Photo L.A. 2009, the 18th annual international Los Angeles photographic art exposition, will take place from January 9-11, 2009 at the historic Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. Photo L.A. 2009 will feature photography for sale, from the earliest 19th-century photographic experiments to the most contemporary photography and photo-based art. Nearly 70 of the world's leading galleries and private dealers representing international and U.S.-based artists will display work at the show.
The fair begins with an opening night reception benefiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) photography department on Thursday, January 8 from 6 pm-9 pm Public hours for the show are Friday, January 9 and Saturday, January 10, from noon-8 pm; and Sunday, January 11, from noon-6 pm. Tickets are $20 for a two-day pass, and $30 for a three-day pass.
"We are pleased to be teaming up with LACMA this year. Los Angeles is the creative hub for artists and a major creative center in terms of the production of contemporary photography. Together with LACMA, we are planning a number of special programs for our visitors, featuring some of today's most renowned artists," says Stephen Cohen, president of Artfairs, Inc. and director of Photo L.A. "Photo L.A. continues to grow each year, with an increasing number of new and returning exhibitors and visitors. This year, the Barker Hangar will serve as a prime space for the fair to present its largest collection of Los Angeles based artists and international exhibitors," he continued.
The updated programming highlights at Photo L.A. include the LACMA Artist Conversation Series & Book Signings with Charlotte Cotton, LACMA's head curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, on Saturday, January 10, from noon-6 p.m. Cotton will speak with leading photographers, including David Maisel (noon-1 pm), Diane Keaton & Marvin Heiferman (2 pm-3 pm), Bruce Davidson (3:30 pm–4:30 pm), and Susan Meiselas (5 pm-6 pm) to discuss their new publications. Book signings with the photographers will follow each conversation. On Sunday, January 11th there will be a series of three lectures by noted photographers, including Joel Peter-Witkin at 11 am, Catherine Opie at 1 pm, and Jim Goldberg at 3 pm. The Sunday photographer lectures will be held at the Ruskin Group Theater, adjacent to the fair (3000 Airport Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405).
Among the nearly 70 photo dealers and galleries at Photo L.A., I Photo Central member galleries Andrew Smith Gallery and Contemporary Works/Vintage Works will be exhibiting work there.
Andrew Smith Gallery, which is in booth B7, will feature an all-California line-up, entitled "From Carleton Watkins to Ansel Adams". Work by Carleton Watkins, Edward Muybridge, Timothy O'Sullivan, Adam Clark Vroman, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams will trace the history of landscape photography in California from 1861 to the early 1950s. The gallery will be exhibiting exquisite vintage prints from Watkin's round-top albumen mammoth plates from his first trip to Yosemite in 1861, to O'Sullivan's exceedingly rare work in the Great Basin with the King Survey in 1867, to Muybridge mammoth plate prints of Yosemite from the early 1870s, to Vroman's platinum prints in California in the late 1890s and early 1900s, to Edward Weston's Dunes, Clouds and Trees from the 1920s and 1930s, and finally to Ansel Adams's magnificent landscapes, from his vintage prints from the early 1920s to his grand landscapes of the 1950s. To see all of Andrew Smith Gallery's inventory on I Photo Central, click here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/64/14/0 .
Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, which is in booth B-4 not far from the entrance, will feature a major selection of Robert Mapplethorpe images, plus a large group of masterworks from top photographers, including , André Kertész, Édouard Boubat, Horst, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Francois Kollar, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Dorothea Lange, Lee Friedlander, Barbara Morgan, Clarence John Laughlin, Ilse Bing, Brassai, Edward Weston, Frantisek Drtikol, Josef Sudek, Helen Levitt, Raoul Ubac, Walker Evans, Arnold Newman, Carl Mydans, Brett Weston, Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, Eugene Atget and Ralph Meatyard. We will also have on hand some wonderful 19th-century material (Le Gray, Fenton, Bisson Freres, Baldus, Marville, Southworth & Hawes, De Launay, Negre, Teynard, De Clercq, Fortier, Richebourg, Frith, Disderi, Clifford, Salzmann, etc.), so please be sure to ask us about it. Also ask us about our latest acquisitions, which will be at the show, but not on display. We will bring out some vintage Ruth Bernhards, Jerry Uelsmanns, Wynn Bullocks, an early Ansel Adams, and later-printed Andre Kertesz and Brassai images that we have just gotten in. To preview some of the new work online or if you can't make it out to Photo LA, click here: http://www.vintageworks.net/search/result_list.php .
We also represent contemporary work by Stanko Abadžic, Arthur Tress, Lisa Holden, Michael Philip Manheim, Krzysztof Pruszkowski, Claudia Kunin and Mitch Dobrowner, and will have examples in our booth (B-4).
To see a selection of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works top photographs, click here: http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/result_list.php/128/1/0 .
Noted photographer Arthur Tress will be in our booth to sign books, etc. on Saturday and Sunday starting at 2 pm.
For a complete current list of exhibitors and additional information on Photo L.A., visit http://www.artfairsinc.com/photola/2009 , or call 1-323-937-4659.
By Alex Novak
Well when I am wrong, I'm really wrong. The December 16th and 17th Christie's New York sale of Leon and Michaela Constantiner's collection, which consisted mostly of late 20th-century magazine fashion and nudes, did extremely well in a difficult economy, although I think it is probably doubtful that the couple made any money on this sale, largely because most of the collection was bought just over the last three to seven years and at peak prices. Of course, it is possible that Christie's guaranteed a higher price than the couple's purchase prices. And the fact that Christie's apparently did offer a guaranteed of some kind (the catalogue noted that the auction house has a "direct financial interest in all lots offered in this sale") might mean that its profits on the sale might be fairly minimal, despite results.
The collection did bring in a total of $7,721,875, the highest total for a single-owner dedicated photographs sale at Christie's. The auction buy-in (lots that did not sell) rate here was just under 22%, one of the best results of this tough fall season (excluding the Eggleston sale at Christie's). In the December 5th newsletter, I had predicted tough sledding for the material, some of which had been run-up in price over the last few years. I did note though that I thought most of the estimates to be fairly reasonable vis-à-vis the current market situation and past results.
The sale may just show the resiliency of the photography auction market when estimates and reserves are recalibrated to economic reality.
Over half the total proceeds (nearly $4 million) came from the work of just one photographer: Helmut Newton. The auction also set a new world auction record for the photographer of $662,500 for his work Sie Kommen, (Naked and Dressed), Paris, 1981 (estimated at $400,000-600,000).
As I pointed out, the sale was helped by both generally reasonable estimates and very low reserves--most well below what Constantiner had paid for many of the images in the recent past. Most of the sales were--not unexpectly--by phone and by left commission bids (when the bidder leaves bidding instructions with the auction house). I noted that a number of European bidders were taking advantage of the bounce-back of the euro this month, according to Christie's notes on its Top Ten items. Prices above and below include Christie's very steep buyer's premium ranging from 20-25%.
The Top Ten from top to bottom were:
As mentioned above, the top lot of the sale, and a record-breaker for Helmut Newton at auction, was lot 59, Newton's Sie Kommen, (Naked and Dressed), Paris, 1981, which sold to a European bidder for $662,500, just a little above the mid-estimate.
Lot 16, Newton's Big Nude III: Henrietta, 1980, sold to a collector for $482,500, which was at the low estimate.
Lot 99, Helmut Newton Portfolio, 1999, with 102 images comprising eight unique Polaroid prints and 79 silver prints, brought $374,500 from a collector.
Andy Warhol's One Grey Marilyn, from Reversal Series, 1986, silkscreen, ink and synthetic polymer on canvas (lot 67), (estimate: $400,000 - 600,000), sold to a European bidder for considerably under the estimate range at $290,500.
Lot 86 brought us back to Helmut Newton and his Big Nude XV: Raquel Hands on Forehead, Nice, 1993, which sold to a collector for $206,500.
Irving Penn was another big name in this sale. Lot 79, his Black and White Vogue Cover, 1950, in a platinum-palladium print sold for well under the low estimate at $194,500 to a collector. The last time it sold a little over two years ago it went for $262,400.
Another Newton Big Nude, lot 94, Big Nude I: Lisa, Paris, 1980, sold well under the low estimate for $194,500 to a European bidder.
Richard Avedon's Stephanie Seymour, Model, New York City, 1992 (lot 56) sold in the mid-estimate range for $182,500 to a European bidder, but Constantiner had paid $262,400 for it at the Elfering Sale at Christie's in October 2005. That was typical on a lot of these big fashion items in this sale and other fashion images at other recent auctions. This material in particular seems to have come down about 25-50% from its recent inflated highs.
Richard Avedon's portfolio, Avedon Paris, 1978, 11 gelatin silver prints (lot 17, which was estimated at $120,000--180,000) sold to New York City dealer Peter MacGill for $170,500. Constantiner had paid $240,000 for the set at Christie's April 2007 sale.
Lot 44, Irving Penn's ubiquitous Woman with Roses on her Arm (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1950, platinum-palladium print, sold below the low estimate to a U.S. collector for $170,500.
To give you an idea about the deep discounting on some of these second-half of the 20th-century fashion-type images, Irving Penn's Girl Drinking (lot 8) sold for $92,000, but Constantiner had bought it at Sotheby's in April 2007 for virtually double that amount.
The Constantiner Collection also featured what Christie's had called "the largest collection of photographs of Marilyn Monroe to appear on the market," which sold for a total of $802,250. Monroe photographs in the sale were made by a diverse group of artists, including Andy Warhol, André de Dienes, Tom Kelley, Elliott Erwitt, Eve Arnold, Garry Winogrand, Milton Greene and Bert Stern.
Highlights included portraits by André de Dienes dating from 1945-1949, showing the teenage Norma Jeane Baker in the first blossoming of her beauty on Tobay Beach, Long Island, which realized $28,750; Tom Kelley's famous 1949 color nude of Monroe on a red background, which was featured in the premier issue of Playboy as the magazine's first 'Sweetheart of the Month' and was the image on the most famous calendar of all times, sold for $18,750; and Richard Avedon's 1957 portrait capturing a sad, touching, off-guard Monroe achieved $56,250. The top lot from this section was Bert Stern's The Last Sitting, which brought in $146,500--which Christie's called a "world auction record" and comprised the key images from the 1962 shoot for 'American Vogue', which captured Monroe shortly before her tragic death.
Philippe Garner, Christie's international head of photographs, commented: "The superb results achieved for this collection demonstrate the potential of works bought with true passion and considerable connoisseurship to perform magnificently even in the present uncertain economic climate. The results also confirm the central position that Helmut Newton has rightly been accorded as a master photographer of the 20th century, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe's magical appeal has proven to be truly timeless."
One of the most important international photography events, the AIPAD Photography Show New York, will be presented by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) from March 26-29, 2009. More than 75 of the world's leading fine art photography galleries will present a wide range of museum quality work by contemporary, modern and 19th-century masters at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th St. and Park Ave. in New York City.
The 29th edition of the AIPAD Photography Show New York will open with a Gala Preview on March 25 to benefit the John Szarkowski Fund, an endowment for photography acquisitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The AIPAD Photography Show New York is the longest running and foremost exhibition of fine art photography.
Several of Contemporary Works' artists are again in the news. Just remember that you can order their work right on I Photo Central or through http://www.contemporaryworks.net . You can also see examples of their work in our booth (B-4) at Photo LA, January 8-11, 2009, at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, CA.
ARTHUR TRESS had a large group of his photographs recently featured in the important exhibition "70's La Photographie Americain" at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris in October and November. Contemporary Works will also show his work at Photo LA and the artist will be present at the booth during parts of the exhibition.
LISA HOLDEN has just finished a one-woman show, "I'm Dancing Now", at Metis_NL in Amsterdam and will be included in a group show called "Opposites Attract: On Dialectics" at De Veemvloer, Van Diemenstraat 410, Amsterdam, January 8-25, 2009. She will also have a solo show entitled "The Bronze Room" at Gallery New Untitled, Bolwaterstraat 30, Venlo, Netherlands beginning in February. Contemporary Works will also show two of her large pieces at Photo LA which are part of her new series on Lilith. Taking myths surrounding feminine icons like Lilith, Lamia and Danae as her inspiration, Holden's latest body of work explores aspects of duality: beauty and destruction, the flesh and the spirit, order and chaos. This juxtaposition of opposites is echoed in her multi-layered compositions, which sample imagery from early studio photography, classical painting and consumer culture. The final pieces are a blend of analog and digital imaging, photography and painting. HOLDEN also has had one of her pieces, The Poets (Lilith Series), accepted at the Peabody Essex Museum, which has the oldest collection of photography in America (first acquisition in 1839).
The Leica Gallery in New York City will be exhibiting the work of photographer, VLADIMÍR BIRGUS, in the show: "Czech Photography VIII, Europeans: Photographs by VLADIMÍR BIRGUS, Jindrich Marco and Jindrich Streit". The exhibit will run from January 16-February 28 at the Leica Gallery New York, 670 Broadway, New York City. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 12-6 pm. There will be a reception on Thursday, January 15th from 6-8 pm. There will also be a discussion relating to the exhibit, "David Hrbek: Cross Talks with Photographers VLADIMÍR BIRGUS, Antonin Kratochvil and Jindrich Streit", which will be held on Tuesday, January 13th at 7 pm at the Czech Center New York at the Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd St., New York City.
Works from photographer MITCH DOBROWNER are showcased in the current edition of LensWork magazine (No. 79 Nov. - Dec. 2008). The 21-page portfolio plus the back cover landscape photo from DOBROWNER's "Unworldly Landscapes" comprise the collection of stunning black and white photos, all photographed in the beautiful American Southwest. This is the second time in 18 months that LensWork has selected DOBROWNER's work for a feature story.
DOBROWNER was also recently selected for the "Best in Show 2008" by the International Photography Awards (IPA). The photography competition and exhibition honored 39 top photographers and their works at the debut on October 18, 2008 in NYC. The prestigious "Best in Show 2008" exhibit will travel to eight cities internationally, presenting work from the selected fine art photographers, culled from over 350 IPA/Lucie Award-winning works. MITCH DOBROWNER also earned third place in the Professional-Landscape category for his black and white photo, "The Still Earth". The London Sunday Times' November 16th edition featured DOBROWNER's landscape photo, "Shiprock Storm", in a two-page spread highlighting the Lucie/IPA Awards "Best of Show 2008" exhibit.
Photolucida also named DOBROWNER as one of its Top 50 photographers honored in its "Critical Mass" awards program. The annual juried competition is sponsored by Photolucida, a non-profit organization that promotes in-depth, informed, and supportive dialogue between photographers, gallery owners and publishers.
Contemporary Works will show DOBOWNER's triptych of Shiprock Storm and have other examples of his work at the booth during Photo LA. The artist will be present at the booth during parts of the exhibition.
The German photo magazine Schwarzweiss published a ten-page portfolio of STANKO ABADZIC's work from his "Light and Shadows" series in its latest edition (No. 67). ABADZIC will also open a new one-man exhibition of his nude photography on January 25th in Samobor, Croatia, at the Galleri Lang.
CHARLIE SCHREINER has had his contemporary daguerreotype, "Olivia Waiting" included in the Alt Processes traveling exhibit with the Texas Photo Society for the next year.
Contemporary Works has announced the publication of a number of limited edition artist's books with a print option for two of its artists: Arthur Tress and Lisa Holden.
Arthur Tress has published four different new artist books. They will each be offered in a signed hardbound version limited to an edition of 100. There will also be a special deluxe edition of 50 copies with a small, signed and editioned ink jet print with each numbered and signed book.
For the "Chinese Music Room" (40 pages in color) the price of the signed limited edition hardbound is $85 and the deluxe copy with print is $200.
For "The Disturbed Land" (40 pages in black and white) the price of the signed limited edition hardbound is $85 and the deluxe copy with print is $200.
For the "Hand" (74 pages in black and white) the price of the signed limited edition hardbound is $85 and the deluxe copy with print is $200.
For "The Presidential Cabinet" (28 pages in color) the price of the signed limited edition hardbound is $80 and the deluxe copy with print is $200.
For the "Not a Through Road" (120 pages in black and white) the price of the signed limited edition hardbound is $100 and the deluxe copy with print is $200.
If you would like to preview the Tress books, you can go to http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/387309#author-bookshelf . You can also order the standard unsigned copies directly from blurb.
Lisa Holden's artist book is entitled "The Bronze Room". It will be offered in a special signed edition limited to 100 copies for $85 (65 euros in Europe). There will also be a special deluxe edition of 50 copies with a small, signed and editioned chromogenic color photograph of "The Poets" (Lilith Series), which is illustrated in the book. This version will sell for $250 (175 euros in Europe). There may be some variation in imagery from book to book.
Prices are subject to change as each edition sells out. You may order your copies by calling Contemporary Works at 1-215-822-5662. We also have signed copies of Arthur Tress's "Planets", published by Lodima Press, for only $40 and signed copies of Lisa Holden's "Lisa Holden: Elusive Eye" for $75 (now out of print and down to our last few copies). We also have signed books available for many of the artists that we represent, including Stanko Abadzic, Vladimir Birgus and Joel Levinson. Check our websites for details or call us.
Stephen Bulger, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, has been elected as the Association of International Photography Art Dealers' (AIPAD) next president. His two-year term began on January 1, 2009. He replaces Robert Klein, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, who will continue as a board member.
An AIPAD member for 10 years, Stephen Bulger served on the board beginning in 2001 and became first vice president in 2003. He opened Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, in 1995, and offers an active exhibition schedule of 19th-century, 20th-century and contemporary international photographers. He has published numerous catalogues and books, and has curated over 120 exhibitions. Bulger is also co-founder and a member of the Board of CONTACT, Toronto's photography festival which will hold its 13th annual event in May 2009. He is a graduate of the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University, Toronto, where he was the founding Manager of the Ryerson Gallery.
AIPAD has also elected new officers to serve with Stephen Bulger. Catherine Edelman of Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL, will be first vice president; Deborah Bell of Deborah Bell Photographs, New York, NY, will be second vice president; Jo Tartt of Tartt Gallery, Warrenton, VA, will be secretary; and Kraige Block, Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY, will be treasurer. Each will serve a two-year term commencing on January 1, 2009.
New members of the AIPAD board of directors include: David Barenholtz, David Gallery, Culver City, CA; Henry Feldstein, Forest Hills, NY; George Hemphill, Hemphill Fine Arts, Washington, DC; and Lisa Sette, Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ. They will also serve two-year terms, effective on January 1, 2009.
Seven new AIPAD member galleries have also been announced. They are:
--Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York, NY, specializing in contemporary work from emerging international artists.
--Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York, NY, a dealer in new media and photography from emerging and established artists.
--Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium, dealing in vintage, Modern, fashion, African work from established photographers of the 20th century, and contemporary work from young emerging photographers.
--Foley Gallery, New York, NY, specializing in photographers new to the contemporary art market.
--Janet Sirmon, Brooklyn, NY, dealing in 19th and 20th-century photographs with an emphasis on Czech Modernism and American social documentary work.
--Sepia International Inc., New York, NY, specializing in photography that embraces personal vision, humanistic concerns, and the exploration of alternative photographic processes with a focus on innovative work from Asia.
--Galeria Vasari, Buenos Aires, Argentina, dealing in Modernism from Argentinean photographers of European origin from the era before or during WWII.
KOPEIKIN OPENS A NEW, EXPANDED
GALLERY SPACE IN WEST HOLLYWOOD
On Tuesday January 6th the Kopeikin Gallery (formerly Paul Kopeikin Gallery) will officially reopen in an expanded exhibition space located at 8810 Melrose Ave. (at Robertson) in the West Hollywood Art and Design district. Designed by Los Angeles Architect Tim Campbell, it is three times larger than any of Kopeikin's previous galleries. The new gallery will continue to bridge the gap between various art genres but with a continuing emphasis on photo-based art. With two large spaces within the gallery, Kopeikin will continue to expand his vision to include exhibitions of works on paper and video in the smaller of the gallery's spaces.
The larger space will soon feature an exhibition of new photographs entitled "Industrial Landscape[ing]" by J. Bennett Fitts. The second gallery will feature charcoal and ink drawings by Dutch artist Bas Louter. These inaugural exhibitions will open on Tuesday, January 20th with a reception with both artists on Saturday, January 31st, from five to eight o'clock. The reception is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm. For details call 1-310-385-5894.
DELEHANTY BECOMES DIRECTOR OF
JANE VOORHEES ZIMMERLI ART MUSEUM
Suzanne Delehanty, founding director of the Miami Art Museum and currently head of an independent arts consultant service, has been named director of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Delehanty became director-elect on January 1 and will assume the full directorship of the museum on April 1. Her ten-year appointment, 1995-2005, at the Miami Art Museum (MAM) led to the transformation of what was the Center for the Fine Arts, a non-collecting space, into Miami's flagship art museum.
PORTLAND ART MUSEUM'S TERRY
TOEDTEMEIER PASSES AWAY
Terry Toedtemeier, first curator of photography of the Portland Art Museum and its only curator over the past 20 years, passed away in December. Toedtemeier had a passion for photography. He not only assembled an important collection of over 5,000 photographs, a selection of which is permanently on view in the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, the largest dedicated exhibition space for photography in the region, but was himself a talented photographer. His enthusiasm for the medium was evident to all who had the pleasure of meeting him.
Toedtemeier also curated the current show "Wild Beauty" at the museum. As the Museum's publicity release on this tragedy notes, "Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867–1957 (on view through January 11) and the publication 'Wild Beauty' will be lasting legacies of Terry's spirit and his unique vision as an artist and scholar."
We will all miss you, Terry. There is a Facebook memorial to Terry at: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=32489601523&topic=5613 .
AUTHOR OF MODOTTI BOOK DIES
Mildred Constantine Bettelheim, who authored "Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life", the first monograph about Modotti, passed away in mid-December at her home in Nyack, NY. She was 95 when she died of heart failure.
Her 1974 ground-breaking study of Modotti put the spotlight on Modotti for her photography, her love affair with fellow photographer Edward Weston and her leftist-feminist politics.
Constantine was best known as a curator for the graphic design and poster collections of the Museum of Modern Art in the 1950-60s. She was associate curator and later curatorial consultant in MoMA's architecture and design department from 1943 through 1970. After leaving MoMA in 1971, Constantine continued to produce exhibitions and wrote more than a dozen books on caricature and cartoons, photography and decorative arts.
TATE SEEKS PHOTO CURATOR
London's Tate Modern is currently looking for a curator of photography and international art. This is a new position at the Tate and will oversee its collection of modern and contemporary photography. The new curator will shape acquisitions and the exhibition programs at the Tate Modern and also at the Tate Britain. The salary is £40,000 (currently less then $60,000 at today's rate of exchange). The application deadline is January 9th. For more details, go to: http://www.tate.org.uk/about/workingattate/ , or send your application to: Human Resources Department, Tate Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, UK or fax it to:+44 (0)871 5941785.
By Matt Damsker
MIROIRS D'ARGENT: DAGUERREOTYPES BY GIRAULT DE PRANGEY.
2008. Published by Musee Gruerien and Editions Slatkine to accompany the exhibition of the same name, which continues through March 29, 2009 at Le Musee Gruerien, Bulle, Switzerland. In French; hardback; 191 pages, approximately 100 color plates. ISBN No. 978-2-8321-0332-6. Information: http://www.musee-gruerien.ch .
Apart from a small book of lithographs of his delicate watercolors and ink drawings, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804-1892) did not exhibit or promote his art during his lifetime, even though it's possible that he learned daguerreotypy from Louis Daguerre himself and produced nearly 1,000 important daguerreotypes of Middle Eastern and European architecture and landscapes. Recently, Switzerland's Musee Gruerien rediscovered a collection of 61 of his daguerreotypes, including wonderful views of Basel, the Jura, Bern and its highlands, Vevey, the Tête-Noire passage in the Valais region, the Mont-Dore ruins in Auvergne and the Mer-de-Glace in Chamonix.
The museum is now displaying these works along with 17 of Girault de Prangey's images of Paris and the East Mediterranean--Athens, Istanbul, Izmir, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cairo, plus key drawings--and this handsome exhibition catalogue meticulously reproduces the photographer's seminal studies for us. These are certainly important daguerreotypes by any measure, and the accompanying essays (in French) by Cristophe Brandt, Cristophe Dutoit, Sylvie Henguely, Susanne Bieri, Philippe Kaenel and Isabelle Raboud-Schule provide a great deal of context for the work, with scholarly treatises not only of Girault de Prangey but also of Daguerre's process and conservation techniques.
Not unusually for his time, Girault de Prangey, who studied painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, considered himself more of a draftsman than a photographer. His daguerreotypes were important to him mainly as studies for his elegant watercolors, for example, a sun-drenched depiction of the ruins of Ramses' temple in Thebes, drawn note for note from the silvery daguerreotype he produced in 1844. No doubt Girault de Prangey envisioned, hopefully, that his painting would outlive his photography, but the obvious irony is that his camerawork would emerge as posterity's treasure. Indeed, the painterly eye he brought to his photography served him particularly well in the production of these pioneering images--beautifully composed, carefully exposed, well-preserved, and now deservedly and thoroughly chronicled by Le Musee Gruerien.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published in the fall of 2005.
He currently reviews books for U.S.A. Today.
(Book publishers, authors and photography galleries/dealers may send review copies to us at: I Photo Central, 258 Inverness Circle, Chalfont, PA 18914. We do not guarantee that we will review all books or catalogues that we receive. Books must be aimed at photography collecting, not how-to books for photographers.)