Monday, December 12, 2011

In Full Spectrum. Photography 1900-1950 from the Collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. 4th part: Social Photography and Reportage

Social Photography
Social photography also expanded the social impact of photography. Under the auspices of the Left Front (an anti-Nazi organization, 1929-1933), it evolved out of compassionate representations of poverty into a movement promoting change in the social order. It was intended, first and foremost, for the press and, paired with written text, it required legibility in the sense of clarity and rationality. It employed the whole repertoire of new photography, especially in approach to detail and in diagonal compositions.
Social photography was a natural  response to the Great Depression (1929-1933), and thus an international phenomenon. While in countries like Germany it was largely produced by the working class, social photography in Czechoslovakia involved a large number of intellectuals: writers, architects, politicians and artists. Prime movers and interpreters of social photography included Lubomir Linhart in Prague and František Kalivoda in Brno. Characteristically, the work of famous photographers, although not socially engaged, often features small series devoted to social matters.

Grete Popper 1934

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Full Spectrum. Photography 1900-1950 from the Collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. 3rd part: Advertising.

Advertising photography
New photography and advertising photography were born simultaneously, and can be hardly viewed separately. Precise description, the core of the New Objectivity, was also pivotal to promotional work. Examples of advertising photography invariably show objects as part of abstract patterns, in order to deprive them of any presumed position within the coordinates of the ordinary world, so bird's-eye views became common. Photo-montage (Vaclav Jiru and others) was also frequent. The colour effects in Taborsky's photographs are achieved by photographic chemistry. In Rossler's shots, the objects represented appear to be in a state of weightlessness, floating in an undefined space, while in other photos series of products create geometrical structures and symbolize both mass use as well as profusion and abundance (Adolf Schneeberger, Vladislav Scholz). Some artists favoured a combination of disparate space dimensions and plans, details and wholes (Otakar Lenhart, Hugo Taborsky), while others employed, perhaps inadvertently, the principles of Gestalt psychology, a discipline that was finding form at the time.

Bohumil Stastny

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Full Spectrum. Photography 1900-1950 from the Collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. 2nd part.

The Avant-garde — Abstraction and the New Objectivity
The “New Photography" took shape slowly throughout the 1920's. At first, Constructivism and the New Objectivity prevailed, with Surrealism, their irrational opposite, following later. At the end of the decade, individual styles blended into a single whole at the Film and Foto exhibition in Stuttgart (1929). It became clear that common to all the individual paths was “non-art", a trend associated with respect for pure (non-manipulated) photography portraying reality sharply and in detail. Through this, New Photography definitely separated itself from the approach before it, which had been typified by misty hazes and spectacles in light.

Detail, only a few years ago deemed incompatible with a work of art, had returned to centre stage.
The New Czech Photography exhibition, based on the Stuttgart model and organized by Alexander Hackenschmied, was held in the Aventinska mansarda, Prague in 1930. It was also the premiere of the Aventinum Trio: Ladislav E. Berka, Alexander Hackenschmied and Jiii Lehovec. its photographers freely employed both abstraction and precise description. Innovations in the New Photography included photographs of structures and textures separated from their context in space, providing interesting uncertainties of orientation (Alfred Ehrhardt, Crete Popper, Eugen Wiskovsky).

The role of photography in society changed as well. The new tendencies evolved against a background of ever-increasing demand on the part of a burgeoning illustrated magazine market, providing new outlets for the medium. The philosophy of the New Photography paralleled this trend both in style and in its preference for brilliantly rendered photographs suitable for printing. Innovations in book printing and gravure reproduction blended with the new, revolutionary cameras (Leica, Rolleiflex, Contax, and others) that enabled the photographer to “be there".

The work of Jaromlr Funke is an example of a concept-based and radical approach combined with a perfect orientation in the world of photography as well as that of art. A large number of his still lifes, in which shadows came to assume ever greater importance, evolved during the 1920's, from Cubist inspirations through compositions made up of geometrical shapes to the non-figurative shadow-plays produced in 1928-1929.
Eugen Wlikovsky applied the psychology of shapes to compositional principles as well as in his own free work (Disaster, 1939; Willow In a Valley, 1915).
Frantisek Vobecky 1935

Jaromir Funke

Jiri Jenicek 1931

The Avant-garde and Surrealism
Surrealism was, for most photographers, an inspiration for unorthodox, imaginative work. The principal contributions to fundamental ideas in this field are contained in photographs by Jaromir Funke, Jindřich Štyrsky and Vaclav Zykmund. Funke returned to the more objective world in 1929 with Reflections, a series of photographs of shop windows, and several poetic "assemblages", sets of objects photographed from above. His “Time Endures" cycle (1930-1934) discloses the irrationality inherent in ordinary things. Together with the painter Jindřich Štyrsky he expanded the scope of art photography through static, impersonal shots of the structures typical of civilisation, the meaning behind which was to restrict the artist's part in their representation to selection alone. Vaclav Zykmund's stagings echo surrealist plays.

Experimenting at the technical and technological levels of the medium characterized the fotolinie group (Ceské Budéjovice 1931-1937) and photo-group of five (also f5, Brno 1933—1936). Fotolinie was headed by Josef Bartuska, while other members represented at the exhibition include Ada Novék and Karel Valter. The first exhibition of the f5 group, held in the Museum of Applied Arts, Brno in October 1934, was opened by poet Vitézslav Illezval. Its Olomouc and Prague forms are represented by Frantisek Povolny, Bohumil Némec, Jaroslav Nohel, Hugo Taborsky, Karel Kaspařik and Otakar Lenhart.
Miroslav Hak, the only photographer in the Avant-garde Group 42, which united writers and artists during the Second World War, bridged the world of the mundane and imagination.
Bohumil Nemec
Frantisek Povolny
Jaromir Funke 1932
Jaroslav Nohel

Sunday, December 4, 2011

an exhibition: In Full Spectrum. Photography 1900-1950 from the Collection of the Moravian Gallery in Brno. 1st part.

Art nouveau, Art deco, beginnings of the Avant-garde.
Well before the end of the 19th century, art photography ceased to be a matter for individual endeavor. Amateur photographers began to organize themselves into clubs, working towards qualities comparable with painting and graphic art. Portrait photographers devoted themselves to the surpassing of the routine production of professional studios. The medium became divided into “art” and “non-art” categories. The amateur photographers were soon joined by some of the professionals themselves; Franz Grainer was among the firsts. 
In landscape photography it was felt necessary that description, mere “copying of reality", be avoided. Morning and night shots intended to evince mood or emotion came to the fore, at the expense of exact description (Vladimir J. Bufka). Representation of the ordinary in non-ordinary fashion also became popular.
A subject demanded attention by means of the originality or subtlety with which it was represented. The craft and science of photography also sought to leave the previous era far behind. Gelatin-silver emulsions were progressively replaced by painstaking noble manipulative processes such as gum print, oil print and bromoil print (platinum print and carbon print had already been invented). That photographic positives had turned into graphic prints, thoroughly demanding in nature and highly reliant on the feel, experience and manual skills of the artist, became an integral part of arguments for the acknowledgment of photography as art, at a time when purely mechanical “imprints of reality" had no chance to be viewed as art.

The work of Jaroslav Rossler, a pioneer of European avant-garde photography, bears witness to the intertwining of various styles and technical approaches in the period before the situation in photography crystallized. Rossler initially employed oil print and bromoil print to produce photographs in the vein of art deco (Miss Gerta) and cubo-futurism (Ore Tarraco), but soon for purely photogenic works as well (Brother).
Alois Zych c.1912
Frantisek Drtikol 1925