William Willis, Double portrait of two young women, 17 march 1878
Beyond conventional portraits, the 19th century was full of creative images, which explored the infinite possibilities of photography. Simple manipulations, like this, opened new ways of representation, new ways of seeing.
"The invention of the camera changed the way men saw"
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Marianne Brandt, Help Out! (The Liberated Woman), 1926
Brandt was one of the most interesting photographers of the Bauhaus (in addition to be designer, painter, sculptor …). One more of the wonderful female artists, almost invisible, who were part of the revolutionary school of art.
"At first I was not accepted with pleasure, there was no place for a woman in a metal workshop. They felt and expressed their displeasure by giving me all sorts of dull, dreary work. How many little hemispheres did I most patiently hammer out of brittle new silver, thinking that was the way it had to be and all beginnings are hard. Later things settled down, and we got along well together."
Film Portrait (She) I, 2005
Marriage (Film Portrait Collage) LXI, 2010
Marriage I, 2006
Erwin Blumenfeld, Photographic Collage, ca. 1950
Erwin Blumenfeld, Putting Dada into Fashion Photography
Erwin Blumenfeld is definitely one of my favorite photographers. Born in 1897, he took up photography as a hobby at age 10. In his youth, Blumenfeld participated in the Dadaist circles of Berlin and Amsterdam (in fact, he was brother in law of Paul Citroen), practicing the genre of photomontage. His collages were never intended for public viewing, but for the private exchange (he gave them as personal gifts or enclosed in love letters to his fiance), as can be seen in the wonderful book Erwin Blumenfeld: I Was Nothing But a Berliner, Dada Montages 1916 - 1933, published by Hatje Cantz. In the same way, Blumenfeld never thought become a professional photographer. Only when his leather shop (on whose premises he had found, by chance, a darkroom, which served him to begin to experiment more professionally) went bankrupt, “when there really was no other way out” (in his own words), he became a photographer.
After the rise of Nazism, Blumenfeld, like many other German artists, began a long journey that took him from Paris (where he began working as a professional photographer for fashion magazines) to the United States. There, Blumenfeld became the highest-paid fashion photographer, and one of who transformed the genre into a form of art. His images were in the service of the product (clothing, hats, lipstick, etc.), but at the same time, were defined by their innovative and experimental nature. By using resources such as fragmentation, concealment or distortion, he not only sought to create powerful images and highlight the qualities of the objects publicized. In his photographs, lies a questioning of the consumer society, a reflection on identity, and on the power of images, which were beginning to multiply en masse. A reflection, ultimately, on society in which we live, on our way to look.