Alfred Eisenstaedt, V-J Day, Times Square, 1945, Galerie Johannes Faber
Surrealism is the subject of a display at the 1900- 2000 gallery (Paris) of historic pieces by Man Ray (1890-1976), Hans Bellmer (1902-1975), Eduard Ludwig, Germaine Krull (1897-1985) and Raoul Ubac. One trend emerging at Paris Photo is the growing interest in Central European avant-garde photography from the period between the two world wars. The Kicken (Berlin) features Czech photography, with a show of work by its most outstanding exponents, Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961), Jarumir Funke (1896-1945), Josef Sudek (1896-1976) and Jaroslav Rössler (1896-1945).
While influenced by the various international trends from the neighbouring countries – German New Objectivity, Bauhaus experimentation and Russian Constructivism, the Czech school developed its own, immediately recognizable approach, combining a poetic, lyrical vocabulary with powerful formal simplicity Drtikol, the most “classical” of these Czech photographers, opened a studio in Prague in 1910. The Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) aesthetics that marked his early work gave way, in the late 1920s, to the modernist style of the “Nude Studies,” with their highcontrast lighting and backgrounds with geometric patterns, shown at the Kicken and Michael Hoppen (London) galleries.
Rössler (who had been Drtikol’s assistant) and Funke were closer to the Bauhaus style, with its photograms and photomontage, while Sudek strove to get beyond mere representation of an object and to use light to produce a poetic rendering of the object.To complete this overview of Czech photography, the book Czech Vision, published in 2007 by Hatje Cantz is being presented at Paris Photo.
The thematic show “Modern Hungarian Photography 1919-39” at the Vintage gallery (Budapest) is a reminder of that period in which the avant-garde flourished and photographer avidly experimented, as can be seen in the work of Làszlò Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus. The exhibition presents some of the finest Hungarian photographers of that key period: Marta Aczel, Angelo, Karoly Escher, Ivan Hevesy, Kata Kalman, Imre Kinszki, Klara Langer, Zoltan Seidner, Istvan Szendra and Erno Vadas.
The Bruce Silverstein gallery (New York) focuses on the Parisian period of celebrated Hungarian émigré André Kértész (1894-1983).Taking up residence in the French capital in 1925, he developed a personal style in which his poet’s eye transfigured the ordinary. He was especially attentive to the transitory and ephemeral, such as capturing the shadows from the chairs in the Luxembourg Gardens in “Chairs, Medici Fountain, Paris” (1926).
The Gitterman gallery (New York) offers a rediscovery of work of two French photographers active in the New Vision movement of the 1920s: Daniel Masclet (1892-1969), a talented portraitist and friend of Edward Weston and the German photographer Otto Steinert. In 1933 he organized a celebrated exhibition of nudes by various photographers, immortalized in the book “Nus, la beauté de la femme”. Jean Moral (1906-1999), whose place in the history of the New Photography in France has been reconsidered recently, thanks to the book and exhibition by Christian Bouqueret, “Jean Moral, L’oeil capteur” (1999). In the 1930s Moral showed his work with Kértész, François Kollar, Germaine Krull and Dora Maar.While employing typical New Vision stylistic practices (highangle shots, graphically rigorous composition, photograms and double exposures), he achieved a more personal expression, especially evident in the intimate portraits of his wife, his self-portraits and Paris scenes on view at Paris Photo.
1940s – 50s
The Laurence Miller (New York) and Johannes Faber Faber (Vienna) galleries concentrate on the documentary photography that predominated in the 1930s and 1940s, characterized by a the anecdotal, an uncomplicated treatment of the subject and a general desire to document human activity. Helen Lewitt’s New York street scenes, including a selection her 1940s vintage The Laurence Miller (New York) and Johannes Faber Faber (Vienna) galleries concentrate on the documentary photography that predominated in the 1930s and 1940s, characterized by a the anecdotal, an uncomplicated treatment of the subject and a general desire to document human activity. Helen Lewitt’s New York street scenes, including a selection her 1940s vintage images are shown at Laurence Miller. Henri Cartier- Bresson’s images of pre-war Paris, such as the iconic 1932 “Behind Saint Lazare Train Station” are presented at Johannes Faber, the Vienna gallery that is also offering the celebrated work of Life magazine photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt, including “V-Day,Times Square” from 1945.
The Kicken (Berlin) pays tribute to Otto Steinert (1915-1977), one of post-war Germany’s outstanding photographers. Steinert, who revived the creative spirit of the 1920s, was an exponent of a subjective mode of vision and of photography as a form of self-expression, in contrast to the documentary style predominant during the war years.This approach was to become a point of reference with the 1951 exhibition Subjektive Fotografie Steinert organized in Sarrebruck, which exercised a decisive influence on the era’s younger generation of European photographers. Alongside his experimental work, Steinert also took portraits, still lives and landscapes, most notably a 1949 series on Paris, shown in its entirety at Paris Photo.
The Gitterman (New York) confronts the abstract work of the American Aaron Siskind (1903-1991) with that of France’s Roger Catherineau (1925-1962). Siskind was a sort of photographic Abstract Expressionist. He isolated from their context the shapes formed by dilapidated walls, objects and graffiti, giving them an abstract symbolic and emotional content. Catherineau took up photograms and solarization in a spirit akin to the European branch of 1950s abstraction. He was discovered by Steinert, who put his work in the second Subjektive Fotografie exhibition in 1955. He died prematurely at the age of 37.
The Eric Franck Fine Art gallery (London) offers a selection of vintage pieces from the 1940s and ’50s. Among them are the spare, highly composed photographs of snowy landscapes in northern Japan by Kiichi Asano (1914-1993); the experimental photography of Geraldo de Barros (1923-1998), a pioneer of modernism and Concrete Art in Brazil; and the fashion work of famous British photographer Norman Parkinson (1913-1990), whose estate the gallery has represented since 2005.
In a salute to this year’s guest of honour, Italy, Fifty One Fine Art Photography (Antwerp) is showing vintage prints from William Klein’s 1956 book, “Rome, the city and its people”, a flamboyant, raucous view of the Eternal City – the opposite of its usual conventional representation. The Howard Greenberg gallery (New York) is back with a new selection of vintage prints by Saul Leiter (born 1923), including his 1959 Paris scenes. This American photographer close to the Abstract Expressionists interprets the urban condition of the great metropolises with the eye of an intimist painter. The resulting fragmented vision and almost abstract handling of colour chart little islands of human poetry in the city’s continual maelstrom.
1960s – 70s
Coinciding with the publication by Steidl in 2007 of the new book “New York 1974”, the M Bochum gallery (Bochum) presents previously unseen vintage prints by the author of that series, Dirk Reinatz (1947-2004). This German artist was internationally known for his work on the concentration camps. His black and white New York pictures constitute both a very personal narrative of his encounter with its inhabitants and a testament to a city in full swing of urban renewal, brimming with creative energy and promise.
The effervescent 1970s New York art scene is invoked at the Yvon Lambert gallery (Paris/New York), where Andy Warhol’s self-portraits are redolent of high times at the Factory, alongside Nan Goldin’s black and white Drag Queens, first seen in 1973. Then there are the American masters of the “New Documentary” school, including Diane Arbus at the Rose (Santa Monica) and Robert Miller (New York) galleries, and the California masters of the “New Landscape” – Henry Wessel’s nocturnal urban views at the Charles Cowles (New York) and Luisotti (Santa Monica) galleries. The minimalist, bare landscapes of Lewis Baltz, are also at Luisotti, whose offering focuses specifically on the “New Topography” movement and its contemporary heirs, with recent work by Frank Breuer, Mark Ruwedel,Toshio Shibata and others.
In contrast to the documentary sensibility of the “street school” and the New Landscape, the Agathe Gaillard gallery (Paris) covers the parallel current of subjective photography with vintage work from the 1970s by Ralph Gibson, whose “sombre images, bathed in a surreal climate, privilege vast spaces and the strange vagaries of light to produce a universe heavy with unresolved mysteries,” in the words of Michel Frizot.
Hamiltons gallery (London) revisits the practice of auteur fashion photography with a display mixing the sculptural elegance of Herb Ritts’ black and white photographs (Djimon with Octopus, 1989;Waterfall IV, Hollywood, 1988), the fake simplicity of’ Irving Penn’s still lives (Italian Still Life, 1981), and the ice-cold eroticism of Helmut Newton – represented here by a rare large-format 1979 print of Two Pairs of Legs in Black Stockings, Paris. The gallery also presents a series of ten images of flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989). These studies, made in 1985 using 19th-century techniques, are exemplary of the experimental work of this emblematic photographer of the 1980s.