About the Contributors #15

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Over the years John Wood created many unexpected pairings. The resulting titles were interesting new interpretations of contemporary and classic text and photography.

Examples include Flor Garduno illustrating The Sonnets of Shakespeare, Brigitte Carnochan’s flowers and nudes with Raul Peschiera’s The Shining Path, and Imogen Cunningham paired with William Morris.

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John Wood, from The Sonnets of Shakespeare

…The reason the sonnets were immediately seen as applicable to a women is because of their universality. They are about Love and its power. An artist’s intention is historically interesting to note, but it is by no means the sole meaning of a work of art. Art always speaks to us in ways its creators did not envision; that is its power; that is why it lasts. And it is only in the context of the narrative of the entire sequence that particular poems, with few exceptions, can be identified as having been written for the young man. No one reads sonnet sequences for their plots, since lyric poems do not really tell stories, and few people read them from start to finish. One picks and chooses and reads randomly for pleasure. And so these universal poems are finally monuments to the universal power of love and the finest such monuments in the English language.

I spoke of Shakespeare as a great psychologist, but so is Flor Garduno. She understands woman more universally, it appears to me, than any other visual artist. She sees woman in all her dimensions-as Siren, Eve, Medusa,Venus-sees her in the sweep of all her varied powers and attractions. Her work is finally a deeply moving tribute to woman, to all women, because, as I suggested earlier, her Venus is Everywoman.

Shakespeare’s genius, like Garduno’s, comes from his deep understanding of human nature. In play after play we see ourselves strutting about in all the cruelty, jealousy, meanness, bad temper, good humor, compassion, honor, and love we are capable of. He shows us our burden and our glory…

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John Wood, from The Shining Path  

…That is Carnochan’s shining path-beauty in perfect measure. But that is not The Shining Path of Raul Peschiera’s brilliant poem that accompanies these photographs. The shining path he refers to is Sendero Luminoso, a violent Peruvian revolutionary movement of the 1980’s that disrupted the country’s economy and caused perhaps as many as 25,000 deaths before its leader was captured in 1992.

Carnochan photographs and Peschiera poetry might then seem not merely a strange marriage but an impossible yoking of two dissimilar bodies of work having nothing in common. But a perusal of Peschiera’s poem makes it clear that his shining path and Carnochan’s are the same. He writes of the same intoxication with sensuality and beauty that Carnochan photographs. The central figure of his poem is ostensibly Abimael Guzmán, the leader of Sendero Luminoso, and the poem narrates several of Sendero Luminoso’s most violent acts, but The Shining Path is actually a love poem with both Guzmán’s wife, Augusta, and Peru at its center. In the eye of its turbulent violence slumber luxury, calm, and pleasure. And Peschiera invites us into the dream.

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John Wood, from Symbolist

What influence, one might wonder, could William Morris, poet, Utopian Socialist, revolutionary, English Arts and Crafts movement leader, textile and furniture designer, Pre-Raphaelite, a founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and creator of the Kelmscott Press, 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.

Cunningham, a radical herself, grew up in a radical and progressive household, and so her sensibilities were ripe for the influence of William Morris. Her father was “a humanist” she said. “There’s no question about that. And his…life was much motivated by theosophical beliefs. He never drove it into anybody, or tried to tell people what they ought to think,….”

About the Contributors #12

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

The beginning of this year brought a new Editor to 21st Editions, John Stauffer. John’s credentials are numerous (a tenured Harvard Professor with 15 books, more than 100 articles, scholarly awards, and much more). He continues to offer a rich historical context for the photographs and artists represented in many 21st Editions titles.

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JOHN STAUFFER ON
Todd Webb: New York, 1946

When Todd Webb arrived in New York in November 1945, Henry Luce’s famous prophecy, uttered five years earlier, that the U.S. would become the “leader of the world” and launch an “American century,” seemed to have been realized. The war had made America rich and powerful while decimating much of Europe, and artists flocked to its cultural center. There was now talk that New York might replace Paris as the world center of art and culture, as Serge Guilbaut has noted. But “it was important to find the right image for America and its culture,” which would “mirror the experience of [the] age.” This image would need to resonate with the formal and ideological sensibilities of New York and the U.S., as well as the rest of the art world. In painting, abstract expressionism would become that image. Jackson Pollock’s seemingly random drips of paint evoked an existential angst that mirrored the “experience of the age.”

In photography, the idea and image of the city became the symbol of the new postwar world. In 1946 alone, Webb shared the streets of New York with Helen Levitt (with whom he sometimes photographed), Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Minor White, Gordon Parks, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, Andreas Feininger, Weegee, Dan Weiner, and Sid Grossman.6 Unlike his peers, Webb was comparatively new to photography; he called his arrival in New York “the beginning of my career in photography.” Several people, including Paul Strand and Roy Stryker (for whom he eventually worked), advised him to go back home to a “safe” job inDetroit. “How lucky I was to refuse [their] advice.”

How lucky we are as well. Alfred Stieglitz, Webb’s mentor and friend, was right: there is in Webb’s New York photographs a tenderness without sentimentality that set him apart from his peers. As Stieglitz knew, photographers tended to portray New York as hardboiled or ironic or lyrical or messy, but never with tenderness. The word was not then associated with the city. (It rarely is today.)

There is also in Webb’s New York a sense of regenerative exuberance that stemmed partly from the war. Following the allied victory in Europe and the liberation of millions of prisoners from Hitler’s fallen Reich, people throughout the West began to hope for a unified world (“One World”) devoted to peace, freedom, and harmony among nations. But the exuberance did not last. Visions of “One World” vanished after Hiroshima, the rise of Soviet aggression, and the specter of a third world war. As a result, 1945 ended on “a mixed note of gratitude and anxiety,” as Ian Buruma notes. People had “fewer illusions about a glorious future and growing fears about an increasingly divided world.” They wanted above all to get on with their own lives. “During a worldwide war, everywhere matters. In times of peace, people look to home.” Todd Webb’s New York is a symbol of America’s home in the wake of war, in which people have retained their faith “One World.”

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JOHN STAUFFER ON WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHY
Imogen Cunningham: Family

Cunningham knew that women faced formidable social and economic barriers…but she also recognized that as a profession, photography was comparatively open to women. Not only was there the force of Käsebier, but Jessie Tarbox Beals and Frances Benjamin Johnston were prominent photojournalists, and the San Francisco Pictorialist Annie Brigman had recently been published in Camera Work. Indeed women had played important roles in photography from its inception. Constance Fox Talbot, Henry’s wife, was one of the very first photographers; Nancy Hawes hand-tinted Southworth and Hawes’ daguerreotypes; and Julia Margaret Cameron was among the nineteenth-century’s most accomplished portraitists. Before the Civil War there were thirty-nine professional women photographers on the west-coast alone. “Photography is the democratic art,” Cunningham said in her manifesto, because it depicted “the life of the masses” and accepted women.

Photography’s comparative openness toward women was due to several factors. There were few barriers to entry; start-up expenses were modest; and the profession required no formal apprenticeship in which masters could exclude women. Then too, photography did not suffer from the myths of genre superiority that plagued painting and sculpture, whose cultural gatekeepers excluded women from exhibitions and museums.

The main argument of Cunningham’s manifesto, however, was that “women as well as men need to be granted the right of self-expression through work.” Women, like men, wanted fulfilling, creative professions without having to sacrifice marriage and “the care and rearing of children.” Cunningham no doubt imagined herself eventually marrying and having children while remaining devoted to her profession. Photography was in this sense an ideal profession, and it could have “an enlarging effect upon the home.” Why? Because “being devoted to one’s work is much like hearing a great Wagnerian opera with one’s soul open. The energy and vitality of life seems for a time sapped but comes back in renewed quantity and quality.”

…It was as if Cunningham’s manifesto/artist statement prepared her for what was soon to come. Two years after publishing it, she married Roi Partridge, an accomplished etcher. Ten months later, in December 1915, she gave birth to their first child, Gryffyd, followed by twins, Rondal and Padraic, in 1917. Partridge did not share her New Woman values; he taught art at Mills College while also creating his own art, and rarely contributed to childcare. And so for the next decade and more, Cunningham heroically juggled career and motherhood by focusing on subjects at home: her children and the plants in her garden. In this she became a model for subsequent generations of female photographers (one thinks especially of Sally Mann’s Immediate Family).

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JOHN STAUFFER ON SALLY MANN’S
Southern Landscape

Mann’s photographs, especially her landscapes, are also intimately connected to her Southern identity. In her Massey lectures she emphasized that we cannot understand her art without acknowledging her Southerness. “Maybe nothing so engages the Southern heart as a good piece of family land,” she said, referring to herself. Born and bred in Lexington, Virginia, she lives with her husband Larry on a farm partly inherited from her father, and she has said that she will be buried there as well. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are also buried in Lexington. Mann was born in Jackson’s home, and one of her early photographic projects was to restore, print, and file glass negatives of Michael Miley, who is known as “General Lee’s photographer.” Lee and Jackson are of course the twin gods of Southern memory, a kind of Father-Son duo. Their “last meeting” before Jackson was killed at Chancellorsville, with Lee astride “Traveller” and Jackson on “Little Sorrel,” is an iconic image, among the most popular Southern historical prints. You might say, then, that Lexington, Sally Mann’s home, is the Jerusalem of the South.

Perhaps it is no wonder that Sally Mann is drawn, both in her images and the literature she reads, to the gothic, with its eccentrics, its haunting, and its unruly landscapes. “I think the South depends on its eccentrics,” she has said, and she considers herself one of them. Her work undermines prevailing platitudes, from perceptions of children to the South’s “Lost Cause,” which ignores the horrors of slavery and Jim-Crow segregation and presents the Old South as a utopian paradise. She named her son Emmett, in part after the young Emmett Till, whose lynching in 1955 sent shock waves throughout the country, exposing the savagery of Southern segregation; and she photographed the spot where Till’s body had been dumped into the Tallahatchie River. She aptly revised Flannery O’Connor’s understanding of the South as “Christ-haunted”: “I say it’s death-haunted.” It is haunted by (among other things) the deaths of slaves, the deaths of its white men during the Civil War, and the deaths of lynching victims during Jim-Crow segregation. And she is explicit in connecting her photographs of the Southern landscape to the South’s haunted past: “The pictures I took on those awestruck, heartbreaking trips down south were pegged to the familiar corner posts of my conscious being: memory, loss, time, and love”…

About the Contributors #10

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

A rare look into personal reflections and thoughts through the pages of artists’ journals, sketchbooks and an interview.

The Maxims of Men Disclose Their Hearts
The Journal of Joel-Peter Witkin

French Saying
“The maxims of men
describe their hearts.”
This is true of art
because the heart (and soul)
must grow in love and compassion.
The artist’s vocation is to purify
his heart & soul in order to develop
a personal vision,
to create
a sacred dimension.

I make photographs because it allows me to proclaim in the Light what I’ve perceived in the Darkness of my being. My faith and my photographs are the reasons I live!! I know I’m not going to change the world with what I make. But I want to make work that the viewer perceives as the reproduction of my Soul. That is my criteria and I believe is the reason all great art is made!

We live in a lost and dying world. A great deal of art produced now reflects this-an art of total emptiness, meaninglessness. This “Art” is a denial of the wisdom of the past presented in the unformed, immature
philosophy of “Post Modern” sound bites.

I want to penetrate rather than reproduce reality. Photograph (and print) as though that was the first photograph or print ever made.

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Sheila Metzner: Fashion

M. Fresson,
Thank you for the fine prints. It is as though you read my mind. They are perfect. I would like to continue to work with you in this way for a while. And I would like to continue to experiment…

The “soft-eye” is transforming. One minute you are “looking,” suddenly you are “seeing” everything changes, dimension, sensation of colors, a kind of objective discrimination begins. Thoughts are magnetized to the vision. Like clouds congregate at the horizon. Reality and vision are one. There is no separation. You are to believe in yourself and what you see. Enraptured until the other reality which you do neither inhabit nor own, outright, calls you back.

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Imogen Cunningham: Platinum and Palladium

I never photograph ugliness. I am afraid I am a little too aesthetic to be anything but old-fashioned. I agree to that. I let myself be old-fashioned, why shouldn’t I? I have a formula for how to make a good photograph; I think that in order to make a good photograph, you have to be enthusiastic. That is, you have to think about it, like a poet would.

I think everything you do is something of a contribution, unless it’s no good. Then you better hide it. What I like to see about a photograph, is everything smoothly in focus-or if it’s out of focus, for a purpose. And, the quality and gradations of value, rendered, more nearly and accurately in a smaller photograph. I don’t mean tiny, but I mean, not too big. I think still photography has more of an aesthetic appeal, that is the single photograph.

For some people history is a great adventure, for others a great bore. But for me it is overpowering. As far as the history of photography is concerned, I have lived more than half of it. But it still gives me pause.

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#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.

21st Editions in London

December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Unique to the history of photography, 21st Editions represents the intersection created between the classically processed photographic image, prose, poetry, and the fine-press book that began with the great English designer, artist, poet and publisher, William Morris, and his Kelmscott Press’s masterpiece, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer.

It is therefore fitting that 21st Editions, just having celebrating its 15th year, will be exhibiting at the London Art Fair. The fair runs from January 15-19, 2014 with a VIP Preview on Tuesday, January 14. Highlights from the collection of more than 40 titles published since 1998 will be on display and available.

Our booth (stand #50) will highlight our newest books: Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist with poetry and prose by William Morris and Sally Mann’s Southern Landscape. We will also showcase significant titles such as Love, Graham Nash, Yamamoto Masao, The Sonnets of Shakespeare with artist Flor Garduño, Michael Kenna’s Huangshan, and a portfolio of hand-pulled photogravures by Josephine Sacabo.

Please let us know if you are interested in seeing us in London. Pam or Steve can be reached at 508-398-3000 or 21st@21stEditions.com

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This Weekend in Boston

November 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 8am-4pm

The new Back Bay Events Center,
also known as Dorothy Quincy Suite,
John Hancock Hall
180 Berkeley St. (between Saint James and Stuart), Boston

We will be showing many titles including:
Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist
and Sally Mann’s Southern Landscape.

Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist

May 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

In 2012, 21st Editions and the Imogen Cunningham Trust announced the first in a trilogy of books on the work of Imogen Cunningham. Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist with Poetry and Prose by William Morris is the second book in our trilogy on one of the most important women in the history of photography. 

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Photo LA 2013

January 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

We hope you will join us in Santa Monica at PHOTO LA opening next week.

During this year’s PHOTO LA 21st Editions is sponsoring lectures by Josephine Sacabo and Meg Partridge.

On Saturday, January 19th from 11:30am – 1:00pm, filmmaker and Director of the Imogen Cunningham Trust, Meg Partridge will speak about her father, Rondal Partridge, his work and his seventy-plus years making a living as a working photographer. Rondal Partridge is the son of Imogen Cunningham and his mentors and colleagues included Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston. The talk will feature Rondal’s recent project with 21st Editions: The Symmetry of Endeavor.

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