Friday, February 19, 2021

Photo Finish (Shivering for Your Art Edition)


 In order to obtain pictures by means of the hand camera it is well to choose your subject, regardless of figures, and carefully study the lines and lighting. After having determined upon these watch the passing figures and await the moment in which everything is in balance; that is, satisfies your eye. This often means hours of patient waiting. My picture, ‘Fifth Avenue, Winter,’ is the result of a three hours’ stand during a fierce snow-storm on February 22d, 1893, awaiting the proper moment. My patience was duly rewarded. Of course, the result contained an element of chance, as I might have stood there for hours without succeeding in getting the desired picture.

--Alfred Stieglitz

 

18 comments:

  1. It is an evocative photo taken in the early days of photography. Interesting that photographers were knowledgeable about framing and lines back then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrew, I did some googling and though photography had been around since the end of the 1820s, the hand-camera (as opposed to being mounted on a tripod or something similar) was only about 15 years old when Alfred Stieglitz took his picture. Stieglitz may very well have been the first photographer to view him self as an "artist" (instead of a mere craftsman) and spent his life championing photography as an art form, writing articles and even publishing and editing a magazine to that effect. He eventually married an artist, Georgia O'Keeffe, though she was a more traditional sort, a painter. Anyway, what I'm trying to get to here is that Stieglitz may have had more incentive to get everything just right as something to prove. And prove it he did.

      Delete
  2. What a great shot! I like these ones from the past :-D

    I saw photos of Texas, jeez I haven't seen anything like that in Scotland in living memory. Certainly not all the deaths due to weather :-( 2010 was very bad and things stood still for 2 or 3 days but no deaths, power issues or water issues either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ananka, the winter storm wasn't any less severe in Cleveland than in Texas, but there's been no power outages or water issues. Unfortunately--I looked this up just now--there's been seven deaths in the area due to the storm, but that's still way less than the 30 reported in Houston. But none of that should be surprising or a reason for Clevelanders to brag. And in fact I don't know any who are, as most Clevelanders, including myself, find this weather a pain in the ass, even with the lights still on and water that you don't have to boil. We obviously were a lot more prepared for this storm than Texans, but that's because we're a lot more USED to this kind of thing in winter then they are. And those winter preparations can come to bite you in the ass. I just had to replace the gas tank on my car because of the way the way road salt eats away at the bottom of vehicles (that's minor compared to what they're going through in Texas, but I felt like bitching about it anyway.)

      Delete
  3. I was waiting to find out that you took the picture. How old would you be now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mike, Alfred Stieglitz was 29 when he took that picture, so he'd be about 157 if he hadn't died in 1946 (about three years after the introduction of the Polaroid camera.) His much-younger wife died in 1986 at the age of 99. She'd be about 134 if she were still alive.

      As for myself, if I was the age I am now in 1893, I'd be, let me see...well, if I was a photograph, I'd be a daguerreotype, and that's all I have to say about that.

      Delete
  4. "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?"

    Hi, Kirk!

    Great idea for a post this snowy winter, good buddy! I can't imagine the patience required to capture a composition like that one way back in 1893... or maybe I can. My father was a shutterbug, a meticulous perfectionist who took forever to compose a shot, and most of his subjects were stationary, not in motion. During my career in TV news and entertainment, I was a film and videotape shooter. Much of the footage I recorded was of people and things in motion. This included floats, marchers and bands passing by my lens in parades such as the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival parade here in Tampa Bay, race cars whizzing past on a track (footage used to produce commercials for the venue), "working fires" - structures engulfed in flames, and the 100+ person barefoot "walk on fire" events at the culmination of week-long NLP seminiars. I prided myself on my shot composition skill. The "element of chance" certainly entered into it.

    Thanks for the nostalgic picture, good buddy Kirk, and have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shady, I was going to post this on Monday, which, if I'm doing the math right, would have been the 128th anniversary of Stieglitz's photo, but that would have meant nine days since my last post, and I don't like to go that long between posts (I'm afraid you people might forget about me.) And, as you pointed out, winter is in the news, so that made it kind of timely. Might as well post it now.

      Photography can be frustrating. Why, for instance, does everything look farther away than it actually is when you take a picture? Where is that extra SPACE coming from?

      Tampa Bay, you say? No need for road salt there. I bet the underneath of your car is--IRONY ALERT--as pure as the driven snow.

      Delete
  5. The technology available today to photographers would have blown his mind!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debra, if you could resurrect Alfred Stieglitz from the dead and tell him that you can now take a picture with your phone, he'd probably say, "Yeah, but they'll all have to be indoor shots since the cord only goes so far."

      Delete
  6. Hello Kirk, Of course I agree that most worthwhile projects take hours of careful work, but on the other hand, marvelous photos have also been taken in warmer climates.

    Another example of waiting for the right moment for a dramatic photos is this famous one of San Francisco's Cliff House taken in 1901 by a Japanese teenager:
    http://www.cliffhouseproject.com/photos/storm/storm.htm

    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just googled it now, Jim. It looks like it's right out of a 1930s Universal horror movie.

      Delete
  7. Old pictures of NYC always fascinate me. We already had about 20" on the ground...and after the last two days we have another 10". I guess I haven't minded because we haven't had snow the last several years...and Im not working....so let it snow I say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maddie, you know what jumps out at me when I look at that picture? Instead of tire tracks you have wheel tracks in the snow. The horse-and-buggy-era.

      Delete
  8. I have often wondered how the concept of taking pictures was even developed (no pun intended). How they thought it possible. It makes me thankful because we do get to see history in photographic glimpses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As with Andrew, I did some googling, JM. Ever hear of the camera obscura? The term was coined in 1604, but the phenomenon was first observed in ancient times, and discovered and rediscovered in a number of cultures afterwards. Drill a little hole in a darkened room. If there's sufficient illumination on the outside of that room, than an image from the outside will be reflected on the wall inside (albeit upside down and in reverse.) This also works on a smaller scale with a box (it's how some people, even today, view a solar eclipse.) All that's well and good, but what made anyone think they could then permanently capture that image? That's where the alchemists come in. Somewhere along the way it was discovered that if you put certain chemicals (such as silver nitrate) on that wall, it darkens part of the image, and that dark part stays there permanently. The first photographs were basically shadows. But they weren't on film. That didn't come into being until about a half-century after the first known photograph. Before that, photos were usually on glass plates, or a metal such as pewter.

      Delete
  9. Incredible what they had to go for to take a picture. That photograph they is posted looks so interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Brian, it's what Alfred Stieglitz had to go for. As I told Andrew, Stieglitz was out to prove that photography is an art form, and so was very picky about what his picture looked like. A less artistic-minded photographer probably wouldn't have waited three hours in a snowstorm to take a picture.

      Delete

In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.