Midterm Essay (History of Photography)

Julia Tarantino



I was very fascinated by the Cibachrome Photogram, specifically the photogram “Love” by Adam Fuss from 1992.  Cibachrome prints are silver dye bleach prints, which is a light sensitive coating that gives strong colors to the print. The idea of putting a subject on top of photosensitive paper and exposing it to light (photogram) is an interesting thing to classify as a photograph, since people normally associate photographs with cameras, however it still became a modernist technique used most famously by Man Ray. This process looks almost like a scan or an x-ray, which gives you a two dimensional print. Cibachrome prints are silver dye bleach prints, which is a light sensitive coating that gives strong colors to the print. This is a technique I have never used but it certainly makes you think about what can or can not be a photograph. Can a photogram truly be classified as a photograph? I find that the two are very different things to be honest since one is two dimensional and the other is three dimensional.

When we started talking about collage art I was little confused as to what its role was to photography, however I wasn’t complaining because I am a collage artist myself. Many of the names were familiar, such as Hannah Hoch, because I did a collage series for my studio final last semester so I knew of her work after doing research for inspiration. I suppose collage art can tie into photography since it uses photographs to create a composition. I enjoy mixing media and playing with printing to move photographs onto a whole different level, so I was very fascinated by Andre Kertesz’s “Broken Glass” print. I thought it was incredible beautiful and showcased how a photograph can be abstract if pulled in the right direction, which is something I’d like to explore more of with my work.

Pictorialist photographers have always been my main inspiration for photography-I have spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the photo-secessionists and their work. I love how their photographs have the dream-like quality of a painting while still being very evidently a photograph. Their compositions look like genuine pieces of art, where each photograph looks like a masterpiece. I feel like their rebellious nature against the norm is something I feel connected to because I’m not a fan of most of modern photograph or the photography scene. I someday hope that my photographs can be as profoundly beautiful and deep like those of Stieglitz and Steichen.

Hippolyte Bayard’s “Self Portrait As A Drowned Man” (taken in 1840) was really interesting to me. Seeing the first self portrait ever taken was fascinating because the self portrait artists that I have been interested in have always been contemporary for the most part (besides Francesca Woodman, unless one would consider her contemporary.) Even though photography was a new concept at this time Bayard was still experimenting right away with the possibilities of it. I did self portraits in high school and have once again started to explore the genre again with the hasselblad. I really love taking self portraits because often times taking pictures of people makes me nervous, so I feel as though self portraits are the most comfortable and accurate to my vision.

“The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite” done by James Nasmyth and James Carpenter is a fascinating project to me. It combines science and photography in a way that almost doesn’t seem like art. However there are some photographs in there that have surrealist qualities to them, such as the one of the hand or of the circular object that almost looks like a brain (shown in class). Surrealism is never something that I have actively tried to showcase in my work and have never certainly taken the route of scientific documentation, though I have always been into landscapes so perhaps that correlates to the book. I haven’t been doing much landscape work since I’ve been living in New York City for the past year and a half, however when I travel out of state I try to shoot landscapes as much as I can.

Raghubir Singh’s photographs at the Met were truly beautiful to witness in real life. His photographs have a way of taking you into the scene when you see them in real life. I really liked his chromogenic print series on Bombay, specifically his photograph “Zaveri Bazaar and Jeweller’s Showroom, Bombay, Maharashtra” which really caught my attention. I really loved the way his photographs were so busy but quiet at the same time, like they truly caught a quick moment in a busy street scene. This is a quality that I want to try to incorporate into my work since my work has a quiet seclusion to it, which means that I normally don’t photograph busy scenes. I want to try to shoot busy scenes in the same way that Singh does; compositionally busy but with a quiet atmosphere.

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