The Other Side of the Lens

September 21st – November 9th, 2019

Scheinbaum & Russek is proud to exhibit The Other Side of the Lens.  The exhibition opens Saturday, September 21st from 2 to 5 p.m. and runs through Saturday, November 9th.

Berenice Abbott
Gay Block
Brassaï
John Dugdale
Morris Engel
Barbara Morgan
Arnold Newman
Beaumont Newhall
Nancy Newhall
Eliot Porter
Ringl + Pit
Willard Van Dyke

The photographer is often hidden behind the camera.  In this fascinating exhibition of portraits – artists reveal themselves to the camera lens.  These are portraits of artists who have shaped our culture and their images live on with us for years after they have been created.

The Other Side of the Lens offers various examples and contrasting approaches and definitions of portraiture but what makes this exhibit truly special is that all of the portraits in the exhibition are by artists of artists! Most of the subjects are friends, intimate colleagues, and admirers’ of the sitter. The images capture certain elements that express the personal connections and familiarity that’s not always apparent in “celebrity” portraits. It is these connections that make the images in this exhibition so exemplary and fascinating.

Portraits can be more than just a record. For most the goals in creating an expressive portrait go beyond making a likeness of the subject.

There are many ways artists approach making a portrait, both technically or philosophically. One tries to capture something about the subject in the image. Some utilize their proficiency in the studio creating various “moods” or “characters” with lighting. Others place the subject in specific environments to help inform the viewer about the subject. Lenses, angles, clothing, make-up and photographic techniques are all often employed to help reveal aspects of a person that may not be revealed in a mere “likeness”.

Some believe in the creation of a single portrait that contains both the character and the life of the subject.  Arnold Newman is a master of the theory of  “environmental “ portraits. Whether we know who the subject is or not, we can often differentiate between musician, writer or artist by the information he places within his frame. Arnold Newman had the opportunity to photograph many in the art world of the 20thCentury for various publications during his career while employing his environmental approach. His portraits of Piet Mondrian and the Soyer Brothers are fine examples, but when it came to photograph Ansel Adams, whom he admired and befriended, this portrait has that “something else” that is evident in the pose and the location.

Others believe that personality is much too complex to capture in a single portrait and it requires many, in some cases hundreds of portraits that together create a true portrait of a person. Alfred Stieglitz believed in this notion of “composite portraiture” and this is how he approached his many portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Beaumont Newhall whose photographs are a compendium to his written History of Photography over the years photographed his circle of friends. Beaumont writes in the publication, In Plain Sight, “Over the years photography has been to me what a journal is to a writer, a record of things seen and experienced, moments in the flow of time, documents of significance to me, experiments in seeing.”

Nancy Newhall dedicated thirty years of her life to photography as a writer, scholar, curator, editor, biographer and critic, as well as being recognized as a photographer in her own right.

She learned the art of photography from her husband, Beaumont Newhall, and her close friends Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, and Alfred Stieglitz. Nancy Newhall was one of the few people to gain access to the inner circle and thoughts of the imposing Alfred Stieglitz. During her weekly visits to Stieglitz at his gallery she was introduced to Dorothy Norman, Stieglitz’s assistant. This portrait of Dorothy Norman was taken a year after Stieglitz’s death. Nancy Newhall’s portrait reveals the deep emotions she shared with her subjects.

Barbara Morgan, a photographer most known for her photographs of Martha Graham and her dance company, convinced visitors to her home, Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall to be photographed in her studio using her new lighting system.  The session turned out to be a fun time for all, especially when her well-known publisher husband, Willard Morgan, joined them. These photographs exhibit a playful side and reveal much about the close friendship between them all.

Eliot Porter met Georgia O’Keeffe through his relationship with Alfred Stieglitz. Their friendship was based on art but just as importantly on their love for New Mexico.  Porter first came to New Mexico in 1938 and stayed until 1940 when he moved back east during the war years.  O’Keeffe started coming to New Mexico in 1929 and continued yearly visits and prolonged stays through 1945 when she first purchased her house in Ghost Ranch.  This portrait of O’Keeffe in her studio at Ghost Ranch, sitting for the sculpture Mary Callery, was made in 1945, the year that both O’Keeffe and Porter made the full transition to New Mexico.

Brassaï, (Gyula Halasz), a Hungarian photographer who rose to fame in France in the 1920’s when he moved to Paris, is one of numerous Hungarians who flourished in Paris between the wars.  Besides capturing the essence of Paris at night he often photographed many of his artist friends, including Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali, and Pablo Picasso.  This portrait taken in Picasso’s studio is one that can only have been made by an invited friend.

Willard Van Dyke was an integral part of the evolution of both still photography and filmmaking. In 1932, he hosted the founding meeting of f.64, a group of photographers connected by a common belief in the superiority of “straight,” unmanipulated photography over the pictorialist fashion of the day. f.64 members, including Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, used large cameras to make long exposures through small apertures (hence the name “f.64”), producing negatives of great detail and clarity. Van Dyke authored much of the group’s philosophy, coining the phrase “pure photography”. Van Dyke’s intimate portraits of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams are a glimpse into the group’s early days meeting over late-night drinks and conversation.

Ellen Auerbach and Grete Stern two pioneering women artists of the Bauhaus who met in Berlin in 1929, started an advertising photography studio, Ringl and Pit, during a time of social liberation, expanding mass media, economic upheaval, and political change. The studio, its name derived from childhood nicknames, soon won international prizes by using humor and irony to subvert traditional images of women in mainstream advertising. This portrait of Grete Stern captures both the style and form of the teachings when Ellen Auerbach turns her camera on her friend and colleague Grete Stern in her stunning portrait.

Berenice Abbott, as a young artist in Paris, befriended the photographer Eugene Atget. As well as making this rare portrait of the artist, just weeks before his death, Abbott went on to preserve his work and bring it to the art worlds attention. We have her to thank for what we now know about Atget and his remarkable work photographing the streets and times of Paris. Inspired by his work there Abbott returned to New York and did a comprehensive body of work on the city.

Artists’ self-portraits are an interesting sub-group of portraiture and are often highly self-revelatory. In our exhibit, we have two contemporary photographers, Gay Block and John Dugdale, both represented by their self-portraits.

John Dugdale’s photography, as well as his lifestyle, reflects his penchant for antiquity and relationships. He lives and works at Bethany Farm, an authentically restored 18th century farmhouse in upstate New York. Both his photographic equipment (he uses an old 8 x 10″ view camera) and his printing techniques (cyanotype and platinum) date from 1840 and were widely used till the turn of the century and stem from his deep admiration for the earliest of the 19th century photographers. His images; still lifes, portraits, nudes, and landscapes are deceptively simple. They are also intimate glimpses of private moments and personal spaces. There is a tranquil and timeless quality to his work. This haunting image by John Dugdale reveals an emotional depth we do not experience very often. Its beauty is unsettling.

Gay Block had been interested in photography since she was a pre-teen when she started taking pictures of her friends and family using a Brownie box camera. She recalls that she enjoyed taking candid photos and collaborating with her subjects.The portrait here is one of Gay and Aaron Siskind.  While photographing Siskind, unclothed, Gay noticed that they had the same scarring and offered to “collaborate” by being unclothed as well! A true collaboration.

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