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Author Topic: Atget  (Read 2618 times)
PSA DC-9-30
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« on: November 13, 2010, 02:24:14 AM »
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I was looking through my vast reams of photos in Lightroom searching for my next desktop wallpaper, when this caught my eye. It reminded me of Atget's great series of photos at Saint Cloud and Sceaux--not only the subject matter, but also the composition, angle of illumination, and the hint of fog.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 02:41:26 AM by PSA DC-9-30 » Logged

PSA DC-9-30
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2010, 02:30:30 AM »
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It does not load when I click it.  Huh

[edit] OK, it was too large I guess, now it loads.
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Rob C
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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2010, 02:40:20 AM »
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It does not load when I click it.  Huh




It's just lost in the fog.

Rob C
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tom b
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2010, 06:44:24 PM »
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Atget's park photographs are just plain boring compared to his street photographs. In my opinion the sooner we equate Atget with street photography and forget about his boring parks the better.

Cheers,
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RSL
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« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2010, 06:18:27 PM »
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Tom, To a large extent I agree, but I also think he did some admirable architectural stuff.
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tom b
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« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2010, 07:06:17 PM »
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Russ, I gave Atget a second look after you repeated his name a couple of times in threads. I must admit that my knowledge of him was limited to bookshop visits. Then I have to say it always seemed to be boring parks. Having more time on my hands I googled him and was impressed with his other work. It got me thinking of how photo editors, bookshop owners and curators influence our perceptions of photographers.

Just recently I had the opposite reaction. I have seen plenty of books on Alfred Stieglitz's photography and like his work. Then just recently the Art Gallery of NSW had an exhibition of his work. They were approximately 5"x4" prints of his work seen under archival lighting. The prints themselves were very dark. His photographs of clouds were barely recognisable as clouds. If this had been the only time I had seen his work I wouldn't have been impressed.

My point was that in my opinion to associate Atget with parks is doing him a disservice. He has much more interesting images to offer. So if all you think of Atget is parks google him and you will be surprised.

Cheers,
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John R Smith
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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2010, 02:29:06 AM »
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PSA

Well, I'm going to swim against the tide here and just mention that I really like your picture. I particularly admire the fact that you had the courage not to burn in the sky or use a grad filter but just let it flare naturally towards the top of the frame. Most people these days would see this as a "defect", but in fact it reinforces the emotional framework in a positive way.

And just to be really contrary, I like Atget's park pictures a great deal, too. So that has just completely blown my credibility on the LL Forum . . .

John
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2010, 10:44:29 AM »
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To get  the measure of Atget's work you really have to check out the four-volume MOMA set by John Szarkowski  and Maria Morris Hambourg.  The notes to the plates at the back of the book constitute a photographic education.  And the parks, esp in the volume on the Ancien Regime, are in my opinion some of the most hearbreakingly beautiful photographs ever made.  He certainly knew how to photograph trees.  Only Carleton Watkins  and Josef Sudek come close.  He didn't really do "street photography",  only a few early portraits of small tradesmen and a commissioned series for a painter of prostitutes.   I don't know  a majopr American photographer who doesn't love the guy.  OTOH, I remember having a lunch with a distinguished French curator whose first remark was "I can't stand Atget." Luckily Atget was saved for us by the Americans. 
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RSL
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« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2010, 03:02:40 PM »
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OTOH, I remember having a lunch with a distinguished French curator whose first remark was "I can't stand Atget." Luckily Atget was saved for us by the Americans. 

Right, Goeff, and the great French photographers owe Atget at least as large a debt as do we Americans. I can only conclude that the "distinguished" French curator didn't know much about photography. Perhaps he was into elephant dung.
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2010, 03:53:53 PM »
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Well, it is a recent form of 'natural' art... gets into galleries, at any rate!

Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2010, 06:33:21 PM »
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PSA


And just to be really contrary, I like Atget's park pictures a great deal, too. So that has just completely blown my credibility on the LL Forum . . .

John

Heh, you think that's bad, wait until I reveal (confess?) that I took this photo with an Olympus E510 and kit lens! I was not consciously setting out to mimic Atget's style when I took the photograph, but realized only after the fact that this one had certain similarities. Anyway, thanks for the comments.

Seriously, I think if you don't like Atget's park photos, you are really missing something if you have not read Szarkowski's commentary in a book such as the four volume set mentioned, or this one: http://www.amazon.com/Atget-John-Szarkowski/dp/0870700944/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_9

I also like this little one (which is a steal at this price): http://www.amazon.com/Eugene-Atget-Phaidon-Gerry-Badger/dp/0714840491/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290299428&sr=8-1

Both give quite a lot of background information that is quite interesting and relevant, and certainly not readily apparent from the photographs themselves.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2010, 03:38:24 AM »
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Heh, you think that's bad, wait until I reveal (confess?) that I took this photo with an Olympus E510 and kit lens! I was not consciously setting out to mimic Atget's style when I took the photograph, but realized only after the fact that this one had certain similarities. Anyway, thanks for the comments.


That just goes to show how unimportant the camera is to the end result. You can get a cracking picture on almost any camera, if you know its strengths and weaknesses. Actually, I thought that this was one of the nicest shots we have had on LL for a long time, it just appeals to my taste I suppose. And I was kind of saddened that nobody else seemed to be particularly struck by it, because it probably means that very few people would like my own pictures much, either. A bit like that other poster's park picture on an 8x10, which had a certain indefinable mood about it which really pleased me. And that one went down like a lead balloon, as well . . .

John
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« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2010, 10:40:20 AM »
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John,  There's no accounting for taste.  I am not sure why I posted that photgraph of Central Park,  which was the frontispiece to my retrospective book Utopia/Dystopia.   I am curious as to how work is received outside the specialized art world I inhabit.  I quite like the original photo in the post,  although it's a little foursquare for Atget.   He had a way of putting a spin on things.  At Versailles,  which is massively symmetrical in design,  he always stood to the side.  subverting all the grandiosity of the place.  In 2000 I did a book on Paris and expended a lot of effort trying to avoid his long shadow.  This is the picture that started it for me, made on a brief visit in 1992.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2010, 02:45:17 AM »
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Geoffrey

Yes, I like the Paris picture. A camera with a lot of movements, I would think, quite a bit of shift. Which gives it a certain emotional quality just as much as it deals with perspective. And the framing emphasises the conflict between a classical European townscape and the disparate/desperate random clutter of modern street furniture. Nice grey light, as well.

John
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« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2010, 03:02:14 AM »
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I must admit I missed the "conflict" in the image. If I had taken it I would have moved to the right and framed out the clutter on the left and taken the hotel as the focal point. I suspect most people would have missed the "conflict" between the new and the old? How does one feel when showing an image such as this to someone and that person doesn't recognize the reason behind the image? If it happens frequently do you question yourself in respect to have taken it or question the other people's tastes?
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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2010, 03:21:27 AM »
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I must admit I missed the "conflict" in the image. If I had taken it I would have moved to the right and framed out the clutter on the left and taken the hotel as the focal point. I suspect most people would have missed the "conflict" between the new and the old? How does one feel when showing an image such as this to someone and that person doesn't recognize the reason behind the image? If it happens frequently do you question yourself in respect to have taken it or question the other people's tastes?


Stamper, you did miss the point: the point is US dominance, writ large on the roof; the rest is just the velvet glove that hides it.

;-)

Rob C
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John R Smith
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« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2010, 03:38:48 AM »
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I must admit I missed the "conflict" in the image. If I had taken it I would have moved to the right and framed out the clutter on the left and taken the hotel as the focal point.

Yes, and I would have probably done exactly the same thing. Most of the time when I am out making photographs I am routinely and completely subconciously "screening-out" clutter and desperately trying to re-arrange reality to fit my world-view of what is pictorially "correct". But this Paris picture has a different kind of strength, in my view. As Geoffrey said elsewhere, when we are out there, we can only frame, not compose.

We would have to ask Geoffrey himself, as he is the only one who can say, but I did not mean to imply that the picture was "about" the conflict between the old and new. I just mentioned that it contained that element. There are a number of very subtle dynamics within the frame, all of which contribute to its emotional effect. By moving the camera to the right, these would have been altered or lost. The resulting picture might have been more like what Stamper or John Smith might have felt about it, but merely different, not necessarily better, and very likely losing a certain moody tension which appeals to me.

Perhaps there sometimes comes a point in our work where it is necessary to unlearn what we think we already know. Otherwise we can get trapped in a prison of our own making, where we miss the essence of place and time by imposing our own rigid method of "seeing" on everything around us.

John
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« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2010, 07:29:12 AM »
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John and Rob


   I don't think a photographer can worry about the reception of work once it's out there. It 's fair game.  But when someone reads a photograph the  way I see it,  then so much the better. (There was a review of a show of mine in a Montreal french newspaper this weekend  where the critic absolutely got it,  and I felt good about that.)  The Gare St Lazare picture could make more sense if seen in the  club rules of the golden mean or the S curve or whatever.  You can't really see it in a jpeg,  but there's a lot of information in an 8x10 negative.  There is a sculpture by Arman,  a traffic cone leading to a phone booth, leading to an electronic cultural news board leading to a CocoCOLA SIGN. There's a Free Time restaurant on a Haussman boulevard.  The  Gare St Lazare is a central place in modernity.  Manet and Caillebotte painted around the corner,  and Cartier Bresson did his jumping man at the side of the station,   a print of which I have in my hallway.  There's another aspect to this kind of topographic photography and that is the record.  Where I took the photograph is now a parking lot for motorbikes.  Coca Cola has been  replaced by Evian.  One of the interesting things about Atget is that he fled from modernity.  Not a single picture of the Eiffel tower in his archive.  He photographed that he knew would disappear.  It's an important role of the medium,  in my opinion.  Anyway, as I said, I was trying to get out from under Atget when I was doing the project.  Here is the only picture which was an outright tipping of the hat to the old man. 
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John R Smith
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« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2010, 07:46:21 AM »
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Geoffrey

Yes, I saw this Pont Neuf picture in your gallery site and loved it. Gorgeous and somehow completely satisfying. I am going to have to think again about my recent knee-jerk reaction to burning-in skies - my own work is becoming cliche-ridden, because it is now so easy to do. In fact I am in serious danger of becoming a prisoner of my own style, if I am not careful.

John
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« Reply #19 on: November 23, 2010, 07:56:43 AM »
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John,  The Pont Neuf picture was made early in the morning, and I exposed the film for what was going on under the bridge,  a tent that houses a local street performer with roosters and samoyeds.  Again the jpegs are totally misleading -- the sky isn't  quite as blown out as that,  but there are no moody clouds or anything like that.  Personally, I don't go for the Ansel Adams God-is-in His-Heaven thing. I have started working with a Leica M9,  and find it extraordinarily liberating.  The joy of being able to make a  hundred pictures a day for no cost (other than the camera !) is wonderful. 
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