Architectural Photography: 1860 to the Present
with selections from the Stan Ries Architectural Photograph Collection
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 17 from 6 to 9pm
October 15, 2009
through November 29, 2009
Please join us for a Gallery talk at Carrie Haddad Photographs on Saturday, November 14th at 4pm, with famed architectural photographer Norman McGrath, Richard Edelman, Harry Wilks, Chad Kleitsch, Martin Rich and photographer and collector, Stan Ries. McGrath will be speaking about his newly released book, “Architectural Photography: Professional Techniques for Shooting Interior and Exterior Spaces". For more information, or to RSVP for the talk, please contact the gallery at 518.828.7655
Carrie Haddad Photographs is pleased to announce the exhibition, Architectural Photography: from 1860 to the Present, with selections from the Stan Ries Architectural Photograph Collection. On view from October 15 through November 29, 2009, this exhibit will feature over 70 works by nearly three dozen internationally and regionally renowned photographers including Ansel Adams, Julius Shulman, Norman McGrath, James Anderson, Brassai, Eric Lindbloom, Richard Edelman and many others.
Many of the works, all of which are now being offered for sale, represent highlights of the collection architectural photographer Stan Ries has amassed since 1970 as a means of educating his eye, honoring his colleagues and predecessors, and inspiring new perspectives in his own work. At first, he collected images of architecture in several media, including prints, drawings and sculpture (by artists such as Richard Haas, Michael Webb, and Katia Lafitte) along with photographs selected by John Sarkowski, Pierre Apraxine and the influential gallerist Lee Witkin for MOMA’s now-defunct Art Lending Service for young collectors. It soon became clear that it was photography that spoke to Stan most directly as a collector, for it allowed him to exercise the discriminating eye and understanding of structure formed by his early training and practice as an architect combined with his intimate familiarity with his own medium. Just as Stan has always been drawn in his work both to the aesthetic essence of an architect’s intention and to unanticipated moments of beauty discovered in the most unlikely places, as a collector he has focused on both modernist masters of the genre (Julius Shulman, Ezra Stoller) and the rare and unexpected architectural image discovered amidst the oeuvre of photographers such as Ansel Adams and Jerry Uelsmann. Most recently, Stan’s interests have turned to the earliest origins of architectural photography in the 19th century.
Since the advent of the camera, photographers have been drawn to architecture, perhaps because it shares with photography a status that exists somewhere between art and science. Both mediums seem to introduce a scientific rationality to nature – architecture through the establishment of right angles and justified proportions, photography through the production of images whose factual accuracy would at first seem undeniable. Architectural photography, then, testifies to an impulse towards rationality at the core of man’s creative drive. While architecture is one of mankind's most ancient pursuits, photography is not yet two centuries old, and this dichotomy gives rise to a desire to picture antiquity in terms of modern modes of seeing and creating. John Cross’ Reclamation, a postcard-like depiction of ancient ruins, is a testament to this desire, as well as an exemplar of the photographer’s impulse to capture antiquity through modern technology. Cross supplements, contaminates this relic of antiquity with fragmented snapshots of his own modern sculpture: parts of pristine steel columns stand in for the Parthenon’s missing shafts and capitals, setting up a visual and conceptual play between past and present. Photography has in its short life revered, critiqued, propagandized, deconstructed, re-imagined and appropriated architecture. The results acquire conceptual significance by way of the complex relationship between the mediums.
Just as the raw material of architecture encloses a living space, so too the camera demarcates a space both physical and conceptual in which to dwell, or to seek shelter from the unlimited world outside the picture. For it is through framing, limiting, fragmenting reality that photography achieves its status as art. Thus, when the camera frames an architectural space the result can be complex, for here two framing devices are at work. Eric Lindbloom’s stark portrait of an entrance, entitled Doorway, exemplifies this conceptual layering. In this work the elegant presence of a fragment of a staircase acts as a referent of the real that keeps spatial relationships from dissolving and the doorway, captured in serendipitous simplicity as a parallelogram of light, from flattening onto a single spatial plane. Relationships between the straight, rational contours of the photograph and those of the body of light that makes up the doorway are set up, placing emphasis on the artist’s formal experimentation with space. In this and other works, the relation between the structure and the void may be described as a push and pull: spatial relationships materialize only to dissolve again, to fall back into abstraction.
In the liminal place in which these photographs reside, the real and abstract mingle, rendering both domains elusive and incomplete. Compositional abstraction shatters the illusion of depth and vice versa. The conflicting nature of these works makes them almost human in character, conceptualizing and giving artistic form to man’s dueling impulses towards order and revolt. If we consider that the most basic function of architecture is to provide shelter, it seems appropriate that a survey of architectural photography would speak volumes about human vulnerability. The structure reveals the hardships of its inhabitants inside. In Germany, May 1945, a photograph that documents war’s ruthless destruction, Margaret Bourke-White pictures a neighborhood of dilapidated buildings whose emotive capacity rivals that of any human population. Occupying an aerial perspective, the camera assumes a position of authority and omniscience, playing up by contrast the defenselessness, nakedness of the neighborhood in ruins below.
Bourke-White’s photographs testify to the innate human desire to preserve the historical moment. First and foremost, it may seem, the essence of photography is its status as fact, as imprint of the real. But throughout this selection of work, we may also identify a desire to challenge this notion of history, of the very nature of reality. In Trees-Cathedral, Jerry Uelsmann undermines the evidentiary authority of the photograph. Using only the tools of the darkroom, the artist fabricates a document of an imaginary architecture. The sturdy roots of a mammoth tree thrust upward, merging almost seamlessly into the form of a Gothic cathedral. In this work, the organic gives rise to the manmade and, reciprocally, the artificial is shown to be literally rooted in nature. The innately scientific nature of photography lends credibility to this imaginary structure: we almost believe in the existence of this document of the dream.