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.
Happy Birthday, Eadweard Muybridge
— Born on April 9, 1830 in Kingston upon Thames
Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904) Sequenced image of a rotating sulky wheel and self portrait, ca. 1887, negative, gelatin on glass, George Eastman House.
This unique object consists of a series of twenty three small glass negative images of a rotating sulky wheel that was used by Muybridge to determine the length of time between exposures. The twenty fourth, and last image in the grid, is a small glass positive image of Muybridge in a white suit, ascending some steps. The image of the sulky wheel is visible in the right edge of this image.
Born Edward Muggeridge, in Kingston-Upon-Thames, England, Muybridge changed his Christian name to Eadweard in 1850, and his surname to Muybridge a few years later. He went to San Francisco around 1855 and opened a bookstore there. He lived most of his adult life in the United States, beginning his photographic career in California in 1867. He set up a photographic studio, sharing space in the “Cosmopolitan Gallery” of Silas Selleck, the former NYC daguerreotypist. Muybridge used the pseudonym “Helios” and drove a light horse-drawn wagon he called “The Flying Studio.” Initially commissioned in 1872 by Leland Stanford to make motion studies of his horse, “Occident”, Muybridge later extended that work at the University of Pennsylvania. These studies, in their many forms, occupied him until his death in 1904 at his home in Kingston.