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Photographic arts: iconic imagery at AIPAD.

"You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus."

--Mark Twain

The word "photography"--dating from 1839--means "light" and "to draw." Photography continues to evolve through the centuries as an artistic medium for creative expression and abstract works, as well as conveying mysticism, as a scientific tool, for social criticism, and as a method of documenting history and transmitting news with images of people, places, and things.

The longest-running photography exhibit in the U.S., is presented annually by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD). It is currently in its 35th edition. The spring show in New York at the Park Avenue Armory (which has been transformed into a cultural institution) includes museum quality work from 89 of the leading fine art photography galleries exhibited along with video and new media. The featured works are from across North and South America as well as Europe and Asia. Attending AIPAD is a great way to familiarize yourself with the ever-evolving and diverse medium of photography. These are some of the highlights.


Of particular historic interest are the early photographs taken in the 1850s by British officer, Captain Linnaeus Tripe in India and Burma under the auspices of the British East India Company. His work, documenting archeological sites and cultural artifacts in a visual inventory of India and Burma, is also currently on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the booths of several galleries at AIPAD. At the Charles Isaacs Gallery, Issacs puts Tripe's work in context, explaining: "Tripe was the earliest person to work in an exotic part of the world and build a significant body of work using paper negatives." This early pre-celluloid photography gave the British audience a visual tour of a foreign landscape, something we don't tend to think about in this era of instant communication with images moving quickly around the globe.

Notable historic portraits on display at AIPAD include iconic images of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a warm- tone silver gelatin print by Margret Bourke-White), Muhammad Ali (with riveting gelatin silver prints from the 1961 Ali Underwater Series by Flip Schulke), Marilyn Monroe (by Burt Stern), Miles Davis (captured at a recording session in a gelatin silver print by Carole Reiff), Igor Stravinsky (the powerful, signature image of the composer at the piano in 1946 by Arnold Newman), Barbara Mullen (1957 portrait with a red canoe by William Helburn), Georgia O'Keefe (a 1930 palladium print by Alfred Steiglitz), Andre Breton (by Man Ray), Andy Warhol, and Isabella Rossellini (vintage prints by the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who shot with everything from a Polaroid to a Hasselblad).

Historic images of WWII, Nixon, Eisenhower (1957), Martin Luther King Jr. marching in Selma, Alabama, and President Kennedy's assassination are some of the news oriented 20th century works in the exhibit. Atom bomb photographs from 1945 (dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to NASA shots of the moon in vintage silver prints taken by a robot in 1967 are also part of the show.

Not all the people exhibited in the photographs are well known. There are bikers in California and burlesque dancers (1936) surprisingly captured by legendary photo-journalist Margaret Bourke-White, who worked for Life magazine (shooting their first cover) for many years documenting the 20th century. She captured everything from bombings in Nazi Germany (where she was America's first accredited female photographer in WWII) to an interview of Gandhi, only hours before his assassination. Life magazine was also an important venue for photo essays by Gordon Parks, who focused on race relations, civil rights, and social justice in his important portraits of urban life in America.

There are interesting, dramatic portraits of people from exotic lands taken by British photographer Jimmy Nelson with limited signage about who or where they were shot. Nelson--who is based in the Netherlands--has embarked on many sojourns, photographing the least known and most imperiled tribal peoples from places such as the Amazon rainforest to the Kazaakh of Mongolia. While his intent is to express dignity in diversity, the staged photographs of anonymous, indigenous people looking glamorous is unsettling.


At AIPAD there are classic landscapes by Ansel Adams shown by a variety of galleries along with evocative scenes such as "Lotus Flowers on Kunming Lake" by Rene Burr and "Aspen Grove" by George Tice in platinum/palladium prints. While some may consider landscapes to be classic works of the past, photographers never tire of capturing the world around them, as seen in the dramatic archival pigment print, "Wake and Sea" by Corey Arnold taken in 2015.

Particularly noteworthy is the striking gelatin silver print by Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, "Fortress of Solitude, Antarctica" from his Genesis Series (which also includes his arresting image of the Brooks Range in Alaska). Represented by the Yancey Richardson Gallery, this black and white work with astounding clarity of detail by Salgado is well worth looking at carefully. He discovers pristine territories, capturing light in both his landscapes and in moving photographs of the human condition taken in far reaching corners of the world. The Salt of the Earth, a film about Sebastiao Salgado made by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado was nominated for Best Documentary in 2014.

Adam Katseff creates nocturnal landscapes in a black and white palette, following in the footsteps of landscape luminaries Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Minor White. Katseff presents large-format, archival pigment prints of "Rivers and Falls," often shot at night. Hung effectively by the Sasha Wolf Gallery with two unidentified, meandering rivers facing one another, the work draws you in.

A different take on landscapes is seen in the work of Iris Hutegger who skillfully incorporates colorful embroidery on her silver gelatin photographs of the Swiss Alps. Her work is in the French Galerie Esther Woerdehoff, which also exhibits voodoo pieces from Brazil and Japanese street photography, reminding me of the international nature of this important show.

Distorted panoramic landscapes by Adam Magyar (Julie Saul Gallery) capture an "Urban Flow" series in a variety of cities (New York, Hong Kong, London, Rome, Tokyo) with a slit scanning camera and self-developed computer programs. Fascinated by the flow of time in urban environments, Hungarian photographer Magyar shows groups of people in a single image cityscape. Aerial landscapes by Josh Begley illustrate an airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and a naval communications station.

Another type of new landscape work is being done by New York-based multimedia artist, Yorgo Alexopoulos, who often uses sprawling or multiple video screens (432 screen installation at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas). His meditative piece, "The Long Swell" is a digital animation in an infinite loop. Shown at AIPAD, we see a single screen of water come alive in a layered presentation that washes away previous views in a variety of blue hues. Although the video looks real it is actually computer generated animation (CGI). Alexopoulos has traded spray paint (a former graffiti artist) and software in his work as a visual effects specialist, to fuse art forms in innovative, immersive fine art installations, sometimes with a hypnotic feel.


A variety of new works are also featured: street photography in Cuba, magical realism in Mayan portraits, and pieces by Berlin-based Michael Najjar as he trains for a trip to outer space at aerospace training centers in Germany, Russia, and the U.S, along with Timotheus Tomicek's piece "Blumen," which is a framed video. It appears as a still life of flowers and then the petals begin to fall in an elegant time lapse. It is one of the photo-based mixed media works which caught my attention along with frozen botanicals in blocks of ice by Japanese artist, Ryuijie.

At Paci Contemporary (a gallery based in Italy, with the intent of creating a space for the evolution of contemporary artistic research and a focus on new media), I discover the glass work of Michal Macku from the Czech Republic. He invented the art of "gellage," (from the words gelatin and collage) a technique involving removing the emulsion of gelatin from the film during the printing process to reveal an inner essence. The works are then adhered to a sheet of tempered glass, adding to the three-dimensionality of the piece. Macku's expressive works sometimes involve 25 layers of glass and may require 100 processes to make a single piece, which is a seemingly suspended 3D photographic sculpture.

Photograms created by Farrah Karapetian at the Von Lintel Gallery (Los Angeles, California) are surprisingly colorful considering the process is made by shadows on sensitized paper without the use of a camera. In Cymbalscape XV, we see cymbal imagery in a fairly abstract, textural work in a palette of earth tones. It is part of her series, Stagecraft, with a focus on musical instruments.

Michael Itkoff (who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan) creates black and white, "How To" video-like pieces in GIF-like loops, more analogous to vertical, flip-books about karate, yoga, tai chi, aerobics, and a variety of physical activities ("How to Tap Dance" and "How to Have a Better Body"). His work is "rooted in the Western ideal of bodily perfection." His works were inspired by instructional booklets (picked up at flea markets and on eBay) and the resultant pieces--with figures flexing, stretching, dancing, and gyrating--are stop-action videos displayed on custom-built units. His work references the ideal of perfection, aspiration, and ideology about perfect body types. The books are supposed to be empowering, but these "how to" manuals have inspired a catalog of human gestures which in video format serve as a learning tool but also speak to one another in a random way when animated.

Gregory Scott created two particularly captivating new pieces shown at AIPAD. "Van Gogh's Bedroom" (2015) incorporates an HD video framed within wall art with layers of oil paintings captured in large pigment photographic prints. It is exhibited next to an homage to Rene Magritte, also made in 2015 titled, "This Is Not Magritte," with six changing video insets at the Catherine Edelman Gallery from Chicago. The mixture of media is successful in both pieces, blurring genre lines (painting, photography, video) while telling a story with changing imagery. And these art works break down stereotypes, challenging our perceptions and perspectives while we question what is a photograph today. "There is no reason why art has to be serious all of the time," says Scott, who mixes reality and pop culture with altered states within a narrative referencing specific artists (Van Gogh, Rothko, Stella) along with himself as the model in sets which he builds. Scott's work is stimulating and thought-provoking.

At AIPAD, there is easy access to the gallery owners. Laurence Miller (Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC) shows photographs by Denis Darzacq made in collaboration with potter Anna Luneman, and speaks about how new ideas are not embraced right away throughout the history of photography. He references Ed Weston's iconic, solitary green pepper shots, making the commonplace unusual, in his search for the essence of things. Robert Burge (Robert Burge/20th Century Photographs, NYC) mentions that many photographers are resistant to change and points out the evolution of Reenie Barrow from darkroom black-eyed susan flowers (iris prints) to digital (pigment prints) in her Easter Island moai photos on rice paper. But the comment by Burge made me think beyond individual images to the body of work and evolution of photographers within the medium.

At the Edwynn Houke Gallery (Vic Muniz, Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston, and Abelardo Morell) Houke speaks of the significance of photographer Abelardo Morell. "A lot of Abe's importance is the signature of his eye and his curiosity and playfulness." And this can be seen throughout the evolution of Morell's career from his early street photography, the re-invention of camera obscura (which originally happened in a cave with a crack) to Morell's iconic image illustrating the process of photography and his subsequent tent photography (in which he projects the image onto the ground in a portable camera obscura technique), photograms, and cliche verres.

I am mesmerized by Morell's, "Rooftop View of the Brooklyn Bridge," a tent-camera image on ground, in which the roof surface contributes to the patina in his photograph, making the result look more like a painting. Whether inventing something new or placing his own spin on it, Morell--who continually wants to "do something that has never been done before"--is always interested in the magic of photography. And rather than do what others before him have done, he pursues his own muse, referencing Japanese poet Basho for inspiration. "Don't follow in the footsteps of old poets. Seek what they sought."

The next time you are sharing photos on social media, snapping "selfies" in this era with camera apps in phones, or seeing the world in new ways, remember the photographic pioneers and those who have dedicated themselves to the fine art of photography.


Photograms--Photography without a camera or lens? This is what photograms are, only needing light on a photosensitive surface. Any objects in the line of the light create shadows. Originally used for a scientific record of natural objects, today photograms may be surreal, artistic expressions. The earliest examples, named "photogenic drawings," pre-date the camera.

Ancient Phoenicians used the light of the sun on translucent papyrus to transfer an image to another sheet of papyrus. German physicist Johann Heinrich Schultze (1687-1744) experimented with light sensitivity of silver salts as well as nitric acid and chalk. British chemist Thomas Wedgewood (1771-1805) also worked with photosensitive materials such as glass and leather with the light of candles and lamps. Contemporary photographers such as Abelardo Morell (best known for his "camera obscura" work) splash water on objects on the film's surface to create photograms with "the feeling of light, matter, volume, and gravity in seemingly real space."

Daguerreotype--An early photographic, multi-step process invented by Frenchman Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) used an iodine-sensitized silvered plate which was fumed with mercury vapor to bring the image alive. The copper sheet--plated with a thin coat of silver--was first cleaned, buffed, and polished, then sensitized with iodine vapors before putting it in the camera and exposing it to light. Additional steps included developing the image in mercury fumes, washing in chemical solutions to stabilize it, heating, and protecting it with glass. Because the exposure time was lengthy when first invented, this was not ideal for portraits (forcing the subjects to sit still for long periods). However this improved in time. Daguerre is credited with inventing the first practical process of photography in 1839 and by 1850 there were over 70 daguerreotype studios in New York City. This technology was used from 1839-1854 and many of these photographs are found in velvet or silk-lined cases.

Ambrotype--Appearing from the mid-1850s to the mid-1860s, ambrotypes were developed directly on a glass plate (not a silver-coated copper plate of the daguerreotype or the iron of the tintype). The word "ambro" refers to imperishable, although these works were fragile, they did not tarnish like their counterparts, the silver daguerreotypes.

Tintypes--Following the work of Daguerre, Hamilton Smith patented tintypes (also called ferrotypes) in 1856. Using a thin sheet of iron for light sensitive material, tintypes were common during the Civil War. They captured images of soldiers and battle scenes as well as covered wagons in the Wild West. Cards with paper picture frames (in oval shapes or with printed designs) or packaged in cases, tintypes appear in brown or chocolate hues from the 1870s. A magnet will tell you if it is a tintype (attracting to it) as opposed to an ambrotype (which will not, since it is on glass).

Gelatin Silver or Silver Gelatin--The most important photographic process of the 20th century (encompassing uses such as art photography, commercial portraiture, documentary photography, criminology, and scientific imaging), for both small and large format cameras, silver gelatin refers to the thin, printing-out paper (POP) and developing-out paper (DOP) used in traditional black-and-white photography. The gelatin is an animal protein used as a binder with the silver particles absorbing a larger portion of incoming light waves, which create a warm tonality in the black-and- white photos. The first commercial silver gelatin paper appeared in 1874 and Joseph Swan obtained an English patent for silver bromide paper in 1879, but the golden age of silver gelatin printing was from 1900-1990 with silver gelatin photographs made by Bernice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Sebastiao Salgado, Man Ray, and Edward Weston among many others.

A number of post-process coatings to protect the images against environmental effects include coatings and varnishes made with collodion, shellac, and beeswax. The shellacs were diluted from furniture polishes and bleached shellac was preferable for photographic purposes without adding a color tint to the photographs. The paper became thicker after the 1930s.

Color Photographs--The first color on photographs came from hand painting them. Scientists and experimenters worked with chemicals, optics, and mechanical engineering, searching for natural color in photography. American Levi Hill came up with a color process in 1851 which he never shared. Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell produced the first permanent color photograph in 1861; it is an image of a tartan ribbon, later published in National Geographic. But it was the French filmmakers, the Lumiere Brothers, who are credited with inventing the first color photograph by using microscopic grains of potato starch. It was unveiled in 1907 as a process they called the "autochrome."

Color film was introduced in the mid-1930s and popularized in the 1940s, using a process connecting three dye layers together. Photographers such as Eliot Porter captured subtle images of birds and nature, Minor White worked with photos as visual metaphors and moods, and later Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, documented iconic landmarks and architectural portraits around the world. They are part of a long list of photographers working in this medium.

Pigment Prints--The common term for digital inkjet printed images today, pigment prints allow for the option of many photographs within an edition or limited number. Digital art and photography is now an accepted fine art medium. Pigment inks are permanent and stable with superior archival properties since dye molecules are more easily destroyed by environmental elements than a particle of pigment. Pigment prints are found by significant photographers and artists including Annie Leibovitz, Chuck Close, and Robert Glenn Ketchum.

To learn more about the Association of International Photography Art Dealers, (AIPAD) and all of the participating galleries, visit

Iris Brooks is a cultural writer and photographer who has traveled to, written about, and photographed all seven continents. She currently has a solo show of her photographs exploring ice and water in THE WAY OF COLOR: BLUE exhibit at the Union Arts Center in Sparkill, New York. You many learn more about her work and collaborations with Jon H. Davis at their NORTHERN LIGHTS STUDIO web site, www.NLScreativemedia.comor follow NLS on their Facebook page,
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Title Annotation:THE ARTS; Association of International Photography Art Dealers
Author:Brooks, Iris
Publication:World and I
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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