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 Alvarez Bravo, February 4, 1902 – October 19, 2003 was an influential Mexican artist photographer. He was raised in Mexico City. He took art classes at Academy of San Carlos but his photography skills are self-taught. His career spans from the late 1920s through the 1990s, with his artistic peak in the 1920s and 1950s. He was known for his ability to capture the everyday in surrealistic or ironic ways. Although his early work was heavily influenced by European influences, he soon became influenced by Mexican muralism and the cultural and political push to redefine Mexican identity. He was against the idyllic and used elements to avoid stereotyping. His work was displayed in numerous exhibitions. He also worked in Mexican cinema and founded Fondo Editorial de la Plastica Mexicana, a publishing house. His work was mostly recognized after 1970. He received numerous awards. In 2017, the UNESCO Memory of the World registry recognized his work.

© Alvarez Bravo

Alvarez Bravo was a Mexican citizen who was born in Mexico City, February 4, 1902. His father was a teacher but he pursued painting, photography, and writing. He also produced several plays, and his grandfather was an artist and portrait maker. Alvarez Bravo was exposed to photography early on. He was raised in Mexico City’s historic center, right behind the Cathedral. His home was one of many colonial buildings that were converted into apartments for the city’s lower and middle classes. When the Mexican Revolution started, he was eight years old. As a child, he could hear gunfire and saw dead bodies. Later, this would impact his photography.

Alvarez Bravo was an elementary student at the Patricio Sánz boarding school in Tlalpan from 1908 to 1914. However, he had to drop out at twelve because his father died. For a time, he worked as a clerk in a French textile factory and then at the Mexican Treasury Department. After studying accounting at night, he switched to art classes at Academy of San Carlos. Alvarez Bravo met Hugo Brehme and purchased his first camera in 1924. With some help from Brehme, he began to experiment with the camera. He also subscribed to magazines about photography. Tina Modotti, a photographer, was his first encounter. Alvarez Bravo had already admired Modotti’s work in Mexican Folkways magazines like Forma before they met. He was introduced to Edward Weston, a photographer and intellectual in Mexico City who encouraged him to keep at the craft.

© Alvarez Bravo

Alvarez Bravo was married 3 times throughout his life. All of them were photographers. Lola Alvarez Bravo Bravo, his first wife, was his. As a freelance photographer, he got married to her in 1925. He taught her how to do the art, but she didn’t have the same fame. Manuel was their sole child. They split in 1934. His second wife, Doris Heyden was their only child. Colette Alvarez Urbajtel (a French photographer) was his third.

In 1973, he gave his personal collection which included photos and cameras to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. 400 additional photos were purchased by Mexico’s Museo de Arte Moderno.

He died on October 19, 2002.


Alvarez Bravo was a photographer from the 1920s until the 1990s. It was founded in the decade that followed the Mexican Revolution (1920s-1950s), a time when there was significant artistic output. The government sponsored a lot of it to promote a new Mexican identity, which is based both on modernity and Mexico’s indigenous past.

He began photography in the 1920s. In 1930, Modotti quit his government job to become an independent photographer. Tina Modotti, a Mexican politician was also deported that same year. Alvarez Bravo gave her her camera, and Mexican Folkways magazine job. Alvarez Bravo began to photograph muralists in Mexico for this publication. He made his professional debut in the remaining 1930s. Paul Strand, a professional photographer, was his friend on the 1933 set of “Redes”. He briefly collaborated with him. Andre Breton, a French Surrealist artist, was the first person he met. Breton promoted Alvarez Bravo’s French work and had it displayed there. Breton requested a photograph be used as the cover to a catalog about an exhibit in Mexico. Alvarez Bravo’s photo “La buena Fiama durmiendo” was created by Alvarez Bravo. The Mexican censors withheld it from publication due to nudity. But, the photo would be published again.

Alvarez Bravo taught most of the next generation, including Nacho López, Hector Garcia, and Graciela Iurbide. He was a teacher of photography at the Escuela central de artes plasticas (now the National School of Arts) from 1938-1939. He was a professor at Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematograficos during the latter half 1960s.

© Alvarez Bravo

He worked as a still photographer in Mexico from 1943 to 1959. This led him to try out cinematography. He collaborated with Jose Revueltas on an experimental film called Coatlicue in 1949. He worked as a still photographer for Luis Bunuel’s 1957 film Nazarin.

He participated in more than 200 collective exhibitions and had over 150 solo exhibitions. A 1928 photograph of his was selected to be displayed in the First Salon Mexciano de la Fotografia. In 1932, he had his first solo exhibition at Galeria Posada in Mexico City. He exhibited at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in 1935 with Henri Cartier-Bresson, and had catalogue texts by Langston Hughes, Luis Cardoza y Aragon, and Langston Hughes. His work was included in a surrealist exhibit by Andre Breton, which took place at the gallery of Ines Amor in 1940. Edward Steichen selected three Bravo pictures for MoMA’s 1955 The Family of Man exhibit. This exhibition was viewed by more people than any other. The Palacio De Bellas Artses hosted a retrospective in 1968 of the work of Alvarez Bravo. In 1971, he exhibited at Pasadena Art Museum, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1978. He also exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, 1983, and the National Library of Madrid in 1985. Evidencias de lo invisible cien fotografias (Evidence of the Invisible – One Hundred Photographs) was shown at the Fine Arts Museum, New Delhi, the Imperial Palace, Beijing, and the Belem Cultural Center, Lisbon, from 1994 to 1995. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles hosted a retrospective on his work in 2001.

In 1945, he published his first book “El arte negro”. His photographs also appeared in many publications throughout his career, including the 1964 book Mexico: pintura y hoy by Luis Cardoza y Aragon. Along with Octavio Pasz, he co-authored and provided photographs for the 1982 book Instante y revelacion. He founded the Fondo Editorial Mexicana de la Plastica Mexicana in 1959 with Gabriel Figueroa and Rafael Carrillo. This publisher produces books about Mexican art. This project took him through the 1960s, which put him in relative anonymity until 1970s when his work was again widely displayed.

Alvarez Bravo won his first major award for photography, first prize for an image featuring two lovers on a boat at Feria Regional Ganadera Oaxaca. He won the first prize in a competition sponsored and organized by La Tolteca with the image La Tolteca. Diego Rivera was among the judges. His awards were not awarded until the 1970s. These awards include the Elias Sourasky Arts Prize, Premio National de Arte, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

© Alvarez Bravo

Alvarez Bravo continued photographing until his passing. He began photographing nudes one year before his death. He said that it wasn’t work you can complain about.

His work is represented in significant collections in Mexico and the United States. Francisco Toledo, a Mexican photographer, founded the Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo in 1996. Six halls are available for temporary exhibitions of Toledo’s photographs and works by other photographers. It also houses a library that specializes in photography, as well as a permanent collection with 4,000 photographs taken by Alvarez Bravo and other prominent photographers. Alvarez Bravo started assembling the collection in 1980 for Fundacion Cultural Televisa. It consists of 2,294 photos. The Casa Lamm Cultural Center Mexico City has a vault to store them. Casa Lamm’s photo archive continues to be open to requests for reproductions from Mexico and other countries. It also provides assistance to researchers looking into the life and times of the photographer. Two important collections outside of Mexico are located at the J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles and Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum.

ArtistryHe was the pioneer in Mexican artistic photography and the most prominent figure in Latin American photography during the 20th century. His creative work reached new heights between the 1920s and the 1940s. He recognized the limitations of photography and was able to avoid stereotyping.

His main subjects were nudes and folk art, rituals and burials, as well as shop windows, urban streets, and everyday interactions. Diego Rivera encouraged Alvarez Bravo to travel to rural and small towns, even though he spent most of his time in Mexico City. Alvarez Bravo photographs rarely depict the trappings and power of politics, preferring to photograph everyday life. His subjects are almost all anonymous. He also wanted to capture textures, particularly those on floors and walls. One example is “Hair on Tile”, which features a long, wavy hairstyle on a tile floor with cross and star designs.

Large cameras produced greater detail in his finished prints, so he used them. He was more concerned about the quality of the prints than with the images that he took. The images were poetic and the compositions were excellent. To distinguish his photographs, he gave them titles. His photographs’ titles often draw inspiration from Mexican mythology and culture.

Alvarez Bravo’s early work was heavily influenced by European Cubism and French Surrealism. This was largely due to two books: one on Picasso and one on Japanese prints with Hokusai work. His career was established in the post-Mexican Revolution era when there was a cultural as well as political push to redefine Mexican identity. He embraced Mexican influences in the 1930s and switched to themes and styles that were more reminiscent of European art, as well as the Mexican muralism movement. His photographs were more complex, with symbols of blood and death, religion and the paradoxes of Mexican culture. His childhood experience with death during the Mexican Revolution played a part in the photographs, from the explicit “Striking Worker assassinated” to the subtler “Portrait of the Eternal.” Alvarez Bravo was not interested in politics, but he was very interested in Mexico’s cultural identity.

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 as a platform to present the social and cultural realities in the city. To present Mexico City, he used his lens not to portray it as heroic or moral but instead to focus on social relationships and material conflicts. These include gender and class roles. In the 1930s and 1940s, he found more complex ways of framing the contradictions of Mexico’s urban lifestyle into social statements. In his photographs, the feminine identity shows a complex symbolic range in which sex overlaps with other social identities.

This article was written by © Christopher G – Narrating Images

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

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 (nee Cohen) was an American photojournalist. In 1951, she joined Magnum Photos agency and was made a full member in 1956. She was the first woman ever to join Magnum Photos 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, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the middle child of nine children to Russian-Jewish immigrants William Cohen (born Velvel Sklarski), and Bessie (Bosya Laschiner), who were both rabbi and wife. Arnold’s parents were reluctant to accept her decision to leave medicine to pursue photography. In 1941, she married Arnold Schmitz (later Arnold Arnold). In 1946, she began to take up photography while working at Kodak’s Fair Lawn NJ photo finishing plant. She began photographing her hometown with a new humanitarian perspective using a Rolleicord. She learned photography skills from Alexey Brodovitch, Harper’s Bazaar’s art director at the New School for Social Research (NY), over six weeks in 1948. She studied photography under Brodovitch and produced a collection featuring photos from Harlem’s vibrant fashion scene scene. In 1951, the London Illustrated Picture Post published the series. The series was a success, but she later revealed in a diary entry how the editor of the magazine altered her captions and reversed her photos’ message to make it more racist. After becoming interested in Long Island’s housing discrimination against African American migrants, she decided to pursue her research. In 1957, she became the Magnum Agency’s first female member. Arnold covered republican press events and the McCarthy hearings, as well as exploring the taboo topic of birth. Arnold was acutely aware of the underrepresentation in photojournalists of women and the role of celebrities of women in the media. Arnold explored these ideas in her 1976 full-length photo book The Unretouched Woman.

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 Marilyn Monroe images on The Misfits (1961), are perhaps her most famous, but she had taken many Monroe photos from 1951. Arnold wanted to capture Monroe’s anxiety about being the focus of media attention. These intimate photos were taken candidly. In order to better write and photograph Monroe and Joan Crawford, she made friends with them. In May 2005, Monroe’s previously unpublished photos were displayed at the Halcyon Gallery in London. Arnold’s work was dominated by travel. She took an interest in photographing Civil Rights and Black Power movements in America, the Soviet Union, and China. Arnold was always interested in exploring the depths of her photography. She even returned from shoots with cigarette burns and a crowd disapproving. In 1971, she produced Women Behind the Veil. It was a documentary that focused on Arabian Harems, Hammams, and other related subjects. She photographed many famous people, including Queen Elizabeth II, Malcolm X and Joan Crawford. She traveled around the globe, taking pictures in China, Russia and South Africa. Arnold, her son Francis Arnold, moved to England permanently in the 1970s after she left the United States. Many of her photographs were published in Look, Life, Esquire, Harpar’s Bazaar, Geo, Stern, Paris-Match, and Epoca. She began to use colour photography while working at the London Sunday Times. Arnold preferred black and white, however. Arnold alternated between glamour photos of movie stars and portraits of everyday people and their experiences. Arnold’s most difficult task was to make the mundane fascinating. Arnold’s fascination with the “poor, the old, and the underdog” continued, as her photographs captured the gentle humanity Arnold portrays as a characteristic of all human beings. Arnold’s trust with her subjects is evident in Arnold’s photographs, as well as the natural lighting and poses she uses.

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

Later in life

In 1980 her first solo exhibit, featuring her photographs taken in China, at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. She was also awarded the American Society of Magazine Photographers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. She was elected Master Photographer by the International Center of Photography in New York and made an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society. Arnold was one of five women included in Magna Brava’s touring catalogue. After being rejected as a Vietnam war photographer, Arnold discovered that photographing South African Shantytowns was also critiqued. This helped her to draw attention to the injustices around the world. She also took photos of disabled veterans, Mongolian herders, and women in brothels.

Arnold created portraits of American First Ladies in 1960 including Lady Bird Johnson and Jackie Kennedy. She was elected to the Advisory Committee of National Media Museum, formerly known as the Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 1997. In 2003, she was made an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

She lived in Mayfair for many decades until her last illness. After that, she moved to St George’s Square in Pimlico. Arnold answered Anjelica Huston’s question about whether she still did photography. Arnold said that she can no longer hold a camera. She stated that she read a lot of writers like Thomas Mann, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy. One of her final photos was of her grandson, who visited her in 1994 to learn photography. In her diary entry from that day, she describes the bond that exists between subject and photographer. She continued to emphasize her simple style in photos that use natural lighting and don’t have embellishments or posing. She describes “curiosity“, her driving force, as a single-word description. Her career was described by her friend as “a one woman cultural exchange”.

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

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

This article was written by © Christopher G – Narrating Images

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

Eugene Atget, 12 February 1857 – 5 August 1927 was a French flaneur and pioneer in documentary photography. He is best known for his determination to capture all the architecture and street scenes in Paris before they disappear to modernization. Berenice Abbott published most of his photos after his death. Although he sold his photographs to artists and craftspeople, and was an inspiration to the surrealists and other photographers, he didn’t live to see the widespread acclaim that his work would receive.

© Eugène Atget.

Atget’s birthplace in Libourne
Jean-Eugene-Auguste Atget, a carriage builder, was born in Libourne on 12 February 1857. Jean-Eugene Atget was his father and he died in 1862. His mother Clara-Adeline Atget nee Hourlier also died shortly afterwards. Atget was an orphan at the age of seven. After finishing secondary school, he joined the merchant navy. He was raised in Bordeaux by his maternal grandparents.

© Eugène Atget.

Atget arrived in Paris in 1878. Atget failed the acting class entrance exam but was accepted after a second attempt. He was drafted to military service and could not attend class full-time. This resulted in him being expelled from drama school.

He remained in Paris and became an actor in a traveling troupe, performing in Paris’ suburbs as well as the provinces. Valentine Delafosse Compagnon became his companion and he met Valentine Delafosse Compagnon. After a vocal chord infection in 1887, he quit acting and moved to the provinces where he tried painting but was unsuccessful. He took his first photographs of Beauvais and Amiens at the age of thirty. They date back to 1888.

Atget returned to Paris in 1890 and began working as a professional photographer. He also provided documents for artists, including studies for painters and architects.

His photographs were purchased by the Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris. He was commissioned by the latter in 2006. 1906 to take systematic photographs of old Paris buildings. He moved to Montparnasse in 1899.

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

Atget was a photographer but he still considered himself an actor. He gave lectures and reads.

Atget temporarily kept his archives in his basement during World War I. He also gave up photography almost entirely. Valentine’s son Leon was killed in action at the front.

He sold thousands of his negatives in 1920-21 to institutions. He became financially independent and began to photograph the parks of Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux. He also produced a series photographs of prostitutes.

While working with Man Ray in the 1920s, Berenice Abbott visited Atget and bought some of his photos. She also tried to get other artists interested in his work. Through various articles, exhibitions, and books, she continued to promote Atget and sold her Atget collection at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967.

Valentine, Atget’s girlfriend, died in 1926. Atget was not able to see the profile and full-face portraits Abbott took in 1927. He also died in Paris on August 4, 1927.

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

Photographic practice

Avenue des Gobelins (1927).

Atget began photography in the late 1880s when photography was experiencing unprecedented growth in both the commercial and amateur sectors.

Atget took photos of Paris using a large-format wooden bellows camera equipped with a rapid-rectilinear lens and a quick rectilinear zoom. This instrument was quite current at the time Atget bought it, but he kept using it even after larger-format, more efficient cameras were made. His optical vignetting in corners is due to him repositioning the lens relative to its plate. He used one of the bellows view cameras’ features to correct perspective, control perspective and maintain vertical forms straight. Four small, clear rebates (printing in black) are visible on the negatives. These are where the clips were used to hold the glass in place during exposure. Bande Bleue (Blue Ribbon brand) glass plates had a general-purpose gelatin silver emulsion. The exposure time was quite long and resulted in blurred images. Recent scientific analysis of Atget’s negatives in Parisian collections as well as Philadelphia Museum of Art prints has attracted much attention to Atget’s work.

Interieurs Parisiens is a collection of photographs Atget took for the Biblioteque Naţionale. It includes a view of his simple darkroom, which contains trays to process negatives and prints as well as a safelight and frames for printing. Atget would take a photograph and then develop, wash and fix it. He would then assign the negative with the next number to his filing category. On the negative’s verso, he would write the negative number in graphite and scratch it into the emulsion. Contact-printing his negatives onto commercially available, sensitized printing-out papers was Atget’s preferred method of printing out. He used two types of matte albumen, gelatin-silver, and albumen printing-out paper. The negative was placed under glass on a sheet of photographic albumen printing-out paper. It was then exposed in the sun. Atget then checked the print and fixed it with gold toner. This was standard practice at the time he started taking up photography.

Atget didn’t use an enlarger and all his prints are the exact same size as their negatives. The prints would be numbered in pencil and labeled on the backs. They were then placed by the corners in four slits on each album page. Additional albums were made based on themes specific to the clients and not a 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 lived in the same street in Paris as Atget. The rue Campagne-Premiere, Montparnasse, purchased almost fifty Atget’s and put them in an album with the name “Atget” (coll.). Man Ray and a date in 1926. Atget published many of his photographs in La Revolution surrealiste. The most notable was issue number 7, dated 15 June 1926. It featured Atget’s Pendant l’eclipse, a fourteen-year-old photograph showing a crowd gathered at Colonne de Juillet looking through various devices or their naked fingers at the Solar eclipse on 17 April 1912. Atget, however, didn’t consider himself a Surrealist. Ray asked Atget whether he would allow Ray to use his photograph. Atget replied, “Don’t put mine on it. These are documents that I create. Man Ray suggested that Atget’s photographs of stairs, doorways and ragpickers, especially those with window reflections or mannequins had a Dada- or Surrealist quality.

Recognition in America
He will be remembered for his urbanist history, genuine romanticism, love of Paris, and a Balzac of camera. His work is the thread that weaves a vast 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 took a detailed photographic record of Paris in the nineteenth century, as it was being transformed by modernization and its buildings were being 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.

Abbott sold half her collection to Julian Levy during the 1930s Depression, when he owned a New York gallery. He was unable to sell the prints so he let Abbott keep them. Abbott and Levy sold their collection of Atgets in the 1960s to The Museum of Modern Art. The collection included 1415 glass negatives as well as nearly 8,000 vintage prints made from more than 4,000 different 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.

Atget’s photos focus on architecture and city. His work was reviewed and commented upon by Amanda Bouchenoire and Berenice Abbott in the book Structure and Harmony. Jerome Saltz analyses historicist perspectives on cities and architectures and discusses their aesthetic implications. “(…) The three authors share a common goal: to find and exalt intrinsic beauty in their goals, regardless of the quality or clarity of their sources.”

This article was written by © Christopher G – Narrating Images

Street Photography at Night

Some best street photography can be done during the hours of darkness, and night shooting is something we should all try; it’s almost a rite of passage.

An excellent article by Brian Lloyd Duckett

BRIAN IS A PROFESSIONAL STREET photographer who runs workshops across the UK and Europe. He shoots exclusively on Fujifilm; the X100F, X-Pro2 and X-E3 being his weapons of choice. Some of your best street photography can be done during the hours of darkness, and night shooting is something we should all try; it’s almost a rite of passage. Think neon lights, shop windows, reflections, car lights, bars, restaurants, people having fun, street lighting . . . there’s masses of material to explore.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

I try to get out there regularly, particularly between late October and late March when there’s a bigger window of opportunity with more hours of darkness in the day. You can shoot in any town or city where there are strong light sources. Somewhere like London’s Soho and Chinatown are ideal, with lots of coloured and neon lights. You can even get great shots just by relying on ambient lighting from the regular street lamps.

There’s no reason that shooting in the dark should be any more difficult than daylight shooting – but, as well as the aesthetic issues; there are some different technical and practical considerations to take into account. Here are my top tips for shooting street photography at night…

Chase the light
Just like all street photography, shooting a night is all about finding good light. I often find it helpful to find my light source first, then build a composition around that. Try to stop and think about the intensity, direction and colour of the light source and how it falls on potential subjects. Watch how the light changes as you move around it; observe reflections and see the impact of changing light patterns such as car lights. I’m always drawn to strong reds, oranges and yellows, of which there are plenty in areas such as Chinatown.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

High ISO is your friend
Don’t think twice about whacking up your ISO. I’m usually shooting at 3,200 by default – a rating which most modern cameras can handle with ease (it’s a breeze for cameras like my Fujifilm X100F or X-Pro2). I’ll go to 6,400 and beyond if I need to. Some people struggle to get their head around this, believing that noise will be an issue. Well, it isn’t – it can sometimes even add to the atmosphere – and the alternative (a blurred or massively underexposed image) is simply not an option.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Slow down
To really absorb and become part of night-time street life you should slow right down, frequently stopping to take in your surroundings, watching the light and waiting for that ‘moment’. You’ll probably be using a slower than ideal shutter speed, so stopping to take a picture is more important than ever.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Experiment with different lenses

I prefer prime lenses (for their lightness, image quality and wide apertures). In my bag, for night shooting, is a variety of primes, usually including an XF18mmF2 (28mm full-frame equivalent), an XF23mmF1.4 (35mm equivalent) and an XF56mmF2 (85mm equivalent). This gives me an ideal range and also the option of shooting with very wide apertures for some great bokeh effects. If all you have is a zoom, fine – I’ve used the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 and the wonderful XF16-55mmF2.8 for night shooting, and both produce sharp high contrast images.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Leave your flash and tripod at home
A tripod will slow you down and strip any spontaneity out of your shooting. It might be fine for a perfectly exposed cityscape with fabulous light trails but for street photography, forget it. And try to avoid using flash, which will draw (sometimes unwelcome) attention to yourself and could compromise some of the ‘documentary’ feel you may be trying to achieve.

You want dark images
A controversial statement, maybe, but one I believe in. Modern cameras will often strive to produce what their processor believes to be a correctly exposed image; at night, this can mean an over-exposed image – and usually an unrealistic one. If you wanted your pictures to look like they were taken in daylight, you would have shot them in daylight. You need deep shadows and areas which are almost too dark to comprehend. If in doubt, look at your histogram – if it’s significantly to the left, you’re probably in a good place.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Try motion blur
As you’re often forced to use a slow shutter speed, why not make the most of it? Go with it – use it to your advantage! Use a speed of, say, between 1/2 and 1/8 second to get some deliberate blur into moving elements in your frame – cars, people, buses, rickshaws, bicycles, trams etc. With a steady hand (with the camera either hand-held or on something), you should be able to keep the desired area of the image sharp. You could even experiment with a little ICM (intentional camera movement).

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Get your settings right
Whilst there is no right or wrong for this, I use a tried and trusted formula which consistently works for me and it goes something like this:
• ISO 3,200 by default but will increase to 6,400+ when necessary
• Aperture priority (‘A’) mode
• Aperture value likely to be at the wider end of the scale – usually between F1.2 to F5.6, depending on the subject
• Exposure compensation (+/-) occasionally used for fine-tuning exposure
• Manual focusing (AF can be too slow). You’ll find that with practice, this will become quick and easy, especially when using red focus peaking

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Shoot close-up and from a distance
Remembering Robert Capa’s advice, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. I enjoy shooting at close quarters at night, whether the image is based on an abstract, a narrative or a ‘moment’. Shooting close-up can produce striking images but don’t be a one-trick pony – also consider shooting wider street scenes, where you can often construct a fascinating tableau of nightlife.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

Stay safe
Take more care at night than you would during the day. You’ll be a little more vulnerable and exposed, so be aware of who is around you and always have an ‘escape route’ in mind. Don’t go down dark, quiet alleys alone and try to stick to busier areas. Shooting with a buddy or in a small group is often the best option.

© Brian Lloyd Duckett

A photographic film producer develops the world’s first fully digital camera

Did you know that Fujifilm developed the world’s first digital camera?

DID YOU KNOW THAT FUJIFILM developed the world’s first digital camera? In 1988 at the Photokina trade fair in Germany, Fujifilm announced the FUJIX DS-1P, the world’s first camera to save data to a semiconductor memory card. Taken for granted today, this method of storage was revolutionary for its time and was a Fujifilm original. With its then-impressive 2 megabytes of SRAM, the semiconductor memory card could hold 5 to 10 photographs’ worth of data.

© Fujifilm

So how did a company known for its photographic film come to develop an advanced digital camera, including all of the original technologies that made it possible? This article explores the background of this amazing world’s-first achievement.

Anticipating the digital era
Fujifilm was one of the first companies to envision the digital era, and to engage in digital camera R&D. In the 1970s, Fujifilm began developing CCD (charge-coupled device) technology, which a digital camera requires to convert visible light into an electric signal. In the 1980s, Fujifilm was already researching and developing digital imaging technologies. In 1988, Fujifilm developed the FUJIX DS-1P, the world’s first fully digital camera, and in 1989, it began sales of the FUJIX DS-X, the world’s first commercially produced digital camera.

© Fujifilm

Analog technology and its limitations
Before the development of the FUJIX DS-1P, still, video cameras using an analogue format were the main type of electronic camera. They stored frames to a magnetic medium called a video floppy. Back then, semiconductor memory was extremely expensive, and the idea of saving photographs in a digital format and viewing them on the low-performance personal computers of the time did not seem viable. Although video floppies were inexpensive, their data capacity was poor, and imperfect rotation could negatively impact image quality.

Taking on the digital challenge
Although it was recognized that saving photographs to a semiconductor memory card could offer low noise and outstanding colour reproduction, the extreme cost of this memory remained a barrier. Fujifilm, however, saw much more affordable semiconductor memory and much higher-performance image sensors and image compression technology on the not-so-distant horizon. So in defiance of the conventional wisdom, Fujifilm took on the challenge of developing a digital camera that stored still photographs on a semiconductor memory card. The result was the world’s first fully digital camera, the FUJIX DS-1P.

Fujifilm launched the world’s first fully digital consumer camera FUJIX DS-1P in 1988.

Corporate DNA that allows no fear of product cannibalism
Fujifilm was a photographic film manufacturer. So why was it enthusiastic about developing a camera that used no film at all? Fujifilm has always had a corporate atmosphere and environment that encourages creative destruction and allows no fear of leaving behind old technologies or cannibalizing current products. Fujifilm’s engineers are passionate about developing technologies and products that have a positive impact on society. So they dived straight into digital camera R&D and created several world’s firsts in the process.

© Fujifilm

Leading-edge products via original technologies
It’s in Fujifilm’s DNA to take on the challenge of developing its own technologies and create amazing, leading-edge products. The world’s first fully digital camera, the FUJIX DS-1P, is one key example. That DNA is just as alive today, finding its latest expression in the Fujifilm X series of advanced digital cameras.

© Fujifilm

Retouching with Capture One

Capture One Pro is one of the tools I predominantly use. It renders Fujifilm RAW files better than most other photographic tools on the market.

AS AN IMAGE RETOUCHER, I work predominantly with businesses to clean, refine and edit digital images to their requirements. Retouching includes cropping, correcting colour and white balance to fit a specific companies ‘look’ or brand. Other times I’m adjusting skin tones or blemishes for fashion shoots or portraits for brochures or websites.

Capture One Screen Shot – High Dynamic Range

Capture One Pro is one of the tools I predominantly use. It renders Fujifilm RAW files better than most other photographic tools on the market. Due in part, I guess, to the close working relationship between the two companies. It also gives me access to all the Fujifilm Film Simulations to quickly transform the appeal of an image.

One of the strongest and most useful aspects of Capture One, is its powerful layer functionality, as well as an endless list of other well-designed features. Most of my professional post-production work is done using Capture One Pro. As I edit with RAW files, all edits are non-destructive and can be undone.

Capture One Screen Shot – Levels

I can easily mask areas using the dynamic linear or radial gradient masks – or just a freehand brush. The colour range mask is a superb tool also, for selecting the exact colour range within an image to edit. All masks sensitivity can be controlled with an opacity slider. There is a useful feature within the Layers tool, which allows the creation of a new layer automatically, based on the mask from an already selected area.

The Color Editor and Curve are two other tools I love. First up, I can use multiple Color and Curve Editor tools on one image. In addition, I can create a mask from a colour range selected with the Color Editor. This allows me to edit each of the Hue, Saturation and Luminosity individually.

Capture One Screen Shot – Color Editor

The Capture One dynamic Luma Range mask is yet another great way to further fine-tune any mask, which can be applied to all masks. It also has Radius and Sensitivity sliders to help mask the exact range even more!

It’s impossible to describe my workflow and all the functionality in one short blog post, but I’ll endeavour to create a few more specific posts about the features I use most when editing clients work.

This article was written by © Christopher G – Narrating Images

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus achieved some recognition and renown with the publication, beginning in 1960, of photographs in such magazines as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, London’s Sunday Times Magazine, and Artforum.

American photographer Diane Arbus, (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1972) was an American photographer who worked to normalize marginalized people and emphasize the importance of accurate representation of all people. Arbus worked with many subjects, including nudists and dwarves, strippers, marionettes, nudists, nudists, dwarves as well as children, mothers, partners, older adults, middle-class families, and couples. She photographed her subjects in their familiar surroundings: at home, in public, in the office, and in parks. She is known for her broadening notions about acceptable subject matter and violating canons regarding the distance between subject and photographer. She captured a rare psychological intensity in her work by being friendly with her subjects and not objectifying them. Arthur Lubow, in his 2003 New York Times Magazine article “Arbus Reconsidered”, states that “She was fascinated” by “Arbus Reconsidered”, which focuses on people who were creating their identities. He mentions “Cross-dressers, nudists and sideshow performers, tattooed guys, nouveau riches, movie-star fans, and those who were stuck in uniforms that provided no security or comfort. In his review of Diane Arbus Revelations by Michael Kimmelman, he writes that her work “transformed photography” (Arbus’s work is present in all art today, for better or worse).

© Diane Arbus Estate – Self-portrait pregnancy

She was a well-known photographer whose photographs were published in magazines such as Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar and London’s Sunday Times Magazine. Arbus was awarded a fellowship by the Guggenheim Foundation in 1963 for her proposal, entitled “American Rites, Manners and Customs”. In 1966, she was granted a renewal of her fellowship. John Szarkowski was the Museum of Modern Art’s director of photography from 1962 to 1991. He included her work in the 1967 exhibition New Documents alongside the work of Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and championed her work. Her photos were also featured in several other major group exhibitions.

Photographed through anti-UV perspex- colour charts only a guide. – © Diane Arbus Estate

Arbus was the first photographer to be accepted into the Venice Biennale in 1972, one year after her suicide. Her photographs were “the overwhelming feeling of the American Pavilion” as well as “extremely powerful, and very strange.

Szarkowski organized the 1972 first major retrospective of Arbus’ work at MoMA. This retrospective attracted the largest attendance in MoMA’s history. From 1972 to 1979, millions viewed traveling exhibitions featuring her work. Never has the book Diane Arbus: Aperture Monograph, which was published by Marvin Israel and Doon Arbus, been out of print.

Diane Arbus, Tattooed Man at a Carnival, Md. 1970, printed after 1971
© Diane Arbus Estate

Private Life

Arbus was the daughter of Gertrude Russek Nemerov and David Nemerov. They were Jewish immigrants from Soviet Russia who settled in New York City. Russeks, a Fifth Avenue department shop, was their home. Arbus grew up in the 1930s with the protection of her family’s wealth. After her father retired from Russeks, her father became a painter. Her younger sister, who went on to become a sculptor, was also a designer. Howard Nemerov, her older brother, was a poet and taught English at Washington University. He was named United States Poet Laureate. Alexander Nemerov, an Americanist art historian, is Howard’s son.

Arbus’ parents did not actively participate in the raising of their children. They were supervised by maids or governesses. Her mother was a social butterfly with a full schedule. She suffered from depression for about a year and then recovered. Her father was busy working. She left her family and her extravagant childhood behind.

Arbus was a student at the Ethical Culture School, a prep school. At the age of 18, Arbus married Allan Arbus, her childhood sweetheart. They had been together since age 14. Their daughter Doon, who would go on to become a writer, was born at 18 years old. Amy, their daughter, was born at 54. Arbus and her husband worked together as commercial photographers from 1946 to 1956. Allan was supportive of Arbus’ work, even after she left the business. She began a separate relationship with photography.

Arbus and her husband divorced in 1959, but they maintained close friendship. They shared a darkroom where Allan’s studio assistants processed Arbus’ negatives and she printed her work. In 1969, the couple split. Allan moved to California to pursue acting. He was most well-known for his role on M AS*H as Dr. Sidney Freedman. Allan then set up his darkroom and the couple maintained a long correspondence.

Arbus formed a lasting relationship with Marvin Israel, an artist and art director, in late 1959. He was married to Margaret Ponce Israel for the rest of his life, a talented mixed-media artist. Marvin Israel encouraged Arbus to be creative and supported her work. He also encouraged her to make her first portfolio. Arbus befriended Richard Avedon, a photographer who was about the same age as her. His family owned a Fifth Avenue department shop and many of his photographs featured detailed frontal poses.

© Diane Arbus Estate

Photographic career

Soon after their marriage, Arbus was gifted her first camera, a Graflex from Allan. Shortly after, she began classes with Berenice Abbott, a photographer. In 1941, the Arbuses’ interest in photography led them to visit Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery and learn more about Mathew Brady and Timothy O’Sullivan. Diane’s father hired them to photograph the advertisements for the department store in the 1940s. Allan was a photographer for U.S Army Signal Corps during World War II.

After the war, the Arbuses started a commercial photography company called “Diane & Allan Arbus“, where Diane was the art director and Allan the photographer. She would create the shoot’s concepts and take care of the models. This role was dissatisfying for her, even though it was considered “demeaning” by her husband. The Arbuses contributed to Glamour and Seventeen magazines, Vogue, as well as other magazines, even though they “both hated the fashion industry.” The fashion photography of the Arbuses has been described as having “middle quality” despite over 200 pages of Glamour’s fashion editorial and more than 80 pages in Vogue. Edward Steichen’s 1955 photography exhibition, The Family of Man did feature a photograph of a father-son reading a newspaper.

© Diane Arbus Estate – Self-Portrait

In 1954, she studied briefly with Alexey Brdovich. Arbus decided to concentrate on her own work after her 1956 studies with Lisette Modell. Arbus stopped working in commercial photography and started numbering her negatives. Her last negative was #7459. Model advised Arbus to avoid loading film into the camera for an exercise in seeing. Arbus also thanks Model for letting her know that the more specific you are, then it will be more general.

She began working with a 35mm Nikon in 1956. She walked the streets of New York City, meeting people mainly by chance, but not always. Arbus was adamant that personal identity is socially constructed. This idea included performers, people wearing makeup and those with a mask that blocks one’s eyes. Critics speculate that her choices were influenced by her identity problems. She stated that she never felt any adversity as a child and that this was the only thing that made her feel unhappy. This led to a desire for experiences in the underground world and other things that money could not buy. Her empathy for these subjects is often praised. This quality is not immediately apparent through her images, but through her writings and the testimony of the men and woman she photographed. In 1958, she started making lists of people and things she was interested in photographing. In 1959, she began to photograph for magazines like Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar and The Sunday Times Magazine.

Arbus changed from her 35mm Nikon camera, which produced grainy rectangular images typical of her post-studio work, to a twin lens reflex Rolleiflex camera that produced squarer images. This transition was explained by Arbus as “In the beginning of photography I made very grainy things. Because the grain would create a tapestry of tiny dots, I was fascinated by it. But after a while I realized how difficult it was to see through all of these dots, I wanted to make my work more clear. I wanted to see the true differences between things… I started to get very excited about clarity. Arbus started using the Rolleiflex and a Mamiyaflex 2-1/4 camera with flash in 1964.

Arbus’s style was described as “direct and unadorned,” a frontal portrait centred within a square format. The photos have a surreal quality because of her pioneering use flash in daylight to isolate the subjects. Her methods included building a close personal relationship with her subjects, and re-photographing some over the years.

Arbus was published widely and achieved some artistic recognition. However, she struggled to make ends meet through her work. “There was no market for photographs as art and prints sold for $100 or less during her lifetime.” Her correspondence clearly shows that money was a constant concern.

In 1963, Arbus was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project on “American rites, manners, and customs”; the fellowship was renewed in 1966.

Arbus was a freelance photographer who supported herself mostly through magazine assignments and commissions throughout the 1960s. Arbus shot documentary photos of poor South Carolina sharecroppers for Esquire magazine in 1968. Konrad Matthaei (a prominent actor and theatre owner) commissioned Arbus to photograph their family’s Christmas gathering in 1969. Arbus has photographed Mae West and Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, Bennet Cef, the atheist Madalyn Murdoch O’Hair and Norman Mailer, Eugene McCarthy and billionaire H. L. Hunt. Gloria Vanderbilt’s baby was Anderson Cooper. She also photographed Coretta Scott King and Marguerite Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald’s mom. Her magazine assignments declined as she became more famous as an artist. Arbus was hired by Szarkowski in 1970 to help her research an exhibition about photojournalism, “From the Picture Press“. It featured many photos by Weegee, whose work Arbus loved. She taught photography at Parsons School of Design, the Cooper Union in New York City and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island.

© Diane Arbus Estate

She was late in her career when the Metropolitan Museum of Art suggested to her that they would purchase three of her photos for $75 each. However, citing a lack of money, she only purchased two. She wrote to Allan Arbus, “So, I guess being poor doesn’t make you a disgrace.

Arbus began taking photographs of residents of New Jersey homes for the intellectually and developmentally disabled in 1969. These photos were later named Untitled. Arbus visited several facilities multiple times for Halloween parties, picnics and dances. These photographs were described by Arbus in a November 28, 1969 letter to Allan Arbus as “lyric, tender and pretty”.

Artforum published six photographs from Arbus’s portfolio A box of ten photos, which included a cover, in May 1971. Philip Leider, the then editor-in-chief of Artforum, was a photographer sceptic who admitted to meeting Arbus and seeing the portfolio. . . Its status as art is denied. She was the first to feature in Artforum. “Leider’s admission Arbus into this critical bastion late modernism helped shift the perception of photography and bring it into the realms of ‘serious art’.

John Szarkowski curated the first major exhibition of her photos at the Museum of Modern Art, in New Documents (1967), alongside the work of Garry Winogrand (curated by Lee Friedlander). New Documents attracted nearly 250,000 people and demonstrated Arbus’s interest and concern for what Szarkowski called society’s “frailties”. It also featured what he called “a new generation” of documentary photographers, who aimed to “not to reform life, but to understand it.” He described them as “photography that highlighted the human dramas and conflicts of modern living without sentimentalizing or editorializing, but with an objective, observant eye. It was highly polarizing and received both praise and criticism. Some referred to Arbus as a disinterested observer while others praised her empathy for her subjects.

The New York Times published an arbituary for Arbus in 2018 as part of its Overlooked History project. From April 6, 2018 to January 27, 2019, an exclusive exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum featured Arbus’ portfolio, A box with ten photographs. The work is currently displayed only by the SAAM. Arbus only printed four complete editions and annotated the collection. Privately held are the three other editions, which Arbus never made. Bea Feitler was an art director who worked with Arbus and made the Smithsonian edition. Baltimore collector G.H. Dalsheimer purchased her portfolio from Sotheby’s for $42,900 in 1982. In 1986, the SAAM purchased it from Dalsheimer. The museum kept the portfolio until 2018.

This article was written by © Christopher G – Narrating Images