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Professional documentary style photographer, based in the Cotswolds!

Documentary Style Photography

I’m a documentary style photographer, based in the Cotswolds, who started shooting professionally some ten years ago now. Since then, I’ve been commissioned to photograph around the world. I shoot in a relaxed documentary style, telling a story, rather than creating conventional ‘staged’ photos.

The Fujifilm equipment provides everything I need to capture discreet, unobtrusive photographs. Documentary style photography captures the everyday lives of people and record snapshots of how and where we live.

If you look at the work of some of the photograhers I’ve also featured on this website, it’s obvious Street Photography is a vibrant and evolving art.

Naples Pier, Fl - Fujifilm X-Pro-3 - 'Social Distancing' | Narrating Images
Naples Pier, Fl – Fujifilm X-Pro-3 – ‘Social Distancing’ – © Narrating Images

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon was born in New York City to a Jewish family. His father, Jacob Israel Avedon, was a Russian-born immigrant who advanced from menial work to starting his own successful retail dress business on Fifth Avenue called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue.

Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004) was an American fashion and portrait photographer. He worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, specializing in capturing movement in still pictures of fashion, theatre and dance. An obituary published in The New York Times said that “his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century”.

© The Richard Avedon Foundation

Early Life and education
Avedon was born in New York City to a Jewish family. His father, Jacob Israel Avedon, was a Russian-born immigrant who advanced from menial work to starting his own successful retail dress business on Fifth Avenue called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue. His mother, Anna, from a family that owned a dress-manufacturing business, encouraged Richard’s love of fashion and art. Avedon’s interest in photography emerged when, at age 12, he joined a Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) Camera Club. He would use his family’s Kodak Box Brownie not only to feed his curiosity about the world but also to retreat from his personal life. His father was a critical and remote disciplinarian, who insisted that physical strength, education, and money prepared one for Life. The photographer’s first muse was his younger sister, Louise. During her teen years, she struggled through psychiatric treatment, eventually becoming increasingly withdrawn from reality and diagnosed with schizophrenia. These early influences of fashion and family would shape Avedon’s Life, and career often expressed in his desire to capture tragic beauty in photos.

The Comforts Portfolio, #02, A Fable in 24 Episodes, Montauk, New York, August 1995.
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

Avedon attended DeWitt Clinton High School in Bedford Park, Bronx, where from 1937 until 1940 he worked on the school paper, The Magpie, with James Baldwin. As a teen, he also won a Scholastic Art and Writing Award. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton that year, he enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry but dropped out after one year. He then started as a photographer for the Merchant Marines, taking ID shots of the crewmen with the Rolleiflex camera his father had given him. From 1944 to 1950, Avedon studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch at his Design Laboratory at The New School for Social Research.

Photography career
In 1944, Avedon began working as an advertising photographer for a department store but was quickly endorsed by Alexey Brodovitch, who was art director for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. Lillian Bassman also promoted Avedon’s career at Harper’s. In 1945, his photographs began appearing in Junior Bazaar and, a year later, in Harper’s Bazaar.

In 1946, Avedon had set up his own studio and began providing images for magazines including Vogue and Life. He soon became the chief photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. From 1950, he also contributed photographs to Life, vague Look and Graphis and in 1952 became Staff Editor and photographer for Theatre Arts Magazine. Avedon did not conform to the standard technique of taking studio fashion photographs, where models stood emotionless and seemingly indifferent to the camera. Instead, Avedon showed models full of emotion, smiling, laughing, and, many times, in action in outdoor settings, which was revolutionary at the time. However, towards the end of the 1950s, he became dissatisfied with daylight photography and open air locations and so turned to studio photography, using strobe lighting.

Lauren Hutton, sweater by Van Raalte, Great Exuma, The Bahamas, October 1968.
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

When Diana Vreeland left Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue in 1962, Avedon joined her as a staff photographer. He proceeded to become the lead photographer at Vogue and photographed most of the covers from 1973 until Anna Wintour became editor in chief in late 1988. Notable among his fashion advertisement series are the recurring assignments for Gianni Versace, beginning with the spring/summer campaign in 1980. He also photographed the Calvin Klein Jeans campaign featuring a fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields, as well as directing her in the accompanying television commercials. Avedon first worked with Shields in 1974 for a Colgate toothpaste ad. He shot her for Versace, 12 American Vogue covers and Revlon’s Most Unforgettable Women campaign. In the February 9, 1981, issue of Newsweek, Avedon said that “Brooke is a lightning rod. She focuses the inarticulate rage people feel about the decline in contemporary morality and destruction of innocence in the world.” On working with Avedon, Shields told Interview magazine in May 1992, “When Dick walks into the room, a lot of people are intimidated. But when he works, he’s so acutely creative, so sensitive. And he doesn’t like it if anyone else is around or speaking. There are a mutual vulnerability and a moment of fusion when he clicks the shutter. You either get it, or you don’t”.

In addition to his continuing fashion work, by the 1960s Avedon was making studio portraits of civil rights workers, politicians and cultural dissidents of various stripes in an America fissured by discord and violence. He branched out into photographing patients of mental hospitals, the Civil Rights Movement in 1963, protesters of the Vietnam War, and later the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Nastassja Kinski, actress, Los Angeles, June 14, 1981.
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

A personal book called “Nothing Personal,” with a text by his high school classmate James Baldwin, appeared in 1964. During this period, Avedon also created two well-known sets of portraits of The Beatles. The first, taken in mid to late 1967, became one of the first major rock poster series and consisted of five psychedelic portraits of the group — four heavily solarized individual colour portraits, and a black-and-white group portrait taken with a Rolleiflex camera and a normal Planar lens. The next year, he photographed the much more restrained portraits that were included with The Beatles LP in 1968. Among the many other rock bands photographed by Avedon, in 1973, he shot Electric Light Orchestra with all the members exposing their bellybuttons for recording On the Third Day.

Avedon was always interested in how portraiture captures the personality and soul of its subject. As his reputation as a photographer became widely known, he photographed many noted people in his studio with a large-format 8×10 view camera. His subjects include Buster Keaton, Marian Anderson, Marilyn Monroe, Ezra Pound, Isak Dinesen, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andy Warhol, and the Chicago Seven. His portraits are distinguished by their minimalist style, where the person is looking squarely at the camera, posed in front of a sheer white background. By eliminating the use of soft lights and props, Avedon was able to focus on the inner worlds of his subjects evoking emotions and reactions. He would at times evoke reactions from his portrait subjects by guiding them into uncomfortable areas of discussion or asking them psychologically probing questions. Through these means, he would produce images revealing aspects of his subject’s character and personality that were not typically captured by others.

Avedon’s mural groupings featured emblematic figures: Andy Warhol with the players and stars of The Factory; The Chicago Seven, political radicals charged with conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his extended family; and the Mission Council, a group of military and government officials who governed the United States’ participation in the Vietnam War.

New York Life #19, Central Park West, New York, November 17, 1949.
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

In 1982 Avedon produced a playfully inventive series of advertisements for fashion label Christian Dior, based on the idea of film stills. They were featuring director Andre Gregory, photographer Vincent Vallarino and model/actress Kelly Le Brock, the colour photographs purported to show the wild antics of a fictional “Dior family” living ménage à trois while wearing elegant fashions.

Avedon became the first staff photographer for The New Yorker in 1992, where his post-apocalyptic, wild fashion fable “In Memory of the Late Mr. and Mrs. Comfort,” featuring model Nadja Auermann and a skeleton, was published in 1995. Other pictures for the magazine, ranging from the first publication, in 1994, of previously unpublished photos of Marilyn Monroe to a resonant rendering of Christopher Reeve in his wheelchair and nude photographs of Charlize Theron in 2004, were topics of wide discussion. Some of his less controversial New Yorker portraits include those of Saul Bellow, Hillary Clinton, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott, John Kerry, and Stephen Sondheim. In his later years, he continued to contribute to Egoïste, where his photographs appeared from 1984 through 2000. In 1999, Avedon shot the cover photos for Japanese-American singer Hikaru Utada’s Addicted to You.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz names Avedon as a major influence, describing his style as ‘personal reportage’, developing a close rapport with one’s subjects.

In the American West
The cover of Avedon’s book In the American West (1985)
One of the things Avedon is distinguished by as a photographer is his large prints, sometimes measuring over three feet in height. His large-format portrait work of drifters, miners, cowboys and others from the western United States became a best-selling book and travelling exhibit entitled In the American West, and is regarded as an important hallmark in 20th-century portrait photography, and by some as Avedon’s magnum opus.

Serious heart inflammations hindered Avedon’s health in 1974. The troubling time inspired him to create a compelling collection from a new perspective. In 1979, he was commissioned by Mitchell A. Wilder (1913–1979), the director of the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, to complete the “Western Project.” Wilder envisioned the project to portray Avedon’s take on the American West. It became a turning point in Avedon’s career when he focused on everyday working-class subjects such as miners soiled in their work clothes, housewives, farmers and drifters on larger-than-life prints, instead of the more traditional options of focusing upon noted public figures or the openness and grandeur of the West. The project lasted five years, concluding with an exhibition and a catalogue. It allowed Avedon and his crew to photograph 762 people and expose approximately 17,000 sheets of 8×10 Kodak Tri-X Pan film. The collection identified a story within his subjects of their innermost self, a connection Avedon admits would not have happened if his new sense of mortality through severe heart conditions and ageing hadn’t occurred. Avedon visited and travelled through state fair rodeos, carnivals, coal mines, oil fields, slaughterhouses and prisons to find subjects. In 1994, Avedon revisited his subjects who would later speak about In the American West aftermath and its direct effects. Billy Mudd, a trucker, went long periods of time on his own away from his family. He was a depressed, disconnected and lonely man before Avedon offered him the chance to be photographed. When he saw his portrait for the first time, Mudd saw that Avedon was able to reveal something about Mudd that allowed him to recognize the need for change in his Life. The portrait transformed Mudd and led him to quit his job and return to his family.

Helen Whitney’s 1996 American Masters documentary episode, Avedon: Darkness and Light, depicts an ageing Avedon identifying In the American West as his best body of work. The project was embedded with Avedon’s goal to discover new dimensions within himself, from a Jewish photographer from the East who celebrated the lives of noted public figures, to an ageing man at one of the last chapters of his Life, to discovering the inner-worlds, and untold stories of his Western rural subjects.

During the production period, Avedon encountered problems with size availability for quality printing paper. While he experimented with platinum printing, he eventually settled on Portriga Rapid, a double-weight, fibre-based gelatin silver paper manufactured by Agfa-Gevaert. Each print required meticulous work, with an average of thirty to forty manipulations. Two exhibition sets of In the American West were printed as artist proofs, one set to remain at the Carter after the exhibition there, and the other, property of the artist, to travel to the subsequent six venues. Overall, the printing took nine months, consuming about 68,000 square feet (6,300 m2) of paper.

While In the American West is one of the Avedon’s most notable works, it has often been criticized for falsifying the West through voyeuristic themes and for exploiting his subjects. Critics question why a photographer from the East who traditionally focuses on models or public figures would go out West to capture the working class members who represent hardship and suffering. They argue that Avedon’s intentions are to influence and evoke condescending emotions from the viewer, such as pity.

The Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Convention, Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C., October 15, 1963.
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

Exhibitions
Avedon had numerous museum exhibitions around the world. His first major retrospective was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1970. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, presented two solo exhibitions during his lifetime, in 1978 and 2002. In 1980 another retrospective was organized by the University Art Museum in Berkeley. Major retrospectives were mounted at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1994), and at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (2007; who travelled to Milan, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and San Francisco, through 2009). Showing Avedon’s work from his earliest, sun-splashed pictures in 1944 to portraits in 2000 that convey his fashion fatigue, the International Center of Photography in 2009 mounted the largest survey of his fashion work. Also in 2009, the Corcoran Gallery of Art showed Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power, bringing together his political portraits for the first time.

Art market
In 2010, a record price of £719,000 was achieved at Christie’s for a unique seven-foot-high print of model Dovima, posing in a Christian Dior evening dress with elephants from the Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, in 1955. This particular print, the largest of this image, was made in 1978 for Avedon’s fashion retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and was bought by Maison Christian Dior.

Sunny Harnett and Alla, evening dresses by Balmain, Casino, Le Touquet, August 1954.
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

Personal Life and death
In 1944, Avedon married 19-year-old bank teller Dorcas Marie Nowell, who later became the model and actress Doe Avedon; they did not have children and divorced in 1949. The couple summered at the gay village of Cherry Grove, Fire Island, and Avedon’s bisexuality has been attested to by colleagues and family. He was reportedly devastated when Nowell left him.

In 1951, he married Evelyn Franklin; she died on March 13, 2004. Their marriage produced one son, John Avedon, who has written extensively about Tibet.

In 1970, Avedon purchased a former carriage house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that would serve as both his studio and apartment. In the late 1970s, he purchased a four-bedroom house on a 7.5-acre (3.0 ha) estate in Montauk, New York, between the Atlantic Ocean and a nature preserve; he sold it for almost $9 million in 2000.

Avedon’s nephew is martial arts actor Loren Avedon.

Avedon’s grandson is the photographer Michael Avedon.

According to Norma Stevens, Avedon’s longtime studio director, Avedon confided in her about his homosexual relationships, including a decade-long affair with director Mike Nichols.

On October 1, 2004, Avedon died in a San Antonio, Texas hospital of complications from a cerebral haemorrhage. He was in San Antonio shooting an assignment for The New Yorker. At the time of his death, he was also working on a new project titled Democracy to focus on the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

Legacy
The Richard Avedon Foundation is a private operating foundation, structured by Avedon during his lifetime. It began its work shortly after his death in 2004. Based in New York, the foundation is the repository for Avedon’s photographs, negatives, publications, papers, and archival materials. In 2006, Avedon’s personal collection was shown at the Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and at the Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and later sold to benefit the Avedon Foundation. The collection included photographs by Martin Munkacsi, Edward Steichen and Man Ray, among others. A slender volume, Eye of the Beholder: Photographs From the Collection of Richard Avedon (Fraenkel Gallery), assembles the majority of the collection in a boxed set of five booklets: “Diane Arbus,” “Peter Hujar”, “Irving Penn”, “The Countess de Castiglione” and “Etcetera,” which includes 19th- and 20th-century photographers.

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Spontaneous

I grabbed this shot on the evening before the end of the second Covid lockdown. It was taken with an old Olympus 35mm film camera

I grabbed this shot on the evening before the end of the second Covid lockdown. It was taken with an old Olympus 35mm film camera, loaded with Kodak Gold film – I then used a ‘little’ post-production to remove some of the grain, giving the image more clarity and structure.

© Narrating Images – Lockdown

Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki known primarily for photography that blends eroticism and bondage in a fine art context, he has published over 500 books.

Nobuyoshi Araki (荒木 経惟, Araki Nobuyoshi, May 25, 1940) is a Japanese photographer and contemporary artist professionally known by the mononym Arākī (アラーキー). Known primarily for photography that blends eroticism and bondage in a fine art context, he has published over 500 books.

Nobuyoshi Araki –

Early life and education
Araki was born in Tokyo on May 25, 1940. He studied film and photography at Chiba University from 1959, receiving a degree in 1963. He worked at the advertising agency Dentsu, where, in 1968, he met his future wife, the essayist Yōko Aoki.

© Nobuyoshi Araki

Art career
Araki is one of the most prolific Japanese artists. Many of his photographs are erotic, straddling a line between art and pornography. Among his photography books are Sentimental Journey (1971), and Tokyo Lucky Hole (1990). Sentimental Journey “1972–1992” is a diary of life with his wife Yōko, who died of ovarian cancer in 1990. The first part of Sentimental Journey shows the couple embarking on married life—their honeymoon and sexual relations. Pictures taken during Yoko’s last days were published in Winter Journey.

Parr and Badger include four of Araki’s books in the first volume of their photobook history: Zerokkusu Shashincho 24 (Xeroxed Photo Album), Senchimentaru na Tabi (Sentimental Journey), Tokyo Lucky Hole, and Shokuji (The Banquet).

© Nobuyoshi Araki

Araki contributed photography to the Sunrise anime series Brain Powerd.

In 1981, Araki directed High School Girl Fake Diary (女高生偽日記, Jokōsei nise nikki), a roman porno film, for the studio Nikkatsu. The film was a disappointment to Araki’s fans and to fans of the pink film genre.

© Nobuyoshi Araki

The Icelandic musician Björk is an admirer of Araki’s work, and served as one of his models. At her request, he photographed the cover and inner sleeve pages of her 1997 remix albumTelegram. More recently, he has photographed pop singer Lady Gaga.

In 2005, an American director, Travis Klose, recorded a documentary about Araki called Arakimentari, which discusses the artist’s lifestyle and work.

Araki was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008; he underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor.

In 2010, Araki’s cat, Chiro, died of old age.

In October 2013, Araki lost vision in his right eye due to a retinal artery obstruction. The 74-year-old artist used the experience as an inspiration to exhibit Love on the left eye, held on 21 June 2014 at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

Commissioned by Italian luxury label Bottega Veneta, Araki photographed Saskia de Brauw and Sung Jin Park in Tokyo for the brand’s spring/summer 2015 campaign.

© Nobuyoshi Araki

Controversy
Araki is known for his intimate access to models. When asked about this in 2011, he bragged that he gained access through sex.

In April 2018, Kaori, a model who posed for Araki from 2001 to 2016, wrote a blog post about her relationship with Araki in which she accused him of financial and artistic exploitation. Kaori stated that “she worked without a contract, was forced to take part in explicit shoots in front of strangers, was not regularly paid and that her nude images were often used without her consent.” In 2017, when she requested that he stop republishing or exhibiting some photographs of her, Araki wrote to Kaori, warning that she had no rights. She states that the experience led to psychological trauma and ill health. Kaori stated that the Me Too movement had encouraged her to speak out. The accusations have raised questions about the power dynamics between a photographer and his subject. In order to raise awareness of Kaori’s claims, the activist group Angry Asian Girls Association protested the opening of an exhibition of photographs by Araki at C/O Berlin December 2018.

© Nobuyoshi Araki

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Depth of field

The X-Pro range of cameras I use has two options for ‘Depth of Field Scale’: Pixel basis and Film format basis. This will enable you to adjust the camera setting to suit your need and style.

Where do you set the focus? This is a question we should always consider. How accurately do you want to focus? That is another critical question is on what basis are you adjusting the focus? Does it suit your needs and style?


The X-Pro range of cameras I use has two options for ‘Depth of Field Scale‘: Pixel basis and Film format basis. This will enable you to adjust the camera setting to suit your need and style.

Technically, the only region that is in focus is one particular plane parallel to the optical axis. All other areas will be out of focus, even when moved by 1mm. All other planes are in ‘bokeh‘; theoretically that is. The reality is that the amount of bokeh is so tiny that it appears to be sharp. You can basically ignore it. ‘Depth of Field‘ is about the plane in focus and areas in front and back of the plane that appear to be in focus (although it is defocused in theory).

The bokeh in the defocused area is referred to as ‘circle of confusion’. The ‘permissible circle of confusion‘ is the bokeh that is almost indistinguishable. Bigger the maximum permissible circle of confusion, the deeper the depth of field it gets. They are proportionally related.

©Fujifilm

The problem is this ‘permissible circle of confusion‘ changes depending on the image sensor resolution and the viewing condition.

The resolution of the image sensor is much higher than that of the silver-halide films, and the circle of confusion is therefore smaller. In addition, pixel-peeping has gotten popular, so the ‘permissible‘ circle of confusion is much more restricted—the ‘shallower‘ depth of field demands for much more accurate focus position and area. The depth of field scale on a pixel basis is optimised for such needs.

However, for some people, the depth of field becomes useful only when it is deep. Snap shooting, for example, takes advantages of the deepness of the depth of field and does not demand a more accurate and strict scale.

Go out in the street. Set the aperture to f/8. Search for the light. Find the composition. Predict the subject movement. Set the focus position based on the prediction. Do not get overly concerned about the accuracy; the ‘depth of field‘ will cover the error…. You can see that in such a style of photography, one benefits from the greater permissible area.

This is something that is inherited from the silver-halide film days. And to match this sense of feeling, we have the ‘Film format basis’. (*The value is based on the 4P print viewed at a standard distance.)

©Fujifilm

There is no correct answer. You should make the selection based on your style and needs. If the viewing size is already determined, then you can make your choice based on it. You do not have to stick to one basis either; you can always go back and forth.

For your information, the XF14mm, XF16mm, and XF23mm has a depth of field scale on the lens barrel based on the film format. If your style is to grab a shot by eye measurement or manual focus, these three lenses can help you.

©Fujifilm

Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo was born in Mexico City, his father was a teacher, but pursued painting, photography and writing, producing several plays and his grandfather was a professional portrait maker.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (February 4, 1902 – October 19, 2002) was a Mexican artistic photographer and one of the most influential figures in 20th-century Latin American photography. He was born and raised in Mexico City. While he took art classes at the Academy of San Carlos, his photography is self-taught. His career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s with its artistic peak between the 1920s and 1950s. His hallmark as a photographer was to capture images of the ordinary but in ironic or Surrealistic ways. His early work was based on European influences, but he was soon influenced by the Mexican muralism movement and the general cultural and political push at the time to redefine Mexican identity. He rejected the picturesque, employing elements to avoid stereotyping. He had numerous exhibitions of his work, worked in the Mexican cinema and established Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana publishing house. He won numerous awards for his work, mostly after 1970. His work was recognized by the UNESCO Memory of the World registry in 2017.

© Alvarez Bravo

Álvarez Bravo was born in Mexico City on February 4, 1902. His father was a teacher, but pursued painting, photography and writing, producing several plays and his grandfather was a professional portrait maker. Because of this, Alvarez Bravo had early exposure to the medium. He grew up in the historic centre of Mexico City behind the Cathedral, in one of the many former colonial buildings converted into apartments for the city’s middle and lower classes. He was eight years old when the Mexican Revolution began. He could hear gunfire and came across dead bodies as a child. This would affect his photography later.

From 1908 to 1914 Alvarez Bravo attended elementary at the Patricio Saénz boarding school in Tlalpan, but he had to leave school at the age of twelve when his father died. He worked as a clerk at a French textile factory for some time, and later at the Mexican Treasury Department. He studied accounting at night for a while but then switched to art classes at the Academy of San Carlos. Alvarez Bravo met Hugo Brehme in 1923 and bought his first camera in 1924. He began experimenting with it, with some advice from Brehme and subscriptions to photography magazines. In 1927, he met photographer Tina Modotti. Álvarez Bravo had admired Modotti’s work in magazines such as Forma and Mexican Folkways even before they met. She introduced him to several intellectuals and artists in Mexico City, including photographer Edward Weston, who encouraged him to continue with the craft.

© Alvarez Bravo

During his lifetime, Alvarez Bravo married three times, with all three wives photographers in their own right. His first wife was Lola Alvarez Bravo, whom he married in 1925, just as he was beginning his career as a freelance photographer. He taught her the craft, but she did not achieve the renown that he did. They had one son, Manuel and separated in 1934. His second wife was Doris Heyden, and his third was French photographer Colette Álvarez Urbajtel.

In 1973 he donated his personal collection of photographs and cameras to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. An additional 400 photographs are purchased by the Mexican government for the Museo de Arte Moderno.

He died on October 19, 2002.

Career
Álvarez Bravo’s photography career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s. It formed in the decades after the Mexican Revolution (1920s to 1950s) when there was significant creative output in the country, much of it sponsored by the government wanting to promote a new Mexican identity based on both modernity and the country’s indigenous past.

Although he was photographing in the late 1920s, he became a freelance photographer full-time in 1930, quitting his government job. That same year, Tina Modotti was deported from Mexico for political activities and she left Alvarez Bravo her camera and her job at Mexican Folkways magazine. For this publication, Alvarez Bravo began photographing the work of the Mexican muralists and other painters. During the rest of the 1930s, he established his career. He met photographer Paul Strand in 1933 on the set of the film “Redes”, and worked with him briefly. In 1938, he met French Surrealist artist André Breton, who promoted Alvaréz Bravo’s work in France, exhibiting it there. Later, Breton asked for a photograph for the cover of catalog for an exhibition in Mexico. Alvarez Bravo created “La buena fama durmiendo” (The good reputation sleeping), which Mexican censors rejected due to nudity. The photograph would be reproduced many times after that however.

Alvarez Bravo trained most of the next generation of photographers including Nacho López, Héctor García and Graciela Iturbide. From 1938 to 1939, he taught photography at the Escuela Central de Artes Plásticas, now the National School of Arts (UNAM). In the latter half of the 1960s he taught at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos.

© Alvarez Bravo

From 1943 to 1959, he worked in the Mexican film industry doing still shots, prompting him to experiment some with cinema. In 1949, he collaborated with José Revueltas in an experimental film called Coatlicue. In 1957 he worked making stills for the film Nazarín by Luis Buñuel.

His career included over 150 individual exhibitions of his work along with participation in over 200 collective exhibitions. In 1928, a photograph of his was chosen to be exhibited in the First Salón Mexciano de la Fotografía. His first individual exhibition was at the Galería Posada in Mexico City in 1932. In 1935, he exhibited with Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, with catalogue texts from Langston Hughes and Luis Cardoza y Aragón. In 1940 his work was part of a surrealist exhibition by André Breton at the gallery belonging to Inés Amor. Edward Steichen selected three of Bravo’s pictures for MoMA’s 1955 The Family of Man exhibition which was exhibited around the world, seen by more people than any other to date. In 1968, the Palacio de Bellas Artes held a retrospective of four decades of Alvarez Bravo’s work. He exhibited at the Pasadena Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1971, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington in 1978, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 1983 and the National Library in Madrid in 1985. From 1994 to 1995 Evidencias de lo invisible, cien fotografías (Evidence of the Invisible, One Hundred Photographs) was presented at the Fine Arts Museum in New Delhi, the Imperial Palace in Beijing and the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon. In 2001, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles hosted a retrospective of his work.

His first publication was in 1945, writing the book “El arte negro.” His photographs appeared in many publications over his career including the book México: pintura de hoy by Luis Cardoza y Aragón in 1964. He co wrote and provided the photographs for the book Instante y revelación along with Octavio Paz in 1982. In 1959 he founded the Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana with Leopoldo Méndez, Gabriel Figueroa, Carlos Pellicer and Rafael Carrillo which produces books on Mexican art. He spent most of the 1960s with this project, putting him in relative obscurity until the 1970s when his work was widely exhibited again.

Alvarez Bravo’s first significant award for his photography was first prize for an image of two lovers on a boat at the Feria Regional Ganadera in Oaxaca. In 1931, he won first prize at a competition sponsored by the La Tolteca company with an image called La Tolteca. Diego Rivera was one of the judges. The rest of his awards did not come until the 1970s. These include the Elias Sourasky Arts Prize in 1974, Premio Nacional de Arte and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975, nomination for the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1982, Hasselblad Award in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1984, Master of Photography Prize from the International Center of Photography in New York in 1987, Hugo Erfurth International Photography Award and the Agfa Gevaert Prize in Leverkusen, Germany in 1991, nomination as Creador Emérito by CONACULTA in 1993 and Gold Medal Award from the National Arts Club in New York along with the Leica Medal of Excellence and the Grand Cross of Merit Order in Portugal in 1995.

© Alvarez Bravo

Alvarez Bravo continued to photograph until his death. About a year before his death, when he could no longer travel, he photographed nudes. He stated that “It wasn’t the sort of work one can complain about.”

Significant collections of his work exist in Mexico and the United States. The Centro Fotográfico Álvarez Bravo is a non profit association founded in 1996 by Francisco Toledo in the city of Oaxaca. It contains six halls for temporary exhibitions of his photographs as well as works by others. It has a library specializing in photography and a permanent collection of 4,000 photographs by Álvarez Bravo and other notable photographers. The other is a collection of photographs that Alvarez Bravo began putting together himself in 1980 for the Fundación Cultural Televisa. This consists of 2,294 images, custody of which is now with the Casa Lamm Cultural Center in Mexico City which built a special vault for it. Since his death the photo archive at Casa Lamm continues to receive petitions for reproductions of the photographs from both Mexico and abroad, as well as provide assistance to researchers about the photographer and the times he lived in. Outside of Mexico, two significant collections are at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.

Artistry
He was the pioneer of artistic photography in Mexico and the most important figure in Latin American photography for the 20th century. His work reached creative heights from the 1920s through the 1940s. In developing his craft, he recognized the difficulties of the photographic medium, such as the inability to capture the past and the difficulty of avoiding stereotyping.

His primary subjects were nudes, folk art and rituals, especially burials and decorations, shop windows, urban streets and everyday interactions. Although he did much of his work in Mexico City, Diego Rivera encouraged him to visit the towns and rural areas. Alvarez Bravo’s photographs almost never depict trappings of political power, instead preferring subjects related to everyday life. Most of his subjects are nameless. In addition to his main subjects, he also sought out certain textures, especially the surfaces of walls and floors. One example is “Hair on Tile” featuring a long lock of wavy hair on a tile floor with star and cross designs.

He used large cameras which produced more detail in the finished print. However, he was more concerned with the images he photographed than the technical quality of his prints. The compositions were generally excellent and the images poetic. He gave titles to his photographs in order to distinguish them. The titles of his photographs often are based on Mexican myth and culture.

Alvarez Bravo’s early work was influenced by European Cubism, French Surrealism and abstract art. Much of this came from two books, one of Picasso and another on Japanese prints with work by Hokusai that influenced his early landscape work. However, his career was being established during the post Mexican Revolution era, when there was a cultural and political push to redefine Mexican identity. In the 1930s, he abandoned European influences for more Mexican themes and styles, influenced by the art of the Mexican muralism movement. His photographs became more complicated with ancient symbols of blood, death and religion along with the paradoxes and ambiguities of Mexican culture. His experience with death as a child as the Mexican Revolution was unfolding played a role in his photographs from the explicit “Striking Worker, Assassinated” to the more subtle “Portrait of the Eternal.” However, while Alvarez Bravo was interested in Mexico’s cultural identity, he was not particularly political.

Alvarez Bravo’s trademark was the ability to capture hidden and surreal essences beneath the apparently ordinary images he was photographing. Alvarez Bravo was the first Mexican photographer to take a militantly anti-picturesque stand, to avoid stereotyping Mexico’s variety of cultures. To avoid the picturesque, he had to present images that went against what was expected from photographs about Mexico even if photographing something classically Mexican. One way Alvarez Bravo did this was to employ a sense of irony, to the addition of an element contrary to expectations and the main focus of the photograph. For example, while photographing an indigenous man in typical clothing (Señor de Papantla 1934), the man stares defiantly back into the camera. Another was to capture people doing ordinary activities avoiding romanticism and sentimentality. One example is a photo of a mother and a shoeshine boy (La mama del bolero y el bolero 1950s) eating lunch together. Another is a group of men eating at a lunch counter (Los agachadfos 1934).

Alvarez Bravo used Mexico City’s streets and squares to frame statements about the social and cultural realities of the city. He used his lens to present Mexico City not in terms of moral or heroic, but rather of social relationships and material clashes. These include class and gender roles. During the 1930s and 1940s, he discovered increasingly more complex ways to frame the contradictions of Mexico’s urban life into social statements. In his pictures, feminine identity has a complex symbolic range where sex overlaps with other social identities of everyday life.

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Perfecting On-location Portraits

Rain doesn’t stop me from shooting. My Fujifilm XPro-3 and lenses are weather proof.

Choose the right location

Good locations are safe places to shoot that, in some cases, are close to amenities like a coffee shop and a toilet. They have a variety of interesting backgrounds to work with and have some top cover, too. Good locations include country parks and urban areas in need of regeneration.

Plan for the weather
Rain doesn’t stop me from shooting. My Fujifilm XPro-3 and lenses are all weatherproof. Choose styling items and accessories like hats and gloves for the person you are shooting to keep them warm if required. I find that, even on a sunny day when I’m working in the shade near tall buildings, the wind can be pretty chilling, so bear this in mind.

An underpass in Manchester in the rain is a perfectly good shoot location. I just used the light that was available for this shot of Zara. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF16mmF1.4 | F1.4 | 1/125th | ISO 400

Travel light
The less kit you take, the fewer decisions there are to make. I often shoot with just one lens on one camera body. It simplifies the shoot and keeps the picture style consistent.

Practice, practice, practice
I find that I need about three shoots a week to keep my photography evolving and improving. It is a practice that delivers the experience necessary to be relaxed and confident. This air of confidence relaxes sitters, and it shows in the pictures.

Even a hedge can be a location with the right forethought. I bought the yellow dress from Primark, and the red bag was Mischkah’s. Strong colours can work well together. It’s not often I use a central subject placement but it works here. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF35mmF1.4 | F4 | 1/180th second | ISO 200

Purpose
Understand precisely who the audience will be. Are the pictures for you or the person in the picture? Perhaps you are shooting for someone else entirely; a magazine picture editor or a company website designer. Have the user of the images in your mind throughout the shoot, and you will find yourself tweaking the mood, expression and poses to suit their needs.

Prepare your camera
Adjust your camera’s JPEG settings to give you as close to the final look of the shot you want. Don’t say, “Oh, I’ll fix that in post later”. If you are planning to present the images in monochrome but want to shoot colour too, switch the camera to a monochrome Film Simulation but shoot RAW and JPEG so you can have the best of both worlds. With the correct settings for the look you want set in the camera, you can control the shadow detail, highlights and exposure.

We were sheltering from the rain when I took this portrait on a railway platform. The coat acts as a sort of protection and evokes a vulnerability that is met by the full-on confident look. FUJIFILM X-Pro2 | XF35mmF1.4 | F1.4 | 1/500th second | ISO 200

Start with the end in mind
If the shot is going to be published as part of an editorial, leave space for text. If it might make the cover, shoot in portrait orientation and leave room for the title. If it is for social media, think square. If it is to be printed on art paper, give the shadows an extra stop of exposure etc.

Keep the shoot fun
Even if you are shooting serious portraits, have fun between the setups. For a lot of people, being photographed is like going to the dentist. Give your subject something to laugh about, and the whole experience can become fun. A better rapport will express itself in the depth of the pictures.

Once you have a ‘banker’ it’s time for some creative fun. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF18-55mmF2.8-4 | F4 | 1/125th second | ISO 800

Connection is everything

If you have eye contact in the photograph, make the expression engaging. Pull the character from the sitter into the lens. If you don’t have eye contact in the shot (many of my portraits are profiles), consider using an extended cable release or the Fujifilm Remote App to trigger the camera. Set the camera on a tripod, focused and framed correctly, then move into the eye line of your subject, create the moments you want to capture and take the shots remotely.

Work together
Share the images you shoot with your model as you go, so you can both have input into the creative process.

I love profile portraits like this one of Alicia as they draw the viewer in. We shot this in the entrance foyer to a museum as it was really windy outside. FUJIFILM X-T1 | XF56mmF1.2 | F2.8 | 1/500th | ISO 400

© Fujifilm – All copyrights respected.

Eve Arnold

In 1980, Eve had her first solo exhibition, which featured her photographic work done in China at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.

Eve Arnold, OBE, Hon. FRPS (née Cohen; April 21, 1912 – January 4, 2012) was an American photojournalist. She joined Magnum Photos agency in 1951 and became a full member in 1957. She was the first woman to join the agency.

Eve Arnold on the set of Becket. Photo: Robert Penn. 1963 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Early life and career
Eve Arnold was born Eve Cohen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the middle of nine children to immigrant Russian-Jewish parents, William Cohen (born Velvel Sklarski), a rabbi, and his wife, Bessie (Bosya Laschiner). Both of Arnold’s parents were grudgingly accepting of her choice to abandon medicine to study photography. She married Arnold Schmitz (later Arnold Arnold) in 1941. Her interest in photography began in 1946 while working for Kodak in their Fair Lawn NJ photo-finishing plant. Using a gifted Rolleicord, she began to photograph her city with a fresh humanitarian perspective. Over six weeks in 1948, she learned photographic skills from Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. Studying photography under Brodovitch, she produced a collection of photos from Harlem’s vivid fashion show scene. The collection published the series in the London Illustrated Picture Post in 1951. Although the series launched her career, she later wrote in a diary entry that the editor of the magazine changed her captions and reversed the message of her photographs to fit a racist narrative. She then became interested in African American migrant workers suffering housing discrimination in Long Island. She became the first woman to join the Magnum Agency, becoming a full member in 1957. Arnold spent time covering republican press events, the McCarthy hearings and explored the taboo subject of birth. She was well aware of the underrepresentation of women photojournalists and the position of women celebrities in the public eye. Arnold explored these ideas about women in her full-length photo book The Unretouched Woman published in 1976.

Marilyn Monroe going over her lines for a difficult scene she is about to play in the film “The Misfits”. 1960. © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Arnold’s images of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits (1961) were perhaps her most memorable, but she had taken many photos of Monroe from 1951 onwards. The intimate candid-style photos achieve Arnold’s goal to show Monroe’s anxieties about being the subject of constant media attention. She befriended Monroe, Joan Crawford, and many of her other subjects in order to write about them and photograph them better. Her previously unseen photos of Monroe were shown at a Halcyon Gallery exhibition in London during May 2005. Travel characterized much of Arnold’s work, as she took an interest in photographing the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the United States as well as in the rigid Soviet Union and in China. Arnold always strived to go deeper with her photography; she even returned from some shoots with cigarette burns on her clothing from a disapproving crowd. She produced a film in 1971, Women Behind the Veil, focusing on Arabian harems and hammams. She also photographed famous figures such as Queen Elizabeth II, Malcolm X, Marlene Dietrich, and Joan Crawford, and travelled around the world, photographing in China, Russia, South Africa and Afghanistan. Arnold left the United States and moved permanently to England in the early 1970s with her son, Francis Arnold. Several of her famous photographs were featured in Look, Life, Esquire, Harpar’s Bazaar, Geo, Stern, Paris-Match and Epoca. While working for the London Sunday Times, she began to make serious use of colour photography. However, Arnold’s preference continued to be black and white. She alternated between glamorous photos of cinema stars and portraits of everyday life and experiences. The most challenging task for Arnold was to make the mundane interesting. Her interest in “the poor, the old, the underdog” continued as her photos captured the gentle realness that Arnold portrays as characteristic of all humans. The relationship of trust between Arnold and her subjects is visible in the natural lighting and posing in her photographs.

Marlene Dietrich at the recording studios of Columbia Records. New York City. November, 1952. © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Later life
In 1980, she had her first solo exhibition, which featured her photographic work done in China at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. In the same year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers. In 1993, she was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and elected Master Photographer by New York’s International Center of Photography. Arnold was one of only five women in the catalogued touring exhibition Magna Brava. Rejected as a Vietnam war photographer, she found photographing South African Shantytowns also critiqued and drew awareness to the injustices in the world. She also photographed disabled veterans, herders in Mongolia, and women in brothels.

In 1960, Arnold did a series of portraits of American First Ladies including Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and Pat Nixon. In 1997, she was appointed a member of the Advisory Committee of the National Media Museum (formerly the Museum of Photography, Film & Television) in Bradford, West Yorkshire. She was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2003.

She lived in Mayfair for many years until her last illness, when she moved to a nursing home in St George’s Square, Pimlico. When Anjelica Huston asked if she was still doing photography, Arnold replied: “That’s over. I can’t hold a camera any more.” She said she spent most of her time reading such writers as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann and Leo Tolstoy. One of her last photos were of her grandson when he came to visit her for a photography lesson in 1994. She describes in her diary entry of that day the bond between photographer, subject, and a camera that is necessary for a portrait. She continued to stress her style of simplicity in photos with natural lighting and lack of posing and embellishments. She sums up “curiosity” as a one-word description of her driving force that led to her career of which was described as a friend as “a one-woman cultural exchange”.

American actor Paul Newman at The Actors Studio. New York City, USA. 1955. © Eve Arnold / Magnum Photos

Death
Arnold died in London on January 4, 2012, aged 99.

This article uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

X-Pro2 was probably the ultimate camera in 2016

The X-Pro2 was probably the ultimate camera in the X Series lineup, back in 2016.

The X-Pro2 was probably the ultimate camera in the X Series lineup back in 2016. Some may disagree, but it was packed with the newest features, including the latest X-Trans CMOS sensor and the processor. Which model is the most lovable X? This may be a more challenging question to answer. For me, it is currently the X-Pro3. And perhaps there is no end to the discussion, but FujiFilm feels that one of the four X100 models perhaps is the most loved X of all.

© Fujifilm

Fujifilm often set up meetings with the X-Photographers to get feedback on the products. I’d love to be involved. I did send Fujifilm a detailed list of suggestions, and feedback, but didn’t get a reply. Fujifilm prepares a proposal of improvements, but the demand from the X-Photographers is always one step ahead of their proposal.

But a strange things happen with the X100 series. The photographers all demand to “keep the camera the same and not change a thing.” This is not to say that Fujifilm should not change it at all; they are also expecting something new to the camera. To make the successor, Fujifilm had to be careful about picking parts for improvement and parts to keep unchanged. Thankfully, features such as electronic rangefinder and CLASSIC CHROME were positively received, probably because the things that they loved about the camera remained unchanged.

The 23mmF2 prime lens is one of the main reasons I love the camera so much – that at the 16mm F2.8. The lens remained unchanged in all X100 models. It renders soft images at maximum aperture and in close-up, but the photos get really sharp once stopped down. The lens is a hybrid. You can enjoy both sharp and soft images. The 35mm equivalent angle of view also makes it really easy to use the camera. There are photographers who take all their photos with this camera alone.

Per-Anders Jörgensen from Sweden created a book called “Eating with the Chefs”, with the X100 only. When you look at the pictures, you will be surprised how eclectic the images are and that they are, in fact, taken by a single fixed lens camera. “Mastering the camera” is not a thing they say often. But when you read the book, you can sense that the camera has become an eye and a hand of the photographer. It is as if the photographer has liberated himself from the typical use of a camera.

© Per-Anders Jörgensen

Another reason why so many professional love the camera is the lens shutter.
Zack Arias, a street photography master and a lighting pioneer, quickly saw the benefit of it, and created numerous works that only lens shutter can create with the high-speed sync flash.

© Per-Anders Jörgensen

There is more reasons to love the lens shutter: it’s so quiet. There is no focal plane shutter that can get as quiet as the X100. X100 makes minimal noise when releasing the shutter. Many appreciate this quietness, especially in reportage, documentary and family events photography. X-Photographer Gianluca Colla from Italy often talks about the importance of “Getting close”. He says the distance is the deciding factor in making the photos good or bad. There are things that cannot be captured from a distance away. To get close with the inner side of the subject, camera needs to be unassuming, and you need to act natural.

© Per-Anders Jörgensen

There are countless other reasons why people love about the X100 series. With 100 photographers, we would have 100 different reasons. But in the beginning, the camera was criticized as much as it was praised. “Why APS?”, “Why prime lens?”, “Why rangefinder style?” So many critics question the significance. However, as it turned out, the product planner was not so concerned about the negative response that the camera was getting back then. Because much more heated discussions had already taken place repeatedly within Fujifilm. His name is Hiroshi Kawahara. He is the person who gave birth to the X100 Series. He departed to a different path, away from the product planning of the X Series. His last word was, “Love the camera that you are involved with.” The camera he loved is still loved by so many still today.

© Fujifilm

Using a Fujifilm X-Pro3

The Fujifilm X-Series have a stunning range of lenses, giving me high-quality images that can be printed without concern.

MY FIRST FUJIFILM CAMERA WAS the X-Pro1, which I purchased back in 2012. Until then, I’d been a Canon user. However, I never felt a connection with my Canon’s; it was like holding just another electronic device. Don’t get me wrong, they are great cameras, but the X-Pro range instantly felt like an extension of my hand. The X-Pro range has a soul and a great analogue classic design too. Another advantage is the X-Pro3, and most of my lenses, is they are weather-resistant, avoiding extra stress when working!

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

I usually, when we’re not in lock-down due to Coronavirus, travel a lot for work. My Fujifilm cameras, touch wood, have never let me down. They are some light and small; I don’t need to lug a heavy backpack around.

The Fujifilm X-Series have a stunning range of lenses, giving me high-quality images that can be printed without concern. While most of my work is in black and white, I do love with colours my X-Pro3 can produce. The ability to create different colour recipes and simulate the look of the traditional film is indispensable.

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

I’ve also recently purchased the tiny Fujifilm XF10, its a camera packed with amazing functionality. It is my everyday camera that I take everywhere, as it fits unnoticed in my pocket. People never look at me when I’m photographing them with my XF10. However, my X-Pro3 does sometimes gain attention – despite it being small. When people don’t think they are being photographed, they act more relaxed and natural.

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

Using Fujifilm equipment really enhances the joy of photography. When I was in Miami a couple of months ago, I had so many people spot my X-Pro3 when I was relaxing in a cafe or restaurant and ask me questions about it. I felt almost like a sale representative, the way I was reeling off details about it. Just in case you’re wondering, nope, I’m not a Fujifilm salesperson, and nope they don’t pay me to say nice things!

Fujifilm X-Pro3 – © Narrating Images

Don’t get me wrong; there are always things that can be improved. The more I use it, the more features I’d like added or design features I’d change. I have written to Fujifum with a list; I’ll write them up and post them here soon.

Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget

Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne. His father, carriage builder Jean-Eugène Atget, died in 1862.

Eugène Atget


Eugène Atget (12 February 1857 – 4 August 1927) was a French flâneur, and a pioneer of documentary photography noted for his determination to document all of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization. Most of his photographs were first published by Berenice Abbott after his death. Though he sold his work to artists and craftspeople and became an inspiration for the surrealists, he did not live to see the wide acclaim his work would eventually receive.

© Eugène Atget.

Atget’s birthplace in Libourne
Jean-Eugène-Auguste Atget was born 12 February 1857 in Libourne. His father, carriage builder Jean-Eugène Atget, died in 1862, and his mother, Clara-Adeline Atget née Hourlier died shortly after; he was an orphan at age seven. He was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Bordeaux and after finishing secondary education joined the merchant navy.

© Eugène Atget.

Atget moved to Paris in 1878. He failed the entrance exam for acting class but was admitted when he had a second try. Because he was drafted for military service, he could attend class only part-time, and he was expelled from drama school.

Still living in Paris, he became an actor with a travelling group, performing in the Paris suburbs and the provinces. He met actress Valentine Delafosse Compagnon, who became his companion until her death. He gave up acting because of an infection of his vocal cords in 1887, moved to the provinces and took up painting without success. When he was thirty, he made his first photographs, of Amiens and Beauvais, which date from 1888.

In 1890, Atget moved back to Paris and became a professional photographer, supplying documents for artists: studies for painters, architects, and stage designers.

Starting in 1898, institutions such as the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris bought his photographs. The latter commissioned him ca. 1906 to systematically photograph old buildings in Paris. In 1899 he moved to Montparnasse.

Small market in front of the Church of Saint-Médard, Paris, 1898.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget.

While being a photographer, Atget still called himself an actor, giving lectures and readings.

During World War I, Atget temporarily stored his archives in his basement for safekeeping and almost completely gave up photography. Valentine’s son Léon was killed at the front.

In 1920–21, he sold thousands of his negatives to institutions. Financially independent, he took up photographing the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud and Sceaux and produced a series of photographs of prostitutes.

Berenice Abbott, while working with Man Ray, visited Atget in 1925, bought some of his photographs, and tried to interest other artists in his work. She continued to promote Atget through various articles, exhibitions and books and sold her Atget collection to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968.

In 1926, Atget’s partner Valentine died, and before he saw the full-face and profile portraits that Abbott took of him in 1927, showing him “slightly stooped…tired, sad, remote, appealing”, Atget died on 4 August in 1927, in Paris.

Parisians looking at a total solar eclipse, April 17, 1912.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget

Photographic practice

Avenue des Gobelins (1927)
Atget took up photography in the late 1880s, around the time that photography was experiencing unprecedented expansion in both commercial and amateur fields.

Atget photographed Paris with a large-format wooden bellows camera with a rapid rectilinear lens, an instrument that was fairly current when he took it up, but which he continued to use even when hand-held and more efficient large-format cameras became available. The optical vignetting often seen at some corners of his photographs is due to his having repositioned the lens relative to the plate on the camera—exploiting one of the features of bellows view cameras as a way to correct perspective and control perspective and keep vertical forms straight. The negatives show four small clear rebates (printing black) where clips held the glass in the plate-holder during exposure. The glass plates were 180×240mm Bande Bleue (Blue Ribbon) brand with a general-purpose gelatin-silver emulsion, fairly slow, that necessitated quite long exposures, resulting in the blurring of moving subjects seen in some of his pictures. Interest in Atget’s work has prompted the recent scientific analysis of Atget’s negatives and prints in Parisian collections and in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In Intérieurs Parisiens, a series of photographs he took for the Bibliotéque Nationale, he included a view of his own simple darkroom with trays for processing negatives and prints, a safelight, and printing frames. After taking a photograph, Atget would develop, wash, and fix his negative, then assign the negative to one of his filing categories with the next consecutive number that he would write the negative number in graphite on the verso of the negative and also scratch it into the emulsion. He contact-printed his negatives onto pre-sensitized, commercially available printing-out papers; albumen paper, gelatin-silver printing-out paper, or two types of matte albumen paper that he used mainly after WW1. The negative was clamped into a printing frame under glass and against a sheet of albumen photographic printing out paper, which was left out in the sun to expose. The frame permitted inspection of the print until a satisfactory exposure was achieved, then Atget washed, fixed and toned his print with gold toner, as was the standard practice when he took up photography.

Atget did not use an enlarger, and all of his prints are the same size as their negatives. Prints would be numbered and labelled on their backs in pencil then inserted by the corners into four slits cut on each page of albums. Additional albums were assembled based on specific themes that might be of interest to his clients, and separate from series or chronology.

The Palace of Versailles, 1903.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget


Subject matter
By 1891 Atget advertised his business with a shingle at his door, remarked later by Berenice Abbott, that announced: “Documents pour Artistes”. Initially, his subjects were flowers, animals, landscapes, and monuments; sharp and meticulous studies centred simply in the frame and intended for artists’ use.

Atget then embarked on a series of picturesque views of Paris which include documentation of the small trades in his series Petits Métiers. He made views of gardens in the areas surrounding Paris, in the summer of 1901, photographing the gardens at Versailles, a challenging subject of large scale and with combinations of natural and architectural and sculptural elements which he would revisit until 1927, learning to make balanced compositions and perspectives.

Early in the 1900s, Atget began to document “Old Paris,” reading extensively in order to sympathetically focus on Paris architecture and environments dating prior to the French Revolution, concern over the preservation of which ensured him commercial success. He framed the winding streets to show the historic buildings in context, rather than making frontal architectural elevations.

Atget’s specialization in the imagery of Old Paris expanded his clientele. Amongst his scant surviving documents was his notebook, known by the word Repertoire on its cover (the French repertoire meaning a thumb-indexed address book or directory, but also defined, aptly in actor Atget’s case, as ‘a stock of plays, dances, or items that a company or a performer knows or is prepared to perform’). The book is now in the MoMA collection, and in it, he recorded the names and addresses of 460 clients; architects, interior decorators, builders and their artisans skilled in ironwork, wood panelling, door knockers, also painters, engravers, illustrators, and set designers, jewellers René Lalique and Weller, antiquarians and historians, artists including Tsuguharu Foujita, Maurice de Vlaminck and Georges Braque, well-known authors, editors, publishers Armand Colin and Hachette, and professors, including the many who donated their own collections of his photographs to institutions. The address book also lists contacts at publications, such as L’Illustration, Revue Hebdomadaire, Les Annales politiques et litteraires, and l’Art et des artistes. Institutional collectors of Old Paris documents, including archives, schools, and museums were also a keen clientele and brought him commercial success, with commissions from the Bibliotèque Historique de la Ville de Paris in 1906 and 1911 and the sale of various albums of photographs to the Bibliotèque Nationale.

Atget’s photographs attracted the attention of, and were purchased by, artists such as Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp and Picasso in the 1920s, as well as Maurice Utrillo, Edgar Degas and André Derain, some of whose views are seen from identical vantage-points at which Atget took pictures, and were likely made with the assistance of his photographs bought from the photographer for a few cents.

By the end of his career, Atget had worked methodically and concurrently on thirteen separate series of photographs including ‘Landscape Documents’, ‘Picturesque Paris’, ‘Art in Old Paris’, ‘Environs’, ‘Topography of Old Paris’, ‘Tuileries’, ‘Vielle France’, ‘Interiors’, ‘Saint Cloud’, ‘Versailles’, ‘Parisian Parks’, ‘Sceaux’ and a smaller series on costumes and religious arts, returning to subjects after they had been put aside for many years.

Surrealist appropriation
Man Ray, who lived on the same street as Atget in Paris, the rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse purchased and collected almost fifty of Atget’s into an album embossed with the name ‘Atget’, “coll. Man Ray” and a date, 1926. He published several of Atget’s photographs in his La Révolution surréaliste; most famously in issue number 7, of 15 June 1926, his Pendant l’éclipse made fourteen years earlier and showing a crowd gathered at the Colonne de Juillet to peer through various devices, or through their bare fingers, at the Solar eclipse of 17 April 1912. Atget however, did not regard himself as a Surrealist. When Ray asked Atget if he could use his photo, Atget said: “Don’t put my name on it. These are simply documents I make.” Man Ray proposed that Atget’s pictures of staircases, doorways, ragpickers, and especially those with window reflections and mannequins, had a Dada or Surrealist quality about them.

Recognition in America
He will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization.

— Berenice Abbott
After Atget’s death his friend, the actor André Calmettes, sorted his work into two categories; 2,000 records of historic Paris, and photographs of all other subjects. The former, he gave to the French government; the others he sold to the American photographer Berenice Abbott,

Atget created a comprehensive photographic record of the look and feel of nineteenth-century Paris just as it was dramatically transformed by modernization, and its buildings were being systematically demolished.

When Berenice Abbott reportedly asked him if the French appreciated his art, he responded ironically, “No, only young foreigners.” While Ray and Abbott claimed to have ‘discovered’ him around 1925, he was certainly not the unknown ‘primitive’ ‘tramp’ or ‘Douanier Rousseau of the street’ that they took him for; he had, since 1900, as counted by Alain Fourquier, 182 reproductions of 158 images in 29 publications and had sold, between 1898 and 1927 and beyond the postcards he published, sometimes more than 1000 pictures a year to public institutions including the Bibliothèque Nationale, Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Musée de Sculpture Comparé, École des Beaux-Arts, the Directorate of Fine Arts and others.

During the Depression in the 1930s Abbott sold half of her collection to Julian Levy, who owned a gallery in New York. Since he had difficulty selling the prints, he allowed Abbott to keep them in her possession. In the late 1960s, Abbott and Levy sold the collection of Atgets to The Museum of Modern Art. As MoMA bought it, the collection contained 1415 glass negatives and nearly 8,000 vintage prints from over 4,000 distinct negatives.

The publication of his work in the United States after his death and the promotion of his work to English-speaking audiences was due to Berenice Abbott. She exhibited, printed and wrote about his work, and assembled a substantial archive of writings about his portfolio by herself and others. Abbott published Atget, Photographe de Paris in 1930, the first overview of his photographic oeuvre and the beginning of his international fame. She also published a book with prints she made from Atget’s negatives: The World of Atget (1964). Berenice Abbott and Eugene Atget was published in 2002.

Car and two motorcycles in front of garage, Rue de Valence, Paris, 1922. –
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Eugène Atget.

As the city and architecture are two main themes in Atget’s photographs, his work has been commented on and reviewed together with the work of Berenice Abbott and Amanda Bouchenoire, in the book Structure and harmony. Cities and architectures, where the author Jerome Saltz analyzes historicist perspectives and considers their aesthetic implications: “(…) the three authors coincide in the search for and exaltation of intrinsic beauty in their objectives, regardless of quality and clarity of their references.”

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