First you have to understand
that many many visitors have never looked at a photograph
as a work of art before. That’s chiefly because
photographs are so ubiquitous Their everywhere. Almost
everyone has a camera. Almost everyone makes snapshots
of their travels or their family. So, therefore, when people encounter
photographs framed on the walls, they sometimes are a little baffled about
what it is and why they are seeing it. There are certain photographers whose work I have always been particularly
attracted to because of the strength and quality
of the work itself. Two names from the
nineteenth century are Julia Margaret Cameron the great
British photographer, because the work is so rich and
has been relatively unstudied. Another photographer from the
nineteenth century is Carlton Watkins whose an American photographer. He is a particular favorite of mine,
because of his particular approach, his very intellectual and
yet emotional approach. In the twentieth century Gertrude
Kasebier, Doris Ulmann, Walker Evans. These are some of my very favorites. Each of them produced a hand full of
pictures or at least a single picture, that I kind of carry in a
little imaginary wallet book. A book with my favorites in them. Among the preconceptions or
misconceptions about photography is that it is a purely mechanical
art, and that it is somehow lacking in imagination. Let’s take for
an example Gustave Le Gray photograph. He chooses a Beach tree that
seems to be distinguished by nothing other than a gnarly root. The roll of the imagination
here is one of not only choosing a tree that has great character, but also choosing to
photograph it at a time of day, when the light is falling on it in a
particularly magical and poetic way. The photographer has a
relatively limited number of choices exclusively open to him. One is the light that
it’s going to be made in, second is what is idea
behind the photograph, Third , where will I stand?
Where will I hold the camera to observe what it is I decide to photograph? Alfred Stieglitz is chosen to
photograph Georgia O’Keeffe with the camera at her waist
level cutting off her head. Most photographs, individual photographs,
don’t have the kind of story to tell that the photographs Stieglitz
made of O’Keeffe do tell. They tell practically every
aspect of their relationship. It’s moments of attachment.
It’s moments of estrangement. It’s moments of formality.
It’s moments of informality.

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