Best of Photography and Film from the George Eastman House

George Eastman House Show at the Speed Museum.

While I was in Louisville last weekend I saw a show at the Speed Art Museum of a selection of photographs from the George Eastman House. It was basically a history of photography show, but it excluded all things big or digital.

I don’t know if I could make an objective review of a show such as this, but I do know that there were a few photographs that stood out, and some in which I found new joy or meaning.

There was a picture by Adolphe Braun, whom I recently discovered trough a book of his work, that was more beautiful that I would have imagined from looking at reproductions.

weston_excusado.jpg

Edward Weston had his own panel with the obligatory Pepper #30 hanging above the Excusado from 1925. As wonderful and moving as the pepper can be, I found the Excusado to be far more beautiful than Pepper #30. The reason for that is mostly due to the copy of the pepper was a cold-toned print, which to me, is not as beautiful as an object as a creamy, warm-toned print such as the Excusado. In addition, the forms in the later photograph are more subtle, but no less sensuous than the Pepper #30.

modotti.jpg

And while I am on the subject of Edward Weston, I must mention that I have a new-found respect for Tina Modotti. In my immature and arrogant past I never thought of her as being as important of an artist as Weston. Now that I have grown up, I can see that my thinking of her accomplishment was based more on her gender and on the length and scope of her “career” rather than on her sensitivity as an artist. Ultimately, I feel it is that sensitivity that makes an artist/photographer’s work important on a human and emotional level.

barnard.jpg

It might not be correct in doing so, but I am comparing nearly all war photographs to those of Simon Norfolk. Maybe that is just to say that through photographs of the aftermath of war, one sees not victory of one side over the other, but the universal sense of pain and loss if the innocent. George Barnard’s Ruin of Charleston from the civil war is no exception.

In conjunction with the Eastman House show and the View Camera Conference there was a small exhibition of photographs that were made exclusively with large-format view cameras. The photographs ranged from 19th-century geological survey photographs to a photograph by David Graham. The one that had the most impact for me was the 1978 Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia, by Nicholas Nixon. I searched the internet for hours trying to find a scan of it. It isn’t anything that would knock your socks off, but it is sweet, and sometimes, that is all you need.

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About Richard Boutwell

I am an emerging photographer originally from the Hi-Desert of Southern California, and relocated to Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 2002 for an intensive apprenticeship with the photographers Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee. I now live in Philadelphia, and concentrate on my own projects and writing.
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