24. March 2012 · Comments Off on My Top Ten Photographers · Categories: All
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My Top Ten / Note: For every photographer mentioned below, there are ten many others who also could have been included.

  The photographers I mention below are those that have given me the greatest insight into the business of Looking. The business of looking is deciding what subject to choose to photograph, but also those other decisions made before lifting the camera to the eye. After choosing Content (subject), there must be Meaning (symbol), then Form. Photographs must mean something to you, the pictures you make must satisfy a need to create a picture world unique to your own vision. Form is the physical picture itself: what does your final image look like?, did your use of tone represent the subject brightnesses in the photograph?, what type of lighting did you use to describe the subject?, did you make a persuasive and interesting image design.

(1) Eugéne Atget is the Avatar of photography. In Hindu Mythology an Avatar can be defined as a principle attitude or view of life. For me, Atget is the principle attitude of modern photography, and the first photographer to understand how to depict space with a camera. Depicting space with a camera is one of the great joys of making photographs. No other medium in the static visual arts demands you share your vision with a machine.  A photographer must find common ground between their vision and the camera’s vision. You must fuse your desires of what something might look liked photographed, only after the camera decides what it will finally look like. (1.5) Bernice Abbott, who gave us Atjet.
See, “Cour, 41 rue Broca,” (1912) Page 127, Szarkowski, Atget, ISBN 0-87070-094-4. 

(2) Walker Evans is a direct aesthetic descendant of Eugént Atget, who than beget Robert Frank, who then beget Gary Winogrand. What Evans brought to photography was his native lyrical intellect, and his literary sense of the vernacular. I call Evans work for the FSA (Farm Security Administration) the “Big Bang” in Photography. The collision which made this big bang possible for photography was three colliding elements: (1) Walker Evans poetic documentary style, (2) The great photographic subject of the twentieth century-The Depression, (3) Evans work for the FSA which gave Evans the opportunity of the biggest scam in photographic history; when Evans was given brand new cameras, film, car, gas and hotels for 18 months to go out and photograph anything he wanted. Evans FSA work ended when Roy Stryker fired him for not making enough photographs of the things Stryker had ordered him to do. In those 18 months, Evans developed a new documentary style of photography, and then exhibited his work from the FSA in 1938 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
See, “Houses and Billboards in Atlanta,” (1936) Plate 60, Hambourg, Walker Evans, ISBN 0-87099-937-0.

(3) Robert Frank is a direct aesthetic descendant of Walker Evans, who then beget Gary Winogrand. Robert Frank saw with emigrant (Swiss born) eyes, and then imaged 1950’s America . He also landed with two square feet in America during the “Beat Generation,” one of the great artistic, musical and literary revolutions of the twentieth century. He counted among his friends, poet Allen Ginsberg, “Howl,” writer Jack Kerouac, “On The Road,” who wrote the introduction to Frank’s magnum opus, “The Americans.” If ‘Helen of Troy’ launched a thousand ships, than Robert Frank launched a million ‘Leicas’ upon the world.
See page 48, London/Wales, Robert Frank, ISBN 3-908247-67-5
See page 44, The Americans, Robert Frank, 3-931141-80-2.

(4) Garry Winogrand’s photography is about the street, but his desire was that by making photographs, it would bring him closer to understanding his life through knowing the lives of others. To Winogrand, photography was a contagion, exposed, but undeveloped film multiplied, some third of a million exposure were never processed by him before his death. It was said, he was interested in the way things looked when photographed. This simplification of what photography is truthfully about, is the bane and backwash of people who write about photography, but have never made the decision of when to push the button. Winogrand’s work and legacy, is the piercing sound of his shutter making the present, new. (4.5) Lee Friedlander, Winogrand‘s best buddy, published “Arrival & Departures” for him. See page 127, Winogrand, Figments From The Real World, John Szarkowski, ISBN 0-87070-640-3.

(5) Danny Lyon’s understanding of the neighborhood, allowed him to extend that vision to projects in other neighborhoods, in other worlds. His square images squarely defined his ability to frame his subjects with wit, wisdom and sensuality. From convicts to bikers, from girlfriends to whores, Lyon’s documentary style, made the commonplace, a platform for Art. “The one thing I always liked about your pictures is that people in all your pictures are beautiful, and I like beautiful people. No matter what condition they are in, or what they are, or what they have passed through, they are always beautiful.” – Hugh Edwards  (5.5) Sergio Larrain
See page 153, Danny Lyon, Memories Of Myself, ISBN 978-0-7148-4851-8
See “Route 12, Wisconsin, 1963, Pictures From The New World, ISBN 0-89381-073-8

(5.5) Alex Webb’s photographs take us on an RGB journey through space and time. The picture plane for Webb is parsed by shape and color, and the light which burns so very brightly. But, shape and color are really only costumes in his pictures, what matters are the actors that are frozen in the act of living, surviving, and dying. The Red journey is all about, and must be his favorite hue; the pity of how a color can cage the beast (page 24). His next to favorite color must be the combination of Red & Green which makes Yellow appear as stain glass (page 11). And poor Blue spins into a globe, as the child holds the world on the tip of a finger (page 33). “I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner.”
Alex Webb, The Suffering of Light, ISBN 978-1-59711-173-7

(6) Richard Nickels’s  photography is a rare item in image making.  His passion for preserving his home town architecture (Chicago), made him, like Winogrand, to know people, “to find something strong and universal about them.” The soft and candid portraits of his fellow city dwellers is a testament to the care and love he also gave documenting the destruction of the city those people lived in. What is lost in our society, is the remembrance of those who built the past and why. Nickel’s photographs fill this void, in a time and place he knew and cherished.
See page 43, Richard Nickel’s Chicago, Photographs Of A Lost City, ISBN 09785450-2-8.
See page 127, They All Fall Down, Richard Nickel’s Struggle To Save America’s Architecture, ISBN 0-471-14426-6

(7) Todd Webb’s photographs and his journal are the proverbial fly on the wall. His writings and photographs speak about a young man struggling to understand photography, and his master, mentor and friend, Alfred Stieglitz. Webb’s journal offers a rare glimpse into the party goers, the apostles of photography, who’s collective ambition was to hammer out the shape of 20th century image making. Todd Webb, through his photography, was a witness to his time, both literally and figuratively.
See page 29, Looking Back, Memoirs and Photographs, Todd Webb, ISBN 0-8263-1294-2

(8) Lee Miller’s photograph of a dead Nazi SS guard floating in a canal, can be taken as a document or a surreal photograph, or both. I have learned to take them the same. Miller, a successful New York model, came to Paris to become a photographer. She flopped into Man Ray’s bed in the 1930s, and then blopped into Hitler’s bath tub by the end of the World War II. How surreal can you get. When studying Miller’s images, you come understand that her talent wasn’t chasing surrealists; it was making her life surreal.
See page 196, The Art of Lee Miller, ISBN 978-0-300-12375-3

(9) Yasuhiro Ishimoto’s Japanese heritage and his Institute of Design education brought a new look to Japanese Photography after World War II. Ishimoto took up photography in a Colorado interment camp during the World War II. He then studied photography at the Institute of Design under the Mentorship of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. The Institute of Design was Moholy-Nagy’s foot print of the German Bauhaus in Chicago. Ishimoto’s photographs span the American occupation of Japan and the many train stops he made throughout his home country. Yasuhiro Ishimoto recently passed on February 6, 2012. (9.5) Daido Moriyama
See page 29, 32, 85, 134, A Tale Of Two Cities, ISBN 0-86559-170-9
See page 40, “Japanese Photobooks Of The 1960s and ’70s, ISBN 978-1-59711-094-5

(10) Minor White’s contribution to photography, and photographic education is an example of critical mass in photography. As a poet, and then as Beaumont Newhall’s assistant, he began a spiritual journey which included developing the first rubric for teaching photography. His pedagogy developed the first college level photography art courses for retuning G.I.s’ after World War II. The California School Of Fine Arts photography program was created by Ansel Adams who found the funding for it and designed the darkrooms and studios. When Adams had to continue with his work as a professional photographer, Adams asked Minor White to take his place. His work as a teacher was a poem to his students, and eventually a stanza in his own work as a photographer.
See page 195, 199, 201, 134, The Moment of Seeing, ISBN 978-0-8118-5468-9

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