Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg, “Self Portrait, Black Mountain (1)”, 1952, Gelatin Silver Print, 14.3 x 8.3 cm, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

While studying at Black Mountain College in North Carolina between 1948 and 1952, Robert Rauschenberg focused his attention on mid-century experimental and abstract photography. His exploration of this medium was influenced by the works of photographer Aaron Siskind, whose detailed images created an innovation in abstract photography; Harry Callahan, a prolific photographer who rigorously curated his work; and educator and photographer Hazel Larson Archer, whose work captured life at Black Mountain.

Rauschenberg used a bold mixture of abstraction, double exposures, experiments with light and shadow, and used blueprint paper to produce photographs with a camera. Many of his earliest photographic experiments were portraits of close companions and people he met in conversations; these include artists such as choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham and painter Cy Twombly.

A recurring subject of his experimental work was the self portrait, of which the double-exposure image above, “Self Portrait, Black Mountain (1)”, is an example. Shot in 1952, it features Rauschenberg seated on a wooden chair with his hands folded. Ghostly images of weeds and chairs are superimposed over his body.This photograph is a singular work in a portfolio edition of seven related photographs taken during the summer of 1952 at Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina.

Lee Friedlander

Lee Friedlander, Photographs from the “The Little Screens” Series

Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in July of 1934, Lee Friedlander is an artist and photographer known for his innovative images depicting America’s city streets. His candid street photography captured the light and content in the country’s urban landscapes.

At the age of eighteen, Friedlander began his formal studies of photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In 1956, he settled in New York City, where he photographed jazz musicians for record album covers. Friedlander’s early work was influenced by Swiss photographer and documentary film maker Robert Frank, best known for his 1958 book “The Americans”; Walker Evans, known for his Depression Era images taken with a large-format view camera; and the French pioneer of documentary photography Eugène Atget, known for his scenes of Paris’ streets and architecture. 

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960, Lee Friedlander was able to focus on his photography, which is primarily executed with hand-held Leica 35 mm cameras and black and white film. Friedlander’s street photography featured detached images of ordinary urban life, including structures framed by fences, gas stations, parking lots, store fronts, churches and commercial signs and posters. In his work, he cleverly used reflections and shadows, often shooting images at strange angles or through car windshields. Friedlander has also used car mirrors to frame an image within an image. 

Friedlander is constantly aware of the photographer’s relationship to the picture plane; and he places at least as much importance on it as on the image’s apparent subject which could be an empty street, a store window, or an unremarkable piece of town statuary. Friedlander’s photographs often contain his shadow and/or his reflection, a self-portrait which lends an odd edge to his observations.

Friedlander had his first solo exhibition in 1963 at the International Museum of Photography located at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Along with photographers Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand, he was a key figure at curator John Szarkowski’s 1967 “New Documents” exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, an influential exhibition which generated a new look in documentary photography. 

Lee Friedlander has published books regularly: the 1969 “Work from the Same House”, a collaborative effort with artist Jim Dine; “Self-Portrait” published in 1970; the 1981 “Flowers and Trees”; the 1985 retrospective “Lee Friedlander: Portraits”; “Nudes” published in 1991; and the 1992 “The Jazz People of New Orleans”. Friedlander has received a number of awards for his photography, including three Guggenheim Fellowships, five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a MacArthur Foundation Award. 

Friedlander is also responsible for rescuing and printing the negatives of early twentieth-century New Orleans photographer Ernest Joseph Bellocq, remembered for his haunting photographs taken in Storyville, New Orleans’ legalized red-light district. These photographs were published in the 1996 “Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville”, with an introduction by photographer Susan Sontag.

Note: In the early 1960s, Lee Friedlander’s attention was drawn to television sets, a relatively recent luxury appliance. His series “The Little Screens” first appeared as a 1963 picture essay in Harper’s Bazaar magazine, with a commentary by photographer Walker Evans. Six untitled photographs showed television screens broadcasting glowing images of faces and figures into unoccupied rooms in homes and motels across America. 

Between 1963 and 1969, “The Little Screens” series grew and, in 2001, was exhibited in full at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. The series documented not only iconographic ghostly rooms filled with bland furnishings of the period; it also revealed an emerging future reality of omnipresent television screens, and droning television voices and personalities that filled space in an increasing isolationist culture.

Insert Images: Lee Friedlander, “Self Portraits”, 1960s, Gelatin Silver Prints

Rudy Burckhardt, “Willem de Kooning”

Rudy Burckhardt, “Willem de Kooning”, 1950

This photograph taken by Rudy Burckhardt shows Willem de Kooning in his Fourth Avenue, New York, studio with drawings related to his “Woman I” painting in the background. “WomanI” was one of a series of six oil on canvas paintings centered upon a single female figure that de Kooning worked on from 1950 to 1953.

When de Kooning began to paint “Woman I”, abstraction was dominant in American art. Artists and critics had declared the human figure to be an obsolete subject, and de Kooning himself was enjoying acclaim for the abstract compositions he had been producing over the previous years. Many of his peers saw “Woman I” as a betrayal, a regression back to an outmoded tradition.

The painting also subjected de Kooning to accusations of misogyny, as viewers perceived his portrayal of its female subject to be menacing, objectifying, and violent. For de Kooning, however, this was a continuation of his earlier explorations of the human figure and an opportunity to further experiment with the wide-ranging methods of applying paint to canvas.

Charles Sheeler

Charles Sheeler, “Criss-Crossed Converyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company”, 1927, Gelatin Silver Print, Metropolitan Museum of Art

A realistic painter as well as a photographer, Charles Sheeler rarely failed to uncover harmonious coherence in the forms of indigenous American architecture. His series of photographs of the Ford plant near Detroit was commissioned by the automobile company through an advertising agency. Widely reproduced in Europe and America in the 1920s, this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendent power of industrial production in the early modern age.

Sheeler was one of the founders of American modernism, developing a syle of painting known as Percisionism. He attended the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial art from 1900 to 1903. Sheeler later attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under William Merritt Chase, who later established the Parsons School of Design.

Realizing he could not make a living with Modernist painting, Sheeler focused in 1910 on commercial photography, particularly on  architectual subjects. He was a self-taught photographer, leaning his trade on a five-dollar Brownie made by Eastman Kodak. The theme of machinery and technology featured prominently in Sheeler’s photographic work, which continued the linear precision of his paintings.

Jean Dieuzaide

Jean Dieuzaide, “Dali in the Water”, Cadaquès, 1953

Jean Dieuzaide was a French photographer born in Grenade, Haute-Garonne, on June 20, 1921. He was a photographer in the French Humanist style, a ethical and philosophical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, collectively and individually. Dieuzaide was also a member of Le Groupe des XV, a collective of fifteen French Humanist photographers which exhibited from 1946 to 1957.

Jean Dieuzaide was very influential inthe photographic culture of the city of Toulouse for over two decades. The portrayal of Salvador Dali swimming with his moustache decorated with daisies is one of his most famous portraits. In 1974 Dieuzaide founded Le Chateau d’Eau, a photography gallery in Toulouse, originally a water tower and now one of the oldest public places dedicated to photography in the world.

Robert Whitman, “Prince”

Robert Whitman, “Prince at Age Nineteen”, 1977

Robert Whitman was born in New York City. He attended Columbia University in New York and graduated with a BA from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He currently lives and works in Warwick, New York.

This photograph is from a series created during three separate photoshoots for a press kit that then 26-year old Robert Whitman made of Prince during 1977. Whitman photographed Prince in his Minneapolis studio, Owen Husney’s Linden Hills Boulevard home and on the street of downtown Minneapolis, including in front of the mural of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony painted on the side of the Schmitt’s Music store. Only 15 copies of the press kit weries were ever produced. The photographs from these sessions have rarely been seen.

​This photograph is a select from that series made by the Robert Whitman in 2013 from the three shoots taken in 1977. The photos in that press kit series, Prince’s first with a professional photographer, mark an instrumental moment in his career and the creation of his style and persona.

Please credit the photographer Robert Whitman when reblogging. Thanks.