Photographers composed, arranged, and decorated in the manner of this or that artist. Nothing is more difficult to break away from than set habits of seeing.
When you visit a museum or gallery space today, you expect to see painting, sculpture, and photography. However, many people today do not think that a photograph of Pablo Picasso has no right to be up on the same wall as a Picasso painting. This bias is as old as photography itself. When the daguerreotype was invented by Louise-Jacques-Mande Daguerre and introduced to the world in 1839, fine artists (specifically, painters) immediately felt that photography was a threat to their livelihood. This criticism was solidified during the 1859 Paris Salon. Charles Baudelaire, who is considered to be the father of modern art criticism, refused to grant photography the status of art in his review of the salon that year.
Many photographers tried to prove him wrong by setting out to create photographs that would compete with paintings and as a reaction, some painters rejected photography as not to be tainted with the medium. To other open-minded painters, the ability of photography to supply and to multiply images was a fascinating tool for them that expanded their art. The rivalry was not all bad, as with photography's ability to play with human perception, painters sought the other direction and moved from Impressionism into the realm of near abstraction. Similar to painters, the next generation of photographers built upon the achievements of previous photographers and thus established the discipline of photography.
By the early twentieth century, photography became the means of international fame. Artists became "public property" and people were curious about their eccentricities. This was set by the Romantic era precedent of "Artist as Genius". August Sander was one of those photographers who photographed artists. His ultimate goal was to create a photographic encyclopedia of the 20th-century man. His only copy "The Face of Our Time" (1929) was suppressed by the Nazis and the negatives intended for a sequel were the only works that escaped destruction. In the photograph on the right, Sander photographs Heinrich Hoerle painting the boxing Champion Hein Domgorgen. After Hoerele served military service in World War I, he became active in the Cologne Dada scene. He was one of the many German artists who was condemned by the Nazis as creating "degenerate art".
Moreover, this photograph illustrates the changing nature in the early twentieth century from painting famous faces to photograph famous faces. Moreover, this shows Hoerle creating a work in the early stages in a studio. Many artists consider their studios to be sacred and deeply personal spaces and to be let in to witness a process could be considered a sacred rite. Photographers working in studios of their own would understand this relationship between artist and their studio and artists would have felt more open to fellow artists visiting and observing. This is similar to the genre of impressionist painters painting each other painting outdoors.
Another example of an artist who photographed artists studios is Danny Lyon. In his project Destruction of Lower Manhattan, Danny Lyon entered many boarded up studios. In late 1966, he had just returned to New York City to discover seventy-seven acres of New York real estate was to be turned into rubble. He went into the buildings before they were destroyed to photograph these "fossils of time" These fossils of time included abandoned artists studios near the buildings or studios responding to this deconstruction.
Many photographers in the Perry Collection photographed artists with their work or in their studio. Below are four examples of artists photographed in the Perry Collection who have worked in the Booth Family Center For Special Collections Art Collection. Flip between the "Artist" and "Artwork" tab to see the artists and their artwork. If you cannot see the interactive feature try reloading the webpage or using a different browser.
Michael Mazur made this self-portrait during his Tamarind Print Fellowship in Los Angeles. Mazur was inspired by Remembrandt's self-portrait series. In his early works, he experimented with leaving ink on the plate rather than cleaning it before printing. He also capitalized on imperfections. Right before his fellowship, he was working on an anti-war installation peace in Boston. The day it opened to the public Martin Luther King was assassinated. During his fellowship, Andy Warhol was shot and Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. This was a tumultuous year for the artist; he seems to have drawn himself through two different mirrors, highlighting the introspection of this piece.
--Katie O’Hara, University Art Collection Curatorial Intern and Graduate Student in Art and Museum Studies (Fall 2018)