The particularity of Erwin Blumenfeld’s work lies in the photographer’s constant will to link assignment and artistic references. This photography pays its debt to knowledge and to art. We recognize pellmell, Renaissance painting, Impressionism, the modernity of the 1920s, Dadaism, cinema etc. It is necessary to acknowledge the successful fusion of constant references to the past and what is being created. Photographic experimentation is the photographer’s other great affair. Everything that contributes to defining the originality of the “photographic” is claimed, tested and given. During the shooting, in the darkroom, and finally in the layout, the image is only a succession of “odd-jobs” between preliminary thought and “craftwork”.
Creating the catalogue of a mind permanently searching for the “new” is an essential moment in the museographic project. Erwin Blumenfeld played, at the risk of overusing the expression, with the metaphor of the lens. Photography is a filter. Also, he doesn’t hesitate to add screens of all kinds between the scene and the camera. Reality is only interesting when modified. This transformation, carried out from the first shot, make the photographic act a metaphor. It only grew from the experiments carried out before the war. Although the New York studio is to be, first and foremost, a place of “commercial” production, for Erwin Blumenfeld, it constitute a space where he is able to demonstrate his “talent” free from any constraints. The art director, the photographic products maker, the client himself etc, are all suspects, more or less, in limiting the creative power of the photographer. Between the image produced in the studio and the publication, very often, a gap is created. The confrontation of these two moment is to be highlighted.
The consideration of the model as a person is central to Erwin Blumenfeld’s photographs. He isn’t only a photographer of clothes. Feminine beauty is at the center of his work. He is one of the rare photographers of his time to dare put models on the cover who don’t comply with the standards of American taste, or unknown models.
Nadia Blumenfeld Charbit et François Cheval, exhibition curators
Studio Blumenfeld New York 1941-1960, l’art en contrebande
The exhibition is part of the Mois de la Photo du Grand Paris
From 3rd March to 4th June 2017
Les Dock, Cité de la Mode et du Design
Entrée de la Cité
34, quai d’Austerlitz