CPS President’s Annual Report 2019

President’s Annual Report

March 2018 to March 2019

 

Summary

The year March 2018 to 2019 has been a good one for the society. A survey of members (Appendix 1) run in August shows that the membership is largely happy with the current program. Our main communication channels, eNews, website, gallery and Facebook audiences are growing steadily as we increase our use of electronic and social media to engage with our members and the community. Membership is steady/increasing slightly, providing sufficient income to cover our expenses, leaving us in a financially healthy position.

The Exhibition and Critique nights continue to be our most popular regular event made possible by the generous contributions of a variety of judges. The society hosted an interesting set of external and member speakers who spoke about various technical and aesthetic aspects of photography at our presentation nights. During the year the society offered a range of other activities such as special interest groups, workshops and excursions which each catered to different sectors of our membership.

A significant part of our program is the provision of opportunity for our members to show their work to the wider community in external showcases. This year we put on two exhibitions, “Different Views 4” in Telstra Tower and “The Natural World” at CSIRO Discovery. Both were well received by the public. The venues for both were provided gratis by the host agency which helps both our costs and our profile. Many thanks to CSIRO and Telstra Tower.

While our focus as a society is helping our members achieve their photographic potential through collaboration and sharing, we also work to encourage excellence. Those who have demonstrated significant achievements were recognised throughout the year at our Exhibition and Critique nights, Portfolio Competitions and Image of the Year events.

Our program would not be possible without the input of members, committee members, judges, presenters and hosts. To all our supporters, many thanks.

 

 

Report

During 2018 the Canberra Photographic Society continued to work towards supporting its members in the goal of “reaching their photographic potential.” All of our activities and events are made possible by the contributions of members, especially those on the committee, as well as the judges and presenters who donate their time. I thank everyone who has contributed during the year.

Exhibition and Critique Nights

Exhibition and Critique nights continue to be our most popular activity. Thanks to Expo night Director Eva van Gorsel and her team including Tony Mason, Matt James, Michael Taylor and Lenuta Quraishi for running these evenings. The success of our Exhibition and Critique nights, Portfolio Awards and the Image of the Year Awards is also highly dependent on our volunteer judges. We thank all our judges for their generous provision of time and expertise. We aim to provide a variety of judges with different points of view and different backgrounds to give a diversity of feedback to members to help them on their photographic journey.

Month Set Topic Judge Judge Affiliation
Feb 2018 Open only Doug Hall Professional Photographer/AIPP
Mar Faces Kris Arnold Professional Photographer/AIPP
Apr Pattern Peter Ranyard PhotoAccess Tutor
May HEDDA Print Portfolio Karleen Minney Fairfax/Canberra Times
Jun Life up close Grace Costa Defence Photographer
Jull Place Scott Leggo Professional Photographer/Gallery owner
Aug Projected Portfolio Chris Holly Creative Consultant
Sep Time and Motion Lib Ferreira Professional Photographer/AIPP
Oct Reflection Chris Meadham ANU/ANBG Friends Artists group
Nov Inside Canberra Member Panels CPS
Dec IOY Robert Coppa, Ben Kopilow, Hilary Waudhaugh Professional Photographers/AIPP
Feb 2019 Open only David Paterson Professional Photographer/AIPP
Mar 2019 Architecture David Flannery ACT Heritage Council

 

Presentation Nights

The theme-based approach to the development of the program continues to be well-received. Each theme runs for a month and usually involves a presentation night, a workshop night and the Set Topic for the following Exhibition and Critique night. Attendance at Presentation Nights and Workshop Nights (coordinated by Michael Taylor, Eva van Gorsel and Paul Carpenter) has been variable but generally good. A new feature introduced in 2018 was to hold some presentations jointly with the AIPP, the first being in October. This boosted attendance and provided an opportunity for members to interact with a broader photographic community.

Implementation of the program relies on the involvement of committee members, members and external speakers to provide presentations, lead workshops and coordinate excursions. We thank both our external speakers and members for helping us deliver an interesting and varied program.

Presentation night speakers in 2018 were

Month Theme Presenter Presenter Affiliation
Feb Faces Robert Coppa Professional Photographer, AIPP
Mar Patterns Stephanie Herbert CPS
April The Future of iphoneography Brad Nichols CIT
May Life up Close Marwan El Hassan CPS
June My Place Ian Marshall CPS
July Sequences and Series Matt James, Judy Parker and Helen McFadden CPS
August Time and Motion Tom de Jongh CPS
September Reflection Joanne Smedley Australian War Memorial
October Inside Canberra Geoff Comfort Professional Photographer/AIPP
November Making a difference John Reid ANU

 

Communication

Our regular eNews (compiled by David Maish) is now sent to over 521 Members and Friends (up from 500 in 2018), 42% of whom (on average according to Mailchimp) open the emails. The CPS membership has increased slightly to around 86 people (up from 80) and Mailchimp reports that around 62% of members open emails sent just to members (down from 85% last year). The CPS Facebook page (thank you Michael Taylor) now has 558 followers (up from 462 last year) and continues to deliver items of general photographic interest as well as news about CPS activities. We have started to make greater use of Facebook advertising to boost posts for special events as print advertising is losing its reach.

The website and image galleries present our face to the world. Traffic to our website is about the same as last year (about 240 unique visitors per week as measured in February 2019).

The Smugmug image galleries continue to work well and appear to serve our current needs. The tablet-based viewing system linked to Smugmug for Exhibition and Critique nights is now well established and working well. This year the committee considered purchase of a new projector but the specs of the currently available projectors did not appear to be significantly better than our current model so a purchase was deferred for the time being.

Many thanks to Eva van Gorsel who is now Exhibition and Critique night coordinator and manager of the image galleries. She is assisted by Tony Mason, Michael Taylor and Lenuta Quraishi.

Thanks to Ian Marshall and Eva van Gorsel for website maintenance and to Murray Foote who is an advisor for the CPS blog.

A special thanks to Alan Charlton who, with the assistance of Alex Petkovic and a team of helpers, sets up the room and takes care of the logistics for all our events.

Consultation

An annual program review in August is now a regular feature of the CPS calendar and provides an opportunity for members to make comments and suggestions regarding the CPS program. This year we ran a survey of members via Survey Monkey. The committee felt that they needed to canvas views about the format of the Exhibition and Critique nights, which have now been running for two years (as an evolution of the formerly named Competition Nights), and to find out if our program meets member needs and desires.

A summary of the results of this survey is at Appendix 1. A big thank you to all (27 respondents) who took the time to participate and to provide comment. Because the comments were provided in confidence they have not been published but I thank respondents for providing much valuable input, comments and suggestions. The committee has considered all comments and acted on several of the suggestions provided.

Special Interest Groups

Several different groups of members meet to enjoy various aspects of photography. The Hedda group for women and students (coordinated by me and Judy Parker) meets monthly and the Personal Projects group (coordinated by Andrée Lawrey) meets every second month. Thanks to Telstra Tower management for provision of space to hold these meetings.

Weekend Workshops and Excursions

In association with Heritage Week, Alan Charlton organised an excursion to photograph antique boats on Lake Burley Griffin. In April the annual coastal weekend workshop and preliminary workshops were again run by Phil McFadden and his team. The weekend was fully subscribed almost as soon as it was advertised. Participants reported that they found the experience valuable and said that the sharing of images both before, during and after the weekend provided valuable learning opportunities. In spring Marwan El Hassan hosted an excursion to the Botanic Gardens which was well attended. Unfortunately there were no takers for excursions offered out of town to Kiama to photograph sea birds (Gerard Jenkins) and to Temora to photograph an air show (Paul Carpenter). The Annual Photochallenge was not run this year.

External Exhibitions

In 2018 the CPS held two external exhibitions. “Different Views 4” opened during Heritage Week and featured images of Canberra and surrounds. It was held in the ground floor of Telstra Tower. Many thanks to the Management of Telstra Tower for provision of the exhibition space. We are currently planning for “Different Views 5” which will open at the end of May, 2019.

The Natural World” at the CSIRO Discovery Centre ran for a month from 20th August 2018. We thank CSIRO for providing the space at no charge. The theme was chosen to be as broad as possible while also aligning with the science-based nature of CSIRO. This exhibition proved popular and CSIRO was pleased with the number of visitors it attracted. As a result our exhibitions coordinator Judy Parker has been invited to hold a solo show at the Discovery Centre in 2019 and we plan to hold another group show there in 2020.

We did not hold an “Out There 2018” because we were unable to secure the space but have been successful in our application to hold “Out There 2019” later this year. The “Out There” series of exhibitions has run for many years and provides an important vehicle for all members to showcase their work to the ACT community without restrictions on theme or genre. In order to be able to do these exhibitions well we have decided to aim to hold biennial rather than annual “Out There” exhibitions. Many thanks to Judy Parker who continues to coordinate and inspire our external showcases.

Mentoring

We often get asked to provide education about photography, camera use and image processing. In response we have set up informal mentoring sessions. Marwan El Hassan runs these sessions approximately monthly at the Australian National Botanic Gardens for people who are looking for advice on how to use their cameras. This is open to all. Paul Carpenter and Eva van Gorsel are trialling a workshop discussing post-processing techniques. For this year, this workshop requires a commitment and a nominal fee to cover the additional rent.

Finances

Many thanks to our treasurer Ian Marshall who monitors our membership and financial situation and reports monthly to the committee. Our auditor for our 2018 Financial Year is Annette Cheeseman. We thank her for undertaking this important role for the society for the second year.

From the Treasurer’s report you will see that we have an annual turnover of approximately $10 – $12K. Our primary source of income is membership fees. Where the committee considers it appropriate we also charge for a special activity (such as a workshop series or coastal weekend) where we aim for a modest profit. Major expenses are rent, insurances and costs associated with staging our exhibitions. To ensure that we are accessible to all independent of a person’s financial means, we offer reduced fees to Student, Corresponding and Concessional members and also have provision for Honorary membership that can be conferred at the discretion of the committee.

Governance

Work on governance and strategic planning has been slow this year although we have introduced a Code of Conduct for the Committee and a Code of Conduct for AGMs. Areas that we need to work on in 2019 are improving the management of potential conflicts of interest, risk and developing procedures for working with vulnerable people.

Committee

The CPS relies on many people to make it work. I thank the many members who have volunteered to assist in many ways large and small. I thank committee members Andrée Lawrey, Alan Charlton, Judy Parker, Tony Mason, Matt James, Eva van Gorsel and Murray Foote (resigned during the year) for their contributions. A special thanks to office bearers Public Officer Michael Taylor, Secretary David Maish, Treasurer and Vice President Ian Marshall, and Vice-President Marwan El Hassan, who have made significant contributions to the Society over the years. A special thanks to Eva van Gorsel for coordinating the Expo nights and the galleries. I thank you for all your support.

2018 Image of the Year (IOY) Awards

To encourage members to expand their photographic horizons and to recognise a range of photographic achievements and contributions to the society, we have gradually been evolving our suite of awards. We removed some awards in 2018 (People’s Choice for IOY Images and the Photochallenge) as the IOY Program was getting really busy. We expanded our Annual Awards Showcase judging team to three with two judges (Ben Kopilow and Robert Coppa) selecting the winning images and Hilary Waudhaugh examining the books. All judges did a great job.

We also had our selection panel (Helen McFadden, Ian Marshall and Marwan El Hassan) who decided on the Panel Awards outlined below. The selection criteria for these awards are published on our website. A call for nominations (members could nominate themselves or others) was put out with nominations to be sent to an independent email address (to allow for confidential nominations). Entries were discussed by the panel. No panel member was nominated for an award. Although we received some nominations, more involvement from general membership in nominating others for awards would be welcome. Recipients of IOY Awards must be financial members of the CPS. A full list of award winners is at Appendix II.

 

 

Appendix I. Survey Results October 2018

Edited Feb 2019

27 Responses

Qu 1. At the end of 2018 it will be two years since we changed the format of the Competition night to the current Expo night format. If you have suggestions for changes or comments please add them in the comments box below. Are you satisfied with the current Expo night format?

YES – 22 NO – 5

Qu 2. We seek your views regarding the continued use (or not) of grades for Expo nights. Currently new members enter B-grade and can apply to move up to A-grade. B-grade is designed to be a “safety-net” for less experienced photographers and we ask judges to be more lenient with B-grade entries. We also offer a “Comment Only” category that is open to everyone where images are not scored. Please select options below that match your views and also add comments if you have further suggestions.

Retain A- and B- grades but change the rules so that new members can elect to start in either A  or B-grade according to their experience and B Graders can change at any time. 73.08%

19

Retain A and B grades but rename them to be less hierarchical (suggestions below please)

7.69%

2

Abolish A and B grades

19.23%

5

Retain the “Comment Only” category

19.23%

5

Abolish the “Comment Only” category

26.92%

7

Q3. With the gradual decline in the number of members who print images we are considering holding the Hedda Print Portfolio Award and the Projected Image Portfolio Award on the same night. Members could enter both awards. Do you support this suggestion?

YES 17 NO 9

Q4. The aim of the CPS is to help members achieve their photographic potential wherever they are in their photographic journey. A proposal for next year is to encourage creativity by having an annual open-format “Creative Licence” event (possibly to be held in place of one of the Portfolio Award evenings) where members bring any photographic-based work for critique. This could be a conventional print or projected image, a print on another medium, a book, a collage, a digital presentation with moving elements, or something else. These could be critiqued by an external judge or member panel, given a score or not. Do you support the introduction of a “Creative Licence” event?

YES 22 NO 5

Q5. Currently the CPS program is developed around monthly themes. A suggestion for themes for 2019 is to choose accomplished photographers whose work could provide inspiration for our work in particular genres (street, portrait, landscape) or modes (colour, monochrome, abstract, large print, experimental). Do you support the use of photographers as the basis for the themes for 2019?

YES 18 NO 8

Q6. Under the current system, selection of winners of our Annual Awards can be by an external judge, by an Awards Subcommittee or by the President on the advice of the Awards subcommittee. Details of current Awards are on our website CPS Awards Criteria. Do you think our current system of awards gives appropriate recognition to member achievements in photography and in service?

YES 20 NO 4

Would you like to see different awards? If so, please give a brief description. (100 characters):

Q7. What do you think can be done to attract and retain new members and make them feel welcome? (100 characters)

Q8. Would you like to provide any other suggestions or comments (100 characters or email enquiries@cpsaus.org)

 

 

Appendix II – Image of the Year Awards

Print Awards (Robert Coppa and Ben Kopilow)

This year there was a good range of Print Images – 25 colour and 11 mono prints

                Colour Print of the Year – Eva van Gorsel, Winter is Coming

Highly Commended – Eva van Gorsel – Night Falling

Highly Commended – Robin Yong – Bagnati di Senigallia

Monochrome Print of the Year – Judy Parker, Sheep Music

Highly Commended – Judy Parker – Home Grown

Highly Commended – Robin Yong – Kecac Dancing.

Projected Image of the Year

There were 19 Projected Image entries

Winner – Marta Yebra – Mates (monochrome)

Highly Commended – Marta Yebra – Fun in the rain

Highly Commended – Leisa Condie – Remarkables.

Book of the Year (Hilary Waudhaugh)

This award is for the best Photobook or paper-based book-like project entered as part of the Images of the Year competitions. Photobooks should be based on photographs taken by the author.

Winner – Eva van Gorsel – #TINYDREAMIMAGES

Highly Commended – Matt James (Lisa)

Highly Commended – Julie Garran (Passing by Narayan)

Photo Project of the Year Award (Panel)

This award is to be made to the best photography-based project conducted during the year. The aim of this award is to recognise members who pursue photography creatively and who achieve a significant outcome with photography. A “project” is loosely defined, but can include an exhibition, a series of lectures, a presentation, a new activity or some project that involves photography and a tangible outcome.

Nominees (Alphabetically): –

Murray Foote for his travel blog in which he has systematically documented his travels over many parts of the globe and over many years. This blog has many followers and is a great source of information for photographers looking to go to interesting places on the road less travelled.

Andrée Lawrey for the development of her new restrained and elegant photography website.

Judy Parker for her set of prints “Project to Print” which collates all her winning entries from CPS Projected Image Portfolio Competitions held over the years and presents them as a coherent boxed set of prints.

Eva van Gorsel for her Instagram Project of 100 images that led to being an invited participant in Ovation, an exhibition and market held by the Canberra RAW Artists at the Albert Hall in August.

Grant Winkler for his project on the deserted streets of Brindabella Park that formed part of the Personal Projects exhibition at PhotoAccess.

                Photoproject of the Year Winners: – Murray Foote and Judy Parker

Russell Hunt Award (Panel Award)

The award honours the memory of former CPS member, Russell Hunt. It seeks to recognise exceptional, sustained service to the society. The award is to be made to a member who has demonstrated leadership, creativity and commitment in the development and delivery of the Canberra Photographic Society program.

Nominees for Russell Hunt Award:-

Alan Charlton for the reliable and consistent logistics support that underpins all our meetings – that’s at least three per month – four if you include the committee meetings, where Alan also serves. He undertakes a significant workload in hanging our external showcases. It is no exaggeration to say the without Alan, they would not have made it on to the wall.

Andrée Lawrey for her ongoing commitment to the support of our external showcases by participating in selection panels and in the curation and hanging teams over several years. Andrée is also convenor and leader of the Personal Projects group that provides guidance and encouragement to those seeking to develop their photographic practice by pursuing a project and seeing it to completion.

Judy Parker, a previous winner of the Russell Hunt award, continues to provide the backbone for our external showcases. This workload has increased over the years as we now run two exhibitions a year and now run selection procedures for each. In addition, Judy helps newer members with printing and frequently prints a lot of the material in our external showcases. She is also the primary coordinator of the print display at our monthly Expo nights.

Michael Taylor for several years of committee service, particularly as Treasurer. In this role he has streamlined our procedures and has improved our membership and financial  records procedures. Michael has also led our Workshop evenings that provide support to newer members in an informal atmosphere.

Russell Hunt Award Winner: Alan Charlton

President’s Medals for Service (Panel Recommendation)

These awards are made at the President’s discretion (on recommendation of the Awards Panel) to reward exceptional service or outstanding photographic contributions to the Society.

President’s Medal Winners:      Michael Taylor

Andrée Lawrey

Photographer of the Year Award (Panel Award)

The award of Photographer of the Year recognises overall photographic excellence.
The award is to be made to a member who, over the year, has given the best demonstration of photographic excellence in platforms within and outside the society, such as society competitions and activities, society-sponsored and other exhibitions, external competitions and other photographic achievements. Demonstrated photographic excellence in previous years may also be considered.

In order that sustained excellence within the Society also be appropriately recognised, the panel sought to ensure that members who have achieved excellence in society activities were considered for an award. This is something that has been done as long as I have been a member of the CPS and it is now a routine part of panel deliberations. While we no longer run an aggregate competition, the panel looked at and sought to reward excellence in Expo night scores, Portfolio Competitions and selection of images for our external showcases (Different Views at Telstra Tower and The Natural World at CSIRO Discovery).

Nominees for Photographer of the Year Award:-

Tony Brown. Tony achieved the highest number of fives at Expo nights and was awarded the most Images of the night in 2018. He also participated in the Natural World exhibition and sold one of his exhibited images. Tony received several bronze awards in the international 2018 Epson Pano Awards and 6 Silver and 8 Bronze Awards at the from the Focus Awards (An Australian Landscape photography competition with over 2000 entrants and over $35,000 in prizes). One of the Silver images placed 3rd in the Sunrise/Sunset category in the Focus Awards.

Murray Foote. Murray was (very)close behind Tony in number of fives and images of the night at Expo nights (These two were well ahead of the rest of the pack). He is also a regular contributor to our external showcases: this year was no exception. Murray won a (joint) Photo Project of the Year award for his photoblog. Earlier this year he held an exhibition of his music-based work at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop.

Brian Jones. Brian won the Projected Image Portfolio Award and was awarded one Image of the Night. Brian contributed to our external showcases and has excelled in external international competitions with images recognised in the 11th Pollux Awards, the 11th International Color Awards, the 13th Spider Awards, Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the 5th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography in Barcelona. Brian gave two lectures to the U3A photography group.

Judy Parker. Judy continues to demonstrate photographic excellence, particularly with success in CPS Portfolio Awards (2 x HCs). This evening she has won the Monochrome Print of the Year Award and also been awarded a Highly Commended for a Monochrome Print. She is also joint winner of the Photo Project of the Year.

Eva van Gorsel. Eva has shown remarkable growth as a photographer this year and has backed up a solid performance at Expo nights with a Highly Commended in the Projected Portfolio Awards and in her performance this evening where she achieved Winner and HC in Colour Print of the Year and also won the Book of the Year award. She had the greatest number of images accepted for “The Natural World” showcase and was nominated for the Photo Project of the Year.

Robin Yong. Robin is unusual in that he processes his images on his iPad and doesn’t own a camera system. This year he was admitted as professional member of AIPP and won several APPAs including a silver. Robin’s photography is also widely awarded in significant International Competitions in places such as Tokyo, Paris, Istanbul, Sienna. Robin is a regular participant in Expo nights where he has won one Image of the Night. This evening he has been awarded two Highly Commended Awards for his prints.

Photographer of the Year, 2018:               Eva van Gorsel.

President’s Medals for Photographic Excellence (Panel Recommendation)

President’s Medal Winners:                      Tony Brown

Robin Yong

 

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Eugene Atget Photographic Enigma?

 by David Maish

 

atget87.

The title of this post may seem strange and it may be a misuse of the word enigma, but as an enigma is someone or something that is mysterious or puzzling I  believe that it is possible to apply this term to Atget’s photography.

Originally I was going to provide a dissertation on Atget and his photography but the internet is a wonderful resource and many have preceded me in doing this. So I will not attempt to regurgitate these efforts but rather leave the reader to follow up on this wonderful photographer and his legacy at their leisure.   I will provide a few links at the end of the post, but a Google search on the man will provide heaps of information, and putting his name into the YouTube search engine will provide links to a number of slideshows displaying his work.  What I will attempt to do is expand on this idea that indeed Atget is a photographic enigma, in the process covering briefly the history of his work and its influences.

Before I start I will briefly cover my history of contact with Atget’s work.  Believe it or not I first heard of Eugene Atget from Ian Marshall, immediate past President of the Canberra Photographic Society, who I assume had come across him in his studies. Around that time I received as a Christmas gift a DVD set of a wonderful documentary series entitled “The Genius of Photography”.  In this show one of the talking heads described Atget as “the Mozart of photography”, which at the time I thought was a big call. On reflection the talking head may be right. In 2012 from late August to early November the NSW Art Gallery showcased in a major exhibition of over 200 original prints. Rarely permitted to travel due to their fragile nature, loans came primarily from the Musée Carnavalet, Paris, alongside the selection of prints compiled by Man Ray from George Eastman House, Rochester, USA.  Since it was shortly after I retired I took a Murrays coach up to Sydney one Wednesday (forgoing golf!!) and needless to say I was blown away!

In 2014 my wife and I travelled to Europe and towards the end of our trip my wife suffered an aneurism which necessitated here being in hospital for just over 2 months. During this time I obviously needed to keep occupied.  Prior to leaving Australia I printed off a number of Atget’s Parisian images on the off chance of seeing them visiting Paris I could do a rephotograph. Shortly after my wife fell ill I chanced upon a shop that had a number of books containing Atget’s work. I ended up purchasing the most portable one and decided to fill in my time “doing an Atget” wandering around Paris rephotographing some of his work. I had to do something to fill in the time and Atget came along and saved me.  If you’re interested check my article in the Society’s Ezine for last winter entitled Purgatory in Paris or How Photography kept me Sane.

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At the Sign of the Drum

At the sign of the Drum.

(Click on any image for larger size, where available)

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After trying his hand at acting , being drafted for military service and a short time as a painter with little or no success Atget took up photography around 1880 and would continue until his death in 1927. There was a break from 1914 til around 1920 because of the Great War in Europe during which he did not work.

“Atget’s work is unique on two levels. He was the maker of a great visual catalogue of the fruits of French culture, as it survived in and near Paris in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was in addition a photographer of such authority and originality that his work remains a bench mark against which much of the sophisticated contemporary photography measures itself. Other photographers had been concerned with describing specific facts (documentation), or with exploiting their individual sensibilities (self-expression). Atget encompassed and transcended both approaches when he set himself the task of understanding and interpreting in visual terms a complex, ancient, and living tradition. The pictures that he made in the service of this concept are seductively and deceptively simple, wholly poised, reticent, dense with experience, mysterious, and true.”….from http://www.atgetphotography.com

I believe Atget saw himself as a documenter, a visual historian who photographed what was in front of him. His obsession of course was the city of Paris. He built up a vast archive of Paris’ old houses, shops, churches and streets as well as architectural ornamentation including doors, stairways, door knockers and the like.

He derived an income from selling his “documents for artists” as he call them. One of his advertisements stated “that he produced documents for artists, landscapes, studies of trees and plants, picturesque views.”  He only wanted to produce photographic documents. He had no pretentions towards the artistic in his work.  In fact a quote attributed to him perhaps supports this view.

” A good photograph is like a good hound dog, dumb, but  eloquent.”

He came to the notice of Man Ray and American ex pat surrealist artist living in Paris.  In 1926, Man Ray reproduced an Atget photograph a group of pedestrians shading their eyes as they looked at the sky, watching an eclipse on the cover of a Surrealist magazine. When he told Atget of his intention, the older man replied, “Don’t put my name on it. These are simply documents I make.”  .

At Man Rays behest other surrealists were encouraged to meet Atget and look at his work.  Dali and Picasso ( a cubist) are said to have been influenced by him.

In my travels around the internet I found a number of commentaries on Atget photographs waxing lyrical about the image. One particular favourite of mine is a commentary on an image of a statue in the garden at Versailles which represents Mosniers replica of the Dying Gladiator in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.  It goes…

“Drawing on his long experience relating near and far objects and vistas in the gardens of Versailles, the photographer juxtaposed the statues so that the figure of Apollo in the background seems to rise like the living spirit escaping the body at death.”

Really such imagery from a man who said “these are simply documents I make”

The image in question is below:

Digital Photo File Name:DT1190.tif Online Publications Edited By Michelle Ma for TOAH 11_23_15

Dying gladiator.

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I tend to believe that in the end, the success of Atget’s work seems to suggest that the art of photography has less to do with following conventional methods  than with intuitively knowing the right place to stand.

One of the puzzles with Atget’s work is trying to fit a genre to him.  In this day and age, and even in times gone by we tend to try an pigeon hole people and categorise their work.   With Atget it is no different.

Was he a street photographer? It could be argued he is the father of street photography . Many of his photos show hawkers walking the streets plying their trade, shop windows and mannequins and dare I say ladies of the evening in red light areas.

Was he a documentary photographer/historian,  documenting  parts of Paris for posterity before they were lost forever?

Was he a landscape photographer documenting the Parisian urban streetscape?

Was he an architectural photographing in detail the buildings,  fountains and statues?

He also did some formal portrait work during his career as well as a few nude female images.

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Corner Rue de Seine
Corner Rue de Seine.
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So here we have this somewhat driven man photographing Paris producing his documents for artists to make his living.  I believe he did not regard himself as an artist but rather one who captured what was in front of him.  I feel he was intuitive photographer with a great eye for composition who produced a legacy that still inspires and influences photographers today. It goes without saying that we are probably lucky to have this lasting legacy.

In 1925 the American photographer Berenice Abbott saw a few of Atget’s prints that had been collected by the artist Man Ray, for whom she then worked. She subsequently visited Atget several times before his death in 1927. In 1928 Abbott bought Atget’s residual collection of more than 1,000 glass plates and perhaps as many as 10,000 prints. The next year Abbott wrote the first of her many essays on Atget’s work, in which she said, “In looking at the work of Eugène Atget, a new world is opened up in the world of creative expression.” By the end of 1931, this admiration had been echoed by two other outstanding young photographers of the time—Ansel Adams and Walker Evans. Indeed, a new generation of photographers developed, with the help of Atget’s example, a new idea of creative photography, based on the poetic potential of plain facts, clearly seen.

So here we have a photographer who primarily saw himself a producer of documents who clearly had an innate photographic  ability, producing a legacy which is , dare I say it timeless.  He did not see himself as an artist but today many do. Who cares what genre of photography he is labelled with, or whether he is artistic or documentary?   I remember watching a documentary hosted by the English Actor Hugh Lawrie of “House” and “Blackadder”  fame . He was travelling in the Southern USA following his desire for Blues music.  In the show  he was in a record shop talking about all the different labels and genres on display. Then he stated that he believed that there are only two types of music.  Good and Bad.  I feel the same applies to photography.  Atget’s work is definitely in the former category.

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Marchard d'abat-jour, rue Lepic

Hawker of lampshades, Rue Lepic.

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I’ll conclude with a couple of paragraphs from Christopher Rauschenberg  that appear on the Lensculture website.

“As I was rephotographing Atget images, I kept seeing places that he hadn’t photographed but that seemed to me to be also rich with the feeling of his work. I photographed hundreds of those places where I felt Atget’s spirit. Included here are just six of them. I don’t claim to have been channelling Atget, or that Atget would have photographed those places were he to see them. I was walking around Paris “in Atget’s shoes” and this is where they took me.

Having photographed all of these scenes, it is clear to me that the Paris of Atget’s vision is still there and available to eyes that look for it. In central Paris, most of the scenes that Atget photographed are still there, and still posing. You can see the effects of acid rain on them; you can see the effects of graffiti; most of all, you can see that the magical streets of Paris are now thickly covered with parked cars.

However, among all the other Parises that co-exist so thickly in one amazing city, Atget’s Paris is still definitely and hauntingly there.”

Having done the same thing  as Rauschenberg  I wholeheartedly agree and  I couldn’t say it better.

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atgetprostitutetakinghershift1

Prostitute taking her shift.

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Following  are some web links for more on Atget as well as a link to my Flickr album with some of my Atget rephotographs: