Nothing really new here. One of his photos came across Tumblr and reminded me of how often Doc Edgerton is on my mind nowadays. He’s one of those photographers whose name you’re supposed to know but, at the same time, feels like someone of technical rather than artistic importance. I’m not sure exactly where that line is but I’m pretty sure both Muybridge and Edgerton are straddling it.
In any case, he’s on my mind so much because every few months another photoseries goes viral* which is pretty much straight out of the Doc Edgerton handbook of using strobes to freeze action and capture the subject in a shape which we never see them in. I’m not knocking the concept. I’m just intrigued at how much interest it still holds.
Edgerton’s photos were pushing the limits of flash and strobes in their time. We didn’t know stuff like this could be done. Now? Besides the photoseries, we see these effects in sports broadcasts all the time. And they still fascinate us.
Part of me thinks this is because the frozen-in-motion effect helps us buy into the photography-as-truth thing in showing us things that are TRUE yet which we have never seen before.* This is still the goal that many photographers want to achieve.
*Even though it’s actually true that these ultra-short exposures are inherently unreal and nothing ever looks like these.
At the same time, I can’t help wondering how, despite the way we constantly get new viral series along these lines, this kind of thing doesn’t feel like art to me. Is it in the framing of the photos? So many of these are in the “look what happens when” camp where the content of the image is seemingly much more important than the photo itself. There’s obviously more to these photos than just the content but the framing suggests that we ignore that aspect. Or is it the fact that Edgerton’s work itself is held by MIT and feels more like evidence from science experiments rather an artist’s explorations.
Something which came across tumblr and just grabbed me. Partly because it’s nice to see cat photography end up as art. But there’s also just something about these photos which I love.
Call it style. Call it taste. Call it whatever. It’s a way of looking at the world which I really dig. I enjoyed looking through the rest of his site.
And as someone who does all his black and whites in greyscale mode, I really should think more about toning. We live in a cool-grey world. It’s nice to see warm greys which aren’t trying to be all vintage.
No other teacher at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, nor nearly any other artist of the 1920s in Germany, an epoch so rich in utopian designs, developed such a wide range of ideas and activities as Moholy-Nagy. His work bears evidence to the fact that he considered painting and film, photography and sculpture, stage set design, drawing, and the photogram to be of equal importance.
Because I get excited anytime I run across something online which combines photography with other media. Not that any of this is new. But it’s still something we tend to forget a lot when we end up focusing on photography by itself.
I’m not doing it to titillate anybody’s interests. I want to show off how beautiful my subjects are, whether it’s a cheetah or a live girl or two of them together. That’s more important to me than anything.
—Bunny Yeager, 1929–2014
Yeager always styled her own backdrops, props and costumes—often making objects and bathing suits from materials at hand. Her unique self-portrait techniques certainly foreshadow the work of contemporary artists Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura, known for their own masquerade-based self-portraiture.
Ms. Yeager, who took up her art by accident, was one of the world’s most celebrated photographers of female nudes and near-nudes of the 1950s and ’60s. She is widely credited with helping turn the erotic pinup — long a murky enterprise in every sense of the word — into high photographic art.
We lost one of the stars of Tumblr on Monday. It’s interesting to read the obits and think about how things have changed—both in the what counts as art and what counts as titillating departments. And how so much of both areas today reference these photos still.
It’s also a worthwhile reminder that so much of art now wasn’t art when it was first produced and how fluid those borders and classifications are. Especially in photography.
It’s easy to dismiss these as kitschy pin-ups. Because they are. But they’re so much more too. There’s self-representation. There’s the blurring of the line between photographer and model. There’s the idea of a safe space for the models to work away from any male gaze. There’s the fact that so much of her work appears to have harnessed a genuine sense of fun. There’s the fact that so much of this look (much of which is non-studio in daylight) is the kind of thing people are still trying to copy today.
This is one Carleton Watkins picture printed four different times. It’s The Domes from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite (1865-66). Different prints of the picture are in about a dozen different collections around the world.
This post also whets my appetite for the giant Watkins show at Stanford. It’s one of the most must-see things on my summer itinerary. Heck, I’ve already acquired the catalog since I know I’ll love this show.