The Artist and the Camera -Degas to Picasso.

Kosinski, D(1999)The Artist and the Camera – Degas to Picasso. First Edition. Yale Press. Seatle. USA

Tinker, C(2015)BP Portrait Award 2015. First Edition. National Portrait Gallery Publications. London.


Vision and Visionaries: in the Context of Symbolist Aesthetics

Dorothy Kosinski

Photography didn’t take away from art, it allowed a look at the normally unseen, x-ray, macro etc. Henri Bergson reality is about internal perception of place in space and time instead of what we see around us “external Construct”.

Degas ballet dancers can be traced back to negatives, varied artists photo’d models in their studios.

However, publicly they categorised it as nothing but a tool (Gauguin) as photography started to define itself as a fine art.

Talks of Simulacrum, where the photo is held as the truth over the reality in front of your eyes, or used as truth to base work on when you have never been to a place (Khnopff).

Picasso and Russo embraced photography as a way to play around with their work and to bounce extra ideas off to create new ones, to the extent that Russo played with his photographic technique so the photos enhanced whatever he wanted the observer to feel when they looked at his work.

Photography is an integral part of art now, its how we often have our work viewed (Berger’s figures on gallery viewing) given the prevalence of the internet, and its the easiest way to record a moment to play with at a later point, as Richter does in many ways, over painting photos or rendering old ones large but blurred (many reasons on that that I’ve gone into in Part 2’s accompanying sketchbook on Richter). I use photos because my memory is pretty shoddy and I’m generally accompanied by my children and stopping isn’t always an option. Using photos from magazines is good for practise, I see what Kosinski is saying though in that if I am copying down that image, it is acting as a simulacrum as its a professional photo staged of a person I have never met and I am taking it as real, potential photoshop and all.

The photographic muse

Elizabeth C Childs

Explanation of photographies journey to sit alongside art, how it was compared unfavourably (Baudelaire) “Charles Blanc, who dismissed photography as an imitation that shows all and expresses nothing.”

Artists when asked if photography meant the end to second-rate portrait artists wood-engravers etc out of 18, 3 declined to answer 7 said it was a good tool for various reasons, 8 where opposed, including Sickert who attested that art in galleries should account for origins if they where photographic.

I’d also agree with whichever one said that photography is an aid to the sketchbook, not a substitute. I’ve found sketching helps define the important points you wanted to capture, the definitive lines. Photography records the whole thing (unless you understand about aperture/shutter control) however something caught your eye and noting that is important.

Dulled down copies of art printed onto merchandise…

The photos that the artists had a hand in have an extra trace of their ideas over photos of their work taken by others.

Photography and invisibility

Douglas R Nickel

William Henry Fox Talbot likened the camera to seeing as it recorded what was in front of it, with the anatomy of the camera not dissimilar to the eye and processing  capability. Photography arrived in 2 parts, the actual camera and act of taking photos and the language around the process that described it and aided its insertion into a sceptical society.

Photography as originally an entertainment progressed through recording and became a tool that showed more than had been expected of it at its inception,

so the artists who used it where themselves responding to it in a way that society was responding to photo realistic copying, which was then reflected/rejected in aspects of their work.

Peter Henry Emerson “the father of art photography”. What I consider a hermit type of photographer, dealing with the natural and untouched aspects of photography, probably suffered for his art before telling everyone about it (achieved high up placements in photographic societies and clubs. Wouldn’t have gotten on with Ansel Adams if they had been the same generation). He espoused about artists who painted in the same way, probably unaware of the elements they chose not to add into their paintings which is essentially practical photoshopping for artists.

His argument that the photo should be as we would see it, however focus is arbitrary to the individual and as a result, photographs should try to copy this and only have the target area in crisp focus. His view was counter to the victorian one that photography was the answer to mimicry because of its clarity. The eye was imperfect and linked to a whole system designed to unravel the data whereas a camera was merely a machine.

Muybridge and motion photography (the galloping horse series) and its effect on artists (Degas horse sculptures p38). Muybridge’s horse showed its motion at an unstable point not recognised in art previously and existing only in film to prove it occurred at all.

Move on to X-rays as another form of photography that helped push art into the existing over perceived, the view that now we could see inside of things, like Freud’s theories on underlying issues not visible to the human eye, art started to explore the possibilities with futurism and cubism (likened to the effect of a prism).

Another Nature: or, Arsenals of memory: Photography as Study Aid, 1850-1900

Ulrich Pohlmann

The effect of photography on art. (likened by Gleeson White to asking if the invention of gunpowder had good or bad influence on human progress). Not exactly publicised by artists that they were using photos to help their work, rarely do the archives of images survive. Pierre Caloine noted that photography was an ‘aide memoire”, photos of fleeting object, like waves and clouds kept to work from.

Photo albums printed showing old masters (etchings or drawings because colour mucked up the tones in black and white photography) or natural scenes and objects for artists to use as models

Photos of sculpture came into their own.

Books of nude models were censored because of decency, it meant that the poses where contrived for acceptability in society rather than an expected stance for someone to display in a painting.

Personal collections of photos where more specific to the requirements of the artist, Italian set designer Mariano y Fortuny had 1500 photos that were applicable to his designs, not kept as art.

Photography developed further, emulsions became easier to handle so more photos could be taken, more controlled, so as to take the photo in seconds. They became more sensitive so colour could be rendered more recognisably, cameras became smaller,  film could be taken to a chemist to be developed and printed. The process got smoother.

Artists were using cameras to take specific photos relevant to the work they were doing, of the work they were doing and the stuff that was done. The photos weren’t technically brilliant, they full-filled the function of memory and ideas.

Photos taken of the artist, by others, used for promotion through the media etc.

The book continues onto individual artists. linking photos with the work.

My own personal use of photos has always felt a bit fraudulent but since the advent of photography, the laypersons expectations on clarity in pictures has gone up. looking at the national Portrait Galleries selections for the last few years, you can see the evidence of painting from photos and a leaning towards hyper realistic imagery with the whole painting in focus. Also, as a learning tool, photos are cheaper than sitters. I still prefer to get out and sketch, my understanding of a place or object is better informed by my eye studying it in 3 dimensions and drawing it in situ. However, the photo can jog my memory of the emotions that go along with why I felt the need to take the photo and help guide medium, size and content. Photography is always going to be a tool I use, sometimes in frustration as I used to have a darkroom before number 2 child needed it for a bedroom and I understand where I’ve gone wrong taking a photo.


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