Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) Clockwise:
Self Portrait, ca. 1912, platinum print, Woman Reading, ca. 1910, platinum print, Dancing School, ca. 1905, gum bichromate print, gifts of Hermime Turner
Gertrude Käsebier was born in 1852 in Des Moines, Iowa, daughter of John and Muncy Stanton. When she was still very young, Käsebier moved to Colorado where her father eventually became owner of a gold mine in Leadville. The trip across the plains by covered wagon and the frontier life near Indians sparked the imagination and adventuresome personality of Käsebier.
Käsebier returned east to attend the Moravian Seminary for Girls in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 1874, she married Edward Käsebier, a successful businessman with traditional values who was a native of Wiesbaden, Germany. Käsebier’s first trip to Europe was to meet her husband’s relatives in Germany. The Käsebiers lived in Brooklyn and had three children: Frederick W., Gertrude Elizabeth, and Hermine Mathilde.
With the duty of establishing a family behind her, at age 36 Gertrude Käsebier enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study painting. She found an opportunity to go to Paris in 1896 by chaperoning a group of art students from Pratt. She took her daughters as well and spent the next two years in France and Germany. During this time, Käsebier began experimenting with her camera and became interested in the aesthetic treatment of photography.
Back in New York, Käsebier abandoned painting and opened a photography studio. Early exhibits of her work, at the Pratt Institute in 1897 and at the New York Camera Club in 1899, were well received and Gertrude Käsebier became known for the impressionistic, pictorial style of her photography. Alfred Stieglitz was an admirer of her work, and in 1902 she became a founding member of the Photo-Secession movement. In 1903, the first issue of Camera Work featured Gertrude Käsebier’s photography. She was elected the first woman member of London’s Linked Ring in 1900; and with Alvin Langdon Coburn and Clarence White, she co-founded Pictorial Photographers of America in 1916. Gertrude Käsebier continued her successful career with portrait work and pictorial assignments for magazines until five years before her death at age 82. She died in 1934 in New York City.
Happy Birthday, Gertrude Käsebier!
— Born May 18, 1852 in Des Moines, Iowa
Peter Henry Emerson (English, 1856-1936) East Coast Fishermen, ca. 1886, Platinum print, Museum collection.
Born in Cuba to an American father and English mother, Peter Henry Emerson returned to England at age 13 with his mother after the death of his father. He studied medicine, receiving a degree from Kings College in 1879.
He began photographing the “peasants” who worked the land of Suffolk and Norfolk, attempting to record a way of life that had almost disappeared as a result of industrialization. He advocated a “naturalistic” approach to photography, rejecting the artificiality of constructed scenes made from several negatives and combined in the darkroom such as those by Robinson and Rejlander.
He believed in photographing “real” people in their natural environments, and printed his negatives without manipulation. Influenced by the theories of human vision proposed by German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, he claimed that a naturalistic photograph should represent the world as the human eye can see it. He proposed his idea of “differential focusing,” which involved placing only a selected part of the scene in sharp focus. His theories were controversial, adding to the lively debate about the role of photography in art. His soft-focus, relatively “pure” style was recognized by later Pictorialists such as Frederick Evans, Alvin Langdon Coburn and Alfred Stieglitz.
After abandoning his medical career in 1886, he began publishing his photographs in portfolios of platinum prints and photogravures. He published Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads with T. F. Goodall in 1886, and Pictures of East Anglian Life in 1888. His landmark manual Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art appeared in 1889, but his arguments for photography as an independent art were retracted in 1890 with his release of The Death of Naturalistic Photography. Despite this, he received the Royal Photographic Society Progress Medal for work in artistic photography in 1895. Reviewing the third edition of Naturalistic Photography (1899) for Camera Notes, Alfred Stieglitz wrote that while the book “had struck a blow which shattered idols without mercy,”…”to it pictorial photography owes the stability which it now enjoys.”
Happy Belated Birthday, Peter Henry Emerson!
— Born May 13, 1856 in Sagua-le-grande, Cuba
The use of photographs of faces as proof of identity dates back to the earliest years of the medium, and the photographic identification badge was a well established practice by the 1880’s. This sampling from the mid-20th century demonstrates the ubiquity of this kind of “useful photograph” while also presenting a series of Disfarmer-like portraits, the very mundanity of which moves us today. The Eastman House Photograph collection derives much of its strength and value from its diversity, and our consequent ability to contextualize any photograph in the shifting areas of art and vernacular.
Apollo 15 embarked in July of 1971 and was the fourth mission in which humans walked on the moon. Two astronauts, Commander David R. Scott and LM (Lunar Module) pilot James B. Irwin, are shown during their 4 days on the lunar surface.
Shortly thereafter, the Apollo 17 mission landed, in December of 1972, and would be the sixth and final mission in which humans visited the moon. The photographs from the 17th mission include Commander Eugene A. Cernan, LM pilot Harrison H. Schmitt and CM (Command Module) pilot Ronald E. Evans.
Some activities depicted in the collection of images include; the retrieval of a film canister on the outside of a spacecraft, the preparation of a LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle), collection of lunar samples and, of course, the overall exploration of the moon’s surface.
Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) Panorama of Portland, Oregon and Mt. Hood, from Portland, both ca. 1882, albumen prints, Museum Collection.
Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) Magnolia Bud, 1929, gelatin silver print, museum Purchase, © 1929, 2012 Imogen Cunningham Trust.
Happy Birthday, Imogen Cunningham
— Born April 12, 1883 in Portland, Oregon
Attributed to Raymond K. Albright (American, d. 1954) On Umbria and Waves from Umbria, ca. 1890, albumen prints from a Kodak #1 camera, gift of Mrs. Raymond Albright, George Eastman House
Photography was truly democratized with the introduction of the Kodak No. 1 camera. With the slogan “You push the button, we do the rest” Kodak sold 13,000 of these light weight hand-held cameras in 1888, the first year of production. At a cost of $25, they were relatively affordable and didn’t even require the customer to load his or her own film—the cameras came pre-loaded with 100 exposures. Once the entire roll was used up, the camera was sent back to Kodak to be processed for a fee of $10. The customer would receive the camera back, loaded with another 100 frames, as well as the developed and mounted prints from the previous roll.
The early Kodak cameras were made with inexpensive wide-angle lenses that created a distortion around the edges of the frame. A mask was used to cover up these edges, creating the distinctive round shape you see here. With no viewfinder, users of the Kodak No. 1 had to guess at the proper angle needed to correctly frame a shot. Perfection, however, was not the aim. Recording daily life and special events was, and the Kodak camera played a large part in the culture of memory-making that we still participate in today. With their casual aesthetic these images are wonderful examples of Kodak no. 1 snapshots.
Raymond K. Albright was the son of John J. Albright (1848-1931) the Buffalo industrialist who was the founder of the Albright Art Gallery (now Albright Knox Art Gallery) that opened in 1905. Although Eastman House attributes these holdings to Raymond K. Albright, it is not impossible that they were made by his father, John J. Albright.