later, he launched his own magazine, Photo Art Monthly, which he edited and published until 1940. During this period, he also produced several more manuals for amateur photographers, including the Photographic Handbook, Photographic Greetings - How to Make Them, Enlarging Manual, and Toning Processes.
In 1940, he sold the Photo Art Monthly to his assistant, Franke Unger (who married photographer Adolf Fassbender about the same time). She soon closed the magazine.
The Blumanns continued to live at their Davis Street home for the rest of their lives, joined by their unmarried daughters, Ethel and Lorna Blumann, both librarians. He produced little photographic work in the 1940s and 1950s, contenting himself to dabble in photography and discuss it with his new son-in-law, William A. High, who married his daughter, Vera, in February of 1943. Bill High was a commercial photographer before World War II, a combat photographer for the US Army during the war, and the founder of the photography department at Oakland’s Laney Trade School (later Peralta Junior College) thereafter.
Sigismund Blumann died in Oakland on July 9, 1956, and Hilda Blumann died on February 1, 1958, also in Oakland.
Sigismund Blumann’s photos are in the Oakland Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, High Museum in Atlanta, and elsewhere.
For further information, see “Sigismund Blumann, California Editor and Photographer,” by Christian A. Peterson, in History of Photography, vol. 26, no. 1. (Spring 2002).
Beginnings in Word and Photography
Writing under his infrequent pen name Charles H. Fitzpatrick in Camera Craft in 1925, (3.) Sig most likely gives us a small hint of his own beginnings in photography, a passion that would soon evolve into his extensive documentation of life of San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown neighborhood in 1901. (4.) Later in this capacity as street shooter, he played the role of documentarian in the aftermath of the destruction of San Francisco in the 1906 earthquake and subsequent job as part-time portrait photographer after relocating to neighboring Oakland in 1907 due to the destruction. (5.) all while making his living as musical performer and teacher) :
Having become interested in Photography back in 1900 as an amateur with an old style Adlake plate camera, and two years later as a professional with a studio— and almost continuously since in Commercial Photography the author has had a wonderful opportunity to study composition both by experience and observation of the work of others. (6.)
It was sometime in the 1890s, photographic historian Christian A. Peterson notes, that he “first used his wife’s Kodak camera to make snapshots and soon began searching the photographic periodicals for information and advice.” (7.) His editorship of Camera Craft as momentous professional occasion aside, Sig’s immersion in all things Photographic may very well have reached a high-point by 1933, the year he became a charter member of the Photographic Society of America as well as being honored a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
Photography in itself however was not his only reason for being during his professional career as editor, and even earlier as a musician. This was because Sig was a romantic at heart, a dreamer who had a great fondness for language, and the will to commit it to paper. Starting out for example, only in his early 20’s, he composed the following poem for the April, 1895 issue of the California-based magazine Overland Monthly:
PLEASURE is like perfect liquor,
Sweet to taste and after taste,
And like, too, in that when gotten
We imbibe too much, then waste,
And we find when pleasure passes
Life is empty as the glasses.
Wearing the hat of Poet-in-Residence at Camera Craft, Sig never neglected this early love of poetry for the publication, often combining his own photographic efforts alongside original compositions. One example, which he titled Lugubrio, though technically not even a real word, appeared in April, 1927, and was his way of simply assigning a mournful, or lugubrious meaning to his own photograph depicting jagged rocks and crashing waves-seen in his dramatic coastal landscape most likely taken on the Pacific coast:
By Sigismund Blumann
The drowned and dead, now turned to stone,
Stand watching by the shore
And you may hear them through the night,
From set of sun to morning light,
As they shall do for evermore,
Weep as they watch, and moan. (p. 177)
Camera Craft: Western Photographic Journal
Although he’d been a contributor to its’ pages in words and photos after the first decade of being founded, it would be 24 years from the journal’s 1900 founding until Sig would begin to establish an enduring legacy in the history of photography via his role as Editor-in-Chief of Camera Craft. Some historical background on the intents and purposes for this ground-breaking publication are in order.
First based in San Francisco at 120 Sutter Street and issued monthly by the Camera Craft Publishing Company under the direction of editor W.G. Woods, the photographic journal Camera Craft was founded on the principles the West Coast of the United States should have an equal geographical mouthpiece of influence to counter that of the East Coast in promoting photography-for both professional and amateur workers. (to this end a separate page was devoted monthly to the happenings of many California amateur clubs) For the first issue of May, 1900, the following observations and arguments were made by the journal in support of these ideals:
The growth of photography, the introduction of simplifying methods in scientific picture-making, during the past twenty-five years is one of the wonders of the century. The phenomenal strides made by the photographic inventors of the world, resulting in the production of simple devices and convenient appliances, have made photography in all of its branches an almost universal fad. The Pacific Coast, ever ready to appreciate the merits of an innovation, has kept well abreast in the steady march of progress.
The wonderful climate of California lends itself enthusiastically to the wants of the photographer. The hand of Nature has reared, in eternal beauty, scenic effects unequaled elsewhere on earth. The very atmosphere of the Far West encourages the artistic impulse of its people. With such great natural advantages it is small wonder that when the western photographer has seen fit to cross the continent to compete with the eastern brotherhood he returns with laurels upon his brow. Not less wonderful is the existence of the largest Camera Club in the world in the city of the Golden Gate.
Yet, strange as it may seem, this great class of enthusiasts, this immense body of earnest workers has never been represented by a publication worthy of its trust. The photographers of the West have for years depended upon the journals of the East for enlightenment, but have looked in vain for recognition in their columns. It is to remedy this condition that Camera Craft now makes its bow to the public.
As to the scope of Camera Craft nothing can be said; it will have to speak for itself. The only promise made is the sincere intent on the part of the publishers to improve with each succeeding issue. The one hope of the magazine is that it may be so conducted as to meet the approbation of its readers and lend its aid to the material welfare of all interested in photography, whether for pleasure or for profit. (p. 26)
With its second issue for June, ambitions quickly shifted in support of the establishment of a West-Coast professional organization:
“Camera Craft intends to agitate the question of a Pacific Coast Convention of photographers. General inquiry throughout the state has led to the belief that such a convention is not only desirable but an actual need to those who make their living through the lens and shutter.” …We recall instances where photographers of this coast have attended conventions in the East and have returned with easy honors. Camera Craft would be pleased to learn of a serious consideration of the idea. A convention held in San Francisco with a first-class salon as an adjunct would undoubtedly lead to a permanent organization, and result in the advancement of the craft in a manner hitherto untried.” (p. 68)
Although preceded geographically and in scope by the Pacific Coast Photographer, a short-lived monthly established in 1892 and believed to have ceased publication several years later, Camera Craft thrived as a robust Western photographic journal for the next 41 years. It first accomplished this under the capable tenure of editor Fayette J. Clute in the early decades of the publication before Sig took over in 1924, and was carried forward by him and others until the economic and human realities of World War II forced it’s hand. This occurred after the March, 1942 issue, when Camera Craft ironically headed back East so to speak, when it was absorbed by the Boston-based American Photography magazine. An editorial appearing in the final issue stated the decision to cease publishing was made because editor George Allen Young was taking his place in the armed services among other realities.
Sig As Camera Craft Editor: 1924-33
Photographic historian Christian A. Peterson, who called Camera Craft “the leading West Coast photographic monthly” and whose in-depth reassessment of Sigismund Blumann’s life and career was cited at the conclusion of Tom High’s short biography of his grandfather, called Sigismund Blumann:
”a prominent tastemaker in Californian photography during the 1920s and 1930s”. (8.)
Having an audience of 8000 monthly Camera Craft readers after coming aboard as chief editor in 1924 was surely a great start to becoming a tastemaker, but Sig proved his worth during the following nine years for his ability to impart to readers the essential knowledge of the ever-changing progress of photography. This took place in conjunction with his maintaining the vision of remaining true to himself-no matter how quirky some of his readers undoubtedly perceived him- while unashamedly promoting photographic talent in the pages of the magazine where he saw fit.
But some things remained the same after he took over. One, perhaps appropriate considering his musical background, was his retention of the subhead: “Conducted by Sigismund Blumann” for the journal’s long-established editorial column The Amateur And His Troubles previously edited by Paul Douglas Anderson. This time, an actual orchestra conductor was indeed stepping in to conduct editorial affairs! Keeping this personal touch intact-especially to those who knew him as someone passionate of music his entire life, was just one way of his remaining connected with readers as well as professional and social acquaintances in the Bay Area. Under Sig’s moderation, the column continued to offer advice dispensed by any number of well regarded authors who broke down and offered solutions to problems encountered by amateurs in the field relating to anything from photographic equipment to darkroom dilemmas.
His second column, a new feature which debuted with the November, 1924 issue, was called CHIT CHAT About our friends. A vehicle for Sig’s effusive boosterism of photography in general, both professional and amateur, it was written in a style that might best be described, amusingly, as slightly syrupy in tone but delivered with erudition. Profiles on photographers he found interesting, and news of California camera clubs were a constant monthly feature of the column in addition to news of major upcoming exhibitions as well as critiques and results from those salons happening not only on the West Coast but throughout the United States and beyond. Comically subtitled: “Ye Editor Retaileth Newes of Ye Profession And In Quaint Italics Titillateth Ye Sphynx With Hys Quill”, the column’s “titillations” were often just longish aphorisms managing implied or direct associations to something photographic. Appearing rather infrequently at the column’s outset and disappearing altogether by August, 1931 when this inventive take on the English language was eliminated, they appeared from time to time, with several reprinted below for his January, 1926 column:
“Every time you get the best of a customer you have cheated yourself.”
“The most expensive lens may not be the best but the cheapest is pretty sure to be the worst.”
Lastly, and most importantly, one of the most personal reasons for Camera Craft’s success under Sig was his entirely self-written Under the Editor’s Lamp column, debuting with the April, 1926 issue. Already a fixture by means of the pen to his many readers-in prose as well as poetry- the column gave a final say so to speak to his personal views-conservative to be sure-on just about anything going on regarding photography and musings on current events. With accompanying column artwork by California artist W.R. Potter portraying Sig kicking back while puffing his pipe and seated at a library desk, the column became an effective way for this journal’s Editor-in-Chief to assume the role of oracle and brand ambassador. Sig’s short forward for his first Under the Editor’s Lamp :
When the desk is cleared of paste-pot and shears and the lamp is lit, it is good to put a match to the freshly loaded, old pipe and take a puff or two, letting the mind’s mind relax into mere dreams. The lamp is a sentimental fiction, of course, being a standardized glass bowl with a bulb glowing through, but the pipe is real, the mood is sincere, and we hope the mind exists, more or less.
Out go our thoughts to readers unseen, perhaps never to be met except as a large, critical, voracious body of men and women who consume the forty-eight pages of pictures and text and off-hand decide the fare has been very good, fair, or rotten. Little do they care what labor, what hopes, what ambitions went into every line and every illustration. Why should they. The best is no better than their due. (p.180)
M.Q. Developer to Develop Good Feeling
Because Camera Craft billed itself the official organ of the Pacific International Photographers’ Association, (PIPA) with owner Ida M. Reed acting as Secretary and headquartered in the same San Francisco offices as the journal, (703 Market in Claus Spreckles Building) news of the Association-which covered a wide western geographic area including membership from Alaska, Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, California, the Hawaiian Islands, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington states- became a regular monthly feature of the previously discussed Chit-Chat column. By 1927, Sig was hitting full-stride at Camera Craft, his writing skills undoubtedly honed through his reminisces featured in the Editor’s Lamp column.
The following account is a result of this, of Sig’s prodigious social engagement with members active in the Bay-area camera club scene. In a humorous yet telling example of his own admission to preserve the rightful history of one particular PIPA (often referred to as a club) meeting for Chit-Chat, the March, 1927 issue duly reported on the Past Presidents Night dinner dance at San Leandro’s Toyon Inn on Feb. 15, 1927. Taking place when Prohibition was still the law of the land in America, (9.) Sig’s account made sure to include the lengths employed at the soirée in order for those attending to enjoy the social, and inebriating benefits of some “liquid cheer”:
But hold, before we close it must be chronicled as it shall be inscribed in the archives of the club that each guest found a developing tray and two glass graduates before him. It was a paper tray, so that when dropped the falling tray might not raise the deuce. In one of the two ounce graduates water was served and in the other M.Q. developer to develop good feeling. A bucket of Hypo was kept in the ante-room to fix the police, and everything was provided to make a perfect picture except bromide. If any was needed it was the next morning. (p. 145: M.Q. was an alkaline developer for gelatine emulsions combining Metol and hydroquinone)
Camera Nut to the End
Considering he was having an awfully good time in his position as Editor-in Chief, an observation certainly not witnessed by this writer but most obvious by the written evidence left for posterity, Sig’s resignation at the end of July, 1933 does seem a bit abrupt. Historian Christian A. Peterson speculates he and owner Ida M. Reed “parted ways over deep differences.” (10.) But with the installation of Camera Craft veteran George Allen Young to replace him, Sig was none the less given deserved praise by owner Ida Reed the following month:
Since 1924 we, and the readers of this magazine, have enjoyed his contagious enthusiasm, and his wide technical knowledge of photography,. He leaves with our best wishes for success and happiness. (p. 387)
Earlier, for his final Under the Editor’s Lamp column written in July, 1933 and published the next month, his nine-year run at the journal concludes with a perhaps knowing, but certainly wistful remembrance of his good times spent there. Recounting adventures in photography that summer while traveling the California High Sierra, Sig first gives accolades to the efforts U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was giving to get American industry moving again during the ongoing Great Depression before concluding by stating his own continued love affair with photography:
Does thinking of Yosemite and speaking of photography seem like reductum ad absurdum to you? It should not for I can allow myself so very short a time in that garden of The God and I can so effectively carry some of its glory and inspiration over the rest of the year with what my camera has enabled me to bring home, that it is natural to raise the picture, as near as imagination makes possible, to the original.
As I look at the screen and project the pictures, studying how to express my reactions when on the spot, I once again smell the pines and hear the rush of the Merced as it boils over the Happy Isles. In the quiet and the benignancy of the red light fancy builds Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Domes anew.
The old rags that made us free. The open spaces that made us immortal in spiritual disembodiment. The camera that vitalized every hour of the day with its assurance of creative picture making. Friends, I am glad, very glad, to be a camera Nut. (p. 343)
With that, a poem by Sig somehow seems a good fit in ending this remembrance about the young boy who moved to California and proceeded through hard work and perseverance to embrace the Golden State as his own. Along with possessing the gift of innumerable talents and more than a few dreams, he managed to share them with many others.
THE QUIET CORNER by Sigismund Blumann
A PIPE, some books, a flower or two,
The picture of one gone before
Who stands without the open door
And shall not die.
When work is through
Some day, some day, when rest is won
And the long, long duty-season done,
I’ll sit me down to taste the best
Of books, tobacco, men and things:
To listen when the spring-bird sings— Looking in peace toward the West.
Against that day, and I am spared,
My quiet corner stands prepared.
To see all work by Sigismund Blumann in the PhotoSeed Archive please go here.
1. see: Early Years in Photography: “Sigismund Blumann, California Editor and Photographer”, by Christian A. Peterson in History of Photography, vol. 26, no. 1. (Spring 2002) p. 59.
2. Ibid: in: Photo Art Monthly, 1933-40: p. 73
3. It would not be until July, 1934, in an updated version of this 1925 Camera Craft article on describing the process of turning photographs into dry point etchings in Photo-Art Monthly, that evidence of Fitzpatrick and Blumann being the same person would seem to be confirmed. In it, the illustrated example of Blumann’s credited photograph titled “Land’s End” is also shown reproduced into the converted dry point etching with credit given to Fitzpatrick. Editorially, it might seem odd to continue this pen-name fiction with Blumann even going to lengths to construct a suspect history in 1925 of “Fitzpatrick’s” own beginnings although the reason was most likely intended as another way of imparting education on a topic deemed worthy and educational enough in the eyes and mind of the editor himself.
4. Copies of at least 43 documentary photographs, with several corresponding paper negative envelopes dated 1901 by Sigismund Bluman, were donated by his family to the California Historical Society where they can be viewed as part of the collection “The Chinese in California: 1850-1925.” The following link includes a smaller sampling of later printed examples, (some hand-colored) along with a rare surviving example titled “Ruin” (a detail included with this post) from 1906 of earthquake damage taken by the photographer as well as several portraits of Sig taken by others.
5. see: citation #1: p. 54.
6. excerpt: introduction: Making Photographs Into Dry Point Etchings: by Charles H. Fitzpatrick Illustrated by the Author: in: Camera Craft: October, 1925: San Francisco: p. 485.
7. see: citation #1 p. 54
8. Ibid: introduction: p. 53
9. American Prohibition was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.
10. see: citation #1 p. 65
11. In order to make one of these etchings, the article instructs that after first selecting a printed photograph with little detail, the next step is to: “draw as much as he can on the photograph, using Higgins’ Water Proof India Ink. When this is absolutely dry the silver is completely bleached out with Bichloride of Mercury or Iodine-Iodide bleachers. The pen shading and finishing is then done with care, when the bleached and washed print has been dried.” From here, the article states a copy negative must then be made which is used to make the final second-generation finished (and reduced for effect) “etchings” using various grades of photographic paper: “The method of reproducing drawings is very simple. Place drawing on wall or easel and camera on firm support exactly centering lens on drawing, making exposure on a slow copy plate by diffused daylight or electric light, and develop for contrast. In copying it is advisable to reduce the image one-third smaller than the original as a finer line is thus secured which improves the finished print. The writer prefers a buff stock, matt paper of medium grade and heavy; and has found Vitava E just right: This is a matter of choice, however, as good prints may be secured on Azo, Velox, Cyco, Kruxo, Defender, Haloid, Barston, Charcoal Black or other matt papers. Proceed as in ordinary photographic printing then tone by re-development, using whatever process you prefer. I use Royal-Re-developer with pleasing results.” In the later 1934 article: “Etchings From and With Photographs”, “Fitzpatrick”goes further in depth on this etching process, adding that after the second-generation reduced copy print is made, the print could be “treated through all the usual solutions in the usual way and may be developed in any of the prescribed formulae for blue-black, jet-black, warm-black, or dark brown tones. Or it may be subsequently toned by the bleach and redevelop methods. The particular brown of an etching is easily gotten on Vitava Athena with a developer containing Athenon. Azo P-2 or 3, Vitava Athena E, Novira in the matt smooth or rough are all fine for the purpose. Gevalux gives a wonderful image in a true carbon black color and velvet crayon patine.” Continuing, the article offers a summary of the entire process: “That is all there is to the whole thing. You could not complicate it if you tried. Just make an enlargement, work on it with pen and ink, bleach out the silver leaving the ink image, photograph the line drawing, make as many etching-prints from the copy negative as you wish. Where can you go wrong? How can you fail?” He concludes by saying the maker of these etchings could also go “one step further by using hand-sensitized photographic papers for this final second-generation completed “etching”: “Furthermore, should you desire to print on colored papers or card- board of such surface as cannot be bought ready sensitized it will be a simple matter to sensitize any stock with the well known Blue Print solutions, or if the various shades of brown and black are wanted to resort to Kallitype. These processes are as cheap as they are easy to compound and use; they work on any paper not too saturated with chlorides or unfixed dyes. Kallitype is moreover a beautiful process in itself and prints endure according to the care in making them.”
Posted December 2015 in Engraving, Painters|Photographers, PhotoSeed, Publishing, Typography
Posted November 2015 in New Additions, Publishing
Posted October 2015 in Alternate Processes, Painters|Photographers, Publishing
Photography up to our modern day is by definition “Drawing with Light”, whereby the permanent recording of an object is achieved via electronic or chemical action. Simplistically this makes sense, but in order to make the outcome relevant and interesting enough to matter, especially in our visually overloaded present, practitioners to put it mildly need to include a bit of heart and soul into their efforts.
Emery Gondor (Emerich Göndör: 1896-1977) had these last two qualities in abundance. A Hungarian artist of prodigious talent who worked in multiple artistic disciplines including photography, the recent acquisition by this archive of some of his signed 1925 linocuts prove a teachable moment for why the manipulations of light and dark in another medium are instructive for creative souls in the present.
Some background, including the reality and history of turbulence in early 20th Century Europe, are critical to our understanding in how artists like Gondor could not be defeated by hatred which destroyed millions of lives and split apart society’s fabric there.
Indeed, his empathy for those shattered lives were taken to heart in the aftermath of his three and a half year service as a soldier in World War I which changed his life forever. Combined with his interest in progressive art education for children discovered in the early 1920’s while attending Vienna’s Academy of Industrial Arts and his work with emotionally disturbed children at the University Clinic there gave him an outlet and purpose for artistic expression, and would culminate towards the end of his career in the 1960’s as director of the art program at the Institute for Mental Retardation at New York Medical College (today : Westchester Institute for Human Development) after earning a degree in Clinical Psychology from New York State University. (1.)
In an 1936 artist profile published in the graphic arts journal PM Magazine soon after his immigration to the United States from Europe, Emery Gondor writes:
”But my real interest and love is children. I illustrated many children’s books for the “Union Verlag” Stuttgart, the biggest children’s publishing house, and other youth-publications.” …I made up many hundreds of games for children, puzzles for adults, comic strips. I exhibited again and wrote many articles about humorous observations of children. I always received hundreds of fan letters from my children friends.” (2.)
The Germinal Circle
As a young artist living and just getting by in Vienna after WWI, Gondor did not shy away from progressive ideas as well as the opportunity to sell his original artwork while promoting himself. Traveling to London in late 1923, he did live caricature sketches of poems read aloud by their authors on November 5th and 23rd as an invited guest of the Germinal Circle. Organized by the Italian anarchist Silvio Corio and his lover Sylvia Pankhurst, a like-minded British writer whose mother Emmeline Pankhurst was the leader of the British suffragette movement, the circle was an artistic and literary salon for their short-lived political and cultural monthly magazine Germinal founded the same year. (3.)
Several of Gondor’s original linocuts, including one incorporated into an advertisement showing a figure with outstretched arms standing next to a grouping of over-sized flowers facing emanating sun rays were reproduced as part of promotional literature in Germinal. The artist from this period is described in a typescript document held with the reproduction in the library of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York City:
The Germinal Circle has pleasure in introducing the work of Emerich Gondor, a young Hungarian artist, who has not previously exhibited in this country. A rapid caricaturist and cartoonist, he works with equal facility through lithography, wood-cuts, lino-cuts and many other mediums. (4.)
Sehnsucht nach Licht: Yearning for Light
Emery Gondor’s style in his surviving linoleum cuts from the early 1920’s were certainly influenced by the German Expressionists, and of the heartbreak and for many, hope in the aftermath of the first World War. With emotional joy and pathos rendered in exaggerated strokes of light and dark, the symbolism of the sun and its streaming rays reaching out to embrace humankind is duly represented by his hopeful thematic subjects among others including a family, baby, old man, a blind man, and prisoner locked in a cell as well as the artist himself in signed impressions, several of which are seen here.
The original 1925 cover maquette linoleum cut by Gondor, featuring the aforementioned figure with outstretched arms, has the hopeful title Sehnsucht nach Licht . (Yearning for Light) Featuring eight original linoleum cuts with the themes outlined above, the work is not believed to have been published other than several copies, although seven of the eight plates as well as the maquette can be found here on this website as well as the full compliment and other examples of Gondor’s artwork from his career at the Baeck Institute online site.
Sobering, but Necessary
Eventually, Gondor’s talents paid off. Besides honed artistic chops, abundant energy, charisma and a sunny disposition as evidenced by his ever-present smile seen in surviving photographs, he attained the title of Art Director for the Ullstein Verlag publishing house of Berlin, the largest concern in Europe. But then in 1933, the Nazis came, he wrote in the 1936 PM profile, and everything changed and was lost. In September of 1935, Gondor’s former editor Hartmuth Merleker of the Ullstein newspapers Tempo and Berliner Montagspost wrote a glowing review of his talents which spoke of this fine character giving him the needed credibility in the eyes of German authorities and the right to emigrate for his new life in America:
”He worked mainly as comic and propaganda artist and as a theater photographer and absolved himself to everyone’s satisfaction. He tactfully refrained from attending any non-artistic, non-photographic activities, and as a Hungarian citizen was never known to abuse the right to hospitality he enjoyed in Germany to Germany’s disadvantage.” (5.)
Sobering in hindsight of course. What true artist in their own mind could “tactfully refrain from “any non-artistic, non-photographic activities” during the course of his or her work? Fortunately for us, Emery Gondor had a bit of luck going his way as well, with earlier examples of his artistic legacy preserved here for posterity and later career achievements benefiting those children he helped and inspired a testament to the abundant light emanating from his own oversized heart and soul.
David Spencer- October, 2015
1. background: Emery Gondor: Biographical/Historical Note: from: Emery I. Gondor Collection: Leo Baeck Institute online archive accessed Oct. 2015. In Gondor’s 1954 application to publisher Doubleday for his book Art and Play Therapy published the same year, it stated he “is a sensitive clinician of long and varied experience. Early in his career he had no intention of becoming a psychologist or psychotherapist, but began as an artist and teacher of art after attending the Royal Hungarian University and receiving his diplomas from the Federal Academy of Art in Budapest. As a young art teacher, however, he was faced with the misery of children who suffered tremendously during and after the first World War, and felt that he had to understand more about their problems in order to be able to help them. Thus began his interest in the study of psychology.”
2. PM: 1936: Mr. Gondor comes to America: p. 7
3. Germinal, a quarto monthly ran for two issues in July, 1923 and one other unknown issue published in 1924. “This illustrated journal published fiction by Gorky, drama by Ernest Toller, poetry by Alexander Blok, by Anna Akhmatova and by Pankhurst.” see: Morag Shiach: Modernism, Labour and Selfhood in British Literature and Culture, 1890-1930: Sylvia Pankhurst: labour and representation: 2004: p. 103
4. see: The Germinal Circle: Leo Baeck Institute Archives: New York: Folder 1/16: Call number AR 25397
5. translated, hand-written copy of Sept 7, 1935 letter by editor Hartmuth Merleker contained in Leo Baeck Institute online archives.
Posted March 2015 in Advertising, Childhood Photography, Engraving, Publishing, Significant Photographers, Typography
Surreal would be a good word for it. On the evening of Friday, November 4, 1904, the touring company of the Broadway flop Eben Holden made its way to a performance at a building called the Auditorium on S. 2nd Street in downtown Newark, Ohio.
Most likely in attendance that night? Clarence Hudson White, (1871-1925) the world-renowned pictorialist photographer who was a recent founding member of the American Photo-Secession and current Newark resident. Only two years earlier, he had taken a series of photographs using his Newark neighbors as models for a special edition of Eben Holden that had been made into this very play.
Written by American journalist and author Irving Bacheller, (1859-1950) the story is a classic rags to riches tale that captivated the masses in the new American century when first published in July of 1900, eventually selling over 1 million copies. The setting at the beginning of the novel is the “North Country” of Northern Vermont , the Adirondack’s and St. Lawrence River Valley of the 1840’s and 1850’s. It tells the coming of age story of William Brower, orphaned at the age of six after his parents and older brother accidentally drowned as well as his relationship with Eben Holden, a farm hand who rescued “Willy” from the cruel fate of an orphanage
But this post is part collecting story, a kind of hunt for treasure, or “spondoolix” as “Uncle Eb” would say in one chapter-his country ways and lack of education brought into sharper focus for the reader by Bacheller’s liberal usage of Holden’s spoken dialect.
The Hunt is on
I consider myself a newbie collector, but one of the first things I put on my list 15 years ago when I first started out was one particular impression of Eben Holden rumored to have been illustrated by hand-pulled photogravures by White, the aforementioned famous photographer.
My curiosity had been piqued after seeing the volume listed in several bibliographies, typically stating the 1900 date. One such entry in author Christian A. Peterson’s Annotated Bibliography on Pictorial Photography did give me hope the work existed, even though finding one in the internet age would prove to be quite the challenge:
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, holds what is probably a unique copy of this book, comprised of the Lothrop text pages bound in leather, with an inscription by White and ten photogravure illustrations by him, including the portrait of Holden. (1.)
Because the novel had been such a success a century earlier, the reality of upwards of 500 vintage copies for sale on the web at any one time was daunting. My course of action however was simple, and eventually effective: send out a mass number of emails to every bookseller in the U.S. listing a copy from a suspect 1901 edition I had honed in on inquiring if it contained any photographic illustrations.
And so eventually luck prevailed. In 2007, a bookseller in Idaho finally said yes, and a bucket item was now on my library shelf. But that was not the end of it, as Alice would say, things got Curiouser and Curiouser! Because collectors never stop looking, I soon stumbled upon a CT bookseller who knew exactly the significance of the White-illustrated impression, with an astronomical asking price. An excerpt from his description of the work stated:
Elusive and highly desirable work, absent from almost all museum and library collections devoted to photography, and one of only a very few photographically illustrated books produced by a leading member of the Stieglitz circle at the height of the Photo-Secession. (2.)
And so I sucked it in and didn’t purchase the second copy, which he told me he had originally purchased in Marlborough, NH. Eventually he sold it to a European collection, but I’ve since visited him several times and made a few purchases over the years, something I highly recommend rather than doing everything through e-commerce.
But then lighting struck again five years ago, when I purchased a second copy which had been personally inscribed by the author in 1911 to John A. Dix, then governor of New York state.
Curiouser? The first copy, fourth edition imprint stated Two Hundred and Sixty-fifth Thousand, March 12, 1901 and the second copy was for Two Hundred and Seventieth Thousand, September 18, 1903.
Knowing the book now existed in multiple impressions with the Clarence White photogravures was perplexing to me at first, but I’m certain the inclusion of the White photographs was intended by the publisher Lothrop for a more discriminating audience, so its assumed they had the monetary incentive to publish more than the one impression-even with the fickleness and extra work necessary to bind an edition with hand-pulled gravures.
To this end, my research in preparing this post discovered 1901 to be the year Clarence White was first commissioned by the Boston publisher to illustrate a new edition of Eben Holden. The intended publication date of very late 1902 was designed to coincide with the lucrative holiday sales season. Even with the move to e-books in our modern age, publishers earn good money issuing ornate and extra-illustrated editions during this time of year catering to the once a year book buyer and bibliophile alike.
Known as the Edition de luxe, this edition of Eben Holden with the White photogravures priced at $2.00 somehow managed to miss the late 1902 holiday sales season. The curious fact of the inclusion of the imprint for March 12, 1901 on the limitation page and White’s signature including the year 02 on many of the 12 plates in the published work was basic economics for publisher Lothrop-they simply used existing leaves, including the old limitation pages from current stock when it was eventually released for sale to bookstores in 1903.
This was by no means unprecedented by Lothrop, or other large publishing houses of the era, as they would have set aside a certain number of unbound sheets from a best-selling work for limited impressions featuring artwork. The first illustrated edition of Eben Holden featured halftone photographs taken by Joseph Byron from the Broadway production of the same name hadn’t even debuted until Oct. 28 of 1901. This also used the March 12, 1901 imprint date. Known as the Dramatic Edition, it was described in the trade monthly The Bookseller:
”An illustrated edition of Eben Holden has been recently published called the Dramatic edition. It contains seven pictures of the play as it appeared in New York and a fine portrait of the author.” (3.)
Published in 1903
Finally, with the eventual tenth imprint of the fourth edition stating Two Hundred and Seventieth Thousand, September 18, 1903, (6.) the makeup of the Edition de luxe was that of a small 8vo Octavo instead of the common edition, a 12mo Duodecimo. The inclusion of 12 fine, hand-pulled photogravure plates by White seen here is another matter altogether. For one, other than White’s autograph-appearing often (and faintly) in the lower left hand corner of each plate image as CH White 02, the Edition de luxe neglects to give him any printed credit for the photographs nor the atelier who printed them. This is very surprising for a special edition. Typically, there would at the very least be a separate illustrations page noting titles and page numbers at the front of a similar volume, but for whatever reason they were not included.
Stieglitz plays Go Between
With Eben Holden’s great success, the dramatization of the novel on the Broadway stage was logical for its day-especially since the Cinema was not an option because of the infancy of the medium. Lothrop’s piggy-backing of the work through this Dramatic edition, even by the “flop” standard of 49 performances, was but one way of keeping the work “fresh”- even a full year after initial publication. At some point late in 1901, a result perhaps of someone seeing the play on Broadway or believing White’s work would lend itself nicely to a series of photographic illustrations, the Boston publisher-perhaps through an association with Fred Holland Day (who lived in nearby Norwood where the Norwood Press printed books for Lothrop) or Alfred Stieglitz in New York-gave White the commission for its second illustrated edition of the novel.
Ultimately, Stieglitz’s publishing background, connections and established relationship with White through his editorship of Camera Notes, his new involvement with Camera Work, as well as his having his own work exhibited in an early salon of pictorial photography in Newark Ohio in late 1900 and other exhibitions made Stieglitz a believer in White’s potential as an illustrator:
“What is especially fascinating, however, is what occurs when White is commissioned, as he was in 1901, to take up literary illustration himself. Through the assistance of Stieglitz, White received the commission to illustrate a new edition of the novel Eben Holden by Irving Bacheller. ( 4. )
And much later, the photographer’s grandson Maynard Pressley White commented about a bit of reluctance on his grandfather’s part in dealing with Lothrop as part of his Ph.D. dissertation in 1975:
“The correspondence with Stieglitz concerning the illustrations for Eben Holden is revealing of his character as well as Stieglitz informed him that he suffered from no such timidity and would—and indeed did—handle the matter with the publishers, as it turned out, to the advantage of White.” (5.)
John Andrew & Son: founded in Boston: 1852
In giving credit to White and the firm that printed his photographs as gravures, a bit of elucidation seems in order to set things straight. Upon close inspection of these plates along with many others by Boston’s John Andrew & Son from the same time frame, I feel confident giving the Andrew firm credit for printing them. This is based on a near exact match in the script font used for the plate titles in the de luxe edition of Eben Holden as well as those plates credited to the firm appearing in the Photographic Times Bulletin from 1902-04.
I’ve included examples of the font as a comparison with this post. Another exact match is the same plate paper was used for both publications: this is very revealing especially on the plate verso where a very fine stipple pattern can be seen on the paper surface of the cream-colored plate paper. Perhaps the strongest association with the John Andrew atelier and the Norwood Press (which printed the de luxe edition) emerged in my research on business associations with some of the individual companies that came together in 1894 when that press was formed. These included J.S. Cushing & Co., (for composition and typesetting) Berwick & Smith Co., (for presswork) and E. Fleming & Co. (for binding). Beginning around 1890, all of these firms along with John Andrew were under one roof as part of the brand new Dana Estes & Company publishing house buildings on Summer Street in Boston.
With the move to Norwood in 1894, the Andrew atelier stayed behind in Boston at 196 Summer St. but continued to provide fine photo engraving work to the major publishing houses in Boston and New York. Known today for printing many of the photogravure plates beginning in 1907 for the monumental Edward Sheriff Curtis work The North American Indian, the firm sometime in the first decade of the 20th Century became a department of the Suffolk Engraving & Electrotyping Co. of Boston with offices at 394 Atlantic Ave.
Named after John Andrew, (1815-1870) a wood engraver born in England who immigrated to Boston where he worked with fellow engraver Andrew Filmer, the firm eventually made the transition to photo engraving, including the half tone and photogravure processes. Andrew’s son George T. Andrew succeeded his father at the business, located at 196 Summer St. An 1892 overview of the firm from the volume Picturesque Hampden gives some background:
JOHN ANDREW & SON COMPANY.
ENGRAVERS AND MAKERS OF FINE BOOKS, BOSTON MASS.
If we go back a few years, we find that in illustrating books and magazines wood and steel engraving were about the only methods available. Nor could steel engraving have any wide use on account of the great expense of printing. Ever since its start, in 1852, the firm, now styled the John Andrew & Son Company, has held a prominent place among illustrators, especially in work of the finest grades. Their reputation was made in the first place as engravers on wood, but the discovery of delicate chemical and mechanical processes has in later years led them to also take the photo-engraving and half-tone work which has at present such wide use and popularity. In this field they do work for some of the best magazines and books published in this country. In what they undertake they strive not so much to do the cheapest work in price as the best work in quality. Quite recently the firm has taken up the photo-gravure process in addition to those spoken of above. The industry we describe is not located in Hampden county, but the mention here is not inappropriate as the engraving of our pen and ink pictures was done almost wholly by this firm. Their address is 196 Summer street, Boston.
Photographic Illustration: a New Outlet
A newspaper clipping, believed to be from the Newark Daily Advocate in the Clarence Hudson White clipping file at the Newark, OH public library, includes the following undated (but 1903) story discussing Eben Holden in passing while concentrating on a new commission that inevitably came from it: costume-piece photographs by White similar to those he did for Lothrop for author Clara Morris’s story published in McClure’s magazine in February, 1904 entitled “Beneath the Wrinkle”:
PICTURES From Real Life by Clarence White
Forwarded On Order to a New York Magazine-Local Artist’s Latest Work.
Mr. Clarence White received a command last fall from the art department of McClure’s Magazine to illustrate Clara Morris’ new story, entitled, “Beneath the Wrinkle,” that will appear in that magazine presumably in the near future. Mr. White was to have been given all the time he wanted, but in view of the change of art editors, Mr. White was notified about three weeks ago that the illustrations would be required immediately. Mr. White at once notified the publishers that he would use all his efforts to complete them immediately, and would forward them when completed. Today the set comprising six, were forwarded and as equaly as clever and well executed as the ones made for the illustrating of the holiday edition of Eben Holden that was to have made its appearance last Christmas, but was not completed in time for that season. The ones now in progress are all local personages, done in quaint, old-fashioned garb and surroundings, recalling vividly to mind the characteristics in dress and decorations then in vogue. They show the fine and beautiful artistic temperament of Mr. White in his striking correct interpretation of dress and customs of the period in which the characters live. Mr. White deserves the honor the illustrations will surely bring to him, as he is always conscientious and painstaking in whatever he undertakes in his profession.
White Family Connections: Songs of all Seasons
During the time he received the commission for illustrating Beneath the Wrinkle in 1903, a more intimate family connection developed which allowed White the opportunity to take another series of photographic illustrations, 42 in all, published in 1904 within a slim volume of poetry titled Songs of All Seasons.
The author was nationally known poet Ira Billman, Clarence White’s uncle, the brother of his mother Phoebe Billman White. In the volume Symbolism of Light: The Photographs of Clarence H. White published in 1977 which accompanied an exhibition of White’s work at the Delaware Art Museum and International Center of Photography, White’s grandson Maynard P. White, Jr. describes Ira Billman as a major influence on Clarence and Songs:
Among the gathering of aunts and uncles that gave meaning and context to the artist’s early life was Ira Billman, his mother’s brother. “Poetic” is the word most often used to describe White’s photography, and his Uncle Ira, a poet by avocation, was one of the earliest artistic influences in his life. …Billman’s work celebrates rural America; his poems are songs to people and to nature, and they are imbued with the deep religious sentiments of his Lutheran heritage, without being mawkish or even faintly cloying. What is important for the purpose of my discussion is that Clarence White made the photographic illustrations for Songs of All Seasons, and Billman dedicated the volume to him. (7.)
Ninety-one poems and sonnets are included in the volume. Here, The Test, a representative poem from the work:
Not what I felt will be the test
When song and fragrance filled the hour,
And all the sunshine of the blest
Unfolded me to perfect flower.
Not what I aid will be the test
When by sweet waters wound my way,
And white-haired, thoughtful hills all guessed
The word I was about to say.
Not what I did will be the test
When stunned by cry of human needs
I dreamed I was myself oppressed,
And woke to passion of great deeds.
Not what I chose will be the test
When first I saw one world in hand
Is worth two in the bush-the best
Of which it is to understand.
O! none of these will be the test,
But what God knows I would have done,
Had I been nurtured in the nest
Of one, I now condemn and shun. (8.)
Pictorial Illustration for Photography a Growing Field
By 1904, esteemed critic Sadakichi Hartman, writing in Leslie’s Weekly, weighed in on the growing use of photography for book illustration:
”…and Clarence H. White, of Newark, O., has found a new opening for photography in the illustration of books. His illustrations for “Eben Holden” have attracted wide and deserved attention.” (9.)
And later that year, citing White’s involvement with Eben Holden while writing in the Photographic Times Bulletin, Hartman brought up the potential financial rewards possible for pictorial photographer in this new field:
“The only way to approximate a market value of pictorial prints is to investigate how much they might bring on the average, if offered for sale as illustrations. There is lately a decided demand for photographic illustrations, and consequently a certain standard price in vogue. The pictorialist, of course, and perhaps with some right, aspires to illustrator’s prices (i.e., $50-$100 for the full page of a magazine), but he has never reached it, with the one exception of Clarence H. White, who is said to have received several hundred dollars for his series of “Eben Holden” illustrations.” (10.)
This additional source of significant money to Clarence White and his young family through these illustration commissions invariably gave him additional confidence in his abilities as a photographer and financial peace of mind to eventually make his way to New York City, leaving Newark in 1906. It is also not a stretch to infer White’s own life mimicked the storyline of hard work that can earn the “American Dream” found between the pages of Eben Holden. Although the critic for the New York Times reviewing the play at New York’s Savoy theater didn’t care too much for the acting:
”As an exhibition of dramatic craft “Eben Holden” is hardly worth serious consideration“…
he did, a few paragraphs later, write the production had a few redeeming qualities:
But, despite its defects, the play is wholesome; it is redolent of the woods and the fields, and it provides the opportunity for an evening of entertainment that need not be looked back upon with regret. (11.)
No doubt Clarence White, had he been in attendance watching the play inside Newark’s Auditorium that 1904 November evening, would have agreed with these last sentiments of the big city critic, marveling and grinning to himself in the darkened hall while taking in the surreal juxtaposition that art imitating life can bring about.
1. (White, Clarence H.) excerpt: An Annotated Bibliography on Pictorial Photography: Selected Books from the Library of Christian A. Peterson: Laurence McKinley Gould Library: Carleton College: Northfield, Minnesota: 2004
2. ABE listing: 120407. Besides multiple copies held by PhotoSeed, other known copies are in the Library of Congress, MOMA and Photogravure.com.
3. The Bookseller-Devoted to the Book and News Trade: Chicago: January, 1902: p. 28
4. Peter C. Bunnell: Inside the Photograph: writings on Twentieth-Century Photography: Aperture Foundation: 2006: p. 47
5. Clarence H. White : a personal portrait: Maynard Pressley White: Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, 1975: pp. 79-80
6. see Beaumont Newhall’s Photography: A Short Critical History, from 1938, lists Eben Holden with the White illustrations as being published in 1903 on p. 215
7. excerpt: see Symbolism of Light: 1977: p. 7
8. Songs of All Seasons: Ira Billman: Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press: 1904: p. 65
9. excerpt: Advances in Artistic Photography: Sidney Allan: in: Leslie’s Weekly: April 28, 1904: New York: p. 388
10. excerpt: from: What is the Commercial Value of Pictorial Prints?: Sidney Allen: in: The Photographic Times Bulletin: December, 1904: p. 539
11. excerpt: review: “Eben Holden” at the Savoy: The New York Times, October 29, 1901
Posted August 2014 in History of Photography, Painters|Photographers, Photography, Publishing, Significant Photographers
By all accounts, Scotsman David Octavius Hill, (1802-1870) Secretary of the Royal Scottish Academy of Fine Arts in Edinburgh, was an accomplished landscape painter. Thankfully, for the nascent medium of photography beginning around 1843, he is not remembered for that. Blame the Disruption, if you will.
Disruption with a capitol D? He didn’t know it at the time, but when the freethinking Hill, a devout churchman seen above in detail in his own painting, sketchpad in hand, attended what became known as the Disruption: or, the historical occasion of Scottish religious free will known as the First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission at Edinburgh’s Tanfield Hall, the artistic potential of photography would soon stake its’ own claim among the arts.
The Scots are Coming
Admittedly, the focus of this website doesn’t claim any great insights into the evolution of early photography, with the exception that certain photographers, those being the team of Hill and fellow Scotsman Robert Adamson, (1821-1848) popularly known as “Hill & Adamson”, are profoundly important to our understanding of artistic developments in relation to photography that came later in the 19th Century. Similar to the concept of how precedent by itself can build a case in the courtroom or in the more democratic court of public opinion, the reach of Hill & Adamson through their artistic achievement, especially in portraiture, impacted greatly the later working methods of many photographers and in particular, the eventual achievement of two fellow Scots who came into their orbit: Thomas Annan and his son James Craig Annan beginning around 1865 and in the early 1890’s.
As for that “Disruption” in relation to Hill’s completion 23 years later of an over-sized painting commemorating the event, the decision to separate from the accepted order gave former Church of Scotland congregations the freedom from central Church control to choose their own ministers, among other religious freedoms. For this alone, photography’s potential was nicely summed up in the London Art-Union journal in late 1869:
To photography Mr. Hill, soon after its discovery, about the year 1843, gave much attention, and we shall not be wrong in assigning him the credit of giving to the process its first artistic impetus; and, in conjunction with his friend, Mr. R. Adamson, of having produced many specimens of the Talbotype as yet unsurpassed for high artistic qualities. (1.)
Thank the Calotype
Because the patent restricting Englishman William Henry Fox-Talbot’s 1841 invention of the Calotype process did not apply in Scotland, Hill & Adamson were able to exploit it to full potential. I’ve uploaded an example above, which in viewable form is technically known as a salted paper print from a calotype negative, for comparison. A survivor showing a bit of Gothic architectural detail, it was most likely done between 1845-1855 and found tucked between the pages of this archive’s copy of the aforementioned monthly Art-Union from 1846: the first magazine in history to publish (6000 copies) an example of a Talbotype “Sun Pictures” process calotype.
For a relatively clear understanding of what this early, yet cumbersome two-step process was, former George Eastman House Senior Curator of Photography William R. Stapp wrote in the pages of Image magazine from 1993 on the occasion of a seminal show of original Hill & Adamson calotypes held by the institution:
Calotypes are made on paper. The process requires the photographer to sensitize a sheet of good quality writing paper by brushing it with successive solutions of silver nitrate, potassium iodide, gallic acid, and silver nitrate. After being dried in the dark, the sensitized paper is loaded in the camera; after an exposure of several minutes, the negative is developed by brushing the paper with a solution of gallic acid and silver nitrate, fixed in a bath of sodium thiosulfate (“hypo”) to remove unexposed silver salts, and washed. When dried, this typically dense and contrasty negative is used to make a positive print on so called “salted paper,” which the photographer also has to prepare. This time a sheet of the same good quality writing paper is soaked first in a solution of sodium chloride (ordinary table salt, hence the term “salted paper”), then in a solution of silver nitrate, to produce the halide silver chloride. After it has been dried in the dark, the now light-sensitive salted paper is exposed to the negative in strong sunlight until the image is printed-out on it in deep orange hues. The resulting positive print is fixed in hypo, toned with gold chloride to a rich reddish-brown color, and washed to remove the residual chemistry. In all modern photographic materials, a transparent gelatin emulsion coated on the film or paper support contains the silver particles that form the image. Neither the calotype negative nor the calotype positive has an emulsion of any kind. The image resides literally within the fibers of the paper because the paper itself has been permeated with the photosensitive chemicals. A calotype print consequently incorporates the “tooth” (texture) of both the negative paper and the positive paper in its image. The print has a texture that is both visual and physical, which softens the image and mutes the rendition of detail. (2.)
Activism, and a bit of Fate
As fate would have it, one of those involved with the Scottish Free Church movement was Fox-Talbot correspondent Sir David Brewster. A friend of “Disruption” general assembly moderator, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers, (1780-1847) who was a minister, social reformer and evangelical orator of high renown chiefly responsible for the secession from the established Church, Brewster early on had learned the Calotype process from his friend Talbot. Teaming with Saint Andrews University chemistry professor John Adamson, they in turn taught it to Adamson’s younger brother Robert Adamson in 1842 after he had moved to Edinburgh.
And the rest they say is history. With Brewster also present at the assembly signing with Hill, he in turn suggested the new process to the painter as a way to solve the dilemma of accurately portraying the hundreds of clergy and others present at the “Disruption” for posterity.
Twenty-three years later, most likely with the help of Hill’s second wife Amelia Paton, (1820-1904) a sculptress, the Disruption painting, measuring in finished at over 11 feet by 5 feet, was ready for public display. And this is where it gets interesting for the career of Thomas Annan (1829–1887) and much later, his son James Craig Annan. (1864-1946) The decision to copy the painting for a mass audience was never in doubt for Hill, a man well-connected with the Scottish publishing trade who was born into it; his father being a bookseller and publisher. Hill had even learned the art of lithography from an early age, using it in the reproduction of his own work as a landscape painter for 20 years.
In 1865, shortly before his masterwork was finished, Hill made the acquaintance of Annan by reputation through his brother Alexander’s art gallery in Edinburgh. Annan’s copy paintings had been displayed there, for he had already made a name for himself in this line of work as early as 1862, producing fine copies of artwork for the Glasgow Art Union. These Art Unions “were lotteries connected with the major art exhibitions; the successful subscribers won paintings, and every subscriber received an engraving.” (3)
A commission resulted between Hill and Annan to copy Hill’s Disruption masterwork, a canvas that unfortunately- as opposed to the hundreds of Hill & Adamson calotypes used for reference works in its’ creation and now considered masterpieces of the photographic art-did not equate it to a masterpiece itself. Annan employed for this task an improved permanent carbon photographic process, using Joseph Wilson Swan’s 1864 patent carbon tissue to reproduce copies of the “Disruption” after purchasing the Scottish rights from him in 1866. (4.)
In addition to several detail photos of the painting included with this post, a mounted carbon copy photograph by Annan published in 1868 for the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission can be seen in our archive here. For those adventurous enough to decipher names and titles of some of those making up the sea of faces in the painting, partly seen below, a fascinating, yet tricky key to some of the major figures can be found here. This was published as part of the 1943 centenary volume The Disruption Picture: A Memorial of the First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland by Donald MacKinnon. (5.)
Thomas Annan, Documentarian
With Hill’s work complete, Thomas Annan’s professional career was starting to hit full stride, especially after his success with the Disruption commission. In 1868, the same year a version of this carbon photo was published, (6.) Annan undertook a new commission from the City of Glasgow Improvements Trust that when first published as a series of around 35 albumen prints in 1872, became known as The Old Closes & Streets of Glasgow. As previously outlined in my essay written in 2006 for the Luminous Lint website, Annan’s photographs taken between 1868-1871 are among the earliest done specifically for a record of slum housing conditions prior to urban renewal and as such are an important milestone in the history of documentary photography. (7)
Perhaps knowing her husband’s photographic legacy might be carried on, Amelia Paton bequeathed to Annan “a large collection of calotypes and the portrait lens used by Hill and Adamson” after Hill’s death in 1870. (8.) Speculation he used this very lens for portraits taken soon after for his illustrated volume the Memorials of the Old College of Glasgow, (1871) with examples seen in this post, are an intriguing insight raised by Sara Stevenson in her biography of Annan. (9.) Proportionally, individual portraits taken by Hill & Adamson in the 1840’s compared with those by Annan of the professors from the Glasgow volume and are very similar. However, Annan had the advantage of using the collodion process as opposed to calotype, with the increase of sensitivity of these plates lending a sharpness to his work not possible as movement was often the inevitable result of the slower 2-3 minute exposures required for the older process.
A comparison showing the softness, beauty and masterful composition of a later generation carbon print portrait of English painter William Etty (1787-1849) done ca. 1843 by Hill and Adamson can be seen with this post along with portraits by Annan taken around 1870. These include the striking portrait of professor and theologian John Caird (1820-1898) that reveal compositional similarities between the photographers nearly 30 years apart. With the archival benefit of Annan printing his efforts in permanent carbon, it’s also amusing to see exposure times, although shorter than calotype, did not prevent him in at least one case from seizing the moment in order to permanently memorialize his subject and another unwitting one: a rather large housefly clinging to academic robes worn by University of Glasgow English Language and Literature Professor John Nichol.
Besides University professors, Annan did many fine portraits of Free Church of Scotland ministers in addition to ministers, elders and missionaries affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church. A unique album of these portraits, reproduced in carbon, is held by this archive, with several appearing in the 1875 Annan published volume Historical Notices of the United Presbyterian Congregations in Glasgow. As a businessman running a commercial studio, Annan marketed many of these images, often as variants, in the carte de visite format. The following is a listing of Annan’s Scotland studios with dates supplied by Peter Stubbs of the EdinPhoto web site:
202 Hope Street, Glasgow: 1862-72
77 Sauchiehall St. Glasgow: 1873-74
153 Sauchiehall St. Glasgow: 1875-91
75 Princes St. Edinburgh: 1876-82
Coming full-circle: Learning Photogravure
In 1883, after purchasing the British rights to a new process of Photogravure invented by Czech artist Karl Klíc, (1841-1926) Thomas Annan and son James Craig Annan traveled to Vienna in order to personally learn its intricacies. As defined by our good friends over at Photogravure.com, Klíc’s 1879 refined process of “reproducing a photograph by printing on paper from an inked and etched copper plate” was a vast improvement over that of William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1858 patented Photoglyphic Engraving process. Thomas Annan was so smitten he wrote Klíc the following appreciation:
“I beg to express my entire satisfaction with your gravure process… The process itself is very valuable to a fine art publisher because of the beauty of the work and the crafted manner in which the plates are executed. With many thanks to me and my son I remain, Dear Sir, yours very truly” - Thomas Annan March 11, 1883 (10.)
Fittingly renamed the Talbot-Klíc Dust Grain Photogravure by Klíc, the process was soon fully embraced by Annan’s publishing concerns, T. & R. Annan and Sons of Glasgow, Hamilton and Edinburgh, who utilized photogravure for high-quality, fade-resistant and archival plates, mostly copies of original works of art, an established specialty. Soon, the new process, which involved the individual hand-pulling of plates from a copper-plate press, was further exploited and refined by the budding photographer James Craig Annan in the early 1890’s, whose original photographic negatives “from nature” during his travels to the Continent, particularly North Holland and Italy, were directly reproduced in gravure after an ongoing period of great experimentation and refinement.
Like his father Thomas, who reproduced and exhibited some of the Hill & Adamson calotypes in carbon during the 1870’s and early 80’s using his own refinements of Swan’s process, (11.) James Craig Annan fully embraced Talbot-Klíc gravure printing to reinterpret their landmark achievements in early pictorial portraiture as well as other studies including the fisherfolk of Newhaven near Edinburgh. In this regard, beginning as early as 1890, Annan produced a series of hand-pulled gravures re-photographed from the original Hill & Adamson paper calotype “negatives in the possession of Andrew Elliott.” (12.) Later in 1905, working as part of the T & R Annan firm of Glasgow, he produced a further series of 20 plates printed on Japan tissue. (13.) These copper plates were then re-used for a series of gravures published in Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work XI, (1905) XXVIII, (1909) and XXXVII, (1912) thereby introducing new generations to the masterful legacy left by Hill & Adamson.
I’ll end this lengthy post with an excerpt from an appreciation of D.O. Hill by James Craig Annan, who was fortunate to have met and been inspired by the artist when he was only six years old- the result of his father being an intimate friend of Hill. This was included as part of a larger essay he wrote on the Scottish pioneer for Camera Work XI, and he makes the strong case their achievement was a direct result of their portrait collaborations for the Disruption painting:
“Thus the partnership began which was to produce the noble and extensive series of portraits which for powerful characterization and artistic quality of uniformly high excellence have certainly never been surpassed and possibly not even rivaled by any other photographer. This may seem an extravagant appreciation of Hill’s work, but it has been arrived at after mature deliberation.” (14.)
1. British Artists: Their Style and Character: With Engraved Illustrations. : David Octavius Hill, R.S.A.: in: The Art-Journal: London: October 1, 1869: p. 317
2. William F. Stapp.: Hill and Adamson: Artists of the Calotype: from: Image: George Eastman House: Spring/Summer: Vol. 36: No. 1-2: 1993: p. 55
3. Sara Stevenson: Scottish Masters 12: Thomas Annan: National Galleries of Scotland: 1990: p. 5
4. After discussions with Hill, the copy photograph of the “Disruption“canvas was taken by Thomas Annan after he had ordered “a large Photographic Camera of the latest and most perfect construction” from Dallmeyer: in: 1866 Disruption prospectus by Hill: published in: Scottish Masters 12: p. 7
5. Alan Newble has thoughtfully, and no doubt, painstakingly, compiled the key as part of his website, with further insights on the historical importance of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers.
6. In correspondence between Annan and Hill in late December, 1865, Hill stated he wanted the Disruption painting reproduced in thousands of photographs in 3 separate sizes. “He (Hill) was hoping for prints half the size of the painting, and suggested that Annan make them in three parts, joining them together around the figures rather than in an arbitrary straight line.” : from: Hill & Annan letters: quoted in: Scottish Masters 12: pp. 6-7. Alas, Hill’s desires were trumped by technical limitation, with carbon prints supplied by Annan printed in 1866 in 3 sizes, as stated in the Photographic News of London: “Photographs of the picture will be issued in three sizes, ranging from 24 inches by 9 inches to 48 inches by 21 1/4 inches, at prices ranging from a guinea and a half to twelve guineas.”
7. The carbon print edition of Old Closes first appeared in 1877, with two later photogravure editions featuring 50 plates each printed by James Craig Annan published in 1900. Fine examples of the albumen prints from Old Closes can be found along with superb background on their making at the University of Glasgow Library special collections department online resource found here.
8. cited in Scottish Masters 12: p. 8
9. Ibid: p. 13
10. from: Photogravure.com online resource accessed August, 2014. While in Vienna under Klíc’s watchful eye, the Annans had produced a photogravure of Noel Paton’s painting of The Fairy Raid.
11. Scottish Masters 12: p. 8
12. David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson: in: The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Weston Naef: New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: p. 378. Elliott, (1830-1922) was a nephew of D.O. Hill
13. Ibid, p. 378
14. excerpt: David Octavius Hill, R.S.A. ⎯1802-1870.: J. Craig Annan: in: Camera Work XI: New York: edited and published by Alfred Stieglitz:1905: p. 18
Posted December 2013 in Publishing
Posted April 2013 in Photographic Postcards, Publishing, Texts
Beyond the Tweets, texts and messaging saturating our present-day social media culture-recently extending even to software giving a smartphone user the ability to view a photograph just once before it disappears into the ether forever, (Snapchat et al apps) the endurance, value and cultural importance of the printed word and photograph need be considered-indeed marveled at-for the historical record and of course for posterity itself.
Consider today’s example, a postcard featuring an original cyanotype photograph of a well-dressed gentleman reading a newspaper. Addressed and posted to Harold A. Buffington of Littleton, New Hampshire in October, 1906, (1.) this simple and lasting form of communication is signed “Papa”, (2.) with the suggestion for his son to come over on Sunday for a visit in order to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie.
Before getting to the nut graph as they say in newspaper lingo, “Papa”: aka Arthur W. Buffington, (b. 1868) begins his correspondence with a quote from a well known (at least for its time) story celebrating the importance of small town rags everywhere. It might not be surprising given his listed occupation as a printer for the 1900 U.S. Census. Owner of the Buffington Press in Littleton during this period, (they printed cookbooks among other volumes) he writes on the postcard:
The Little Country Paper
It tells of all the parties an’ the balls of Pumpkin Row ‘Bout who’s spent Sunday with who’s girl, an’ how the crops’ll grow. An’ how it keeps a feller posted ‘bout who’s up and who’s down. That little country paper from his ol’ Home Town.
This entire “story” seems to have originated around 1903 or before by someone writing for the Denver Post newspaper in Colorado. I’ve taken the liberty to include it in its entirety at the end of this post (as it originally appeared) along with another similarly titled “story” I discovered from the era . And the juicy part? “Papa” writes:
Come down Sunday. Mamma has made a whole pumpkin pie and I have only had one piece out of it. (you can divide your piece with L. O and mamma and Ray don’t like punkin very well!) Papa.
In addition to the slice of pie he presumably ate, the postcard might have even inspired Harold Buffington to get ink in his blood like his father, for he is listed in the 1940 U.S. Census as a printer for the Courier office, still known today as the Littleton Courier, a weekly newspaper published since 1889.
The Little Country Paper
When the evenin’ shades is fallin’ at the endin’ o’ the day,
An’ a feller rests from labor, smokin’ at his pipe o’ clay.
There’s nothin’ does him so much good, be fortune up or down,
As the little country paper from his O’l Home Town.
It ain’t a thing o’ beauty an’ its print ain’t always clean. But it straightens out his temper when a feller’s feelin’ mean. It takes the wrinkles off his face an’ brushes off the frown. That little country paper from his Ol’ Home Town.
It tells of all the parties an’ the balls of Pumpkin Row. ‘Bout who spent Sunday with who’s girl an’ how th’ crops’ll grow. An’ how it keeps a feller posted ‘bout who’s up an’ who is down. That little country paper from his O’l Home Town.
Now, I like to read the dailies an’ the story papers too. An’ at times the yaller novels an’ some other trash—don’t you? But when I want some readin’ that’ll brush away a frown I want that little paper from my O’l Home Town. (3.)
The following with the same title originated in the Baltimore (MD) American newspaper in 1900 or before, and may have inspired the Denver Post account of The Little Country Paper:
The Little Country Paper
It’s just a little paper-it isn’t up to date:
It hasn’t any supplement or colored fashion plate.
It comes out every Friday, unless the forms are pied;
The outside is home printed, with boiler-plate inside.
It hasn’t any cable direct from old Bombay,
But it says that “Colonel Braggins is in our midst to-day.”
It doesn’t seem to worry about affairs of state.
But tells that “Joseph Hawkins has painted his front gate.”
It never mentions Kruger or Joseph Chamberlain.
But says that “Thompson’s grocery has a new window pane.”
And that “the Mission Workers will give a festival.
And there’ll be a temperance lecture in William Hooper’s hall.”
It tells about the measles that Jimmy Hankins had.
And says that Israel Johnson “has become a happy dad.”
It says that “cider-making is shortly to commence.”
And cites the fact that Ira Todd is building a new fence.
It mentions Dewey’s coming in one brief paragraph, And says that “Charlie Trimble has sold a yearling calf.” And everything that happens within that little town The man who runs the paper has plainly jotted down.
Some people make fun of it, but, honestly, I like To learn that “work is booming upon the Jimtown pike.”
It’s just a little paper—it hasn’t much to say—
But as long as it is printed I hope it comes my way. (4.)
1. It is believed the gentleman in the cyanotype photograph reading the newspaper is also the recipient of the postcard: Harold A. Buffington, a student who would have been 20 years old in 1906. (b.: September 12, 1886 | d. March, 1976. source: Crestleaf)
2. “Papa” was Arthur W. Buffington (b. 1868) who lived in Lisbon, New Hampshire at the time he mailed this postcard
3. The Little Country Paper: Denver Post: reprinted in the Mansfield (OH) News: Saturday, October 24, 1903
4. Newspaper Verse: Selections Grave and Gay: Current Literature-A Magazine of Record and Review: New York: Vol. XXVIII: April-June, 1900: pp. 192-93
Posted November 2012 in Advertising, History of Photography, Journals, Publishing
The Photographic Times (1871-1915) was one of America’s earliest and most important photographic journals. By 1880, its publisher declared it the highest circulating magazine of its type in the country and by December of 1893, the first edition was stated to be 5,000 copies a week, an extraordinary number considering the inclusion by that time of a hand-pulled photogravure or collotype frontis plate. As a researcher, it would be presumptuous of me to think it possible in the modern day to present a fully-formed history of this publication without more direct corroboration from those who made that history. But since those folks are all dead, someone had to take a stab at it.
Besides the written record, the important legacy left by the journal in my estimation are its hand-pulled photogravure plates which appeared regularly from 1889-1904, the latter being included in the combined but short-lived publication The Photographic Times-Bulletin. As a collector of this material for many years, it is surprising to me how little seems to have survived given the large circulation of the Times. My overview of the publication, which appears here in PhotoSeed Highlights, might very well put you to sleep due to length, or perhaps not. In tracing the history of this journal, my journey of discovery made me realize a fact of interest to all photographers, especially with respect to the United States: the first publisher of the Times, the Scovill Manufacturing Company of New York City, with a large factory complex in Waterbury, CT, was largely responsible for the birth and progress of photographic commerce in 19th century America.
The following visual timeline is my attempt to show off the look of the publication over the 45 years it existed under its own imprint along with the principal men involved in editing it- part of the Photographic Times Publishing Association, one of the many business interests of the parent company. During this time, Scovill’s march of trade on the island of Manhattan involved eight separate business moves over a walkable distance today of roughly 4.6 miles. To this end, part of the mission statement issued by the Time’s editors to its many readers- from post American Civil War beginnings in January, 1871 to its 1915 demise remained true over the life of the journal:
we shall intersperse here and there delicate half-tones and harmonious shades from sources of information which shall do you good service in your manipulations, and add to your store of useful knowledge. We have engaged talent for this end, which is competent and able to instruct.
-David Spencer November, 2012