Since the nineteenth century, photography had been regarded as a documentary tool, a scientific process that required little-to-no finesse or artistic vision. Photography was a useful tool for painters, however, who often employed photographs to create sketches of models or landscapes. Early attempts to expand the medium’s aesthetic potential included allegories, staged illustrations of popular literary themes, often from the Bible. Also early on, photographers experimented with creating single prints from multiple negatives, a practice called combination printing. Oscar Rejlander’s 1857 allegorical combination print “The Two Ways of Life” was exhibited as one of the 600 photographs at the Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857 and famously was purchased by Queen Victoria. Rejlander is also credited with producing what may have been the first deliberate double-exposure, titled “Hard Times” (1860). English photographers Henry Peach Robinson and Julia Margaret Cameron also employed allegories.
Pictorialism was an international movement that dominated photographic style and taste during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pictorialists experimented with composition, lighting, and processes to create images in the traditions of painting and illustration. The movement arose in reaction to the emergence of amateur photography.
Among serious photographers, the snapshot degraded and downplayed the aesthetic of the medium required to compose images and the craftsmanship necessary to develop prints. With the advent of Kodak cameras in the late 1880s-early 1890s, technical expertise was no longer essential to make photographs. Pictorialists preferred labor-intensive processes, such as gum printing, that emphasized the role of the photographer. Pictorial photography often has a romantic, illustrated or painterly appearance that suggests the manipulation and thus the creation of the artistic image. Alfred Stieglitz was the leading figure of Pictorialism in the United States, and perhaps the best known woman Pictorialist was Gertrude Käsebier, who is currently the subject of a special exhibition at the University of Delaware Museums. Outside of the Library of Congress, the University of Delaware holds the largest body of her photography.
I dream Atget. Los Angeles : Paradise Press, 1997.
Melva B. Guthrie Bequest
Inspired by the work of French photographer Eugène Atget and her time photographing the California coast, Susan Elizabeth King paired Polaroid transfers printed on silk with short lines of verse, paying tribute to Atget’s melancholic Parisian street scenes. Atget (1857-1927) is noted for his photographs documenting Parisian street scenes and architecture. His work has been touted as straight photography as well as Modernist and is credited with influencing many twentieth-century photographers. He gained international fame posthumously, championed by more prominent twentieth-century artists, particularly Berenice Abbott, who preserved his prints and negatives and was the first to publish and exhibit Atget's work outside of France.
This edition was limited to seventeen copies, of which this is number five, signed by the artist.
Graduation certificate, New York City, June 1941. from the papers of William I. Homer, gift of William I. Homer
American photographer Clarence H. White (1871-1925) was a founding member of the Photo-Secessionists in 1902, who had gained early recognition for his soft-focus and masterful lighting techniques. In 1914, he founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography, which was the first institution in the United States whose curriculum emphasized photography as an art. Other faculty included Max Weber and Paul Lewis Anderson. White encouraged individuality and creativity over adherence to trends or movements. The White School attracted photographers from all disciplines and many of its students went on to become well known in the field, including Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, and Ralph Steiner. White also established the Seguinland School of Photography in Maine in 1916, where friends F. Holland Day and Gertrude Käsebier lent their expertise to students.
“Georgia O’Keefe’s hands” from Stieglitz memorial portfolio, 1864-1946. 18 reproductions of photographs by Alfred Stieglitz. Tributes - in memoriam. New York : Twice a Year Press, 1947.
This memorial portfolio, limited to an edition of 1500, was edited by photographer, patron of the arts, and social activist Dorothy Norman (1905-1997), who was mentored in her own work by American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Norman met Stieglitz in 1927 in his gallery, the Intimate Place; she became his lover, gallery assistant, and first biographer (Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer, 1973). She was a key force in helping to open and operate his third and final gallery, An American Place, at 509 Madison Avenue (1927-1946).
Stieglitz played a significant role in nurturing photography’s legitimacy as a fine art. Since the nineteenth century it had been regarded as a documentary tool, a scientific process that required little-to-no finesse or artistic vision. Stieglitz had gained an international reputation by the early twentieth century, and as editor of the New York Camera Club’s journal Camera Notes, he promoted photography’s aesthetic capabilities. In 1902, he and a number of American photographers (whose members included Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, Gertrude Käsebier, and Alvin Langdon Coburn) broke away from the New York Camera Club with a self-defining Photo-Secession exhibition. The Photo-Secessionists pursued and promoted labor-intensive Pictorialism, which rejected straight photography and amateur endeavors.
By 1917, Stieglitz turned to a more modernist sensibility: the true potential of photography as an artistic medium lay in a straight approach that did not include manipulating images. He owned and operated several galleries to promote new photography. Stieglitz’s later years were characterized by this direct approach, as evident in his support of photographers like Paul Strand and in his own portraits of his wife, American artist Georgia O’Keefe, whose hands are depicted in this image from the memorial portfolio.
Elizabeth's dream : a photographic tapestry of woman, her relationships, her life / photographs and text by Julianna FreeHand. Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. : Menses, 1984.
Julianna Freehand’s work has been placed in the tradition of photographers like Nell Dorr and Gertrude Käsebier, with its soft focus and ethereal quality. FreeHand’s work explores themes of women’s sexuality and spirituality. Elizabeth’s Dream pairs image with text to trace the narrative of a woman’s lifetime: her femininity, strength, and wisdom, through her relationships with others and with herself.
Mangroves : verse and photographs. Miami Beach, Fla. : Miami Post Pub. Co., c1933.from the library of Dr. Charles L. Reese
Nell Dorr apprenticed in photography with her father John Jacob Becker in his portrait studio in Ohio. Dorr began her own career in photography in the 1930s, after divorcing her first husband, Tom Koons. When she moved to New York City with her three daughters, she met Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, for whom she would bake bread. Stieglitz and Steichen admired her individual sense of style. Dorr’s 1934 show titled Famous Men at New York’s Delphic Studios featured portraits of Carl Sandburg and entrepreneur John Van Nostrand Dorr, whom she married in 1935. Dorr operated her own studio until the death of her youngest daughter in 1954, after which the subject of her photographs focused on mothers and children in memory of her daughter. Dorr’s work, known for its romantic aesthetic, was included in Steichen’s Family of Man exhibit in 1955. She published several books of her photographs, including In a Blue Moon (1939), Mothers and Daughters (1954), The Bare Feet (1962), and Of Night and Day (1968). This is Dorr’s first book, published under her first married name. This is the author’s autograph copy.
Modern masters of photography. New York : The Galleon Press, 1937.
Heyworth Campbell was a founding member of the New York Art Directors Club, which was created in 1920 to establish a professional organization for the growing industry of advertising photography, which began to rival fine art photography in aesthetic expression. He also served as the art director for Condé Nast and emerged as a leader in publishing design, layout, and typography. Campbell edited a number of works on photography, including The Body Beautiful (1935), Children in Action (1936), and Camera Around the World (1937).
Steichen the photographer. New York : Harcourt, Brace, 1929.
American photographer, painter, and curator Edward Steichen was once hailed by Vanity Fair as the greatest of living portrait photographers. Steichen was a close collaborator and partner of Alfred Stieglitz; he was the most prominently featured photographer in Stiegltiz’s influential journal Camera Work during its fifteen-year run (1902-1917). Together, Stieglitz and Steichen opened 291, the New York City gallery located at 291 Fifth Avenue, to promote avant-garde European and American art and showcase the work of the Photo-Secessionists, of which Steichen was a founding member. Steichen’s work contributed to a variety of major areas in modern photography, including fashion, advertising, and aerial photography. In the 1920s, Steichen began to transition from his soft-focused Pictorialist style to straight photography. In 1923, Steichen became the chief photographer for Condé Nast Publications. He was the first curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he curated the Family of Man exhibition in 1953. American writer Carl Sandburg was Edward Steichen’s brother-in-law; the pair collaborated together on choosing photographs for Sandburg’s Lincoln biographies and The Family of Man. This edition was limited to 925 copies, of which this is number 890, signed by both Sandburg and Steichen.
The Family of Man : the greatest photographic exhibition of all time—503 pictures from 68 countries.New York : Published for the Museum of Modern Art by the Maco Magazine Corp., c1955.gift of L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin
Steichen was the first curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This unprecedented exhibit featured 503 images from 273 photographers from around the world; the exhibit traveled to 38 countries over a period of six years and was viewed by over 9 million people. Carl Sandburg, Steichen’s brother-in-law, wrote the exhibit’s prologue. The global representation of photography underscored the exhibit’s theme of human spirit and universal consciousness: the simple joys and immense hardships celebrated and endured by all peoples worldwide.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard / with notes by Arnold Gassan & Wendell Berry. Lexington, Ky. : Gnomon Press, c1970.Robert A. Wilson collection
Ralph Meatyard, from Lexington, Kentucky, worked outside of the photographic mainstream and remained somewhat unknown to the profession during the 1950s and 1960s. His Surrealist parodies of family photos, which explore themes of intimacy, anonymity, and childhood, often featuring grotesque masks and dolls, suggest the influence of the 1960s counterculture and his interests in Zen philosophy and jazz. Trained as an optician, Meatyard had long been interested in visual perception. Meatyard often used his own children as his models, allowing them to pose at will, pre-dating a similar practice found in the early work of Sally Mann (b. 1951). Meatyard’s photographs also show his characteristic experimentation with shadow and motion blur. This copy is Wendell Berry’s autographed copy.
Mobile homes. Edited by Kenward Elmslie ; cover drawing by Red Grooms. Calais, Vt. : Z Press, 1979.
Swiss-American photographer and filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt (1914-1999) immigrated to New York City in 1935 and became a lifelong resident. Burckhardt is known for his black-and-white photographs of the New York cityscape, in which he often captured the unceasing movement of urban life. Burckhardt was a prominent member of the New York art scene; he was close friends with critic Edwin Denby and Willem de Kooning, who was his next-door neighbor. Burkhardt collaborated with many authors and composers on film projects, including Paul Bowles, Aaron Copland, Ron Padgett, and John Ashbery, among others. He also photographed his travels abroad in Haiti, Spain, Mexico, Italy, and Morocco. Mobile Homes is a volume of Burkhardt’s autobiographical essays paired with photographs; there was also a 1979 film of the same name. This copy is the author’s autograph presentation copy.
The exhibiting of photographs in galleries greatly supported photography’s bid as a legitimate art form. Exhibitions showcased changing photographic styles and trends and established the formation of movements during the medium’s history. Photographs were first exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the famed Crystal Palace to demonstrate technical and artistic innovations in the still young media. International Pictorialists emerged in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries to champion artistic photography through camera clubs and exhibitions called salons.
“Venetian Ships ” and “Snowbound,” circa 1934-1935.Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves family papers
Edward Bringhurst III/V (1884-1939) was the youngest child of Edward Bringhurst, Jr. (1835-1912) and Anna James Webb Bringhurst (1843-1912), the generation of Bringhursts who moved into the Rockwood mansion in north Wilmington. Edward III/V was an accomplished amateur photographer who thoroughly documented his family’s home, life, and travels across Europe and America; he also exhibited at the Wilmington salons organized by the Delaware Camera Club in 1934 and 1935.
291, edited by Alfred Stieglitz. Issue no. 7-8. New York, September-October 1915. from the papers of William I. Homer, gift of William I. Homer
Founded and managed by American photographer Alfred Steiglitz, Gallery 291 was instrumental in not only establishing photography as an acknowledged and respected art form, but it was also responsible for introducing many of Europe’s most avant-garde artists to the United States in the early twentieth century, including Paul Cezanne, Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. After the 1913 Armory Show, the watershed event in American art history that introduced modern art to the United States, Stieglitz, artist Marius de Zayas (1880-1961), art collector and poet Agnes Ernest Meyer, and photographer Paul Haviland (1880-1950) initially produced 291 to attract attention to Stieglitz’s gallery. The magazine also became a work of art in its own right and became a mouthpiece for the modernist philosophy of art and photography. 291 published artwork, poetry, and essays by artists such as French painter Francis Picabia (1879-1953), American photographer and painter Edward Steichen (1879-1973), and French writer Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918). 291 ceased after twelve issues.
A Collection of camera pictures in platinum by F. Holland Day. Exhibition program, 1914. from the William I. Homer papers, gift of William I. Homer
Holland Day was a lauded American Pictorialist but was also known for his controversial image of Christ’s crucifixion titled “The Seven Last Words” (1898), in which he posed himself as the model. He was often in conflict with Alfred Stieglitz, the other major proponent of artistic photography in the United States at the time. Holland Day’s preferred type of print was platinum, or platinotype, a monochrome process with great tonal range.
Academy notes. Buffalo, New York : Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, January 1911. from the William I. Homer papers, gift of William I. Homer
Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession organized an international exhibition of 600 works at the Albright Art Gallery to feature photography on a grand scale.
An Exhibition of modern photography at the Galleries of the New English Art Club. January 28-February 9, 1907. from the William I. Homer papers, gift of William I. Homer
This exhibition, organized by Baron Adolph de Meyer and Alvin Langdon Coburn, showed 128 prints and represented the work of prominent Pictorialist photographers such as Gertrude Käsebier, F. Holland Day, Robert Demachy, and Constant Puyo.
Zehnte Internationale Jahres Ausstellung von Kunstphotographien.Hamburg-Kunsthalle, 1903. from the William I. Homer papers, gift of William I. Homer
The tenth annual exhibition of art photography held at the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany, included works by American Photo-Secessionists Edward Steichen, Gertrude Käsebier, and Clarence H. White.
Third Annual Amateur Photographic Exhibition. Young Men’s Christian Association Camera Club, January 2-7, 1899. from the William I. Homer papers, gift of William I. Homer
Photographs. Tenth Annual Exhibition, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia, March 1-15, 1915. from the William I. Homer papers, gift of William I. Homer