My notes on Philip Gefter’s book, Photography After Frank, Kindle edition (hence the location reference rather than page number)
The twentieth century art became, then, less about rendering the world with true-to-life objectivity than about the emotional, perceptual, and experiential nature of existence (with recent digressions into deconstructive cultural analysis).
Factual documentation changed in the 1950s with Robert Frank. His book The Americans, published in the U.S. in 1959 (and in France the year before), has come to represent a turning point in photography: his pictures show us common people in ordinary situations, but his documentation was as much about his personal experience as it was about his subject matter.
The artistic climate in which Frank produced the photographs in The Americans was defined by Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning rendered spontaneous expression out of the anarchy of form, perhaps setting a precedent for the Beat Generation artists and writers, whose improvisational art-making practices aimed for authenticity and spontaneity in their work as well. Frank’s pictures reflect the stream-of-consciousness art-making of the period, and his attempt to capture the experience of an authentic moment in visual terms,
Robert Frank’s documentation of America is no less factual than Evans’s, but Frank liberated the photographic image from the compositional tidiness and emotional distance of his predecessors. Critics were hostile to The Americans when it was published in 1959 precisely because of the informality of the frame, but photographers followed Frank’s lead and began to exploit the camera’s ability to record and describe (f) actual reality not only as evidence of what exists, but also in expression of their own experience.
The first was given a framework by the 1967 exhibition New Documents, organized by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, which first introduced the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand.
“In the last decade a new generation of photographers has directed the documentary approach toward more personal ends,” Szarkowski wrote. “Their aim is not to reform life, but to know it.”
Another seminal exhibition, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, organized by William Jenkins in 1975 at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, included American photographers Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel, as well as Bernd and Hilla Becher from Germany. Here the documentary subject was clear: the natural landscape altered by modern civilization. The work shared an approach to photographing the landscape, absent an apparent point of view. According to Jenkins, these photographers were “anthropological rather than critical, scientific rather than artistic.”
Bernd and Hilla Becher established a legacy of equal weight. Their Neo-Objectivism is at once clinical and conceptual—cataloging individual industrial objects in the landscape as if they were specimens and presenting them in grid form as species.
Travels with Walker, Robert, and Andy On Stephen Shore > Location 268
Growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Mr. Shore traveled to Europe as a child, but it wasn’t until he visited friends in Amarillo, Texas, in his early twenties that he saw anything of the rest of America. “The way people hung out, the way they had fun, the way the city looked, the car culture,” he recalls. “All of this was very new to me, and wonderful.” In 1972 his experiences in Amarillo prompted him to learn to drive and make his first cross-country trip. In this way, he shares with the Swiss-born Mr. Frank the experience of photographing America as an outsider. As a child, he was given copies of American Photographs and The Americans, but a far greater influence on him when he set out on the road was Andy Warhol. As a teenager in Manhattan, Mr. Shore spent a lot of time at Warhol’s Factory, photographing and helping out with sound for the Velvet Underground and lighting for several Warhol films.
Travels with Walker, Robert, and Andy On Stephen Shore > Location 298
Mr. Shore’s work is not quite so sober as Evans’s. There is an antic undercurrent to his straight-faced pictures, as if, after staring at the sheer actuality of what was laid out before him, he might have burst out laughing before making the picture. Think of Walker Evans—stoned.
John Szarkowski, Curator of Photography, Dies at Eighty-one > Location 401
Another exhibition Mr. Szarkowski organized at the Modern, in 1976, introduced the work of William Eggleston, whose saturated color photographs of cars, signs, and individuals ran counter to the black-and-white orthodoxy of fine-art photography at the time. The show, William Eggleston’s Guide, was widely considered the worst of the year in photography. “Mr. Szarkowski throws all caution to the winds and speaks of Mr. Eggleston’s pictures as ‘perfect,’” Hilton Kramer wrote in the Times. “Perfect? Perfectly banal, perhaps. Perfectly boring, certainly.” Mr. Eggleston would come to be considered a pioneer of color photography.
Beauty Is Not a Four-letter Word On Richard Misrach > Location 534
Richard Misrach: Chronologies (Fraenkel Gallery/ D.A.P.), assembles 125 of his photographs in the order in which he took them, from his first pictures of cactus in 1975 to his recent aerial views of people lying on the sand at the ocean. There is no text beyond the name and date of each photograph. The book, he said, was conceived in the tradition of “the artist’s book,” that is, a conceptual work that stands on its own. In this case, Chronologies was intended as a record of his working process, as opposed to a retrospective of his work. “I wanted it to be as spare as possible and let the pictures do the work,”
Bernd Becher, Seventy-five, Photographer of German Industrial Landscape, Dies > Location 669
The truer the Bechers’ photographic representation is to the object itself, the less mundane and more optical the image. Such precision of detail approaches a verisimilitude that borders on the sublime.
Bernd Becher, Seventy-five, Photographer of German Industrial Landscape, Dies > Location 677
The Bechers’ scientific approach to their photographic documentation enters a much larger conceptual arena when their study of the specific is placed in context of the generic, and you can view each specimen as it defines the entire species.
Bernd Becher, Seventy-five, Photographer of German Industrial Landscape, Dies > Location 699
Mr. Becher’s seminal influence can be measured in the success of his students Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth,
Bernd Becher, Seventy-five, Photographer of German Industrial Landscape, Dies > Location 701
One could argue that the Bechers’ influence in the practice of objective photographic documentation in Germany parallels that of the late John Szarkowski, the consequential curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1962 until 1990, who shaped a legacy of documentary photography more subjective in nature.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 735
In the early 1970s, artists such as Bechtle, Chuck Close, Robert Cottingham, Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, Ralph Goings, and Philip Pearlstein strove to render scenes from daily life with the optical precision of photography. Their bravura paintings were termed “photorealistic” because of their technically daunting resemblance to photographic images, sometimes heightened by the use of an airbrush to create a seamless surface.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 745
In its lens-sharp clarity, viewfinderlike cropping, and happened-upon moments, Photo-Realism reflected the new pervasiveness of photography in contemporary life.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 763
It is worth noting that Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, pioneers of color photography in the early 1970s, borrowed, consciously or not, from the Photo-Realists. Their photographic interpretation of the American vernacular—gas stations, diners, parking lots—is foretold in Photo-Realist paintings that preceded their pictures.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 769
The photographic image, they thought, lacked the ideological grandeur—never mind the artistic validity—of painting. The photograph’s optical fidelity to reality may have possessed its own magic, but the use of the camera to create a shorthand of objective representation was just too easy.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 779
“This is not a gimmicky art but in fact a very important movement. It is the conclusion of Pop art in the same way that Color-Field painting is the conclusion of Abstract Expressionism.”
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 786
Photo-Realism was grounded in a host of conceptual ideas. As Richard Estes famously said, “I don’t believe the photograph is the last word in realism.” These painters weren’t copying photographs or just documenting their surroundings—not even a photograph shows you the world with the complexity of an Estes painting. Rather they were concerned with larger questions about the nature of perception.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 807
The sheer monumentality of such optically precise wall-sized imagery positions photography on more competitive footing with painting.
Keeping It Real: Photo-Realism > Location 823
“I photograph to see what things look like photographed,” Garry Winogrand once said. We might say that the Photo-Realists painted to see what life looks like photographed—an undertaking perfectly relevant to our much-documented contemporary world.
The Staged Document
By the early 1970s, black-and-white documentary photography had set the tone for the medium in museums, on gallery walls, and in art schools. At the same time, Duane Michals employed the photographic image to create intimate narrative sequences of a phenomenological nature.
Throughout the 1980s, the photograph underwent a rigorous, necessary, and unforgiving examination by postmodern artists and critics. They challenged its fidelity to fact, its role in constructing social realities, its validity as a form of art—to the point where straight documentary photography seemed conventional, even retrograde.
By the middle of the eighties, color had entered the vocabulary, and on a technical level, it was not as easy to make exposures that captured the snapshotlike spontaneity that so defined the black-and-white pictures of the previous generation.
Concurrent with the 1980s postmodern critique of the photographic image, artists such as Tina Barney began to stage the documentation of their own real-life situations, borrowing, perhaps, from the ubiquity of the advertising tableaux.
Digital technology has made it that much easier to sever the photographic image from its relationship to factual reality.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 973
Just because a photograph reflects the world with perceptual accuracy doesn’t mean it is proof of what spontaneously transpired.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 976
The viewer’s expectation about a picture’s veracity is largely determined by the context in which the image appears. A picture published in a newspaper is believed to be fact; an advertising image is understood to be fiction. If a newspaper image turns out to have been set up, then questions are raised about trust and authenticity.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 981
While Mathew Brady is known for his Civil War pictures, he rarely set foot on a battlefield. He couldn’t bear the sight of dead bodies. In fact, most pictures of the battlefield attributed to Brady’s studio were taken by his employees Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan—both of whom were known to have moved bodies around for the purposes of composition and posterity.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 994
Just how much of the subject matter does the photographer have to change before fact becomes fiction, or a photograph becomes metaphor?
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 995
“Mathew Brady used art to forge a relationship between photography and history, but when the memory of Brady the artist vanished, we came to accept his images as fact,” Mary Panzer wrote in her 1997 book Mathew Brady and the Image of History. “Acknowledged or not, Brady’s careful manipulation of his subjects continues to influence our perception, and still shapes the way in which we see his era, and the story of the nation.”
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1001
But in fact, Hine—who was interested in the human labor aspect of an increasingly mechanized world, and once claimed that “there is an urgent need for intelligent interpretation of the world’s workers”—
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1002
posed this man in order to make the portrait. Does that information make the picture any less valid?
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1008
Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville, 1950 (Kiss at the Hôtel de Ville) by Robert Doisneau,
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1017
Does the lack of authenticity diminish the photograph? It did for me, turning its promise of romance into a beautifully crafted lie.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1023
Iwo Jima, Old Glory Goes Up on Mt. Suribachi was taken in 1945 by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer. As
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1026
The famous image was the first of three pictures Rosenthal took of the flag being raised. For the last shot, he asked the soldiers to pose in front of the raised flag, thinking that the newspapers back home would expect a picture in which the soldiers’ faces were visible. Later, asked if his picture of Iwo Jima was posed, he said yes—referring in his mind to that third frame, not the one that had been published.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1035
Parks told Douglas Brinkley, her biographer, that she posed for the picture. A reporter and two photographers from Look magazine had seated her on the bus in front of a white man.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1038
As a witness to events, the photojournalist sets out to chronicle what happens in the world as it actually occurs. A cardinal rule of the profession is that the presence of the camera must not alter the situation being photographed.
Photographic Icons: Fact, Fiction, or Metaphor? > Location 1056
The invention of photography, around 1839, provided a revolutionary method of replicating reality in accurate visual terms. What a great tool for artists and painters to construct images with greater perceptual facility. The history of art is a continuum of constructed images that depict reality as it was truly, or else as it was imagined in ideal terms. Photography did not change that continuum; it only made the difference between perception and reality more difficult to determine.
The Picnic That Never Was On Beate Gütschow > Location 1062
Photographs may correspond to the way things actually look in the world, but optical precision is not the same thing as reality. In the art world, the truth-telling capabilities of photography are tethered less to fact than to ideas about perception, emotion, and cultural evolution. If documentary work shows us that life may be stranger than fiction, recent conceptual photography counters that fabrication may be truer than life.
The Picnic That Never Was On Beate Gütschow > Location 1100
Richard Avedon said, all photographs are accurate. None are the “truth.”
The Picnic That Never Was On Beate Gütschow > Location 1102
Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Ludwig Seyfarth wrote that “the more photography is treated as art, the less space is left to the unintentional: one is meant to sense the artist’s attention to every photographic detail.”
As Unpretty as a Picture On Eric Fischl > Location 1127
As photography in the nineteenth century depicted the world with greater visual accuracy, painting veered from Realism to Impressionism. As the Post-Impressionists ventured back toward the representational, a group of photographers known as Photo-Secessionists experimented with a painterly, out-of-focus style. In the 1960s, the Photo-Realist painters concerned themselves directly with optical precision, making bravura paintings that were daunting in their fidelity to the look of photographic imagery.
Moments in Time, Yet Somehow in Motion On JoAnn Verburg > Location 1163
Ms. Verburg first made a name for herself in the late 1970s with The Rephotographic Survey Project, an exhibition and book on which she collaborated with Mark Klett, another photographer, and Ellen Manchester, a photo historian. They gathered more than 120 images by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, and others of a largely uninhabited Western landscape in the nineteenth century, then proceeded to rephotograph each place.
Moments in Time, Yet Somehow in Motion On JoAnn Verburg > Location 1188
Collaborating with other visiting artists—dancers, musicians, and performance artists like Trisha Brown, David Byrne, and Robert Wilson—she began to think of performance as a counterpoint to photography. “Performance disappears as you look at it,” she is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog. “It is unique and unrepeatable, and each viewer who sees it sees it from a different vantage point and therefore has a different experience from every other viewer.”
Photojournalism had a golden age—loosely from the 1930s until the early 1980s—with the popularity of news magazines such as Time and Newsweek, and picture magazines such as Life, Look, Paris Match, Stern, and the Sunday Times of London. Photojournalists coveted assignments from these publications to shoot picture essays that could be laid out as running narratives across several magazine spreads.
Intention is what distinguishes the photojournalist from the artist. A photojournalist takes pictures that fulfill an editorial requirement and answer the essential journalistic questions: who, what, where, when, and why. An artist makes pictures in exploration of an idea.
Page One: A Conversation with Philip Gefter, Picture Editor of the New York Times’ Front Page By Véronique Vienne > Location 1705
Gefter makes a point of distinguishing between pictures that are simply “illustrative” of a news event, and pictures that are “edifying”—that is, pictures that are not merely additions, but illuminating in themselves, integral to the report. “A photograph on the page can edify when it opens a window on a story rather than simply being proof of the story,” he explains.
Page One: A Conversation with Philip Gefter, Picture Editor of the New York Times’ Front Page By Véronique Vienne > Location 1756
operate on the principle that words are cerebral and pictures are visceral. For many word-people, it seems as if a photograph gets filtered through a mental process before it is registered as an image. That’s why it’s important for me to provide thorough information about the pictures first.
History’s First Draft Looks Much Better With Pictures > Location 1867
A new book, aptly titled Things as They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955, surveys the quest to chronicle world events without altering the situation on the other side of the lens. But rather than single images—the usual “best of photojournalism” approach—the book is made up of 120 photo-essays published in the second half of the twentieth century. The essays appear as they did in the original magazine and newspaper layouts, giving a fuller historic record of how the photographs, along with the text, shaped our view of the world.
Reading Newspaper Pictures: A Thousand Words, and Then Some > Location 2103
The difference between art and journalism begins with intention. Art derives from a contemplation of ideas, while journalism reports on facts and events. When a fact is reported (or photographed) in such a way that it becomes an observation as well, it takes on meaning beyond the burden of proof. The fact becomes, then, something witnessed, something experienced. Defined. These pictures were taken for editorial purposes, each as a record of a moment or an event. Each tells a story in a self-contained narrative that observes the evidence, and renders the experience of that observation our own.
Cornell Capa, Photojournalist and Museum Founder, Dies at Ninety > Location 2117
In Mr. Capa’s nearly thirty years as a photojournalist, the professional code to which he steadfastly adhered is best summed up by the title of his 1968 book, The Concerned Photographer. He used the phrase often to describe any photographer who was passionately dedicated to doing work that contributed to the understanding and well-being of humanity and who produced “images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism,” he said.
The trajectory of portraiture in the last half century begins with the authentic representation of the individual, and proceeds toward calculated artifice, reflecting the growing self-consciousness we, as a species, seem to manifest about pervasive media scrutiny, abstraction, and misrepresentation in an image-saturated world.
A Pantheon of Arts and Letters in Light and Shadow On Irving Penn > Location 2393
Penn believed that the portraitist must appear as a servant to the sitter, nurturing and encouraging the sitter’s self-revelation. At the same time, he once told a reporter that while many photographers consider the subject to be the client, “my client is the woman in Kansas who reads Vogue. I’m trying to intrigue, stimulate, feed her. My responsibility is to the reader. The severe portrait that is not the greatest joy in the world to the subject may be enormously interesting to the reader.”
A Photographer’s Lie On Annie Leibovitz > Location 2445
Annie Leibovitz seems to have had a similar ambition. Her book, A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005 (Random House) is a kind of visual diary that combines her personal photographs of her family—lover, parents, siblings, and children—and her professional portraits. But, in her attempt to integrate the two bodies of work under the umbrella of the personal chronicle, she has succeeded only in creating a marriage of perverse opposition. In effect, this publication is two very different books in one.
What Eighty-five Hundred Pictures Are Worth > Location 2704
Perhaps it’s the intrinsic modernity of the photographic image that makes it attractive to collectors; photographs offer a measure of recognizable, real-time history that other mediums don’t provide. And they are still less expensive than paintings. But the attention that museums and other institutions are paying lately to private collectors plays an important role, too.
The Man Who Made Mapplethorpe: A Film About Sam Wagstaff > Location 2717
Black White + Gray, a new documentary about Mr. Wagstaff by a first-time director, James Crump,
The Man Who Made Mapplethorpe: A Film About Sam Wagstaff > Location 2718
Mr. Wagstaff was one of the first private art collectors to start buying photographs, as early as 1973, long before there was a serious market for them. His photography collection came to be regarded not only for its scholarship. It was also original and unorthodox, and turned out to be extremely valuable. Mr. Wagstaff sold it to the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1984 for $ 5 million, a fortune at the time, establishing that institution’s collection of photographs, now among the finest in the world.
The Man Who Made Mapplethorpe: A Film About Sam Wagstaff > Location 2725
Still, obscenity charges were brought against the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, when it mounted an exhibition of Mr. Mapplethorpe’s work in 1990. Mr. Wagstaff himself affectionately called him “my sly little pornographer.”
The Avedon Eye, Trained on Faces Captured By Others > Location 2797
Avedon believed that portraiture was performance; it wasn’t a question of the portrait being natural or unnatural but whether the performance was good or bad. “The point is that you can’t get at the thing itself, the real nature of the sitter, by stripping away the surface,” he wrote in Richard Avedon: Portraits (1993). “The surface is all you’ve got. All you can do is to manipulate that surface—gesture, costume, expression—radically and correctly.”
The Avedon Eye, Trained on Faces Captured By Others > Location 2845
Not long before he died, Avedon bought eighteen photographs of the Countess de Castiglione, mistress to Napoleon III, by Pierre-Louis Pierson, considered the most important collection of this series in private hands. Among them is one of the most famous portraits in the history of photography: Scherzo di Follia, 1863-66 (Game of Madness).
The Avedon Eye, Trained on Faces Captured By Others > Location 2848
The Countess de Castiglione collaborated with Pierson to construct her many guises in the photographs, with wit, flair, and a nod to the artifice of the creation, the same thing Avedon had done in his early fashion tableaus.
The Avedon Eye, Trained on Faces Captured By Others > Location 2851
“When I was a boy, my family took great care with our snapshots,” he wrote in Richard Avedon: Portraits. “We really planned them. We made compositions. We dressed up. We posed in front of expensive cars, homes that weren’t ours. We borrowed dogs. All the photographs in our family album were built on some kind of lie about who we were, and revealed a truth about who we wanted to be.”
Culture in Context: Photographs in Vince Aletti’s Magazine Collection > Location 3026
The look of a magazine—the design, the layout, the contextualizing of subject matter in visual terms—is the singular responsibility of the art director, whose seminal role is often invisible to the lay public.
For Photography, Extreme Home Makeover > Location 3081
Photography has become a churning art-world industry: more Chelsea galleries are devoted to photographs; the number of photography books published has dramatically increased; the value of photographs sold at auction annually has doubled since 2001; and even the average size of photographic prints has grown.
For Photography, Extreme Home Makeover > Location 3092
Mr. Naef discussed the case he made to claim the space for photography. “It has to do with the numbers,” he said. “Month after month for ten years, our exhibitions have attracted forty to fifty percent” of the Getty Center’s visitors. “Of the 1.3 million visitors per year, seven hundred thousand come for photography shows,” he added. “I have the highest audience share of any museum in the world.”
For the true believers, though, who shared a kind of secret society solidarity in their awareness of photography as an art form, the deeper jolt was that money—and not scholarship—gave legitimacy to the medium. Since then, the forces at work that determine the market value of any single photographic image are varied and complex, of course, and not completely mercantile. Delicate balances are struck—and struck down—in the ebb and flow of curatorial choice, critical judgment, connoisseurial taste, scholarly research, and dealer representation. Never mind the hand of fate dealt to the artists themselves with the passing of time.
Of course, the value of contemporary photography has skyrocketed, too. Due to the wonders of digital technology, photographic prints are now measured in feet instead of inches. Photographs can hold a wall in the same way paintings do. The growing size of the photographic print has changed the formal properties of the medium, but the scale of the photographic print also responds directly to market forces.
Why Photography Has Supersized Itself > Location 3269
“When I started working with Richard Misrach in 1977,” recalls Jeffrey Fraenkel of the Fraenkel Gallery, “his images measured 15 inches square. Now they measure 58 by 120 inches, and a crane is required to hoist them four floors up into the gallery.”
Why Photography Has Supersized Itself > Location 3271
Mr. Fraenkel attributes the growth in the size of photographs to, among other things, “a long-standing feeling in the art world that photography was, perhaps, a second-class citizen.”
A Thousand Words? How About $450,000? > Location 3305
Serious collectors of art are now seriously collecting photographs, but so are people with cash on their hands who view photography as just another status collectible. That status depends in part on the belief that these fantastic prices reflect some inherent worth, not just canny marketing. Do they?
A Thousand Words? How About $450,000? > Location 3327
Photographs have gained serious credibility not least because of the blurred distinction between artists who use photographs and photographers who are artists, from the Man Rays of old to Cindy Sherman, whose conceptual work makes it hard to assign her to one discipline.
A Thousand Words? How About $450,000? > Location 3356
As the size of photographs has grown, for example, the calculus for pricing them has changed. And as Susan Kismaric, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, wryly observed, “Large color photographs decorate; small black-and-white photographs don’t decorate.”
GEFTER, Philip. 2015. Photography After Frank. New York: Aperture.