dinsdag 14 april 2015

The Moon Considered as a Planet a World and a Satellite James Nasmyth James Carpenter Photography

Woodbury-type photograph by James Nasmyth from The Moon Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite by James Nasmyth and James Carpenter. 

INSIDE COVER: Stella Halkyard Pictures from a Library 6: James Nasmyth The Poetics of Space: James Nasmyth and The Moon Considered...

Woodbury-type photograph by James Nasmyth from The Moon Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite by James Nasmyth and James Carpenter. Reproduced by courtesy of the University Librarian and Director, The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester. 

The 'voice' in one of Emily Dickinson's poems urges its reader to 'Tell all the Truth but tell it slant - ': 'Success in Circuit lies'. It would have been impossible for the inventor James Nasmyth to have known Dickinson's verse, bound as it was in a tiny handmade fascicle hidden in a trunk at the end of her bed, but the book he produced with James Carpenter in 1874, The Moon Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, seems to have been touched by it.

Born into an artistic family in Edinburgh in 1808 and exhibiting considerable gifts as a draughtsman, Nasmyth became an engineering prodigy. Trained in London and Edinburgh, he came to Manchester, which was rapidly developing into a centre of engineering, in 1834. In 1839, at the Bridgewater Foundry in Patricroft, he invented the steam hammer and produced 'superlative machines of all sorts'. At the age of 48 he was able to retire and spend his fortune, time and talents pursuing his interests in astronomy and the new medium of photography.

The Moon Considered... provided the opportunity to indulge both passions at once. This odyssey in space delineates in minute, yet astronomical, detail the topography and geology of the moon as studied over a period of thirty years. Containing twenty-five plates produced by a panoply of illustrative processes, Nasmyth's lunar Baedeker also includes a number of lustrous Woodbury-type photographs of the moon.

Seeming to 'record as it looks', Nasmyth's camera appears to capture with 'mechanical fidelity' (Kelley Wilder) photographs of a 'non-symbolic objective character [which] leads whoever looks at them to see them not as images but as windows' (Vilém Flusser) onto a real and actual, silver-surfaced moon, convincing even to those eyes that postdate the missions of the Sputnik and Apolloeras.

Yet these photographs are not what they seem. It was technically possible to photograph the moon at this period, but it was not until the 1880s that materials were devised with the sensitivity to capture moonbeams and starlight. The clarity displayed in these portraits shimmers with a quality 'Too bright for our infirm Delight'.

Nasmyth outlines how he made 'careful drawings' of the moon 'when it was favourably presented through the telescope'. The drawings were repeated, revised and then reworked into exact plaster models. The models were 'placed in the sun's rays [to] faithfully reproduce lunar effects of light and shadow', then photographed. Through photography, with its dubious power to certify and authenticate, these complex constructions show the moon as 'most faithful representations of the original'.

Notwithstanding the devotion to empirical investigation that characterised nineteenth-century British science, Nasmyth appears to argue that we are closest to the 'Truth's Superb surprise' when we dwell in the possibility of fiction.

This item is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.


Plate XXII from the first edition (1874) of James Nasmyth’s The moon.

James Nasmyth, c. 1877, from Men of Mark by Lock and Whitfield  (Photo CT782.C7).
This week’s illustration post brings together two wonders of the 19th century industrial imagination: amateur astronomy and photography. Photography had become successful and popular by the mid-19th century both professionally and amongst “gentleman scientists” looking to add to and make their mark on popular knowledge. James Nasmyth was such a man: he showed an early competency for mechanics, set up his own foundry, designed and patented the steam hammerand other machines and retired at the age of 48 to Kent to pursue his hobby of astronomy.
Once retired Nasmyth, as an industrial gentleman of the steam age, built his own 20-inch reflecting telescope (now on display at the Science Museum in London) and joined the ranks of Democritus, da Vinci, Galileo and Johannes Hevelius as an amateur selenographer. Thus he embarked on a series of lunar observations which finally culminated in the 1874 publication of a work by him andJames Carpenter entitled The moon: considered as a planet, a world, and a satellite(London, John Murray).
From left to right: the front cover, title page and Plate IV from the first edition (1874) of James Nasmyth’s The moon.

Plate III from the first edition, a copy of a lunar photograph by Warren De la Rue.
This work was advertised as including “twenty-four illustrative plates of lunar objects” and was significant as it was one of the first books to feature photographs of the Moon’s surface, or so it seems! Astrophotography had its beginnings in the 1840s (with the first photograph of the Moon being a daguerreotype by John W. Draper that took over a half-an-hour to expose) but by the 1870s there was no photographic process in place to capture the details of the lunar surface that Nasmyth and Carpenter were observing. So this pair of enterprising gentlemen set forth and built a series of plaster models based on their observations, lit them with raking light and produced photographic illustrations for their book. In fact, in the whole of their book there is only one photograph of the actual Moon, which was taken by Warren De la Rue (Plate III of the first edition, right).

Plate IX from the first edition (1874) of The moon, by James Nasmyth and James Carpenter.

Plate XVII from the first edition (1874) of The moon, by James Nasmyth and James Carpenter.

The illustrative plates of this first edition of The moon employ multiple different types of illustrative and early photographic reproduction techniques: engravings,woodburytypes and heliotypes (a type of collotype). These new photo-mechanical printing techniques allowed a more standard print process using permanent carbon-based inks and stream-lined the production of photographically illustrated books.
Plate XXIII from the first edition (1874) of The moon, a Heliotype of an ‘ideal lunar landscape’.

This process truly underlines photography’s basic characteristic of being a construct (in this instance twice over!) and very much an act of interpretation which can sometimes be far from the truth. This is illustrated even furthermore by the third editionof this work which can now also be found in our Photographic Books Collection. Many of the images which appear as heliotypes in the first edition are instead reproduced here as woodburytypes and show significant amounts of touching-up and repositioning. For example: Plate II from the first edition has instead been divided up into Plates II and III in the third edition (possibly due to the third edition’s smaller size), and both of these images along with Plate XIX (XVIII in the third edition) have been cleaned up considerably (see below).
An example of the editing of images from the first edition (1874) and the third edition (1885) of James Nasmyth’s The moon. The first edition (above) combines both photographs as one plate, a Heliotype. The third edition (below) separates each photograph onto its own plate, inverts both images and are printed as woodburytypes.

This is a fascinating book by an industrious pair of “gentlemen astronomer,” and even more so when the first and third edition are compared. Unfortunately, the Library does not currently have the second edition (translated into German, printed in Leipzig) to further comparison, but it could soon be a new addition to our collections!

zaterdag 11 april 2015

4 even hier door Fred Brommet Dominique Berretty, Sem Presser en Eddy van der Veen Photojournalism Photography

Andere auteursGraphic Design StudioHBM
De Geillustreerde Pers

Dominique R. Berretty was born in Indonesia in 1915, then under Dutch occupation. His father and namesake ran a legendary press agency called Aneta, which went bankrupt in 1934 after his death in a plane crash. In 1943 Berretty became a prisoner in Germany. Dominica Berretty began a career as a freelance photographer from 1953, when he moved to Paris. He joined the Rapho agency and worked for Life magazine from 1958 to 1968, taking photographs and making news reports on De Gaulle, Churchill's funeral, the war in Algeria, and then Vietnam. In 1969 a photo story on the "Birth of the Bikini appeared in Look magazine by Berretty. Berretty took many photographs of celebrities, from starlets to national leaders, including Brigit Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier, General Charles De Gaulle, Winston Churchill, etc. Berretty, who died in 1981 at age 65, was one of the great photojournalists of his time, whose work unfortunately remains largely unknown. A retrospective of his Algerian photographs was shown at the 2002 International Festival of Photojournalism (Visa Pour L'Image).

Fred Brommet (1924-2008) begon zijn opleiding in 1942 aan de Nieuwe Kunstschool in Amsterdam bij Alexander Bodon. Daarna koos hij voor de opleiding binnenhuisarchitectuur bij het Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs van Mart Stam in Amsterdam. Na de oorlog reisde hij naar Parijs om het fotografenvak te leren. In 1953 trouwde hij met een Parisienne. Samen zetten zij de inmiddels bloeiende fotografenpraktijk in vooral mode, ballet en reclame voort. Tussen de bedrijven door fotografeerde hij de stad en de mensen. In mei 1968 deden zij de studio in de Rue Fontaine (met André Breton als buurman) van de hand en keerden zij terug naar Nederland nadat Brommet eerst de ravages in de straten van Parijs met zijn camera vereeuwigde. Over deze Parijse fotografie verscheen in 1997 de publicatie  Tableaux Parisiens bij het Maria Austria Instituut.

Sem Presser life-story is rather incredible. He was born into a Jewish family of diamonds merchants in Amsterdam in 1917, when the Nazi’s invaded Holland in 1940 Presser joined the Dutch underground and used his artistic talents to forge documents to help the resistance and to assist the members of the Jewish community escape from Holland (Holland’s Jews were being systematically deported to Nazi concentration camps), at the same time Presser illustrated children’s books! (all while he was hiding from the Nazi’s) Sem Presser lost his parents in the flames of Auschwitz in 1945.

After the war Presser became one of Holland’s most important photo-journalists, serving as head of the Dutch Association of Photojournalists more than once. Presser traveled extensively, he shot images at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946, covered theAlgerian War, he also documented the rebuilding of Germany after the war for the global press. Presser was an official photographer at Grace Kelley’s and Prince Prince Rainier of Monaco wedding, he traveled to the USA where his images were published in Life Magazine. Presser loved France and lived for years in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, (the village Le Corbusier built his famous cabana). Presser died in 1986.

On Presser’s official site you will find the most wonderful archive of images (flash required) – I spent a few hours looking it over and enjoyed the images so much – funny, serious, beautiful and full of heart – in my opinion Sem Presser is a major player in the history of photojournalism and well worth knowing about.

Van Der Veen was a freelance photographer for LIFE and Time Life Books and won first prize for photo stories in the World Press Photo contest in 1963.

dinsdag 7 april 2015

Nurture Studies Diana Scherer in the Museum Villa Mondriaan Winterswijk Photography

Year 2012
Language English
Publisher Van Zoetendaal Publishers, Amsterdam
Designer Willem van Zoetendaal
Prepress Harold Strak (digital imaging), NPN Drukkers, Breda
Printer NPN Drukkers, Breda
Binder Agia & Lith, Amsterdam
Size 220 x 280 x 11
Number of pages 128 p.
Print run 800
ISBN 978 90 72532 19 0
Binding style knotted in the Japanese style with double thread
Material 150gsm GardaPat 13 Kiara, 82gsm Curious Translucents Clear (interior), 244gsm Leathac 80 Tsumugi, grayish brown (cover)

Diana Scherer’s photo project comprises an unusual collection of flowers and their roots, roots that carry each bouquet like natural pots and vases and in so doing allow us to discern the remanent forms of the actual pots and vases in which they once grew.

The collection is presented with such sophistication and subtlety that leafing through this book we are swept up in a sense that here we are dealing with something very special. Beautifully done.

The book is bound in the Japanese style, in a sober, earth-coloured, structured board, a reference to rough earthenware flowerpots. The binding thread is reminiscent of the now visible finely structured roots.

This cover and its contrast with the delicate interior of the book found favour with most of the panel, but there was also some dissent, principally regarding the vertical bar with the title. Horizontal wouldn’t have worked, but was there actually any need for a title there in the first place? But a detail like that – even if it is on the cover – pales into insignificance in the presence of so many other more than convincing design choices.

With Nurture Studies, Scherer presents an archive of flowers she has grown from seed over a six-month period. Rather than letting the flowers grow in open soil, she has forced each plant to develop within the confines of a vase. Only at the end of the process does she remove the plant’s corset, exposing roots that retain their shape as an evocation of the now absent vase.

The floral portraits form a pendant to earlier photo series in which Scherer opted for much rawer imagery, things like young girls lying on the ground with their backs to the camera, collapsed like rag dolls, so that viewers almost automatically think of them as victims (Mädchen, 2002-2007). In Nurture Studies this confrontational imagery has made way for subtlety. Although the flowers, with their exposed roots, look just as fragile as the girls, Scherer avoids any semblance of drama, mainly by the objectivity of her photographic style, arranging the plants upright in the frame and photographing them with a technical camera. This approach is consistent with the orderly way collectors catalogue their objects.

Behind this objective methodology, there is a great deal of emotion at work. More than anything else, Scherer’s process of collecting, nurturing and documenting is a display of tenderness, ritualistic love that remains hidden to the viewer, but still infuses the vulnerable final images with its almost tangible presence.