Task: Write a short reflection on ‘brief history of photography (Part 2)’ after watching/listening to the podcast on:
Brief history survey (Part 2), by Jeff Curto –http://photohistory.jeffcurto.com/archives/281
Side-thought: It wasn’t easy choosing a photographer out of so many photographers… So I decided to look through the slides and their works, narrowing down a few from the slides and in the end, I found a few works that impressed me.
– Alfred Stieglitz (The Iconoclast), Andre Kertesz, Henry Peach Robinson and Joel Peter Witkin who is not on the list.
Henry Peach Robinson’s work was the one that made me turn back and take a closer look at the picture. Robinson was well-known for his pioneering combination printing, which means joining multiple negatives to form a single image.
I was surprised when I knew that his “Fading Away (1858)” was made up of 5 negatives. There were controversy, those who knew that it was created via combination printing found it dishonest as photgraphy was a medium whose chief virtue was its truthfulness. Some criticized him for the presumed indelicacy of having invaded the death chamber at the most private of moments.
However, I think that was precisely the reason why I like the picture-because it is a moment one can not bear to see. At the first glance, it is just a normal black and white photo showing 2 ladies attending to a young girl. I think it was the name of the photo that caught my attention. Fading Away. It sounds like some colours or dyes that is fading away slowly. But on a second look, it’s life. Life is fading away from the girl who is dying. To me, the sadness doesn’t come from the two ladies, it is the black back facing the window. He is emitting so much sadness, the feeling of not bearing to see the death claiming his family that makes the photo sad.
It is amazing for people in the past, without photoshop did it. One critic mentioned that Robinson has cashed the photo on “the most painful sentiments which it is the lot of human beings to experience.” But the picture captured the imagination of Prince Albert, who bought a copy and issued an order for every composite portrait Robinson produced subsequently.
Consumed by the passion of unrequited love, a young woman lies suspended in the dark space of her unrealized dreams in Henry Peach Robinson’s illustration of the Shakespearean verse:
She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek” (Twelfth Night II,iv,111–13).
This photo was displayed by Robinson as a discrete work, and I found the model resembling the ill girl in “Fading Away” 1858.
I feel that Robinson’s title for his photos always seems to give his creations another layer of depth. The dark background seems to envelop the figure in palpable melancholia and one will start to wonder what did the lady not tell her Love. Was it her love for him? Was it her illness? Was it something she wish to apologise for? So many possiblilities…. So melancholy…
This photo seems to be a simple photo that can easily be staged. However, it was created with 6 different negatives, and what was so amazing was how the lighting and the shadows was achieved when the woman was of a different photo from the man. I love the meaning of the photo: When the Day’s Work is Done, giving a soft light to the old ‘couple’, how she is waiting patiently for her old man…
I found a long quote from http://www.photoquotes.com by Robinson, and found an uncanny resemblance of what I’ve been trying to say:
A picture should draw you on to admire it, not show you everything at a glance. After a satisfactory general effect, beauty after beauty should unfold itself, and they should not all shout at once . . . This quality [mystery] has never been so much appreciated in photography as it deserved. The object seems to have been always to tell all you know.. This is a great mistake. Tell everything to your lawyer, your doctor, and your photographer (especially your defects when you have your portrait taken, that the sympathetic photographer may have a chance of dealing with them), but never to your critic. He much prefers to judge whether that is a boathouse in the shadow of the trees, or only a shepherd’s hut. We all like to have a bit left for our imagination to play with. Photography would have been settled a fine art long ago if we had not, in more ways than one, gone so much into detail. We have always been too proud of the detail of our work and the ordinary detail of our processes. – Henry Peach Robinson