This is the tenth installment of the online series by Peter Fetterman Gallery called the Power of Photography highlighting hope, peace and love in the world. We invite you to enjoy and reflect on these works during this time.
Henry Goodwin (1878-1931)
Two Reclining Female Nudes, 1920
© Estate of Henry Goodwin/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
I love Pictorialist Photography and Henry Goodwin was probally the greatest Swedish Pictorialist Photographer. He exhibited widely internationally and was invited by none other than Conde Nast, the great publisher, to visit New York in 1921.
I was seduced the moment I saw this image and like so many special images it took a long time for me to seduce the reluctant owner to part with it. It reminded me of a great French Full plate daguerrotype…
I have never seen anything like it again. Haunting.
Jeffrey Conley (1969-)
Figure and Waterfall, Iceland, 2018
© Jeffrey Conley/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Of course everyone today is a photographer or can be because of the ease of entry to the medium which in fact has both its blessings and curses. It’s like all of us have access to the same letters of the alphabet, but very few of us can use these same letters and write like Shakespeare or Jane Austen.
I first met Jeffrey several years ago and was impressed by the quality of his work and his determination to pursue one of the most difficult of objectives: the creative life. I keenly watched his progress and the refinement of his craft. He is that rare species, an artist following in the tradition of the great American Landscape Photographers, Watkins, Haynes, O’Sullivan, Fiske, Muybridge, Jackson, Ansel Adams but one who also displays a distinctly original voice. His images are an extension of his personality: sensitive, stoic, patient and respectful, combined with a childlike sense of wonderment.
I look at this image and am in awe of how large nature is and how small we are in comparison and importance.
René Burri (1933-2014)
Sao Paulo, Brazil (Men on Rooftop), 1960
© Estate of Rene Burri/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
If you had to cast a globe trotting, swash buckling, man of the world sophisticated, intelligent but never pompous larger than life, tall, charismatic photo journalist with the most enormous constant smile on his face, Rene Burri would be your man.
I never saw him without his Borsalino hat… You couldn’t help but be caught up in his energy and enthusiasm for whatever project he happened to be working on. A major contributor to the hey day of all the world’s great magazines be it Life, Look, Stern, Paris Match, Du, or New York Times.
He was a witness to many of the major historical events of the mid 20th Century and it’s enduring personalities from Picasso to Che Guevara. He was a force of nature and a wonderful dining companion and raconteur par excellence but also a deeply sensitive and loyal friend.
I never tire of looking at this photograph. It is almost the perfectly composed shot with the juxtaposed graphic elements of the road, the building and the rooftop and the sublime mix of sunlight and shadow. And then of course it’s mystery which I never cease to revel in.
As the maestro says –
“Did I know those men were there when I took that photograph? No. I went up there out of curiosity. I remember taking the elevator to the roof. Buildings weren’t guarded in these days. They didn’t have guardians as they have now. It was a question of getting to the top and knocking on the door. And then saying excuse me. So I walked out onto the terrace and at that moment those guys came from nowhere and I shot 5 images.”
If I ever feel a little tired or reluctant to make another trip somewhere to pursue a project I just think of Rene and voila I’m up and running again just like he would!
Bernard Descamps (1947-)
Rach Gia, Vietnam, 2001
© Bernard Descamps/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Sometimes you find real beauty when you least expect it.
I was just popping in to say hi to a colleague in Europe in his gallery and by chance I saw an exhibition by a photographer I had not previously been acquainted with. That is what is so great about this medium, you never stop learning. This was the image I connected to immediately. The image was so exquisitely printed and the mood it evoked was so sublime.
Bernard was there putting the final touches to the exhibition as it was opening the following day. He told me he had begun his life as a biologist and had taken up photography seriously in the 1970’s. It was such a great pleasure to meet the creator of the image in person. I think it is called serendipity…it is the perfect image for me now. Quiet and reflective and beautiful.
Noell Oszvald (1990-)
Untitled #17, 2019
© Noell Oszvald/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
To be honest I am not someone who spends anytime on social media or even knows how to access it. I can barely use my iPhone. But a couple or years ago a fashion editor friend sent me an image that totally entranced me…This very rarely happens.
We finally tracked down the creator who was a very young Hungarian photographer living in Budapest. We saw more of her work which intrigued me. The images – self portraits – were so beautifully composed and had such a surreal, haunting quality that we stated to collaborate with Noell.
This has been like a wonderful fairy story for all of us. I think we have now enabled her to be a full time artist and I know she will have a long and productive career ahead of her. It was so wonderful to see her joy in being exhibited at Paris Photo and the work so favorably received.
Sailing, c. 1920s
© Estate of Kato/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Born in Japan and arriving in Los Angeles at the age of 19, Mr. Kato was one of the area’s first art photographers.
He mixed in early artistic and literary circles and sadly passed away at the age of 37 years old.
His prints are extremely rare and I was fortunate to find this gem of an image in my early days of collecting.
It just transports me to another place, another time.
Laszlo Layton (1959-)
Purple Swamphen, 2005
© Laszlo Layton/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
I met Laszlo several years ago when he came into the gallery and we struck up a conversation. He was very quiet and painfully shy. There seemed to be something special about him and he told me he was a photographer. Yes I have heard that line many times before but I agreed to look at his work. I quietly looked through his portfolio and was immediately very moved. Here at last was something very different and original. He was working in a 19th century cyanotype process producing such beautiful hand crafted prints that moved me. His artistic intent was about preservation and memory and loss of the animals and specimens he truly loved many of which have sadly disappeared forever.
Laszlo himself is an endangered species in the contemporary photographic arena so dominated by the tricks of the digital world. He really belongs in another century but I am so happy he is here with us now.
As he tells us – “I want to make these animals look alive. I want to catch the life that was once in them. I want to see life coming out of their eyes.”
Thank you Laszlo for your dedication and passion.
Steve Schapiro (1934-)
John Lewis, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1963
© Steve Schapiro/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Some of the most powerful words I have ever read were written by John Lewis shortly before his passing. To be able to quietly articulate and put down with calm and grace the summation of a life’s work so beautifully and succinctly is a true gift to us all which we should cherish and adhere to.
“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”
~ John Lewis (1940 – 2020)
Michael Kenna (1953-)
Ile de La Cite, (Merci HCB), Paris, France, 1992
© Michael Kenna/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
For many of us, travel is an essential part of our professional lives and also an enormous source of pleasure which has now been curtailed. One of my favorite cities has always been Paris and looking at this beautiful Michael Kenna image, the memories are flooding back.
“Thousands of people walk over the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris every day. A fair amount of them must look East at the iconic view of Ile de la cite and take photos. Henri Cartier-Bresson did this in 1952, and Michael Kenna in 1992. Their views are almost identical, although it is interesting to note that the Pont des Arts from which Cartier-Bresson made his photograph, was not the same bridge from which Kenna made his. The original Pont des Arts was replaced in the early eighties. Kenna’s image is square whereas Cartier-Bresson’s is horizontal. Kenna is a little to the left of where Cartier-Bresson must have stood. Cartier-Bresson would have used his hand-held Leica to capture the moment. Kenna would have used a camera on a tripod for a much longer exposure for the water has transformed into mist. The architecture has perhaps changed subtly and Kenna has included some of the Baton Rouge tourist boats on the Seine. However, the similarities of these photographs made 40 years apart outweigh the differences. It is said that when the disciple is ready, the master will appear! It is predictable then that Kenna would recognize Henri Cartier-Bresson as the master and acknowledge him as such in the title of his own photograph.”
Dan Budnik (1933-2020)
Selma to Montgomery March. Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr., Municipal Airport, Alabama, 1965
© Estate of Baron von Stillfried/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
We lost one of our great friends and photographers recently.
Dan Budnik had a deep concern for humanity, especially for the underdog and dedicated his life and talent to showing us this. His civil rights images are some of the most powerful ever shot. His portraits of artists are especially insightful. His natural charm and curiosity and love and respect for their work allowed him privileged access to capture the essence of these often elusive and private people. He was certainly “in the room” during his long and distinguished career. I will miss his visits to the gallery and his friendship.
Rest in peace, Dan.
Peter Fetterman Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, #A1
Santa Monica, CA 90404