#15/16: Imogen Cunningham and Rondal Partridge

June 12, 2014 § 2 Comments

I had met Joshua Partridge and his father Rondal (Imogen Cunningham’s grandson and son), years ago at Photo San Francisco. Not only did we meet Joshua and Rondal there, but also Ruth Bernhard who was being escorted by her close friend, Michael Kenna. It seemed to be a star-filled show and it was, indeed, when photography was still a film-based medium for the most part.

In 2010, I received a call from Joshua Partridge. Joshua explained to me that he wanted very much to contribute to Imogen’s legacy, something he hadn’t yet done, before he closed his lab to then contemplate the idea of retiring to a monastery and living as a monk. He suggested that we do a project on Imogen Cunningham. Intrigued, I flew out to Berkeley, California to meet Joshua, his brother Aaron, and his sister Meg, Director of the Imogen Cunningham Trust. That was the beginning of the the trilogy of books we embarked on with the Imogen Cunningham Trust.

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The first title in 2012, Imogen Cunningham Platinum and Palladium, must have been a great surprise to many because not only did it include ten platinum Imogen Cunningham Trust prints and three large palladium prints printed by Joshua of three iconic images, as well as a thirty year-old print printed by Rondal from her glass plates, but also, a vintage print printed by Imogen herself. Its success was immediate.

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The next year, 2013, Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist, followed also to great success with a collection of ten platinum Trust prints of her early symbolist work plus three wonderfully colorful free-standing gum-over-platinum prints.

“What influence, one might wonder, could William Morris…have had on the work of the great Modernist American photographer Imogen Cunningham? Hardly any, one might assume. Yet she claimed him as an influence, and his influence was intellectual, social, and visual.”  -John Wood

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During a trip to Berkeley and while planning the next two titles with the Imogen Cunningham Trust, the first stop was Rondal Partridge’s home. I had a rare and thorough tour of Rondal’s personality, home and archive. I was so awestruck at his raw talent and that he spent his entire life as a working photographer, that I proposed at our 21st Editions summit in Saxton’s River (the home of 21st Editions co-founder John Wood) a project with Ron. In fact, what I did was lay out some one hundred photographs to our team without disclosing the artist, and it was a unanimous hands-down yes by all even before knowing who made them! At that moment The Symmetry of Endeavor was born.

After the experience of seeing Ron’s work John Wood wrote in his Introduction, “Rondal Partridge is one of the greatest and most visually exciting photographers of the twentieth century. His vision is thoroughly and completely his own, and that his name is not yet enshrined in the pantheon of the other greats is a tragic accident of photographic history, an omission which likely has more to do with his mother’s great fame than with a serious consideration of his art.”

Interesting to note and unusual, indeed, is the fact that Ron was such a prolific and unrelenting artist, that he would generally only print one or just a few prints of any one negative. He was always creatively driven to find the next image, something new, something not seen, something eclectic. As a result platinum prints printed by Ron are rare, while the number of subjects and variations on subjects are plentiful. Ron was kind enough to donate one vintage print of his own to each of the portfolios of twelve platinum prints created for The Symmetry of Endeavor. Today, Ron is in his 96th year and still in Berkeley, California.

#8/16: New York

May 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events, and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

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New York was an obvious theme that John Wood, 21st Editions Editor and co-founder, gravitated toward. Our previous collaborations with Sheila Metzner in The Journal of Contemporary Photography, Volumes II and V, helped us to understand the life-long and very close connection that Sheila had with Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge, and New York, not unlike Walt Whitman and Hart Crane, poets of the two greatest epic poems on America ever composed. It was with Sheila’s great enthusiasm and excitement that she accepted John’s  proposal to be paired with both in New York (2000) and The Bridge (2007). New York was the very first Platinum Series title for 21st Editions and became even more significant a year later, since many of the images were taken from the top of the World Trade Center. After 9/11 and out of respect, we chose not to show the book publicly for quite some time. Now a very rare and hard to find title, it set the stage for New York as a reoccurring theme for the press.
 
John Wood calls MacLean Gander’s The New City (2008) the greatest epic poem on America since those by Whitman and Crane. In his introduction, John writes that “Hayman’s images and Gander’s words are a perfect pairing, not that the photographs illustrate the poems or that the poems describe the pictures. In fact, neither of these artists knew each other prior to this book, but they both create a sensuous, beautiful, yet realistic and contemporary meditation on New York and on the larger American experience that New York suggests…”

We met Jefferson when he was an aspiring artist and frame maker in New York at one of his earlier showings in the middle of an antique car gallery. We were immediately sold and knew we wanted to work with him at some point in the future. Jefferson Hayman’s images of New York in The New City not only capture the spirit of the city but they bring us back in time and revisit the New York of Coburn, Steichen, and Stieglitz. Hayman’s photographic style is synonymous with the artist himself – refined and respectful, creating economical compositions that leave the viewer completely satisfied.

 
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Greg Gorman first approached us in 2000 at Photo LA when we first were showing a prototype of New York. In 2003 Greg worked with us on creating a set of large gum-over-platinum prints of two of his iconic images, Rex and Gregory and Tony. It wasn’t until 2007 that the timing seemed to be just right for a Platinum Series book/print set, at which point John Wood saw the perfect match with The Odes of Pindar. Greg’s persistence and enthusiasm led us to this book and for that we are eternally grateful. Mac Holbert of Nash Editions was part of the proofing process with Greg for the 11 platinum prints that would be included. After Mac saw Greg’s book and loved it, he suggested to Graham Nash that we work together, which then led to Love, Graham Nash (4 years in the making). 
 

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