Sunday, March 8, 2015

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)

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"Germaine, you and I are the greatest photographers of our time, I in the old sense you in the modern one" -- Man Ray

"[Germaine Krull] was one of the first, for example, to photograph industrial images - factories, bridges, machinery, sometimes viewed from vertiginous angles, finding the essence of the muscular patterns inherent in this subject matter. Her portfolio, Metal(1928), was a high point in her career, a time when she was ranked with Man Ray as a leading photographer of her time." --Arthur Lazere

Described by Naomi Rosenblum (A History of Women Photographers) as "an especially outspoken example" of a group of early 20th-century female photographers who "could lead lives free from convention", Germaine Krull is best known for photographically-illustrated books. Her 1928 portfolio Métal depicted "the essentially masculine subject of the industrial landscape. Parr and Badger consider it "the finest example of a modernist photobook in the dynamic, cinematographic mode."
The book is technically an album, with sixty-four numbered but unbound collotype reproductions that can ostensibly be rearranged at will. There are no captions and no identifying markers, and the images include both vertical and horizontal compositions. In a brief note beneath an introduc¬tory text by Florent Fels, Krull tells us that these photographs include a lifting bridge over the Meuse River in Rotterdam ...; the cranes in the Amsterdam port; the Eiffel Tower; Marseille’s transporter bridge; and other industrial forms she found. But it would be difficult to decipher these subjects from the photographs themselves. Although there are eleven Eiffel Tower images in the book, for example, they are often so abstracted that the subject is unidentifiable, and none are on contiguous pages.

For Krull, metal was the most powerful metaphor for the modern world, and her book Métal includes many of the industrial forms she saw in Europe. It features both multiple exposures and straight images, and the entire volume is structured according to the principles of film montage.

Sergei Eisenstein’s theories of montage were particularly important ... and Krull’s Métal serves to demonstrate them. She actively adopted the Soviet filmmaker’s ideas of rupture and “visual counterpoint,” involving graphic, planar, volumetric, and spatial conflicts. Scholars have often read Métal as a purely formal experiment, but Krull used it as a commentary on contemporary life, producing the kind of montage that her friend Walter Benjamin championed, in which “the superimposed element disrupts the context in which it is inserted. . . . The discovery is accomplished by means of the interruption of sequences. Only interruption here has not the character of a stimulant but an energizing function.” The quality of interruption, according to Benjamin, differentiates truly revolutionary work from the mere aping of the modern world, an approach that he scornfully attributes to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch. For Krull, interruption could occur in a multiple exposure, as in the ... Métal image depicting overlapping views of bicycle parts. Or interruption can be found while turning a book’s pages, moving from a drive-belt detail to ominously large-scale cargo cranes, or from the Rotterdam Bridge over the Meuse to a detail of a centrifugal speed governor. Whether portraying a roller coaster, documenting the Eiffel Tower, or creating her book of industrial fragments, Krull engaged the decade’s cacophony and used provocative experimental techniques to capture its allure. 

Quoted material from Kim Sichel, "Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Frees, Harry Whittier (1879–1953)

According to Wikipedia
Harry Whittier Frees (1879–1953) was an American photographer who created novelty postcards and children's books based on his photographs of live, posed animals. He dressed the animals and posed them in human situations with props, often with captions; these can be seen as progenitors of modern lolcats.
There's no doubt Frees went to a lot of trouble to convince people that the pets were live. See, for example, the ad for "Photographing Animal Pets" on the first page of Kitty's First Day at Catnip School. But I don't buy it. Have a look for yourself, particularly at the paws and the awkward way they are frequently bent. He was working with stuffed animals.