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Erwin Blumenfeld
Erwin Blumenfeld

Erwin Blumenfeld

Country: Germany/United States
Birth: 1897 | Death: 1969

Born in Berlin in 1897 to Jewish parents, Erwin Blumenfeld began his career working as an apprentice dressmaker to Moses and Schlochauer in 1913. He opened his own company in Amsterdam in 1923, the 'Fox Leather Company', a leather goods store specialising in ladies handbags. After moving to new premises in 1932, Blumenfeld discovered a fully equipped dark room and began to photograph many of his -predominantly female- customers. The company went bankrupt in 1935, just as Blumenfeld's photographic career was beginning to take an upward turn.

Following a move to Paris in 1936, Blumenfeld was commissioned to take the portraits of personalities including George Rouault and Henri Matisse and secured his first advertising work for Monsavon. Blumenfeld quickly captured the attention of photographer Cecil Beaton who helped him secure a contract with French Vogue.

After World War II in 1941, Erwin Blumenfeld moved to New York where he was immediately put under contract by Harper's Bazaar and after three years, he began freelance work for American Vogue. Over the next fifteen years, Blumenfeld's work was featured on numerous Vogue covers and in a variety of publications including Seventeen, Glamour and House & Garden. During this period, he also worked a photographer for the Oval Room of the Dayton Department Store in Minneapolis and produced advertising campaign for cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal.

In the late 50s, he also began to create motion pictures, hoping to use them commercially and began work on his biography and his book My One Hundred Best Photos which, despite being a renowned fashion photographer, only included four of his fashion images. Following Blumenfeld's death in 1969, numerous books on his work have been published, namely The Naked and the Veiled by his son, Yorick Blumenfeld, and his photographs have been exhibited at international galleries including the Pompidou Gallery in Paris, The Barbican in London and The Hague Museum of Photography in the Netherlands.

In the 1960s, he worked on his autobiography which found no publisher because it was considered to be too ironic towards society, and was published only after his death.

Source: Wikipedia


Erwin Blumenfeld is considered to be one of the early pioneers of fashion photography alongside George Hoyningen-Huene, Cecil Beaton, and Horst P. Horst. It was not only his employment of experimental techniques in the darkroom, Dada and Surrealist influences, and groundbreaking street work, but Blumenfeld’s unique and masterful combination of elegance and eroticism that transformed fashion into high art and paved the way for Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, and other photographers who enjoyed such prominence and recognition in the history of art.

In addition to holding the record for the most covers of Vogue, Blumenfeld’s works were abundantly reproduced within the pages of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Life and Vogue during the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Many of the images from these shoots will be featured in this exhibition and have since become icons of the history of fashion photography. Some have never been seen before. But all of the prints showcase not only Blumenfeld’s innovation as a photographer of fashion but also his spectacular skill as a printmaker. In his retrospective examination of Blumenfeld’s work, William Ewing writes, “His highly original and visionary work was a seamless blend of the negative and positive: taking the picture in the studio and making it in the darkroom.”

In the studio, Blumenfeld often employed mirrors, glass, and backgrounds reproduced from paintings, images of cathedrals, or mosaics of magazine covers. He often used veils, which could distort or elongate the figure, confident that a woman partially concealed was more erotically charged that one seen fully nude. He also believed the printing of the image was as every bit as important as the process of capturing it, and like Man Ray, he was tirelessly inventive in the darkroom, deploying a variety of optical and chemical tricks, including multiple exposures, solarization and bleaching.

Source: Edwynn Houk Gallery

 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

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John Rivers Coplans was a British artist, art writer, curator, and museum director. His father was Joseph Moses Coplans, a medical doctor and a man of many scientific and artistic talents. His father left England for Johannesburg while John was an infant. At the age of two, John was brought to his father in South Africa; from 1924-1927 the family was in flux between London and South Africa, settling in a seaside Cape Town suburb until 1930. Despite the instability of his early home life, Coplans developed an enormous admiration for his father, who took him to galleries at weekends and instilled within him a love for exploration, experimentation, and a fascination with the world. In 1937, John Coplans returned to England from South Africa. When eighteen, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an Acting Pilot Officer. Due to his hearing being affected by a rugby match, two years later, he volunteered for the army. 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After a brief spell teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1962 Coplans co-founded Artforum magazine and, for the next two decades, his career was to be as artistically various as it was financially precarious. Artforum was intended to combat the anti-intellectualism Coplans felt he had encountered at Berkeley, and the notion that there was nothing to be said about art, since you either made it or looked at it. His whole background was in stimulating debate and awareness, at a popular rather than an elite level. Inevitably, as he later explained, "The thing was how to get the eastern establishment to read about west coast art". Within five years, the magazine was relocated to Manhattan, with Coplans acting as west coast editor. As a museum curator, he enjoyed similarly shifting fortunes. 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Not being in a position to do the former, he became director of the Akron art museum in Ohio, where, again, he combined curatorial work with launching a new magazine, appropriately named Dialogue. He also published books on photographers, ranging from Weegee to Brancusi, and started his own photographic experiments. By 1980, Coplans was back in New York, and the following year had his first solo show at the Daniel Wolf Gallery. At last, he had found not only the medium but also the subject of his artistic expression. He called his works auto-portraits, and, created by means of a live-feedback video camera with an automatic shutter, they honed in on the physical landscapes of the body with all the sculptural focus - but without the distortions of the lens - of Bill Brandt's Perspective Of Nudes (1961). This was to become Coplans' constant subject matter. In 1986, he had his first show of self-portraits at the Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York. 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Isabeau De Rouffignac
I followed an artistic career path with a drawing baccalaureate, 2 years of preparatory classes at the Met de Penninghen studio, then I entered the graphic art school. This was followed by a long experience in design agencies (Design Strategy Orchestra), communication agencies (CPP) and manufacturing agencies (Vision Prod) as an employee and then as a freelancer since 1999. It is this status that will allow me to devote myself to photography, which I discovered in the 2000s. It was a revelation, and soon became obvious. Since then, I have been photographing worlds far and near, between a documentary approach and a resolutely artistic approach. A line of conduct, like a thread that runs through my work and gives it coherence: approaching the other, taming them, taking the time, learning their language, being forgotten, with a gaze that is always curious and fundamentally empathetic. Four photographic editions were born from this work. Since 2017, I devote all my time to photography. And although I have an initial training that integrates the work of the image and a long-standing photographic practice, I felt the need to go further, to question my writing, and I have therefore attended several workshops and training courses. (Arles, Cifap, Gobelins) In 2018, I became a member of Studio Hans Lucas Today, the more I advance in my artistic practice, the more I approach my projects from a documentary point of view, but with an aesthetic or even plastic approach from the start. By mixing these different ways of working on my subject, I leave the imposed categories (documentary, plastic photography, etc.) to invent my own language that allows me to convey a message (environmental, social, humanitarian, political, etc.). This is the case in my latest work in India, pleas. In Bhopal, they point out the consequences of the worst chemical disaster the world has ever known, and in Rajsamand, they tell of the difficult working conditions of the miners. Statement An intuition, a call following the reading of an article or a book, moves me from my daily life in the metropolis and I set off to meet the other. The country is always far away, the situation speaks of a reprieve. Through photography I seek an encounter with the other, the other in what is different about him, his way of life, his language, which I try as much as possible to learn in order to be in touch with him. I am looking for an encounter with a place that also has its own language that often says the impalpable, what does not always appear at first sight, a place to be deciphered. In these encounters, I also seek an encounter with myself, because the other person questions me, challenges me, shakes up my preconceptions, pushes me to question myself. In my last work on the miners of Rajasthan, I sought to pay tribute to men in pain, working in sandstone or marble quarries, working without safety clothing, for a ridiculous salary, without a work contract, and more than half of whom suffer from silicosis because they work without masks. In most of my other photographic works, I try to bear witness but also to show a cultural heritage that is on the verge of disappearing, and to talk about those who keep it alive and often fight against a progressive assimilation. Of course, the time needed for these encounters, for this acceptance by the communities in which I immerse myself, implies taking time. A lot of time. It is the only way to establish the links that open doors, give access to knowledge, beliefs, and sometimes even confidences. Learning the Hindi language has helped me to better understand the personal stories of all the men and women I have photographed, to understand the distress that lies behind their dignity. I try to document the issues through personal stories that are each unique and singular. This is what I have done here with the miners of Rajasthan, or previously with the women of Bhopal, the postmen of Rajasthan, or the Akhas of Thailand. I offer you my view, nourished by what my encounters have revealed to me, my way of documenting it, as close as possible or with distance when necessary. A view that I hope will open up the possibility of better understanding, or at least of trying. That's already a lot.
 Izis
Lithuania
1911 | † 1980
Israëlis Bidermanas, who worked under the name of Izis, was a Lithuanian-Jewish photographer who worked in France and is best known for his photographs of French circuses and of Paris. Born in Marijampol, present-day Lithuania, Bidermanas arrived in France in 1930 to become a painter. In 1933 he directed a photographic studio in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris. During World War II, being a Jew, he had to leave occupied Paris. He went to Ambazac, in the Limousin, where he adopted the pseudonym Izis and where he was arrested and tortured by the Nazis. He was freed by the French Resistance and became an underground fighter. At that time he photographed his companions, including Colonel Georges Guingouin. The poet and underground fighter Robert Giraud was the first to write about Izis in the weekly magazine Unir, a magazine created by the Resistance. Upon the liberation of France at the end of World War II, Izis had a series of portraits of maquisards (rural resistance fighters who operated mainly in southern France) published to considerable acclaim. He returned to Paris where he became friends with French poet Jacques Prévert and other artists. Izis became a major figure in the mid-century French movement of humanist photography - also exemplified by Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau and Ronis - with "work that often displayed a wistfully poetic image of the city and its people." For his first book, Paris des rêves (Paris of Dreams), Izis asked writers and poets to contribute short texts to accompany his photographs, many of which showed Parisians and others apparently asleep or daydreaming. The book, which Izis designed, was a success. Izis joined Paris Match in 1950 and remained with it for twenty years, during which time he could choose his assignments. Meanwhile, his books continued to be popular with the public. Among the numerous books by Izis, Gerry Badger and Martin Parr have especial praise for Le Cirque d'Izis (The Circus of Izis), "published in 1965, but bearing the stamp of an earlier era". Shot mostly in Paris but also in Lyon, Marseille and Toulon, the photographs are "affectionate and nostalgic, but also deeply melancholic" with "a desolate undercurrent", forming a work that is "profound, moving and extraordinary". Source: Wikipedia
Joel-Peter Witkin
United States
1939
Joel-Peter Witkin (born September 13, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York City) is an American photographer who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work often deals with such themes as death, corpses (and sometimes dismembered portions thereof), and various outsiders such as dwarves, transsexuals, hermaphrodites, and physically deformed people. Witkin's complex tableaux often recall religious episodes or classical paintings. Witkin was born to a Jewish father and Roman Catholic mother. His twin brother, Jerome Witkin, and son Kersen Witkin, are also painters. Witkin's parents divorced when he was young because they were unable to overcome their religious differences. He attended grammar school at Saint Cecelia's in Brooklyn and went on to Grover Cleveland High School. Between 1961 and 1964 he was a war photographer documenting the Vietnam war. Going freelance in 1967, he became the official photographer for City Walls Inc. He attended Cooper Union in New York where he studied sculpture, attaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974. After Columbia University granted him a scholarship, he ended his studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he became Master of Fine Arts.Source: Wikipedia Finding beauty within the grotesque, Witkin’s work extends beyond post-mortem photography with his staged set-ups of corpses and dismembered parts. Witkin’s fascination with death was triggered by a life-altering episode at a very early age; he witnessed an automobile accident in front of his house in which a young girl was decapitated. Witkin has also pursued his interest in the human condition, drawing attention to “the other,” photographing marginalized groups of people. Those often cast aside by society—hermaphrodites, dwarfs, amputees, androgynes— inspire his work as he confronts the viewers’ sense of normalcy. His interest in spirituality, in particular the teachings of Christianity, has played into his work, as do frequent references to classical paintings. Works by Picasso, Balthus, Goya, Velásquez, and Miro reappear in his dramatic, staged scenes, as well as the work of E.J. Bellocq, who photographed a series on prostitutes of the red light district in New Orleans in the early twentieth century. Witkin’s work has been exhibited internationally at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, Galerie Baudoin Lebon in Paris, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, among many others. Witkin is represented by Catherine Edelman Gallery and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico.Source: International Center of Photography
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