By Alex Novak
Several sources, including the Art Newspaper and numerous blogs and internet publications, have been reporting on a French police investigation of a possible forgery of early French photographs auctioned off at the end of last March at the auction house, Artcurial Deauville. Commandant Philippe Huet told the newspaper that there is an investigation against "persons unknown" for alleged faking but could not comment further.
Since I have been quoted in the article by the Art Newspaper and that paper has chosen to editorialize the situation incorrectly in my opinion, I will report what I can here, especially in light of the fact that the Art Newspaper has so far refused to publish my complaint about its editorializing or to correct its false premise of some kind of dealer cover-up, which is just nonsense.
For the record, as the Art Newspaper's writer (and former editor) Georgina Adam notes, I did not buy or bid in this auction and have no horse in this race, so to speak. My observations are just that.
An auction was held on March 29, 2011 in Deauville, France, of what was touted as the "primitive photographs" of Charles-Edouard de Crespy Le Prince. The auction had a fair amount of bidding action associated with the 83 lots of "calotype" paper negatives and positives of rocks and trees. In fact, some 554,200 euro was taken in--about three-quarters of a million dollars--for 185 positive salt prints and 73 paper negatives. Some lots sold for ten times the estimates. Many leading French and American dealers and collectors were in attendance or on the phone for the auction, although not all were there to bid apparently. Many later complained that the material had too many issues that led them to consider the photographs inauthentic. More on that later.
Crespy-Le Prince (1784-1850) was a minor painter and lithographer (the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Museum in Montmorency has one of his works). A hand-written day and month on one of the images were extrapolated to date the photographs to 1848. Now even that handwriting is being called into question, as well as the authorship and dating of this work. The initials "CLP" on some of the prints allowed the auction house to build on the story of this newly discovered calotypist with what seems like today very meager proof indeed.
The outside independent expert for the auction was Gregory Leroy, who had been the photography auction expert at Artcurial's Paris location and worked with Sotheby's Paris more recently. Leroy told me last June that, as a part of his research, he had shown the work to both Sylvie Aubernas and Patrick Lamotte, respectively the chief photography curator and head photo conservator at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Leroy and Artcurial also showed the work after the auction to Malcolm Daniel, head photography curator at the New York Metropolitan Museum. Each had indicated, according to Leroy and Artcurial in court documents, that the work might not be wrong for the period, although, admittedly, they certainly did not have an opportunity to do a thorough research of these images at that time and, bizarrely, that might even have been against French law, reportedly because an auction house could not submit such work to experts for an official opinion without the agreement of the consignors prior to the auction.
Leroy said he tried his best to vet the body of work prior to the auction, but was having second thoughts after so many parties were questioning the authenticity of the work. Without definitive proof though, he felt stymied.
In a further twist, the curators and conservator cited claim today not to have validated the authenticity of the work to Leroy. And a German publication notes that art and photo dealer Daniel Blau was more straight-forward about his doubts about the work, claiming that when shown the works at TEFAF Maastricht just weeks before the sale, Blau had told Leroy to have them thoroughly tested before putting them up for auction because he felt that they were no more than 40-50 years old and likely to have been made even more recently than that.
Apparently more substantive proof was on its way, given that Leroy reportedly filed a complaint with the police in January. "This seems to have been a carefully prepared swindle, we were all taken in," he is quoted in the Art Newspaper. He also told the paper that he "spent 140,000 euros reimbursing three of the main buyers, and I have had nothing back so far." At least another dealer indicated that Leroy had promised them their money, but that funds had not yet been sent. Leroy has told other sources that after he read the report from conservator Paul Messier, he was convinced that the photos were not what they had been claimed to be. The report had been commissioned by a group of buyers in the sale and apparently has also been shared with the French police.
Prior to Leroy's own action, the consignors, Jean Reverdy and Jean-Marie Malzieu, brought a legal action at a local commercial tribunal in December in an attempt to recover 336,000 euros from the auction house for their part of the auction sales, above the reportedly 140,000 euros which they had already received as an advance. The judge did not award the sum. But he did question the auction house's consistency, and in the ruling, he noted that he did not understand why Artcurial Deauville did not immediately cancel the sale once doubts about the photographs were raised. The judge is not the only one who doesn't understand why the auction sale wasn't cancelled. The buyers in the sale also want to know why the sale wasn't cancelled.
The Art Newspaper said it was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach the vendors' lawyers, but quoted the French website Rue89 where one of the consignors said that he had acted in good faith and had bought the photos in an antique shop in the 1990s, paying 10,000 French francs, or less than 2,000 euro. At the same time, Artcurial Deauville and Leroy had always implied that the photographs came from the Crespy-Le Prince family.
Paris book dealer Jean-Claude Vrain told several sources, including the Art Newspaper that: "After the sale I heard there were doubts, and when I received the lots, I immediately thought they were fakes. I have refused to pay, and have made a deposition to the police. It is totally disgraceful that the auction house did not cancel the sale once it was clear there was a problem." Ironically, Vrain is reportedly being sued by the sellers for some of his comments to the French internet press, and one of the websites is being sued apparently as well.
As the previous auctioneer James Fattori reportedly left to join the Piasa auction house in Paris, the new auctioneer replacing him at Artcurial Deauville, Bernard de Reviers, told the Art Newspaper, "This is a complicated case; I cannot comment further while the police investigation is continuing."
Interestingly, Artcurial Deauville is more noted for auctioning race horses than photographs, although its parent company has an auction house in Paris that is more aimed at art and design. With articles about this strange auction appearing now in more mainstream press and even being satrirized in CANARD ENCHAINé, it is a wonder that the parent company doesn't just deal with this issue in a more straightforward way than it has to date. The company shares ownership with the Dassault Group, which is a multi-billion euro French defense and civil aeronautics company, which also owns the newspaper "Le Figaro". This can't be good for that company's overall reputation or business.
Many of the dealers who bid at the sale are waiting on testing results and the police investigation. The photo trade of 19th-century photo dealers and other experts caught this early, as even the Art Newspaper notes. No photos have been resold out of this group to my knowledge.
The reason that this has taken so long to surface is not due to embarrassment or trying to protect the market, as Adam implied at the end of her article. It is simply because key evidence needs to be developed and that takes time, and the French legal system is terribly complicated. One series of tests won't be available until more than a month from now in fact. And, most other photography dealers simply don't deal in 19th-century images and were not aware of this situation.
To me, this is almost a non-story from the dealer side, since it was resolved by the bidders involved very quickly and professionally once the situation was known. However, it remains to be seen how it gets resolved by the auction house and its parent company. But given how this story has spread through the internet and other media, I felt a more balanced report was necessary.
I think it is fair to say that most of those in the photography trade who have seen these photographs and negatives and had a chance to review things more thoroughly do not now believe that these are calotypes from the 19th century. But it is sometimes difficult to prove these kinds of things legally, and the legal process in France takes a longer time than any one wants. In fact, both the auction house and the sellers--despite law suits--are currently in agreement that the photographs in question have not been proved to be fakes under French law. That is what most of the reluctance from dealers involved to be quoted is about, not some made-up conspiracy. As one such dealer told me, "We are still waiting for the denouement." When I asked how that was coming, he said simply, "Slowly." And, according to one German publication, the new director of the auction house Eric Hoyau has agreed with the sellers' French attorney Francois Honnoratas that as long as there is no report by a court-certified expert, the allegation of forgery is not justified--apparently no matter what proofs are made from other sources or what their own "expert" now tells the auction house. This approach certainly doesn't inspire confidence in Artcurial and its other auctions.
Reportedly, the results from the first round of testing might not even be available for public scrutiny, and I am not sure it will provide a "smoking gun", although I am sure it raised many serious issues about these suspect images for numerous reasons, including some of the ones that I note below. The second round of testing, which will approach things from a very different basis, might eventually be made available within the conservation community. If it works, it might provide a very definitive proof, but then that proof would have to be accepted by a French court--not a slam dunk.
While it might be frustrating for some readers, I really don't want to give any more information than necessary to potential counterfeiters. I know that is a double-edge sword, but that is what is in the balance.
But several quick points that can be made about these prints and negatives at the Artcurial Deauville sale: old 19th-century papers accumulate pollution over time that makes the use of them for printing photographs today problematic. The chemical development is interrupted by the pollution and this causes circular spotting patterns (a bit like amoeba) in the old papers. The marks of this pollution are pretty evident in the examples from this auction that I saw when in Paris last summer. My understanding is that might be the case for most such early papers. English conservator Nicolas Burnett has told me that he has done testing of older papers and confirmed that this was his experience as well. Some of this information was published in ROM's April 2011 issue.
Dusan Stulik, senior scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, told me that while this is probably true of stand-alone sheets, there are some papers made for early photographic purposes that still exist in rolls--although their rarity would make it difficult for forgers to find. Most such paper rolls are in institutional hands.
In other words, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to fake 19th-century photographs using 19th-century paper without leaving such evidence of this forgery. According to at least one report, the papers used for the Deauville images were apparently washed in chlorine bleach, an oxidative cleaner, before being used. While silver chloride is used as an element in photography, washing paper with chlorine bleach prior to exposure is a strange--in fact unheard of--technique to have been utilized in 19th-century photography, although it might have been used more recently to try to eliminate some of the built-up pollution contaminants and/or color in the papers--something much more likely.
As a number of observers, including curator Pierre Apraxine, noted in our conversations about this material, the subject matter itself just doesn't jive with a 19th-century style and approach and should raise questions in and of itself. The close cropping and lack of sky did not feel "19th-century". A large body of work was almost always more diverse: the photographer would take photos of his family, workers and chateau. Here the work was only blurry close-ups of trees and rocks with no deviation in subject matter. The fact that Crespy-Le Prince was nearly blind has been used as a rationale for the resulting, almost claustrophobic style; instead I think his partial blindness at the time is one more questionable aspect about the attribution itself.
Some finishing techniques were simply not appropriate for the specific period in question (supposedly 1848). Again, it is better not to note the specifics here, but there were what appear to be many major inconsistencies with photographic work from that period.
Furthermore, the paper chosen was inappropriate for the purpose (too thick and colored) for paper negatives or even positive salt prints. The paper used in the group that came up at the auction in Deauville appeared to be from the 19th century. But it is easy to get blank 19th-century papers and use them in photography without the more specific dating elements of modern photographs, since chemistry is not an integral part of the paper to begin with, as are more modern mass-manufactured papers. It is hard to date the chemistry of such prints in isolation, but perhaps not impossible, according to some conservators. That is a possibility for a future avenue of investigation.
But the inappropriateness of the particular papers in question for photography due to their thickness, coloration and contamination would seem more to have been a serious mistake by modern experimenters limited by their paper resources than one by a 19th-century photographer. Nineteenth-century materials used to make photographs, while somewhat diverse, really did not deviate that far from a norm--at least not as far as the Deauville material did. I have one of the largest and most diverse collections of calotype paper negatives in private hands, and I have never seen the type of papers or range of colors used for this process that were utilized for the Deauville paper "negatives". In fact, most paper negatives are relatively consistent in color and thickness, and quite different than the ones auctioned, which displayed a rainbow of colors on very thick papers. Dusan Stulik seconds my opinion, saying "I do not think that 19th-century artists would use thick or colored paper for negative making, and I only wish we would have their selection of thin negative papers now!"
It is even questionable that the paper negatives were taken directly from life for these and other reasons; several knowledgeable observers feel that it is possible, and even probable, that another technique was used to transfer images to the paper negatives in a darkroom rather than using the paper negative directly in a camera in the field.
Fortunately there have been relatively few fakes or forgeries in the photography trade, unlike painting, prints and sculpture, of which there are billions of dollars in recent examples. The recently uncovered scandal in that part of the art market has apparently been going on for decades and involves some of the top names in the art market including the major auction houses--so much for auction house "expertise". In photography, we seem to have a more responsible group of dealers--at least for the most part--and photographs are difficult to forge without some telltale evidence of the forgery. Detection of most questionable photographs has come fairly quickly.
That doesn't mean though that buyers should not be vigilant. After this event, I actually feel more comfortable with our ability to distinguish any potential modern forgeries from true 19th-century work. But, as dealer Hans Kraus told the Art Newspaper, "It is a salutatory lesson, not to trust catalogues, and to be more careful."
By Alex Novak
When I switched over to the Classic Photographs Los Angeles Show from Photo LA this January, it was really just a financial decision, one that I struggled with for a while. After nearly a dozen years when I did fairly well (although tailing off the last six), my sales at Photo LA in 2011 were virtually non-existent. Even more frustratingly, I felt that I had assembled a world-class exhibit of top contemporary and classic images, putting together one of my best and creative efforts at a fair. I also took the show's largest booth space, and the expense of doing the show was very high for me.
Despite all of that, the sales numbers were pointedly a great deal less than at previous fairs, even here in L.A. I felt that the show had lost its major exhibitors and the national and international following it used to have, and the fair came to depend on just the same local crowd, not even drawing many from upstate. It has become a place to be seen rather than a place to buy photographs. One could argue about economic times, but other photography and art shows, such as AIPAD and Paris Photo, have come back strong over the last few years despite the financial headwinds.
Meanwhile a small, primarily table-top fair was making progress and developing a very good reputation here in L.A. The Classic Photographs Show was started by a few of the dealers who felt that the larger show had gone off the tracks a bit, and that there was a need for a more economical show aimed primarily at the classic/vintage photographs market place. Many also felt that a simpler, more focused show would provide buyers with an easier path to higher level photography material.
This show wasn't seeking a big turnout, but one that tried to get the top collectors and curators to come and spend some quality time with the exhibitors. A few exhibitors might have even hoped that Photo LA might get the message, wake up and turn itself around.
Whatever the reasons, most of the classic and vintage photography dealers and galleries moved over to the Classic Photography Los Angeles Show, especially this year when the show slightly expanded from 12 to 16 dealers and moved from its original location to a larger, perhaps more convenient space.
Despite the enlarged space, other dealers, including some current and former Photo LA dealers, have indicated that they want in, and the pressure is on the show managers (Michael Dawson, Amanda Doenitz and Richard Moore) to find a bigger space that doesn't give up the intimate feel of the show.
As one of the show organizers Amada Doenitz told me: "The goal is to create an environment that is conducive to looking for work. Notice I didn't say, 'looking at', but 'looking for'. There are no strollers at this fair, no couples with iPhones posing for pictures in front of your inventory, no VIP lounges. I want it to feel like it does when you have someone over. I want you to walk through that front door into a naturally lit room, music overhead, smell coffee (or the Singers' wine!), and spy Andy Smith's sleeping dog. And in that moment you know you are in a place that feels familiar and comfortable and that--for the next however many hours--will allow you to lose yourself in thought or to engage in an intelligent conversation, all the while looking for photographs.
"Imagine an environ that is as far away from the convention center art fair model as it can get. In my estimation this is a much healthier, more sustainable situation for conducting our particular business--the selling of classic photography."
And that's exactly the dilemma: when you have people clamoring for exhibit space, how exactly do you balance economics with that intimate quality that you would like to keep? Many shows either grow or die, which is another consideration. How does a show draw collectors and curators from outside its local community--almost a "must" in today's market--unless it can also draw enough quality dealers to exhibit? Yes, I suspect that the show's managers will have a few sleepless nights trying to address these problems.
Ironically, Photo LA has to be asking itself much the same questions. Over the last ten years the show has lost many of the top name dealers. There are a lot of reasons for that, but it still poses a major challenge for Photo LA. Without those dealers, it will simply not draw beyond its local community any more. In a further irony, the smaller Classical Photography Show might actually help Photo LA draw more of the important collectors and curators to LA. Most are coming now for the smaller show's high level of quality and because the show organizers are really contacting the top players; but sometimes these attendees cross over to check out Photo LA. It's a reversal of the roles that one might expect.
The smaller show is an amazingly compact way to see important photographs. After all, with the emphasis on the table top format you can see about ten thousand top vintage and classic images at the Classic Photographs Los Angeles Show from some of the top photography dealers in the world, most AIPAD members. That's not a bad draw, and it is sure to increase if show organizers find a larger space.
Michael Lee of Lee Gallery said, "We did well at the fair. I sold mostly 19th-century photographs and a few 20th-century ones, including images by William Garnett and Robert Frank. We still have some nice Garnett's available. Prices are about $5000-10,000. The best piece I brought was a vintage subway portrait by Walker Evans and it is still available.
"I was very happy to see the show grow, and I thought the energy and enthusiasm of the collectors and curators was better than last year."
L.A. dealer Michael Dawson of Dawson Books, who was one of the organizers of the fair, said, "I thought work was well presented and the show was very well organized. I received many compliments from dealers who participated as well as from collectors and curators who attended the show. All appreciated the intimacy, the collegiality and the overall quality of work presented.
"While there is certainly room for this show to grow, the main strength of Classic Photographs Los Angeles is the coherency of the work presented, the affordability for the participating dealers and the intimate environment where collectors can view a great deal of material without being overwhelmed with a lot of extraneous distractions.
"As an exhibitor myself, I feel that I did very well for a show of this size with gross sales in the moderate five figures. I sold a number of photographs in the $1,500 to $4,000 range, as well as several books in the $2,500 to $3,500 range. There was strong interest in several reasonably priced vintage Adams pieces from the early 1930s as well as California Pictorialist work. I sold several photographs in the first week after the show to people who looked at work during the show and decided to purchase upon further reflection. I have had better follow up at this show than almost any other show I have done. I sold non-vintage Yavno's of Muscle Beach and Cable Car, San Francisco. There was also a lot of interest in several early prints of Daido Moriyama."
Oakland, CA dealer Richard Moore reported, "I was very happy with sales during the show and there was a couple of follow-up sales. We sold pictures ranging in price from $250 to $8,500. Considering the reasonable cost of exhibiting, our bottom line was much better than previous recent Photo LA outings."
Moore continued, "We sold a unique signed Margrethe Mather exhibition print from 1918. Mather had reused a mount from an Edward Weston exhibition print and the mount back has the title, Weston's name, studio address in Weston's handwriting as well as a stamp from the Pittsburgh Salon where the Weston print was shown in 1917. It was a fine example of Mather's work as well as an interesting object showing the intimate connection between the two photographers."
About the show itself, Moore noted, "There was a wide range of quality classic photography presented by some of the best dealers in the genre. As an exhibitor, the show was fairly stress-free, easy to set-up and break down, and was a very pleasant environment. A large part of the success was the great group of exhibitors in the room. The attendance was very good, but the room never felt overcrowded and the people attending were knowledgeable about photography and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I noticed several collectors returned to the show for the second day."
Tucson dealer Terry Etherton reportedly had a great fair, selling into six figures. It was a battle over who brought the most photos here to the show: Terry, Scott Nichols or myself. Despite the tough competition, I think I edged out Terry.
As for my own experience, I have to admit it was a lot of fun to do a show where you don't have so much money on the line and the camaraderie of the dealers and the collectors is so stress-free and just plain fun. I didn't have a record show by any means, but we did well enough to post a solid profit, and I sold both 19th-century and 20th-century photographs of all types, and I have some follow-up still to work on.
It was nice to be able to spend real time with clients who were actually interested in collecting photography. While the crowd was small, the enthusiasm and interest levels were really gratifying.
The show still has a ways to go to attract a lot of key players from a distance, but many did come from the East Coast and Midwest to this show. It will be a challenge to balance the growth in the audience of major collectors with the growth in number of dealers for this show.
Considering that a collector can already view nearly 10,000 top vintage photographs here, it is just a matter for collectors to wake up to the unique opportunity to see such a diversity of important work on the West Coast.
The set-up and break-down, which is usually highly stressful and exhausting, was actually a pleasure here. We were out in an hour after the show ended, and on to a pleasant dinner with Barry and Gretchen Singer and their wines (more on those wines below). That has to be a record for me.
By Alex Novak
All the following artists are represented by Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, and their photographs and art can be bought through our company. To order just contact us at 1-215-822-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Arthur Tress's newest book was just reviewed in the New York Times. ARTHUR TRESS: San Francisco 1964 by James A. Ganz has just been published by the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco/DelMonico Books/Prestel. The 111-page book is $34.95. Signed copies will be available at Contemporary Works/Vintage Works booth (#213) at the AIPAD New York Photography Show and through the websites.
To quote the NY Times review: "Tress, who is known in part for his keen sense of the everyday absurd, took these recently rediscovered photographs at the age of 23, in a pivotal year in which San Francisco was host to the Republicans' Goldwater convention, the first stop on the Beatles' first North American tour and the staging ground for a series of influential civil rights demonstrations."
An exhibition of this work will be held at the de Young Museum, part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, from March 3 to June 3, 2012, in the Fisher Family Gallery. Over 70 photographs by Tress will be featured in this show. There will be a special program with the artist and curator having a conversation about the work on March 3rd at 2 pm in the Koret Auditorium of the museum. A book signing will be held afterwards.
To see more about Arthur Tress and his books and photographs, go to: http://www.contemporaryworks.net/artists/artist_imgs.php/1/6606 .
Contemporary Works/Vintage Works has been made the exclusive dealer for the vintage photographs of art photographer Tom Baril and will be exhibiting this important work at its booth (#213) at the AIPAD New York Photography Show for the very first time.
After graduating from New York's School of Visual Arts in 1980 with a BA in photography, Baril served as Robert Mapplethorpe's exclusive print maker. Since then Baril has distanced himself from the Mapplethorpe work and has enjoyed a solo career by bringing to us something uniquely his own-- stunning imagery from both behind the camera and out of the darkroom.
In the last 35 years, printmaking is not all that Tom Baril has mastered. He embraces every nuance of his medium. Whether it is 4 x 5 Polaroid pinhole or 8 x 10 collodion wet-plate, Baril manages to astonish us with technically perfect and pure prints. Baril's studies include urban architecture, minimalist seascapes and meticulously detailed botanicals and still lifes.
In the words of one commentator, Baril's "exquisitely imagined and powerfully rendered" images are "…clearly founded upon the photographic masters of the past. But his tones and techniques demonstrate a contemporary vision, offering an elegant synthesis of artistic tradition and current aesthetics." In other words, the effect achieved in Baril's work is "both classic and contemporary."
Tom Baril's work has been the subject of two monographs, the highly acclaimed sold out self-titled book published by 4AD in 1997, and Botanica published by Arena Editions in 1999. His work has been featured in numerous publications, and is in prestigious collections, both public and private, including: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the George Eastman House, Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, The Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the Polaroid Collection and the Elton John Collection.
Despite foreshadowing some of his later photographs, Baril's early work has never been publicly exhibited prior to now and is largely limited to two bodies of work: "The American Diner" and "A Sense of Place". The latter series bears some similarity to work during the same period by Lee Fiedlander, Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams, but with Baril's distinctive twist and stunning prints. These hauntingly empty, largely urban landscapes possess a strange power to visually and viscerally engage the viewer.
The vintage images from the 1977-1986 period making up these two collections are quite rare, usually existing in less than a handful of prints, and often in only one to three vintage examples. Sizes are typically from 11 x 14 inches up to 20 x 24 inches.
The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles is featuring a large selection of Claudia Kunin's 3-D photographs and video animations in its latest exhibition, The Digital Darkroom: An Exploration of Altered Realities. Kunin also gave a very well-received talk on February 4th at this institution and was prominently featured in the video documentation made especially for the Digital Darkroom show, which runs until May 28th. The location for the Annenberg Space for Photography is in Century Park, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, #10, Los Angeles, CA 90067; phone: 1-213-403-3000. Hours are Wed-Fri: 11am-6pm; Sat: 11am-7:30pm; and Sun: 11am-6pm. I found Kunin's work some of the most exciting and interesting in the show.
To read a review in the LA Times about the show, go to: http://framework.latimes.com/2011/12/15/digital-darkroom-december-17-may-28-2012/ .
To see the one in the New York Times, go to: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/in-her-garden-of-digital-delights/ .
Kunin's work was also featured along with the work of Robert Heineken, Edmund Teske, James Fee, Dean Brierly and Stephen Berkman in an article in the September 2011 issue of Black & White magazine, which was written by curator Carol McCusker and entitled "Sunstruck: Southern California Expressionism". In referring to Kunin's images, McCusker says: "Animated by 3D, they tenderly address the complicated, invisible aspects of the human condition." You can also see Kunin's work in a show of the same name as the article and curated by McCusker, which is showing at Wall Space Gallery, 13 West Ortega St., Santa Barbara, CA; 1-805-637-3898, until February 28th.
To see more about Claudia Kunin and her photographs, go to: http://www.contemporaryworks.net/artists/artist_imgs.php/1/6782 .
Artist Lisa Holden is featured in a new film by Robert Adanto, called 3D: Darkly Digital & Divine. The film examines, what some theorists have deemed the "post photographic world", through eye-opening personal interviews with some of the most adventurous image makers working today, including Tereza Vlcková, Ruud van Empel, Erwin Olaf, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Oleg Dou, Jonny Briggs, Jamie Baldridge, Sabine Pigalle, Vee Speers, Esther Janssen, Clinton Fein, Carla Gannis, Emily Allchurch, Bernd Preiml, Katerina Belkina, Jasper de Beijer, Michel Valentino, Mel Bagshaw, and, of course, Lisa Holden. You can see a clip of Holden discussing her work here: http://vimeo.com/24332401 .
To see more about Lisa Holden and her books and photographs, go to: http://www.contemporaryworks.net/artists/artist_imgs.php/1/4205 .
Stanko Abadzic's newest book, "Zagreb – Sketches for a Portrait of the City" has just been published by ArTresor Naklada. We have a limited number of copies of this book available for sale at $39.95.
Black & White Magazine is also planning to publish another large portfolio of Stanko Abadzic's newest work this summer's June 2012 issue, which goes on newsstands mid-April.
The Chinese magazine, Photographers Companion, has also just published Abadzic's work in a large article with accompanying portfolio of images.
To see more about Stanko Abadzic and his books and photographs, go to: http://www.contemporaryworks.net/artists/artist_imgs.php/1/4783 .
NEW PHOTOS ON I PHOTO CENTRAL
By the way, more than 200 new photographs have been posted up on I Photo Central's website, which you can see here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/16/30/0 .
By Alex Novak
'Photography Collected Us, The Malcolmson Collection', is the first major exhibition in Toronto of what has been called the most important collection of historical photography in private hands in Canada. It will run until March 10th at the University of Toronto Art Centre.
Comprised of rare and beautiful objects, including an early daguerreotype, several paper negatives and numerous photographs dating from the mid nineteenth century to the present, it encompasses many of the great names of photography in Europe and North America, including Gustave Le Gray, Eugène Atget, Julia Margaret Cameron, Margaret Bourke-White, Man Ray, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Paul Strand--to name a few. The exhibition includes approximately 170 works.
Despite the breath of the exhibition, there is even more to the fine collection as I found out at a dinner that Harry and Ann Malcolmson graciously hosted for a group of us while I was in Toronto last month. With the intriguing title of the "Salon des Refuses", the Malcolmsons had a smaller showing of many works that didn't make it into the show itself. More than several wonderful images were displayed that would make museum masterworks. I particularly liked a Kertesz, and when Harry joked about each of us red-starring one print to take home with us, I quickly put my dibs in for the image. But there were others that also stood out, including a salt print of a white horse by Jean-Baptiste Frenet; a mysterious modernist image by the Canadian photographer John Vanderpant; a minimalist salt print by J. B. Greene; a couple of great Kertesz photos; and, frankly, many others that my wine-addled brain can't recall in particulars, but still remembers the pleasure that I got looking over this fine collection of images that didn't make it into the show.
"It is particularly appropriate that 'Photography Collected Us' be mounted here," said UTAC Director Niamh O'Laoghaire, "as the University of Toronto is a noted center for research into photography, both historical and contemporary. This exhibition also reflects UTAC's ongoing engagement with the medium of photography and with conceptual art."
'Photography Collected Us' was curated by Heather Diack. The show explores the links between photography and the ideas of collection and recollection, of singularity and multiplicity, of being within the frame and yet always exceeding that which the camera captures.
Fashion and art photographer Lillian Bassman has passed away at the age of 94 on Monday, February 13 in her Manhattan home. Bassman was born on June 15, 1917, in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx.
Starting off as a protégé of Alexey Brodovitch, the legndary art director of Harper's Bazaar, she became an art director in her own right for Junior Bazaar, a spin-off, in late 1945. She often used photographers who would later become some of the top names of their generation—Avedon, Frank and Faurer, just to mention a few.
Meanwhile she began to work with fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene in his darkroom in her spare time. In 1947, Avedon left her his New York City studio and assistant while he went off to Paris. She made good use of the studio, becoming an important commercial photographer, while taking fashion work for Harper's Bazaar and other publications.
But by the 1960s she tired of the direction of fashion photography and modeling, turning to personal work that had little to nothing to do with fashion. In 1969, she destroyed most of her commercial negatives, but put aside a large group of editorial negatives in trash bags, forgetting about them until the early 1990s when Martin Harrison, a fashion curator and historian who was visiting Bassman, encouraged her to take another look at them. After Bassman reviewed her earlier negatives, she began reprinting them, applying some of the bleaching and toning techniques with which she had first experimented as early as the 1940s.
Her "reinterpretations", as she called them, reignited her career as an art photographer. Bassman's work has been published in "Lillian Bassman" (1997) and "Lillian Bassman: Women" (2009). A new book, "Lillian Bassman: Lingerie," is due be published by Abrams on April 1.
Her long-time Santa Monica gallerist, Peter Fetterman, said this about his relationship with Bassman: "Whenever I arrived in New York the first thing I did was to rush round to Lillian's amazing studio on E 83rd to inspire myself for my week ahead. She would be there, dressed elegantly in a crisp white men's shirt and black pants and working away. She had a work ethic and a commitment to her art even into her 90's that was staggering. "What do you think of this one, Peter? I just finished it?" And of course my heart would start beating. "I'll make one for you". This was our usual pattern for close to 20 years. Lillian was one of the true greats. I will miss her deeply."
An important photographer who worked in the U.S. and Japan, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, passed away on February 6 in Tokyo at the age of 90. He was born in San Francisco, CA, June 14, 1921 and raised in Kochi City, Japan. He became one of the leading figures in the new wave of photography in Japan in the years after WWII.
In 1939, because of his mother's concerns about him being drafted, he returned to the U.S. where he studied agriculture at the University of California (1940-42), but then was caught up in WWII.
Ishimoto first developed his interest in photography while he was interned at the Amache Camp in Colorado during the war. Upon his release from internment he was forced to move to Chicago because he was still forbidden by the U.S. government to live on the coast since he had taken part in military drills while at high school in Japan. Ironically it was this series of negative events that led him to enroll at the Institute of Design in Chicago.
He moved to Chicago in 1944 and began to study architecture at Northwestern University in 1946 when he met photographer Harry Shigeta and took up photography seriously. He exhibited at the Fort Dearborn Camera Club in the late 1940s. Two years later Ishimoto transferred to the Institute of Design where he studied with Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind and Gordon Coster during a period from 1948-52.
Ishimoto moved back to Japan again in 1953, and in that same year he made the series of pictures for which he is perhaps best known, of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. During the years following, he kept his American connections and was included in Steichen's 'Family of Man' exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He moved back to Chicago again in 1958.
In 1961 he returned to Tokyo and became a naturalized citizen in 1969. Ishimoto also showed his devotion to his adopted city, Chicago, in his book, "Chicago, Chicago" (Bijutsu Shuppan-sha, 1969). This book is often regarded as Ishimoto's most personal statement. His bold use of contrast, the design of the frame and the influence of his studies in architecture define his Chicago.
He was also noted for both his gritty street photography of Chicago, and--on a totally different note--for his delicate flower studies.
Ishimoto has published many books and exhibited widely throughout Japan and the U.S. In 1999 he was the subject of a career retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was named a "Man of Cultural Distinction" by the Japanese state in 1996.
At the age of 90, he recalled all of his unsold prints from his gallery representatives in preparation for museum donations at his death.
Eugene "Gene" Prakapas, founder of Prakapas Gallery in New York and member of AIPAD passed away in December in Bronxville, NY.
Born in Lowell, MA, in 1932, he graduated from Yale, joined the navy as a Lieutenant and then attended Oxford on a Fulbright Fellowship. He became Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Trident Press and the Pocket Books Divisions of Simon & Schuster.
Prakapas dedicated much of his life to the appreciation of fine art, having served as the co-director of Carus Gallery in New York and visiting curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Besides his membership in AIPAD, Prakapas was also a member of the Art Dealers Association of American.
Prakapas penned the forward to Bauhaus Photography, a collection of five hundred photographs that constitute the largest and most comprehensive photographic archive currently available on the Bauhaus. Friends remember him as a brilliant, imaginative, innovative and vibrant man.
He will be missed by his family, friends and associates.
By Alex Novak
As some of my long-time readers and friends know, I am a bit of a wine buff and have occasionally added wine tasting notes to my newsletters. Well this article on wine will combine that subject with photography.
As fellow photography dealers, the Singers are following in the wine footsteps of one other photographer dealer, Sean Thackery, whose California Syrahs often get nose-bleed high scores. Barry and Gretchen Singer are themselves making stunning wines from Bordeaux blends and their individual components under a label of their own name, Singer Cellars. These hedonistic, yet elegant wines will clean out any cobwebs left over from any lesser bottles that you might have drunk recently, and leave you, as my cousin told me at our tasting of the Singers' wines "begging for more at the end."
Sorry, but this is not wine for spitting politely, but for savoring, swallowing and asking for more…much more. The wines are sourced from some top vineyards in Napa, although the Singers live in Petaluma in Sonoma. The 2009 vintage is the first official one that the Singers are making for sale, although they have been making wine for their personal use since 2004. Having been one of those lucky few to share bottles with the Singers from time to time, I can assure you that the wines are not only first-rate, but hold up very well indeed.
Barry sent out a group of his 2009's for this article with the admonition to open and decant for about an hour or more. We didn't do that because frankly they were so luscious to begin with, although I did try them again about an hour later and even a couple the next day. No worries: they were drinking well no matter how much (or little) time you gave them. That was not the case for some of the Singers's earlier vintages, which required decanting to open up the full potential, but the 2009 vintage in California is a very forward albeit big one.
One of my personal favorites of our horizontal tasting of the Singers' 2009 wines--and it was indeed hard to pick out a favorite from the line-up, as our group found out--is the 2009 Petite Verdot, which is made from grapes sourced from Oak Knoll in Napa. This not a grape that is commonly vinted by itself. Usually this grape is put into a Bordeaux-style blend as a tiny component. In proportions (92% Petite Verdot, 6% Cabernet Savignon and 2% Merlot) that might seem "wrong" on its face--this wine stands tradition on its head and surprises you with its fruity sensuality. The wine is definitely something else: rich, round and big. Red fruits of raspberry and strawberry with a touch of menthol on the nose. And the taste and texture made my tongue cry out for more, as several of us reached for the rest of the bottle at the same time. For the record, I won. I can't see myself resisting the two cases that I've ordered for very long, despite some incredibly smooth tannins that are there, but barely perceptible. Give this one 92-93 pts, and that's really being stingy, because I might just want to get another case before it sells out completely. When I revisited it the next day, I found the color dark yet clear and sparkling, and the taste intense, almost brooding. It hadn't moved an inch even though open for an entire day.
The Cabernet Franc, which was made from 92% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, has a low ph and a great mouth feel. It came across as elegant and very ready--seamless even. Some in our group voted it their favorite of the tasting. It was a very good wine, but the nose was just a bit too reticent for me, although there were hints of cigar box and peppermint, some called it candy cane. I gave it 91-92 points.
The Singers' Bordeaux-styled blend, The Song, is made up of 80% Napa Cabernet Savignon, 12% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. This is a big wine with broad shoulders and very good length. A touch of brown sugar on the nose. This wine came across as sweeter and fuller than most of the others. If you want to find fault with this superb wine, you might say the mid-palate isn't the strongest, but this wine is very well structured and has elegant reserve. The next day it was still holding up extremely well, but the acidity was just a bit more noticeable. It was a solid 93 point wine, and at the tasting was my personal favorite by a hair over the Petite Verdot.
The Singers' homage to Cheval Blanc, the 2009 Rhapsody was, as my cousin Bill called it simply "fabulous". It had a huge nose, spicy with great dark fruits. It was very forward and a hedonist's drinking pleasure, especially as it opened up. While I only gave it 92 points at our dinner tasting, this one only seemed to get better the next day. And I had a second bottle that was so complete and complex that I have to raise the score to a solid 93 with the potential for an even higher score eventually. This seems to be the one this year that could go for a long time to come.
Production of these wines is very small, so you won't find them at your local supermarket. For more information and prices, the winery's website can be found at: http://singercellars.com/home.html , or contact Barry Singer at email@example.com , or by phone at 1-707-321-4704. And tell him that Alex sent you!
We are looking for Robert Mapplethorpe vintage photographs for a client. The prints must be in fine condition. The preference is for flowers, good portraits and more subtle nudes.
Contact Alex Novak at firstname.lastname@example.org , or at 1-215-822-5662. Please send jpegs and information including your firm net price. Please understand that we do not "bid" on photographs or make offers.
(Just a note and an apology from the Editor. By error (mine: Alex Novak), some of these reviews were lost in our email files for an excessive amount of time after they were done. We're still catching up and will catch up on others soon. These are still very important photo publications.)
By Matt Damsker
THE ALIENATED PHOTOGRAPHER.
PHOTOS BY SIMPSON KALISHER.
Introduction by Luc Sante. Published for the exhibition of the same name at The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), Houston, Texas. Two Penny Press, New York. Hardbound, 69 pgs., 59 black-and-white plates. ISBN No. 978-0-578-07134-3. Information: http://www.simpsonkalisher.com ; email: email@example.com . Signed copies of the book will also be available at the Keith de Lellis booth at AIPAD and from the New York City gallery.
This is only the venerable photojournalist Simpson Kalisher's third book--after 1961's "Railroad Men" and 1976's "Propaganda and other Photographs"--and along with the recent MFAH exhibition, it should solidify his reputation as one of the indispensible street photographers. As Luc Sante puts it in his introduction, Kalisher is "our Virgil through this rapidly receding time, giving the impression in every frame of remembering a stricter but richer past while also perceiving the outline and maybe even the details of the anarchic future."
Poetic praise, perhaps, but it rings true. These 59 gems from the 1950s and '60s--most of them shot in New York City--suggest that Kalisher never took a dull photo, and never seemed to be forcing things. Kalisher so easily sees the past in the present--whether in the bowler hats and cigars of his male subjects, or the site of a lone, crumbling brownstone detached from its history--that there's a visionary surge to even his simplest shots. The young, scantily dressed couple happily strolling through their little corner of '60s Brooklyn, or the blurred faces glimpsed in a moving subway window, or a woman leading two children across a busy street are suddenly, vividly alive to us, suggesting small but somehow compelling narratives.
When Kalisher composes with more care and complexity, the results are stunning yet just as unpretentious. Lee Friedlander seems prefigured by Kalisher's on-the-run image of a gas station attendant framed by the dark interior of the photographer's car, or of souvenir photos in a shop window.
More often, though, Kalisher is frontal and specific: a white dog leashed to a fire hydrant looks soulfully our way; two well-dressed men confer on a sidewalk, and something seems to hang in the balance; a hugely finned Cadillac sits in front of the Eastern Airlines building, a grand American flag waving from the façade. More obliquely, perhaps, a trio of workers plants a large sapling under a highway overpass, and they remind us of the iconic image of soldiers planting the flag at Iwo Jima. Kalisher locates unintentional drama in the everyday, and the result is startling art.
RICHARD C. MILLER: FROZEN
MOMENTS; WOMEN IN HATS; FREEWAY
Three photography books by Richard C. Miller. 2009, Bombshelter Press, Hermosa Beach, CA, in association with the Miller Family Trust A. Editorial, design, text and color printed by Reece Vogel and Michael Andrews. Information: http://www.richardcmiller.com .
Born in 1912 in Hanford, CA, Richard C. Miller embodies the intersection of photographic art and commerce as few photographers have ever done. The freewheeling, color-drenched, modernist spirit of 20th-century California--and its seductive spawn, Hollywood--flows through his images, which range from classic publicity and commercial stills of the 1940s and '50s to superb black-and-white documentary work.
More to the point, the reclusive, often overlooked Miller (he lives with his daughter in New York's Hudson Valley these days) has been an American treasure for generations, but only recently has he gotten his due, thanks to a flurry of deserved publicity upon the J. Paul Getty Museum's acquisition of some of his great Carbro prints. In addition, these three beautifully rendered photography books collect the essential Miller for us, and reveal a photographer whose sheer delight in the process and in his subjects is evident in every rigorously composed and masterfully printed frame.
Miller photographed the likes of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe (who posed for him when she was an undiscovered Norma Jeane Dougherty), but Miller's brushes with mythic celebrity--he photographed many film studio legends as a freelancer--are not really the story of his life or art. He is more of a photographer's photographer, one of the first to appreciate the genius of Edward Weston, for example, and subsequently a close friend of Brett Weston, the subject of a Miller portfolio (as is Norma Jeane, in a trove of beautifully playful color shots).
Indeed, Miller's cover photos for the likes of the "Saturday Evening Post" and other glossy magazines of the mid-20th century are unheralded parts of our collective consciousness, and they give Norman Rockwell's more celebrated All-American illustrations a run for their money. Some of Miller's best magazine work, including an iconic image of his apple-cheeked daughter in prayer at the Thanksgiving table, is collected in "Frozen Moments," which chronicles Miller's mastery of the Carbro process, an obsolete but thoroughly gorgeous color technique which utilizes pigments, as opposed to dyes, in producing a triple-negative print. The lifelike primary colors are radiantly rich, not gaudy, while Miller's attention to light and compositional clarity make these images seem to pop from the page. And while much of his output is formally posed if not stagey, there are a few Carbro prints here--such as a golden shot of the cloisters at San Juan Capistrano, from 1940--that attest to Miller's great documentarian eye. Collector's alert: a breathtaking 1946 image of Norma Jeane in a bridal gown became a famous cover of "Personal Romances" magazine.
As a pioneer in Kodachrome, Miller did a lot of color fashion photography in the 1940s, and "Women in Hats" collects a fascinating sub-stratum of lush, cheerful close-ups of models in millinery, some of them absurdly dated (a woman in a fake-fruited hat peering out from the window of a canary yellow DeSoto), others timelessly chic, still others wonderful curiosities (there's Norma Jeane again, in a plaid shirt, smilingly baiting a fishhook while wearing a red cap festooned with fly-fishing lures). A proto-camp celebration of a more innocent America, "Women in Hats" is a likely source of meticulous period detail for the current TV series "Mad Men," about ad men in mid-century New York, although there's not a hint of irony in Miller's loving gaze.
"Freeway," however, is a different (though still without a touch of irony) story, as Miller broke from his color studio work to chronicle the construction of L.A.'s Hollywood Freeway, with its new world of multi-level interchanges and vast swaths of highway cutting through what had been a slower matrix of city streets and urban/suburban development. Between 1948 and 1953, Miller shot more than a hundred black-and-white negatives of the freeway with his 4 x 5 Graflex view camera, and he did so purely for himself. "The freeway was the greatest idea to me," he writes now. "I felt I had to photograph the process…I thought, 'My God, this is how people must have felt when they first saw the cathedrals in Europe.'
Miller's delight in the process may seem quaint to us now that those freeways have come to symbolize all the choking excess of the American Dream, but to his generation of speed-smitten Los Angeles drivers, the freeway was The Future. Miller took care to capture strong, pure images of transformation, of curving concrete forms rising in rhythmic confluence in the flawless California sunlight (one shot neatly captures L.A.'s architecturally distinctive City Hall in the distance). The result is a portfolio of modernist images that certainly rivals the more skeptical chroniclings of Brett Weston and other, more noted photographers of American change. But Miller was hardly brooding. Like all of his work, Miller's "Freeway" is an unselfconscious labor of love, of belief in subject married to sheer technical command.
FELICE BEATO: PHOTOGRAPHER
IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY JAPAN
This book is a superb catalogue marking a recent exhibition of Beato photographs at the University of New Hampshire's Museum of Art, in Durham, which ended in December 2011. Drawn entirely from the collection of New York's Tom Burnett (who worked with guest curator Eleanor Hight, of the university), some 35 albumen silver prints, many of them beautifully and subtly hand-colored by Beato, are on display here. They focus on Beato's Japanese period, which flowered in 1867-68 with many now-classic views of temples, domestic architecture, samurai, geisha, and landscapes, all infused with a striking formality and sense of scale. Beato (1932-1909) never failed to include the human figure in his naturalistic images, which convey the complex integration of Japanese structures in their rustic settings. Meanwhile, his hand-colored portraits captured such expressive detail that the men, women, peasants and warriors seem truly alive to us, like characters of epic cinema.
Fittingly, East Asia photographic scholar Terry Bennett's introduction weighs in on Burnett's vintage Japanese collection, which consists of about 5,000 original prints. Bennett notes that the Italian/British Beato's "most productive and creative period occurred during his 1863-84 sojourn in Japan…But we should really only focus on the first fifteen years of his stay," since he sold his studio and negatives to Baron Raimund von Stillfried in 1877. Bennett further separates Beato's Japanese work into four stages: Pre-Fire (his Yokohama studio and negatives were destroyed by an 1866 conflagration), Reconstruction, Unstructured, and Post-Studio periods. In her detailed essay, curator Hight chronicles Beato's life and the breadth of his time in the Land of the Rising Sun, concluding that in his photographs of Japan, "we witness Beato at the height of his powers." The catalogue is priced at $18.75 (order by phone: 1-603-862-3712). Further information: http://www.unh.edu/moa/recent.html .
PHOTOGRAPHS WE LIKE
Also available, from Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc. Vintage Photographs, is "Photographs We Like," a discriminatingly personal selection (by Hertzmann and partner Susan Herzig) of mostly modernist images from some of the medium's greatest names, along with some lesser known artists. There's the crisp black-and-white surrealism of Clarence John Laughlin's 1935 "Pineapple As Rocket," the delicately silhouetted self-portraiture of Anne Brigman's 1910 "The Breeze, " and more than a dozen other marvelous visions, such as Harry Callahan's late-1950s shot of swimmers at Chicago's Oak Street beach, glimpsed from afar through blurry foliage that all but engulfs the frame.
And there are still lifes by Ilse Bing and Brassai; numinous dune grasses (like fine horsehair) captured by William Dassonville in 1925; an heroic 1939 Edward Weston shot of the faux-Roman statuary constructed for MGM Studio's epic production of "Ben-Hur;" Ansel Adams' snow-shagged cedar tree; a Berenice Abbott storefront image; Dorothea Lange's and Lewis Hine's Dickensian portraits of an overcrowded Sunday mass in Ireland and the workers at a Georgia cotton mill. And so it goes, enchantingly.
Arnold Genthe's 1910 portrait of Julia Marlow as Ophelia in "Hamlet" is the very face of haunted stardom, pre-Garbo, pre-Sunset Boulevard. And for sheer historical richness, few photos can top the rarified sight of Walt Whitman at his home on Mickle Street in Camden, NJ, attributed to Thomas Eakins on the basis of an Eakins painting of Whitman in the same pose.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.
(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive. Books must be aimed at photography collecting, not how-to books for photographers.)