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Spring showers in the SAM archives

Drops of Rain, Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925), ca. 1903, National Gallery of Australia

Drops of Rain, Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925), ca. 1903, National Gallery of Australia

It’s raining again. I stare as rivulets of water course down the window panes of my room, obscuring the view outside. Beyond my window, the passing cars blur together alongside the chairs that decorate my lawn. Everything assumes a greyish cast. “Welcome to Seattle,” people say. Prior to moving to here, I had never encountered a group of people so fixated on the weather, and I’ve lived in Cleveland where it is not only grey but also claims ownership of “The Lake Effect,” which encompasses all manner of atmospheric sins.

Yet as I approach my second year of living in Seattle, I too, have become consumed by thoughts of the dreary weather – so consumed by these thoughts that I seem to have neglected my blog – and the ever-present hope that sun is just around the corner. However, it was the weather that inadvertently led me to the exhibition Camera Work: Process & Image held at SAM from November 26, 1985 to February 2, 1986and focused on the early pioneers of photography including Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, Paul Strand, Alfred Langdon Coburn, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Cover of Camera Work, Issue No 2, April 190, published by Alfred Stieglitz and designed by Edward Steichen.

Cover of Camera Work, Issue No 2, April 190, published by Alfred Stieglitz and designed by Edward Steichen.

Determined to elevate both photography and the photogravure to the status of fine art, Stieglitz produced a magazine whose primary focus was photography. As a member of the New York Camera Club, Stieglitz spearheaded the production of a quarterly journal – called Camera Notes – dedicated to both high quality photography and articles surrounding the art form. Yet Camera Notes was merely the beginning, for in 1902 – a mere five years later – Stieglitz left the Camera Club and started his own quarterly, Camera Work, in which he strove to establish a journal that was in and of itself a work of art. From 1903 to 1917, Stieglitz edited and published a total of fifty editions of Camera Work, through which he championed photography as a form of art instead of a mechanical process that simply documented reality. He pushed photographers to take an active role in the editing process of photogravure production – a print of the photographic image that emphasized deep shadows and a rich textural quality – in which the photo negatives are transformed into photo positives and transferred onto a printing plate that is then etched and printed. Stieglitz strove to maintain high quality photogravures that he felt could be viewed as original prints that had their own artistic value. Through this process, photographers in Stieglitz’s circle were able to participate in the production of the photogravures, which instigated a collaboration between the artist’s intent and the hand that created the final product.

Exhibition media file - including exhibition installation views and transparencies and prints of checklist images - from Camera Work: Process & Image and the exhibition catalogue. Photo: Kaley Ellis.

Exhibition media file – including exhibition installation views and transparencies and prints of checklist images – from Camera Work: Process & Image and the exhibition catalogue. Photo: Kaley Ellis.

This examination of Stieglitz’s Camera Work and the photographers involved in that publication act as the focal points of the 1985 exhibition at SAM. Of the works displayed, Clarence H. White’s Drops of Rain, Adolf de Meyer’s Still Life, Hugo Henneberg’s Villa Falconieri, and Alfred Stieglitz’s Spring Showers, New York are the works I find the most compelling. Water is prominently featured in all these works, whether it takes the form of rain, a glass of water, or a shimmering river. The water either distorts and obscures aspects of the work or is itself distorted. Far from being a direct representation of fact, the water provides a medium through which the artistic intent becomes clear. The fact that it is raining outside is not the point of the image in White’s Rain Drops; instead, the simplicity, the lighting, and contrast between the smoothness of the glass ball compared to the pattern of rain drops on the window pane combine to make this work beautifully compelling. The emotional response that these images evoke transcends time and, like other forms of art, is subjective.

Today – despite rapid advances in technology and the advent of the digital camera – artists such as Stieglitz, White, and Cameron remain relevant. New lens are engineered, such as the lensbaby, to create a blurring effect or to obscure the background, while plastic cameras allow photographers to further experiment with light and shadows and finally Photoshop and the Instagram app offer the opportunity to enhance or manipulate an image with the click of a button. Despite these developments, photographers are still creating images that favor the deep shadows, blurred lines, and sometimes dreamlike quality that continues to reference the past and the art of Stieglitz’s circle that he tirelessly perfected for publication in Camera Work.

By Kaley Ellis, Exhibitions and Archives Intern

 

Beauty Shot Fridays: “Green” Winner and Our Final Question

We have really enjoyed the Beauty Shot Fridays project that we put together to give people an opportunity to respond to the themes in our Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed exhibitions.

Last week we asked, “What does ‘green’ mean to you?” and offered two tickets to Beauty & Bounty to the photographer behind our favorite photo.

SAM staff member Liz Stone selected the winner. Liz is a digital media assistant and a member of the SAM Goes Green Team. Of the winning entry she said, “I like this photo for its simple act of gratitude. Green means all of the things people posted here and more but I found that in almost all of the submissions this week there was a sentiment of gratitude in them. Whether it was the appreciation of a backyard wonderland, or a velvety forest full of life, to the recognition of all the possibilities Earth provides―it never hurts to take a moment―and a breath―and thank the Earth for its bounty.”

Congratulations to Atsuko Nagakura! She was the photographer behind our favorite “green” Beauty Shot. There were many great pictures to choose from. Click here to see the complete album.

Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed close September 11 so this week’s Beauty Shot Fridays question is our final one. We want to know: How has your landscape changed?

Send your photo response to beautyshots@seattleartmuseum.org by 4 pm on Friday. Our favorite photo will win a $25 SAM gift card and a copy of Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast: A Superb Vision of Dreamland by SAM curator, Patricia Junker.

-Madeline Moy, Digital Media Manager

Beauty Shot Fridays: What is one of your favorite summer explorations?

The Stranger’s Jen Graves is on to us.

We like exploration.

In fact, we like it so much that it’s the focus of this week’s Beauty Shot Fridays question:

What is one of your favorite summer explorations?

Send your photo response to beautyshots@seattleartmuseum.org by 4 pm Friday. Our favorite entry will win two tickets to “hitRECord
at the Movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt”
on August 23 at the Neptune Theater.

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Beauty Shot Fridays!

From the PR Office at SAM comes a new and fun project called “Beauty Shot Fridays.” In order to promote Beauty & Bounty and Reclaimed, we are asking our Facebook Fans to send us photos in response to a weekly question that is based on themes in the exhibitions.

We will update our question on the SAM Facebook page every Monday by 3pm and submissions will be uploaded to the page every Friday by 4pm. If you’d like to send a photo submission (captions are welcome too!), please email beautyshots@seattleartmuseum.org

Our question this is week is: where do you find beauty and bounty in your day?

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