PART ONE: EUROPEAN AUCTIONS SHOW ERRATIC RESULTS; PHOTO SAN FRANCISCO TO BE HELD JULY 22-25 AT FT. MASON CENTER; AUCTION HOUSE MUSICAL CHAIRS; MARTIN GORDON GALLERY JOINS I PHOTO CENTRAL; NEARLY 800 NEW IMAGES JUST ADDED TO SITE; NEW SPECIAL EXHIBITS ON I PHOTO CENTRAL; OTHER NEWS; RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS
PART ONE: EUROPEAN ACTION BUSY, BUT SHOWS ERRATIC RESULTS
It was a hectic schedule on both sides of the Channel this Spring and early Summer, including a half dozen or so Paris auctions, five London auctions, the table-top London Photo Fair, the new and much larger Photo-London show and the Bievres outdoor photographica market--not to mention several book fairs that often attract photography dealers and collectors.
In Paris Millon, Yann Le Mouel and Piasa each held their auctions prior to London's.
Millon had an important group of early images by Jacques Lartigue, which were reprinted a bit later, probably around the late 1920s or early 1930s by Lartigue. The photographs drew considerable attention, although the price tags were very steep at about 45,000 euros plus premium. However one did sell by phone. Christopher Goeury is the expert here.
Yann Le Mouel had a few bargains, but even more buy-ins. I do not recall anything going over 5,000 euros here. Viviane Esders is the expert at this house.
Piasa was the auction that got all the real attention. It featured perhaps the finest group of Auguste Salzmann salt prints to ever come on the market. Although the lots were highly erratic, most of the best prints exhibited a rich reddish color that was extraordinary for these Blanquart-Evrard-produced prints. Unlike a lot of auctions, it was the room that dominated this sale and not the phone or commission bidders. All the prices below were in euros (currently $1.24/euro) and do not include the premium of 20.332%. You can multiply the prices below by 1.5 to get the total equivalent in dollars including premium. For the most part, I will only report on the items that made 9,000 or more euros.
There were a number of familiar faces in the room and some less known. Neil Folberg, Hans Kraus, Jr., Robert Hershkowitz, Laurent and Leon Herschtritt, Baudoin Lebon and myself were among the active dealers who bought at this sale, although there were a few other unsuccessful bystanders. A number of collectors and at least one institution were also bidding directly and by proxy.
Michael Sachs, who bought a major group of Salzmann's just two years ago, was the most active buyer at the sale, buying well over half of the value of the sale. Sachs was strictly representing the Tel Aviv Museum of Art at this sale, rather than buying for himself. He started off with lot one, Jerusalem Enceinte du Temple, Cote Ouest, Heit-el-Morhaby. He had to fight off the active bidding of Eric Touchaleaum of Galerie 54. The final price was 10,700 euros (Piasa's web site reports it inaccurately at 1,700 euros) over an estimate of 3,000-5,000 euros.
Touchaleaum came back on the very next lot (Jerusalem Enceinte du Temple, Arche du pont salomonien qui reliait Moria a Sion) and took it for 5,200 euros. Apparently, Touchaleaum is planning a show of "walls", both Salzmann's and contemporary work in his Paris gallery, which features architectural decoration and details. It will be interesting to see if this non-photography gallery can get its clients to become interested in this medium.
Touchaleaum again showed his strength outlasting Michael Sachs on the very good lot 6. Estimated at a very reasonable 4,000-6,000, it sold for 13,700 euros--still a good buy.
A French collector in the room bought lot 8 (a three-part panorama of Jerusalem Enceinte du Temple) for 11,500 euros, versus an estimate of 4,000-5,000.
Touchaleum battled Sachs for lot 14, Jerusalem Enceinte du Temple (Details de l'appareil de la Piscine probatique), pushing the price to 9,200 euros versus an estimate of only 4,000-6,000 before the French dealer closed off the bidding.
Another very good print, lot 17, Jerusalem Vallee de Hinnon (Inscription Tumulaire Grecque 2), drew some fireworks. Estimated at 4,000-6,000, UK dealer Robert Hershkowitz took on Touchaleaum, pushing him to 12,000 euros before the French dealer took the prize.
I battled Michael Sachs for the very beautiful lot 19, Jerusalem Vallee de Hinnon (Details de la fries de la retraite des Apotres), but was beaten back when it tripled its estimate at 9,000 euros--still a very good bargain, considering the fine quality of the print.
Robert Hershkowitz snagged lot 25, the abstract Jerusalem Piscine de Siloe, for 11,500 euros--well over the 2,000-3,000 estimate.
Michael Sachs took lot 26, Jerusalem, Village de Siloam, away from Sam Stourdze, but had to go to 8,500 euros (estimate 2,000-3,000) to do it.
Many of the Jerusalem Valee de Josaphat images soared well over their estimates. Michael Sachs bid 8,000 euros for Tombeau de Zacharie; 10,200 for Tombeau de Saint Jacques; and 6,900 for Tombeau d'Absalom. French dealer Sam Stourdze bidding for Canadian collectors Harry and Ann Malcomson bought the following lot (details du tombeau d'Absalom) for 8,200 euros. This latter print was the strongest of the group in my estimation. Stourdze reportedly had three different clients he was advising and bidding for during this sale (two American collectors, reportedly Paul Sack and Gary Sokol, and the Canadian couple).
Another great image and print was lot 36, Jerusalem Tombeau des Rois de Juda (Frise superieure et centrale). Touchaleaum battled Sachs on this one and the French dealer came away with the lot although at a pricey 16,500 euros (estimate 5,000-6,000), almost $25,000. It was a repeat session on the next lot, the equally fine Jerusalem Tombeau des Rois de Juda (Encadremont de feuillages et de fruits), but Touchaleaum had to go to 20,500 to win this one. Both lots, unlike other lots relating to the tomb of the Jewish King, were stunning prints as well as strong images.
Although frankly not as strong a print as some of the others in the sale, the iconic cover lot (lot 40, Jerusalem Escalier Antique Taille dans le Roc) was bound to be a battleground. In the end it was Touchaleaum that conquered, but at a price more than triple the low estimate at 22,000 euros, which was a new world record for Auguste Salzmann at auction. The price in dollars with premium is nearly $33,000. Not to worry, this record too would fall before the end of the sale.
The phone played one of its few roles of the day on lot 42, Jerusalem Tombeau des Juges. Estimated at a very low 4,000-5,000 euros, the rather austere image (decent but not stunning print) sold to the phone over Touchaleaum's persistent bidding for 19,000 euros (just under $30,000)--almost another world record.
Lot 48, the important Jerusalem Sarcophage Judaique, sold to UK dealer Hershkowitz, who had to battle Michael Sachs for the image to 15,000 euros, over an estimate of 3,000-4,000 euros.
Sam Stourdze was able to get lot 51, Jerusalem Arc de l'Ecce Homo, for one of his American clients for 12,500 euros (estimate 3,000-4,000) after fighting off a French collector.
Michael Sachs came back into the fray with the important lot 58, Jerusalem Saint Sepulcre (Details des chapiteaux), for 9,000 euros, which was well over the estimate of only 2,000-3,000. Sachs also picked up lot 62, Jerusalem Saint Sepulcre (Chapelle du Calvaire), for 8,500 euros over Sam Stourdze's bid. It was a fine print and worth the money.
Lot 76, Jerusalem, Eglise de Saint Marie Madeleine, estimated at only 3,000-4,000 euros, had great color but a few light spots. Sachs nailed this one down for the museum, but at a cost of 14,000 euros.
Stourdze tried again for his clients on lot 78, the rich print of Jerusalem, Auberge d'Allemagne, but Michael Sachs was too strong at 13,000 euros (estimate 5,000-6,000 euros).
Sachs also picked up lots 91, Jerusalem, Fontaine Arabe 1, for 12,200 euros; lot 92 Jerusalem, Fontaine Arabe 2, for 10,500; lot 93, Jerusalem, Fontaine Arabe 3, for 7,800; and lot 94, Jerusalem, Fontaine Arabe 4, for 11,000.
Lot 95, Jerusalem, Rue du Quartier Arabe 1, consisted of two prints. While the color was good in both, one of the prints was actually doubled when the photographer's camera moved and the other just appeared to be a bit dark and muddy for my taste. It still went to 12,000 euros over an estimate of only 2,000-3,000. Sam Stourdze bought it for an American client over Sachs' underbid.
Lot 96, Jerusalem Ornements Arabe 1, was certainly an excellent print with strong color. Estimated at 5,000-6,000, it was sure to do well, but I think the print soared to a level that I doubt the auction expert or consignors expected. Michael Sachs fought off a French collector for this prize, which he took home for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for a 30,000 euro (nearly $45,000) price tag and a new world auction record for Salzmann.
The rest of the sale was fairly anticlimactic after this lot.
As Michael Sachs told me afterwards, "It was an opportunity that I do not expect to occur again in the foreseeable future, especially since the image quality of the plates in the album was generally of significantly higher quality than in the two albums in institutions that I am familiar with. There were a few important images that I did not bid on because the museum already has them."
Marc Pagneux was the expert on the Salzmann portion of the sale.
One more item added to the Salzmann's at the end of the auction was a daguerreotype of a young military cadet by Gustave Le Gray, which expert Michele Chomette introduced. The only problem was the ridiculous price tag (estimate 30,000-35,000 euros). If it did not have the Le Gray stamped into the plate, it would not have brought a nod at 1,000 euros. Cute yes, important no. It failed to go at 25,000.
In the end, the sale sold 100% of its Salzmann's, and only the overpriced daguerreotype by Le Gray marred the otherwise perfect record. The total take was just over 729,000 euros including the premium, or about $900,000. That was a very strong showing for a Paris auction.
Then it was on to London for the fairs and the auctions there. I will cover those and the rest of the French auctions in the next newsletter after I return from Photo San Francisco.
UPDATE: PHOTO SAN FRANCISCO TO BE HELD
THIS WEEK, JULY 22-25 AT FT. MASON CENTER
Photo San Francisco 2004, the 5th annual San Francisco Photographic Art Exposition will be held next week at the historic and scenic Festival Pavilion at the Ft. Mason Center from July 22-25, 2004.
Last year's event tallied 4,500 visitors and even more are expected this year. In anticipation of increased attendance and the larger number of exhibitors the exhibition has moved to the spacious Festival Pavilion, adjacent to the former venue at the Herbst Pavilion.
This year's Photo San Francisco has attracted a record of over 80 galleries and private dealers from the United States and around the world, presenting photographic art ranging from rare 19th-century prints to photo-based art. This is an opportunity for collectors, curators, dealers and enthusiasts to view a multitude of images and associate with leading artists and art professionals.
The opening night reception will take place Thursday night, July 22, 2004, from 6-9 p.m. The proceeds will benefit the Fort Mason Center Historic Preservation Fund, which enables the Fort Mason Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, to preserve this important national historic landmark. Tickets to the opening night reception are $75 and may be purchased at the door on the evening of the event by calling the Fort Mason Center Box Office at 415-345-7575.
Seminars and lecture panels will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 23-25. Seminar panelists include: Penelope Dixon, owner and founder of the appraisal firm, Penelope Dixon & Associates, Inc., specializing in archive, donation, and insurance appraisals in addition to collection management, cataloguing services, and marketing and auction consultation; Drew Johnson, curator of fine art photography at the Oakland Museum of California and author of Capturing Light, a visual history that celebrates 150 years of California's greatest photographers; and Keith Davis, Chief Curator of the Hallmark Fine Art Collection.
Guest speakers include acclaimed photographers: Mark Citret, a noted environmental landscape artist; David Maisel, renowned for his abstract, aerial photographs of environmentally impacted landscapes; Alec Soth, whose emotive portraits of ordinary people have appeared in Fortune Magazine, Newsweek and the New York Times; and Joel Peter-Witkin, whose images are noted for their complex juxtaposition of beauty and oddity. Seminars are conducted at 9 am before public hours, and are limited to 30 people. Reservations are required. Please call for a schedule of events. Tickets are $65 per seminar and include a three-day pass to Photo San Francisco.
Regular exhibition hours are Friday, July 23rd and Saturday, July 24th, noon to 7 p.m, and Sunday, July 25th, noon to 6 pm. Tickets are $15 for a one-day pass and $25 for a three-day pass and can be purchased at the door or through the Stephen Cohen Gallery. But if you print out this article and present it at registration you will get these tickets at the reduced rates of $10 and $15 respectively. This special rate is only available on site, but remember to bring your printout.
I Photo Central members Martin Gordon Gallery and Vintage Works, Ltd. will both be exhibiting. Vintage Works will be in booth 34 on the right side of the center aisle close to the entrance. Vintage Works will feature the large-scale color work of Marcus Doyle (see the article on new Special Exhibits below), as well as its normal range of fine vintage images. Please also ask to see our most recent purchases, which will primarily be available in our portfolio boxes. For a preview of some of this work, you can go to I Photo Central's search page and click on "Time Frame of Posting" and select "Past 7 Days".
For further information contact Stephen Cohen Gallery, 7358 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036; Phone: 1-323-937-5525; or visit www.photosanfrancisco.net . Please call the boxoffice in San Francisco from Friday through Sunday at 415-674-7200.
AUCTION HOUSE MUSICAL CHAIRS
In several moves that have industry watchers shaking their heads, Christie's, Howard Greenberg Gallery and Phillips de Pury have virtually swapped staff.
Former Christie's photography department head Leila Buckjune has taken on a sales role in the Howard Greenberg Gallery. Rick Wester has also been working with the gallery's operations on a management consulting basis, as Greenberg has stepped back temporarily from daily operations of the gallery to take more personal time and to allow himself to spend more effort on strategic projects and specific clients.
But more changes are in store for Wester, who was the former Christie's international head of photography. He will formally take over the photography department at Phillips in mid-January, although he will work as a part-time consultant for both Howard Greenberg Gallery and Phillips until then.
Meanwhile, former Phillips photography New York department head Joshua Holdeman has joined Christie's to head up its international department of photography and its New York 20th-century decorative arts department.
He had reportedly been courted by Christie's last year, but Phillips apparently met the Christie's offer at that time. When the Christie's design veterans Nicola Redman and Peggy Giles recently resigned, the extra department head openings allowed Christie's to sweeten the deal. The auction house has also added MOMA assistant curator of architecture and design Bevin Cline as vice president of the 20th-century decorative arts department in order to bolster Holdeman's lack of experience in that area.
If Holdeman needs any further help with either department, the New York Sun reported last week (apparently from Phillips' New York office sources) that his old mentor Philippe Garner, who headed up both photography and 20th-century design at both Phillips and Sotheby's, will also be brought on to the Christie's team to head up those departments in London. Garner is one of the most experienced auction experts in either of these two fields and is extremely well respected. No official announcement on Garner has been made yet, and Garner continues to remain mum on his future as his contract with Phillips is still currently in effect.
MARTIN GORDON GALLERY JOINS I PHOTO CENTRAL;
NEARLY 800 NEW IMAGES JUST ADDED TO SITE;
NEW SPECIAL EXHIBITS ON I PHOTO CENTRAL
I would like to welcome another new photography dealer, which has recently become a member of I Photo Central: Martin Gordon Gallery. The gallery joins dealers Christopher Cardozo Fine Art, Galerie Hypnos, Charles Schwartz, Ltd. and Vintage Works, Ltd.
Situated in the heart of the growing art community in downtown Phoenix, AZ, Martin Gordon Gallery is just blocks from the Phoenix Art Museum. The present gallery, located in an historic neighborhood, is the successor to Martin Gordon, Inc., which dates to the 1960s. As well as dealing in photographs and fine prints, Martin Gordon held a number of legendary photograph and print auctions in New York City in the mid 1970s.
The gallery offers a wide range of images by both recognized and lesser-known photographers, including Edward S. Curtis, Man Ray, Edward Weston, William Henry Jackson, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. It also represents the estates of Morris Berman and Howard Dils. The gallery’s stock is constantly changing, and they welcome ongoing inquiries and specific requests.
Martin Gordon Gallery is a private dealer, by appointment only, at 306 West Coronado Road, Phoenix, Arizona, 85003-1147, USA. The main telephone number is 1-602-253-6948; toll free is 1-800-892-4622; and fax is 1-602-253-2104. Please contact Amanda Collins or Pablo Ruiz at info@MartinGordonGallery.com
. The direct website is www.MartinGordonGallery.com . You can view the hundreds of photographs offered by Martin Gordon Gallery by going to I Photo Central's Member Gallery page at http://www.iphotocentral.com/dealer/dealer.php
, scrolling down to the gallery's listing and then clicking on the "Show All Member's Images" button.
Beides Martin Gordon's new images on the site, Charles Schwartz, Ltd. and Vintage Works, Ltd. have added another large group to the site in just the last week. To see the latest images go to the Search page at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/search.php
and go to TIME FRAME OF POSTING and select either "Past 7 Days" (over 550) or "Past Month" (nearly 800) to see all the new images posted.
Some of the photographers represented in the new additions include important vintage prints from Eugene Atget, Felice Beato, Paul Berthier, Julia M. Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Andre De Dienes, Marcus Doyle, Arthur Durham (early microphotographs), Laure Albin-Guillot, Ilse Bing, Marcel Bovis, Bill Brandt, Brassai, Harry Callahan, Charles Clifford, Harold Corsini, Andre Adolphe-Eugene Disderi, Robert Doisneau, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Charles Fredricks, Vincenso Galdi, Eugene Harris, Lotte Jacobi, Andre Kertesz, Francois Kollar, Herbert List, Jean Moral, Inge Morath, Charles Negre, Jozsef Pecsi, Rene-Jacques, Louis-Remy Robert, Willy Ronis, Eva Rubinstein, Auguste Salzmann, William Saunders, Aaron Siskind, Andre Steiner, Isaiah Taber, Captain Linnaeus Tripe, Francois Tuefferd, Geza Vandor, Lionel Wendt, Brett Weston and Jessie Whitehurst studio (perhaps the only known image of Whitehurst).
You will also find two new Special Exhibits up on I Photo Central, added to the other 27 current exhibits that were already on display. We have also continued to change images and add to our essays for all our Special Exhibits, so they are worth another peek, especially if you have not looked lately.
Our two latest additions are "Marcus Doyle: New Color Work" and "Geza Vandor: A Hungarian in Paris".
Marcus Doyle is a young Brit with considerable talent for his 32 years. If you collect and admire contemporary color work, then this photographer should deserve your undivided attention, because I think he may be the next stage in this type of work. He shoots without filters or computer manipulation, but the images, which are shot during the twilight or evening hours, exhibit highly saturated colors and a formalism that hints of surrealism.
Doyle says he is "interested in the boundaries people create within a society and started to photograph examples of these using large format cameras. After several trips to my hometown in the north of England, I became a witness to the constant new housing developments and manmade urban sprawls. It was this that prompted me to begin a new project. These images were mostly shot at night with whatever light was available. I found that the long exposures and resulting saturated colors created a world few of us are actually familiar with but still live in every day."
Doyle is painstaking careful and has often come away from an entire month's shooting with only one striking image. As I noted earlier, this is a photographer to watch, because, in my opinion, he may be the most important color photographer since Gursky and Eggleston.
Images are available in 11 x 14 inch to 30 x 40 inch sizes in very small editions.
Geza Vandor is a major discovery. Vandor was a friend of fellow Hungarians Ergy Landau, André Kertész and Sigismond Kolos-Vary, who encouraged his work. He worked from the late 1920s through the early 1950s.
His images share the same sensibilities as Russian constructionist photographs of the same period. Sharp angles, motion, heavy shadow, smoke and distorted viewpoints were all earmarks of this approach, which in Paris was virtually unique to Vandor's imagery. But Vandor's work also combined the best of the Parisian influences of the time. The mystery of the images and bizarre slices of life that he photographed took much from the Surrealist movement, which found its center in Paris.
In addition to the two new exhibits, Vintage Works has just revised and put back up its popular Andre Kertesz Special Exhibit.
You can see these fine exhibits, along with 26 others at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php
GALLERY CHANGES: BONNI BENRUBI GALLERY is relocating from the Upper Eastside to 41 East 57th St., New York City, in mid-October. It joins several other photography galleries in the Fuller Building between Madison and Park Avenues. The expanded gallery space will be on the 13th floor. The first show planned is an exhibit of new work by Abelardo Morell… London's FOCUS GALLERY has discontinued operations. The gallery had gone through a major expansion just two years ago.
RETIREMENT: MARK HAWORTH-BOOTH is leaving the Victoria & Albert Museum after 34 years. He served as curator-in-charge of photographs from 1977 through this year. His successor is colleague Martin Barnes, currently curator of photographs. Haworth-Booth will continue to work with the V&A on various projects including curating a Lee Miller Centenary Retrospective to be shown at the Museum in autumn 2007. He is also co-editing a series called Exposures for Reaktion Books and is a visiting professor of photography at the University of the Arts, London.
OBITUARIES: VAN DEREN COKE has passed away. Born in 1921 in Lexington, KY, Van Deren Coke began photographing at 15 years of age. He entered the University of Kentucky in 1939 and attended summer classes at the Clarence White School in New York. He earned his M.F.A. in art history and sculpture at Indiana University in 1958 and later became Assistant Professor of Art History and Photography at the University of Florida. He served as director at the University Art Museum, University of New Mexico from 1962 until 1970, when he became director at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House. He was curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 1979-1987. Coke received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975 and a Fulbright Fellowship in 1989… DON HONG-OAI died on June 8. Born in Canton, China in 1929, Hong-Oai was first apprenticed to a Saigon portrait studio as a seven-year-old child. He later attended Vietnam University College of Art and began to teach photography. In 1979 He fled Vietnam by boat and became a refugee to the United States, settling in San Francisco. He worked with ancient Chinese themes and printed from multiple negatives to create a sense of timelessness and poetry in his Chinese landscapes, which often resemble traditional watercolors… Photographer JACK LEIGH died on May 19 after a long bout with cancer. Leigh's best-known image of the statue of the "Bird Girl" in Savannah, GA, became the cover of the best-selling novel "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil".
RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS
By Matt Damsker
WILLEM DIEPRAAM. Published by Focus Publishing, Amsterdam; 2001; Essays by Annie-Laure Wanaverbecq and Chris van Esterik. ISBN No. 90-72216-85-7. 208 pages. Focus Publishing BV, M.J. Kosterstraat 4, 1017 VX Amsterdam, The Netherlands; phone: +31 20 6264353; fax: +31 20 6236049. No price indicated.
Willem Diepraam stands as something of a Renaissance Man in the world of modern photography, having begun his career as a photojournalist with a Dutch newspaper, and evolving freely and steadily with his restless eye for imagery. He comfortably fills out the role of fine-art photographer, avid collector, and curator, and this handsome book collects much of his strongest work--mainly black-and-white shots, with a few spectacular color images.
If there's an emblematic Diepraam image, perhaps it is a 1974 shot from Fatima, Portugal, depicting old women in a crowd, their wizened visages framing the hopeful, unlined beauty of a young girl who stands between them. Diepraam brings his lens squarely to the meat of mass gatherings, protest marches, and the like, but his interest lies in the sheer vitality of the humanity he locates, not in the specifics of their geopolitics.
Thus, his images of cattle and farmland, of rainstorms and lone figures in the veldt, of nudes spread languidly on soft sheets, of nondescript architecture and unforgettable faces all convey a richness of technique that respects the gift of natural light and the infinite possibilities of human form and global landscape. Diepraam's photos may evoke pity or wonder, yet they avoid cliché with the true ease of a great photojournalist whose instinct is to record, never preach.
In one of this book's two extensive essays exploring Diepraam's life and work, he observes, tellingly: "For someone who looks at art with an informed eye it is so patently obvious that photography is art that it is actually a moot point. On the other hand, the fact that photography is art is, on principle, irrelevant. In theory it doesn't make something any more or less important and it doesn't add anything to it… It must retain something of… amateurism, relaxed and informal. In photography the connection with amateurism must always remain open."
There is nothing amateurish about any of Diepraam's photos, of course, but the sheer muscularity and freedom with which he wields his camera make his point well enough. There's not a hint of self-consciousness in his best shots, and even when he courts sentimentality--as in a 1988 color close-up of a young couple lying in each other's arms in New York's Central Park--he manages to capture something potently iconic, always locating a measure of human vulnerability to deepen the formal impact of the image.
Thus we have his sensational 1988 color shot of a young European doctor listening to the heartbeat of a child in a Ugandan village--the doctor stands, undistracted, while other children cling to his back and a needy sea of humanity seems to pulsate all around him. Formally, the image has a Biblical character--a pieta for the 20th century--but in essence it's a simple, unforced, unposed moment glimpsed easily and instinctively.
Still, we know that Diepraam's photos are art because they often startle us without trying to. A 1988 shot of Karolien, a beautiful girl in a red blouse standing on an Amsterdam street, becomes a parable of time and mortality when we notice the black-coated form of an old man with a valise who stands a few feet away. Diepraam doesn't push the composition--it seems to have happened, and that is its point.
Likewise, his freewheeling shots from the 1970s--of café dwellers sitting uneasily together in Surinam, or tourists clowning outside a bullring in Spain, or Queen Juliana greeting a worshipful throng that strains toward her--convey a rare kinetic charge; we can sense the motion that came before and after. And yet his ability to locate the still center of worlds is no less profound, as in this book's cover image--a close-up of a young woman giving birth, her face frozen in a maternal rapture. Like much of Diepraam's art, it takes the measure of our lives--earthy to erotic, humble to exalted--and bears keen witness.
THE PHOTOGRAPHERS OF CONSTANTINOPLE. By Bahattin Oztuncay. Two Volumes. Published by Aygaz A.S., Istanbul, December 2003; ISBN Nos. 975-296-052-9; 975-296-053-7; ISBN Set No. 975-296-051-0. 735 pages; no price indicated.
This comprehensive two-volume study of Istanbul's 19th-century photographic pioneers, studios, and artists seems worthy of a life's work for its relatively youthful author, 46-year-old Bahattin Oztuncay. Born in Istanbul, Oztuncay has immersed himself in the photographic legacy of his native land, and his writings on James Robertson, Edouard de Caranzam and Vassilaki Kargopoulo--all pioneers of Ottoman Empire imagery--have distinguished him throughout the photography world.
His systematic approach to this sprawling subject serves him well here, as does the lavishly illustrated and annotated packaging of these volumes, with hundreds of superb reproductions on rich matte paper stock. Oztuncay begins his history with the invention of photography and its early days in Istanbul, from the spread of the daugerreotype and calotype methods to their arrival in Istanbul with the first wave of traveling photographers.
Importantly, he describes how the intense Orientalism of the Ottoman Empire and the scenic splendors of Istanbul proved to be such powerful inspirations for Western photographers such as Robertson, John Shaw Smith, and Alphonse Durand. They were also financial motivations, given that "Britain and France's political and economic interests in the Middle East in particular stimulated popular curiosity about the region, thus providing enough of a source of demand…for works dealing with Orientalistic themes that artists and authors could be assured of making a living by supplying them."
Indeed, portraits of exotic personages in Turkish costumes, along with the mosques, minarets and Byzantine obelisks of the Ottoman experience proved popular fodder for the late 19th-century picture-makers. And while James Robertson's photographic views of Constantinople earned him just renown, Oztuncay details Robertson's more official occupation--as chief engraver for the Ottoman mint, where he designed many of the coins of the realm.
Photography was thus a sideline for the likes of Robertson, but he and other Western pioneers were paralleled in their efforts by the Ottoman court photographers who began to define the Istanbul style. The most accomplished of these was Vassilaki Kargopoulo, who prevailed over such potent rivals as the Abdullah, Gulmez, and Sebah studios to become Chief Photographer of the Ottoman Court in the late 1870s. Kargopoulo and his peers benefited greatly, of course, from Frederick Scott Archer's invention of the wet collodion method of photography, which allowed for convenient paper reproductions of images.
And so images of Turkish commercial and domestic life, street-sellers, and the variety of scenic wonders became commonplace, many of them superb in detail and atmosphere. Volume 2 of Oztuncay's study collects over 300 of these treasures, with generous reproductions of the Imperial Family, statesmen, Ottoman celebrities, palaces, everyday life, the city and the sea. There are also several wonderful foldout panoramas of Istanbul, the Topkapi palace and the Asian shore of the Bosporus, taken from such vantage points as the Beyazit and Galata towers.
As these volumes show so compellingly, the power of photography to return us to and reveal to us lost worlds is truly magical. Oztuncay's discernment and his devotion to his subject combine powerfully with the depth of archival material at his command. "The Photographers of Constantinople" may well prove to be his masterpiece, though it's logical to assume he'll provide many more tours de force of scholarship in the years ahead.
WANTED: NEW ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR VINTAGE WORKS
I am still looking for a new assistant director. The person should be located in or be willing to locate to the Bucks County area north of Philadelphia, PA. The ideal background should include knowledge of photography and photo history; and good people, computer and business skills. Job can be three to five days per week. Please send your resume by email to me at email@example.com