dinsdag 22 augustus 2017


PARIS / Fritz Henle (Photos), Elliot Paul (Text)
1947, Chicago, Unpaged (60 plates), 235 x 312 x 13, Signed by the photographer

Eyes on Paris shows how artists engaged in photography (French and immigrants alike) saw, experienced and captured Paris with the camera. The artists’ gaze oscillates between documentary interest and subjective perception, a chronicler’s duty and the projection of personal feelings. Around 400 photographic works by important representatives of 20th-century photography enter into a dialog with epoch-making books, portfolios or rare portfolio works. After all, no other city in the world has been the subject of as many outstanding publications as has Paris: from Atget to Ed van der Elsken, from Robert Doisneau to William Klein.

By Fritz Henle

This journal article first appeared in 1989 in the Harry Ransom Center's The Library Chronicle.

Self-portrait. Fritz Henle. Self-portrait. ca 1938.
© Fritz Henle Estate

Fifty years ago, in July 1938, I sailed on the British liner "Mauretania" from New York to Le Havre with the assignment to create photographs of "Life in Paris." Two years earlier, in September 1936, I had arrived in New York on the huge new liner "Europa," the fastest ship racing across the Atlantic. For me it was now a race with time, since I had only two weeks in which to complete my task. When I suggested in the summer of 1938 that I be sent to Paris, I knew that my object would be to show the people of this great city in a time of tension amidst the forebodings of a terrible tyranny facing them across the border of their country. I was certain that such circumstances would result in a colorful picture-story, and I was determined not to disappoint my editors at Life. In the end it was they who disappointed me.

Since 1928 I had considered myself a full-fledged photographer and the doors to the world stood open before me, even though I was young and my great desire to spend my life with a camera found little support. Soon, however, I managed to get myself accepted in the famous "Bayerische Staatslehranstalt fϋr Lichtbildwesen," located in Schwabing, the well-known artist center of Munich. I arrived with a large black portfolio of photographs, a collection which I had created as an autodidact. In my hometown of Dortmund I had built myself a tiny darkroom in the basement of our house under the musicroom, and with great perseverance and devotion and while listening frequently to the most beautiful sounds of classical music (my father, a famous surgeon, was also the director of the philharmonic society and many great artists were our guests and rehearsed before their concerts), I had produced a set of photographs, which I was able to show to the young and enthusiastic teacher, who received me at the door on Clemens-Strasse 33.

Fritz Henle. Young Woman with Loaf of Bread, Paris. 1938.
© Fritz Henle Estate

All odds were against me, sincere there were already many more young people applying for the courses that the school could accept. However, in order not to discourage me completely, this beautiful teacher, who had introduced herself as Frau Hanna Seewald, asked me to open my portfolio. When she looked at my photographs she grew very silent and after some time she said, "We cannot take you into the first class." It took all my courage to reply, "Then take me into the second class. In the first class I will only have to repeat what I have taught myself already. "My determination impressed her and she suggested that I see the director. When we left his office the battle had been won. It was an unheard-of-victory. The next day I calmly entered the second class.

I still had a long way to go before I would become a photographer for Life in the very early years of this famous magazine. After my years in Florence and Italy, I was sent by the Lloyd Triestino organization to India in 1934 and a year later to China and Japan. My first book, This Is Japan, was nearly finished in September 1936 when I left Germany for the last time with the assignment to create a similar volume to be devoted to the "United States of America." This book, however, never materialized, but when I found myself engaged by Life I was confronted by new and fascinating challenges. My photographic essays on "New York—52nd Street" and "Thomas Jefferson High School" in San Antonio, Texas, were great hits and the editors were happy to be able to rely on my concepts and my independence. After these large photo essays had been published, I suggested in the summer of 1938 that they send me to Paris. Only a few days later I found myself on the way.

Fritz Henle. Housewives, Paris. 1938.
© Fritz Henle Estate

As soon as I arrived, my determination not to disappoint my editors found its echo in my fascination with the city. It was the first week in July and Paris was full of life, a life full of surprises and events beyond my imagination. I was a newcomer and I could only sense the importance of the innumerable images before my eyes. I was alone and though there was a Life office, there seemed to be nobody ready to advise me. I was not astonished, for I had been alone on all the assignments in my young career. So I decided to become myself part of the life of Pairs. The city's inhabitants seemed to accept me, the young man with the little box, with two lenses hanging from his neck. If ecstasy can be prolonged, then my two weeks in Paris were frequently consumed by such a wonderful sensation. There was the Seine and the old river-steamer, whose captain conversed with me hardly realizing that my knowledge of French was rather limited. There were the three housewives sitting on a bench interrupted in their gossip as if they had been waiting to have their picture taken by me. I had only to walk a few minutes and a new scene would open up before my eyes. There was the portal to Notre Dame with the two men sitting on a bench in front, having nothing better to do. Les Halles, the huge market, announced itself from a distance by its noise and its many smells—a crazy mixture of cheeses and fruits and all the other palatable items for the French kitchen. Men were cutting up great wheels of cheese. A young market-woman was humming a sweet melody. Another one looked majestic, like a well-known yet forgotten dowager.

Then there was music: I was drawn to it around the corners of some narrow streets. There was the organ-grinder with his performing monkey. The audience was delighted. All windows and doors had opened and it seemed to me as if the people had joined just for me in the performance of the monkey and its proud owner, the organ-grinder. Their faces expressed a kaleidoscope of emotions. To behold this scene with my camera was a challenge full of excitement and equally of joy, since I myself became part of the performance. On Bastille Day I had this same intimate sensation. Music was everywhere; people danced in the street and the cafes were even more crowded than usual. A chanteuse tried to charm her audience with some sexy songs, but she herself seemed to enjoy them best. To have her picture taken was the flattery of day! (There were few small cameras hanging from people's shoulders in 1938!)

Fritz Henle. Café on the Bastille, Paris. 1938.
© Fritz Henle Estate

After a hectic Bastille Day, I found myself on a quiet Sunday morning walking up to Montmartre. A priest passed me, unaware of the colorful pictures painted on the wall. Two tired-looking cadets from St. Cyr were finally on their way home. Going through the Louvre garden I encountered the woman resting on a chair under the monument to a Roman god, who was made of stone yet seemed alive through the repetition of his pose. In the the Jardin de Luxembourg two women under an umbrella were engaged in a gossipy conversation and in another quartier I found Mme. Niska, the fortune teller, trying to convince a passerby of the unfailing power of her art to unveil the destinies of unhappy souls. I was tempted to pay her some francs and ask her about the success of my story. I never would have believed her and the true story turned out to be too much of a disappointment. Also, my time was terribly limited. I had only two weeks in Paris and I still wanted to go to see the races at Longchamps and, of course, I could not miss Versailles.

Whom did I meet under the Tribune at Longchamps but Baron de Rothchild, talking to a jockey. At the time I had no idea who the gentleman was. In 1945 when I looked through my Paris collection with Alexey Brodovitch, the famous art director of Harper's Bazaar, he exclaimed, "This is Baron de Rothchild." A famous name indeed. The officer in his shiny helmet trying to get the attention of the lady in the latest fashion in white was a quickly conceived image, a possibility that my Rolleiflex could capture within the fraction of a second. Coming to the other side of Longchamps, I was delighted by its rather picturesque contrasting scene. People standing on the fragile little chairs, trusting their weight to the dangerous chance of a collapse. An old couple sitting on the steps in the heat of the July afternoon. An old man leaning against his vintage Renault. This side of Longchamps reminded me of Central Park in New York on a sweltering summer day. Quite a different impression from the top-hats and the ladies showing off their latest fashions a hundred meters across the race track.

Fritz Henle. Mademoiselle Niska, Paris. 1938.
© Fritz Henle Estate

My time in Paris in July 1938 was a happy one. I had chosen to stay in a small hotel in Montparnasse, quite simple, with a rickety elevator, which carried me to my little room with bath on the top floor, from which I could look out over the old roofs and chimneys. And it was summer, the windows were open. Not far away a young woman fed her little pet canary, which never seemed to tire of filling the neighborhood with its song, a lovely ode to beauty fitting perfectly into my surroundings. I examined the tiny bathroom, which at night had to serve me as my darkroom. It worked out well and with the simple people around me I felt immediately at home. But to develop my Kodak 120-roll-films in a bathtub was not exactly easy. I had decided not to waste any time engaging a lab. Fifty years ago it was difficult to find one. Photography was still a craft, which one had to master oneself and I never had trusted anybody else to develop my precious films. I bought three 11 x 14 trays, mixed my chemicals, and after having spent some busy days photographing the "Life in Paris" started to process my first batch of negatives.

It must have been midnight and only a very dim green light gave me the necessary direction. I was bent over the old bathtub, which held my three trays. My developing technique was rather unorthodox, but having applied it for many years I had become a virtuoso at handling six films at a time by clipping their ends together with a metal clip. The trays were filled with sufficient developer, short-stop, and hypo, so that my 120-size roll-films were easily submerged. With great care, the films, now clipped together at both ends like an elongated "U," were turned around in the solution one after the other in practically complete darkness. To bend over the bathtub for six minutes seemed an eternity! But in the excitement of awaiting to see my images appear quite faintly on the backs of my films, I never noticed the strain on my back. The dim green light was so faint that only with my trained eyes could I make the decision that I had arrived at the perfect stage of development. The hands on my watch, which I kept away from the film indicated six minutes had passed, the time when the development had reached the decisive stage. From then on it was to my final judgment, but rarely did I have to add many more seconds to reach the point where I felt I would have my ideal negatives.

The Woman and the God, Paris. 1938.
© Fritz Henle Estate

One night, however, I almost met with disaster in my makeshift darkroom. Hardly were my six rolls submerged in the developer than I found myself in total darkness. I had to count the seconds, count the minutes, and time became an eternity. Carefully I went through my procedures until I finally decided to wash my films in the basin above the tub for what seemed to me one hour. My little hotel must have seen the times of Daguerre. However, by being so old-fashioned, it also had great charm. During that night I did not mind too much the ancient elevator, the creaky yet comfortable furniture, and the bathtubs that were not so inconvenient to less demanding clients like myself. I was more worried about my precious films and anxiously awaited the light of day. How elated I was! When I held the films with 12 exposures each against the light through my window, the negatives were perfect.

I was so absorbed in creating my story about "Life in Paris" that I almost missed my return passage to New York. With great pride and anticipation of a beautiful spread in the magazine, I turned the results of my efforts over to the picture department. The two weeks in Paris had seemed like two months to me and my collection of photographs surpassed anything I could have imagined. My editors, however, thought differently and when they returned my images and negatives to me I felt crushed. It was the greatest disappointment of my then young career. But in July 1938 I was of course not prepared for the wonderful developments of later years. I felt hurt but not defeated. I believed that time would tell.

Book cover. 
Fritz Henle. Paris 1938.
[Texts by L. Fritz Gruber, Fritz Henle & Kurt Wettengl.]
Heidelberg: Edition Braus, Edition Hazan 1989

For many years the negatives and prints were locked away in the steel file of my hideaway; my little studio and darkroom at 667 Madison Avenue. I never looked at my Paris pictures again. When I thought of their rejection it was like a physical pain. But then this changed overnight in August 1944, when De Gaulle marched with his troops on Paris to liberate the city. Mme. Lazareff, the picture editor of The New York Times, called me in the late afternoon and asked if I had ever been in Paris. Reluctantly I replied: "Yes in July 1938, but what does this have to do with the news that your General De Gaulle will liberate Paris within a few days?" As a French lady and the wife of the publisher of the Paris Soir, Mme. Lazareff insisted on seeing my photographs and all through the night I made a set of one hundred new 8 x 10 enlargements. The old prints I did not like anymore and with great determination I managed to keep my 10 o'clock appointment the next day. Mme. Lazareff received me immediately at West 43rd Street and I spread my pictures out on her large desk. I will never forget how this lovely lady broke into tears. I myself had quite a time keeping my composure. The following Sunday my pictures of Paris were on four pages of The New York Times Magazine. They made quite a hit. Alexey Brodovitch published one of my images—"Mme. Niska" —in a full-page spread in Harper's Bazaar and when he saw my complete collection in 1945, he became so impressed that he decided to make the layout for my book Paris, which was published in 1947.

Since then more than forty years have passed and my pictures were almost forgotten. But I was fortunate and never gave up in believing them. I was convinced that time would tell. While working on my archive in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, I came across my Paris collection. More than one hundred of these images are now in the Ransom Center's Photography Collection and the "Paris 1938" show, with about one hundred of these photographs, will have its vernissage first in the museum of Dortmund, Germany, during the celebration of my birthday on June 9th. From there it will travel to other museums in Germany and France during the 150-year celebrations in 1989 of "The Year of Photography." Fifty years have passed since I created my Paris pictures, and even though they were forgotten, my believe that time would tell never failed me.

Heidelberg, July 1988

maandag 21 augustus 2017

Ahrend Holland: Bird's-eye View of a Concern Graphic Design Jan Versnel Company Photography


Ahrend - Ahrend Holland: Een concern in vogelvlucht - Hilversum e.a., Ahrend, zonder jaar, (ca 1959) - ongepagineerd, (36) pp - geniet, gedecoreerd omslag - 26 x 26 cm 

Ruim baan voor de nieuwe tijd Jan Versnel, architectuurfotograaf van de wederopbouw

Er staan weinig mensen op de foto's van Jan Versnel. Als ze er al zijn, geven ze slechts, met de maat van hun nietigheid, de ruimte aan....

WILLEM ELLENBROEK 17 oktober 1997, 00:00
ZIJN WERK ademt het licht, de lucht en de ruimte van toen, of hij nu een vrijstaand huis, een wenteltrap, fabriek, tentoonstellingshal, een keuken of iets simpels als een kantoorstoel fotografeert. Jan Versnel (1924) werd de architectuurfotograaf van de Wederopbouwperiode in Nederland. Zijn foto's zijn er, soms meer dan de bouwwerken zelf, de afspiegeling van. Hij laat die architectuur op een bepalende manier zien, niet alleen vanuit een onverwachte hoek.De mens is altijd gehaast, gaat snel aan iets voorbij. Hij is gewoon aan zijn omgeving, ermee vertrouwd. Zijn leefwereld is een decor geworden dat hij niet meer waarneemt. Iemand anders moet hem weer op het bijzondere ervan wijzen. De foto's van Jan Versnel hebben dat vermogen, maar het zit 'm niet alleen in een ongebruikelijk standpunt dat verrast. Zijn werk draagt de opvattingen van die wederopbouwarchitectuur uit. Hij zoekt, in elk onderwerp, dat levensideaal van een nieuwe, onbezorgde toekomst.Uit de foto's van zijn tijdgenoot Cas Oorthuys spreekt de heroïek van de wederopbouw in mensenwerk, aanpakken, handen-uit-de-mouwen. Oorthuys' foto's barsten van leven en drukte - op straat, in de havens, op de bouw. Ze zijn een ode aan de zesdaagse werkweek, zingen het lied van de arbeid en de ploegendienst. Oorthuys was links, geëngageerd. Hij stelde zich met lotgenoten als Emmy Andriesse, Eva Besnyö en Carel Blazer in dienst 'van een nieuwe maatschappij, waar middenin de mens staat'.In de foto's van Jan Versnel, die zich evenzeer door de nieuwe dageraad aangestoken voelde, zit de grote verwachting van wat er komen gaat in de nieuwe omgeving die voor de moderne mens ontworpen werd. Hij zette dat neer in een van godgegeven licht, onder een immens, hemels wolkendek alsof hij tegelijk ook die nieuwe dageraad wilde vastleggen. Hij werd de fotograaf van het Nieuwe Bouwen. Zijn foto's drukken uit wat de stedebouwkundige Cornelis van Eesteren aan de vooravond van de grote stadsuitbreidingen van die jaren verwoordde: 'Toen wij begonnen was dat in een soort gelukssfeer. We voelden ons uitverkoren tot een nieuwe levenshouding.'Het werk van Jan Versnel is nu gedocumenteerd in deel zes van de prachtige, door het Prins Bernhard Fonds opgezette serie Monografieën van Nederlandse Fotografen, voorzien van inleidingen van Solange de Boer en Maarten Kloos. Het laat het historisch oeuvre van de man zien, die zich direct na de oorlog op zijn visitekaartje - bij een foto van de classicistische gevel van theater Carré - presenteerde als architectuur-, reclame-, reportage- en industrieel fotograaf.Van dat classicisme komen we al gauw niets meer tegen. Versnel maakte, via Gerrit Rietveld, kennis met de architecten van het Nieuwe Bouwen en werd er onmiddellijk door gegrepen. Hij voelde hun idealen aan, hij leerde zien hoe zij keken. Op zijn beurt leerde hij de mensen kijken hoe die nieuwe architectuur wilde dat er naar gekeken werd. 'Ze mogen het gebouw weer afbreken', moet de architect Alexander Bodon ooit gezegd hebben, 'ik heb er een foto van Versnel van.'Hij werkte voor die hele generatie naoorlogse architecten en ontwerpers, voor Rietveld, Bodon, Salomonson, Van Eyck, Maaskant, Oud en Dudok, voor Crouwel, Premsela, Friso Kramer en Kho Liang Ie. Zijn foto's bepaalden het gezicht van bladen als Forum en Goed Wonen. Hij werd een fotograaf met een missie, beeldmaker van een nieuwe tijd. Eind jaren zestig - met de opkomst van een andere architectuur die zich tegen de geest van de Nieuwe Zakelijkheid keerde, zoals het Nieuwe Bouwen zich daarvoor weer tegen de Amsterdamse School had afgezet - namen zijn opdrachten af. Hij ging les geven aan de Rietveld Academie, de opvolger van zijn vroegere leerschool, maar bleef zijn oude opdrachtgevers trouw. Rietvelds werk legde hij een paar jaar geleden opnieuw vast.Jan Versnel is geboren in de jaren twintig. Zijn vader was timmerman en nam zoonlief 's zondags trots mee langs de bouwwerkplaatsen waar hij werkte om hem de vorderingen te laten zien. De oorlog blokkeerde zijn opleiding aan het Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs, waar Bauhaus-leermeester Mart Stam directeur was. Na de oorlog werd hij assistent van de arts en fotograaf Nico Jesse. In 1947 begon hij voor zichzelf, klein, bescheiden. Hij fotografeerde overdag met een geleende camera en drukte 's avonds af in de donkere kamer van een vriend. Hij had een aantal opdrachten nodig voor hij zijn eigen apparatuur kon aanschaffen.Een halve eeuw lang heeft hij de modernistische ontwikkeling in de architectuur en vormgeving gevolgd, als boodschapper van een voorhoede. Hij drukt er zich, in zijn boek, bescheiden over uit: 'een rare manier van kijken, voortdurend gericht om dat wat karakteristiek is zo goed mogelijk in beeld te brengen'. Hij heeft nog les gehad van Bernard F. Eilers, de eerste in Nederland die zich, begin deze eeuw, specialiseerde in architectuurfotografie.Versnel stelde zich in dienst van de bedoelingen van de architect, wat niet wil zeggen dat zijn fotografie niet zelfstandig is. Zijn foto's hebben een eigen stempel. Hij bestudeerde zijn onderwerp tot in de plattegronden, draaide er aan alle kanten omheen, keek, woog en maakte, met zijn technische camera, relatief weinig foto's. De keuze was al gemaakt voor hij op de sluiter drukte. Op zijn eerste foto's zie je, net als bij Oorthuys, nog beelden van de arbeid, van bouwvakkers en dokwerkers. Hij had ze nodig, zoals de gehelmde bouwvakker op de kroon van het Shell-gebouw in Amsterdam-Noord, om de grootsheid van een ontwerp te laten zien. Hij vond snel die eigen, typische, verstilde uitdrukking die zijn foto's kenmerken.Hij werkte voor architecten en voor ondernemingen, voor vormgevers en ontwerpers. Er zal werk bij zijn - voor folders, kalenders, jaarverslagen en ander reclamemateriaal - dat nu niet veel meer zegt. Hij fotografeerde gebouwen, die monumenten in de architectuurgeschiedenis zullen worden, maar ook een eens misschien hoopvolle architectuur die in onze dagen, versleten en uitgewoond, nodig aan stadsvernieuwing toe is. Veel op het gebied van de sociale woningbouw werd toen al, in de bestedinsgbeperking die de wederopbouw omgaf, goedkoper en bekrompener uitgevoerd dan de bedoeling was.De stoelen en tafels die hij fotografeerde, de keukeninrichtingen en woonkamerinterieurs, mogen nu gedateerd, uit de mode, ouderwets zijn. Zijn historisch oeuvre mag gedateerd zijn, maar blijft - net als de oorspronkelijkste van de gebouwen en ontwerpen die hij fotografeerde - toch eeuwig.Want in zijn foto's van de uitbreidingswijken en interieurs, die die tijd feilloos documenteerden en daarmee tot geschiedenis maakten, zit een typisch, persoonlijk element dat nooit veroudert. Zo goed als uit zijn architectuurfoto's het grote ideaal van het Nieuwe Bouwen spreekt, spreken zijn interieurs van de nieuwe verwachtingen van de toen baanbrekende stichting Goed Wonen met zijn modelwoningen in elke nieuwbouwwijk - een even revolutionaire roep binnenskamers om licht, lucht en ruimte.Het Nieuwe Bouwen en Goed Wonen gooiden de vensters open, braken alkoven en suitedeuren weg, zetten de zware gesculptuurde meubelen van vroeger aan de kant voor zon en licht, en lichte en lenige meubels. Het waren de gloriejaren van Pastoe, Ahrend, Gispen en Tomado. Versnel speelde erop in en voegde er zijn visie aan toe. Zijn foto van het interieur van Total Design geeft de illusie van een manifest van De Stijl.Er zit een typisch handschrift in zijn meubelfoto's. Hij licht ze uit hun omgeving, maakt ze zelfstandig, plaatst ze in een ruimte. Hij liet zien dat ook een eenvoudige stoel, een zithoek of een aanrecht het nieuwe leven kon verbeelden. Zijn foto's stonden misschien in dienst van een opdrachtgever of van een ontwerpideaal, maar hij gaf er een eigen visie bij. Hij wist van sommige onderwerpen - een loods vol tafelonderstellen; restmateriaal van de slotenfabriek Lips - sculpturen te maken die aan het werk van de constructivist Naum Gabo doen denken en soms zelfs - in een foto van stoelen van Eero Saarinen - aan de aardse rondingen van Henry Moore.Uit de wederopbouwbeelden van Cas Oorthuys die ook gedateerd zijn maar nooit verouderen, weerklinkt het swingende lawaai van de werkstad, de bebop van de heimachine. In die van Versnel klinkt een andere muziek die minder luidruchtig en heftig is, ingetogener maar toch van die tijd, cool. Hij had liefde opgevat voor de idealen van die jaren, hij geloofde erin en dat geloof zit in zijn foto's.Hij moet veel van het werk van Gerrit Rietveld gehouden hebben. Hij fotografeerde het expositiepaviljoen dat Rietveld in 1955 voor Park Sonsbeek bij Arnhem maakte en dat hetzelfde jaar weer werd afgebroken. Hij begreep Rietveld, hij voelde de kracht van de ruimte die in het ontwerp school. Het paviljoen kon in 1965 in Otterlo herbouwd worden, naar men zegt dankzij de foto's van Versnel. Bouwtekeningen waren er nooit gemaakt.Hij maakte, twee jaar geleden, in opdracht van het ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschappen een reportage van Rietvelds gerestaureerde Nederlandse paviljoen voor de Biënnale van Venetië uit 1954. Zijn foto's - verzameld onder de titel De mooiste ruimte die ik ken - vormen een postume ode aan die idealen van toen, aan het begrip ruimte in de architectuur dat het Nieuwe Bouwen verbeeldde. Versnel laat zien hoe Rietveld in het expositiepaviljoen het licht en de wereld binnenlaat, hoe delen van het gebouw schijnbaar ongemerkt in elkaar overgaan en zo een nog groter gevoel van licht, lucht en ruimte oproepen en daarmee, in de idealen van toen, hoop en verwachting.Versnel wist waar hij moest staan om dat effect te laten zien - op de plek waar Rietveld wilde dat wij gaan staan.Jan Versnel. Deel 6 in de serie Monografieën van Nederlandse fotografen. Uitgeverij Focus, ¿ 95,-.Eerdere delen in de serie zijn gewijd aan Sanne Sannes, Koen Wessing, Pieter Oosterhuis, Emmy Andriesse en Piet Zwart; volgende delen aan Paul Citroen, Eva Besnyö en Nico Jesse.

See also 

Ahrend Design Collection PDN Photo Annual 2011 Rene van der Hulst Company Photography

zondag 20 augustus 2017

Views & Reviews Beautiful Simple and maybe Profound Preganziol Artist's Book Guido Guidi Photography

Preganziol, 1983 is a key piece of work in the oeuvre of legendary Italian photographer Guido Guidi. Taken in 1983, the sequence of images depict the same room in an attempt to measure space-time using light. Located in Preganziol, Italy, the small and dilapidated room has two windows from which sunlight enters; in each photograph the angle, intensity and volume of light changes. The work is an exploration of how to define and describe physical space and the idea of camera obscura more widely. This large-format and limited edition book has been signed and numbered by the artist. Includes a written piece by Roberta Valtorta. Published by MACK (London).

In 1983, Italian photographer Guido Guidi created a short photographic series, taken inside a room in Preganziol, a comune in the Province of Treviso about 20 kilometers north west of Venice. ‘Preganziol' consists of sixteen images, taken within the confines of four bare walls. The only light is from two small windows, opposite one another and the series follows the shifting of light across the walls as time progresses through the day.

Guido Guidi is interested in mapping the subtle changes of familiar places. For him photography is something autobiographical; it is synonymous with inhabiting, and the camera is the instrument that allows him to observe, appropriate and collect evidence and traces of lives experienced.

“In the moment that I take a photograph of something I feel that I am that thing; … I am what I photograph in the moment that I am photographing it. At least it is an attempt to be it, even if it is imperfect and imprecise. It is as if I am praying.” (From a conversation with Antonello Frongia and Laura Moro, Ronta di Cesena, 6 May, 2013)

Guido Guidi was born in Cesena, in 1941 and studied architecture in Venice at the beginning of the sixties. Influenced by Neorealist film and Conceptual art, Guidi began exploring Italy’s man-altered landscape in the late sixties. His work has been shown at the Venice Biennale, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Centre Georges Pompidou, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, MAXXI Rome and most recently, a retrospective of his work 'Veramente’ has been touring from Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson through various venues in Europe.

With special thanks to Michael Mack, who has published two Monographs on Guidi’s photographs; ‘Preganziol 1983’ (2013) and ‘Vermanente’ (2014). A limited amount of signed copies of ‘Preganziol’ will be available to purchase during the exhibition.

This Week In Photography Books: Guido Guidi
Jonathan Blaustein - May 23, 2014 - Photography Books

by Jonathan Blaustein

My son graduated from Kindergarten this morning. It was quite the big deal. Lots of parents in attendance, lining the gymnasium bleachers like beakers in a chemistry class. Fun stuff.

There was five-song-medley that went on for ages. Or at least it seemed to, as we tried to keep our young daughter from shrieking at any moment. It’s fun for her, the screaming, and she does it with a smile.

Where was I? Losing focus today, as end of school year always finds my fried family worn down like a #2 pencil. Right. The graduation medley.

Each child sang and danced. Hips twisted. Caps and gowns swayed in the fresh mountain air. They opened with “First Grade, First Grade,” (to the tune of “New York, New York,”) segued through the Spanish numbers, and closed with “Happy” by Pharrell F_cking Williams. Had he been in attendance, I would have been “Happy” to beat him to death with that stupid oversized hat he insists on wearing.

All those 6 year olds, in matching outfits, doing identical choreography. At one point, my mother pointed to young Abigail and said, “Look at her go.” She’d found the one girl with that extra little rhythm. The one who could actually dance.

I began to pay more attention to the children in my vicinity. The moves were the same, yet ever-so-not. Differences were easy to see, once I was paying attention. Kind of like that story in the New Yorker the other week, that talked about how the road from Moscow to Lviv is lined with villages. Each can always speak to their neighbor town. But by the time you get to the end of the line, Russian and Ukrainian have diverged to two completely different languages.

Those dancing little New Mexicans came to mind immediately after putting down “Preganziol 1983,” a new oversized hardcover book by Guido Guidi, recently published by MACK. It’s like a Highlights magazine in a 1980’s dentist office. (Which one of these is not like the other…)

Open up and you see a black and white photo of a room with some pencil-written words. Then the same room in color. A well-worn space with an open window looking out across some trees. And a shadow on the wall, with a tree in it. It’s labeled A1.

Turn the page, and the image appears the same. Turn the page again and the image appears the same. Again. Turn the page again and the image appears the same. Again. Turn the page again and you wonder, what the hell is going on here?

Is it the color? Has there been a super-subtle shift in hue? No, that’s not right. Turn the page again, and you definitely notice the shadow has moved. Turn back to what came before, and sure enough, the shadow moves slightly each time.

Keep going, and you actually get to enjoy the minimal changes. At the end, we see a different view of a room, and intuitively know it’s another direction in the same space. The next two photos confirm, the final two directions, rounding out the book and the concept. B, C, & D.

Finally. A16. Room with no shadow.

(Take another look at the cover, and you see a sketch of a four-sided room, with A, B, C & D corresponding to walls in space.)

To be fair, I haven’t photographed the entire book. Seems crude to the artist to give it all away. Honestly, the whole thing might be too repetitive for you to splash the cash. Such a small little idea.

Or is it? Taking the time to notice how time and light are constantly shifting reality, even if we’re too dim or busy to notice.

Bottom Line: Beautiful, simple and maybe profound