Divine Afflatus

Divine Afflatus

By his assigning the word “afflatus”, from the Latin translating to “inspiration”, combined with “divine”, Sigismund Blumann insured this work showing a seagull soaring high against a backdrop of clouds obscuring the Sun would mean “Divine Inspiration.” However, according to the photographer’s grandson Thomas High, Blumann would also sometimes use an alternate title for this work: “Harbinger of Land.” At least one other variant of this image known to this website shows the gull in a completely different flight pattern, with the clouds as well being a different pattern as well.

The Divine Afflatus here is believed to be a contact print due to its’ small size from the original negative-with the possibility as well-although remote based on Blumann’s early beliefs- that it could be a composite print of two separate negatives: one for the gull and the other of the clouds. The print also includes a slight textured screen border around the image which was added in the darkroom.

Regarding his early beliefs on “straight” versus “doctored” negatives, photographic historian Christian A. Peterson notes:

He felt that use of a ‘doctored’ negative excluded the resulting picture from classification as a photograph, and he even objected to enlargements, preferring the classic, small and intimate contact print. (1.)

Peterson also comments on Blumann’s use of screens for his work, although he was more apt to include them as part of enlarged negatives, rather than for the contact print seen here:

In addition to all these media, Blumann used a variety of texture screens, inserting them between the negative and paper during enlargement to create lined and stippled patterns. (2.)

Provenance: Sigismund Blumann’s grandson.

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. 55.
2. Ibid: p. 70

Divine Afflatus

Image Dimensions8.8 x 6.1 (image) | 9.8 x 6.8 cm (screen) | 14.9 x 9.8 cm glossy, gelatin silver print

Support Dimensionsnone