This is the twelth 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.
George Tice (b. 1938)
Petit’s Mobil Station, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 1974 (Printed 2007)
© George Tice/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
George Tice is one of the true greats in American photography and this image is one of the all time great Classic American photographs.
I have loved it since I first arrived in America in 1979. The subject may seem commonplace. A gas station in New Jersey, where most of his great images have been shot, but it is compelling and haunting.
George has not travelled much in his career. He has found a wealth of subject matter right on his doorstep. This image emanates a great feeling of mood and layers of meaning and even a slight melancholy and sense of loneliness in the same way that Edward Hopper’s best paintings affect you. It is in the physical beauty of the print.
George has honed his darkroom skills over six decades of an intense work ethic like no one else I have seen. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? How do you make a print that just glows and staggers you in it’s profound beauty? Experience and in a god given rare talent and eye..
This is a great example of the poetics of place. Through George’s work I have come to understand America better and appreciate all it’s myriad small miracles and moments.
Thank you George for almost 40 years of inspiration and friendship.
Berenice Abbott (1898-1991)
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1954
© Estate of Berenice Abbott/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Berenice Abbott was one of the great 20th Century photographers. Her initial ambition was to become a sculptor but after living in Europe in the 1920’s and ending up in Paris as the great Man Ray’s apprentice and protégé she discovered her real gift, that of photography.
She returned to New York and produced one of her great projects “Changing New York,” one of the great architectural documents in the history of photography.
This is a rare, almost unknown “gem” in her esteemed body of work that I first came across almost 25 years ago by accident and have loved it ever since. In a way she was almost destined to meet probably the greatest architect of the 20th Century Frank Lloyd Wright in his last years. Given her great gift of bringing buildings alive. The great man was visiting New York staying at the Plaza Hotel preparing for what turned out be his last great project, the breathtaking, innovative monument to culture and one of my favorite buildings to visit, The Guggenheim Museum. Here he is almost a great piece of architecture himself, grand, stately but with a vulnerability old age inevitably brings.
He is staring out the window towards where his building will be with a touch of pathos that Abbott skillfully brings out knowing that this will be his last important project.
He died in 1959, six months before his final masterpiece opened, a fitting tribute to his genius.
As he once said “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”
Japanese Women, c. 1870’s
Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
In my early collecting days I had, and still do, a great passion for 19th Century Travel Photography.
I had a visual wanderlust and desire to learn about other countries and their peoples. This gateway was given to me by an amazing group of photographers who, undeterred by the hardships of travel and often burdened by cumbersome photographic equipment, set forth across the globe in search of adventure and discovery which they brought back to the West.
These intrepid explorers were sometimes soldiers, diplomats, scientists and even missionaries. Their first preoccupation was recording the landscape, archaeological sites and famous architectural monuments before turning their lenses on the native peoples they encountered.
What makes this image special for me is that the photographer shot this image from behind adding such a great aura of mystery and beauty about these women.
Marc Riboud (1923-2016)
Antiquary Windows, Beijing, China, 1965
© Estate of Marc Riboud/ Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
No country in the world has changed more in the 20th and 21st Century than China. It is changing daily as I write these words.
Marc Riboud was there with his great eye and talent and his camera returning on multiple trips over four decades. He traveled its city’s streets and villages and captured its cultures and traditions and its almost ironical embrace of Western Capitalism from it’s original ideology.
This is I think is his greatest Chinese image. Its composition is superb and sophisticated and its layers of story telling profound. One can almost say with confidence that all human life is here peopled with various generations. Its humanity and power is universal, a testament to its greatness as a photograph.
As the Chinese proverb says, “Prefer the chance moment to the chosen moment.”
Eugene Robert Richee
Marlene Dietrich, c. 1935/Printed 1935
© Estate of Eugene Robert Richee/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Eugene Robert Richee was an exceptional portrait photographer and helped define the era of Hollywood glamour in it’s hey day. He headed the Paramount Pictures Portait studio for 20 years and then moved to the Warner Brothers lot. He captured the beauty and appeal of such classic actors as Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, Carol Lombard Louise Brooks, Veronica Lake, Anna Mae Wong and Gary Cooper amongst others. Truly a who’s who of the old Hollywood whose seminal movies we still admire and respect to this day as we stream online.
Marlene Dietrich was a one of kind actor and performer from her role as Lola -Lola in “The Blue Angel” to her unforgettable performance in “Judgement at Nuremberg” co-starring with Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster and Maximillian Schell. I have seen many great portraits of Dietrich over the years by the likes of Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn and Alfred Eisenstaedt but none of them come close to the physical beauty of this print which is a seductive as any of Dietrich’s poses.
As I have mentioned before in these posts collecting is very much autobiographical and I am sure this was one of the reasons I purchased this image. As a kid growing up in London I was an obsessive autograph collector. Hey it required no money apart from a couple of dollars for a book. I mainly collected autographs of all the great Jazz musicians who played the city Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ray Charles. Security was so nonexistent back then. A skinny kid could slip back stage without much problem. One day I read that Marlene Dietrich was performing that week on her farewell singing tour. Off I went, scored a cheap ticket in the “Gods”/upper balcony. An incredible performance even though her voice was fading, the allure was still there. I rush backstage. Unusual tight security. No way I can slip in. Large crowd outside holding their autograph books. Can’t get anywhere close. She signs a few books and then is escorted into her limo.
For some mad reason I run to the far exit where the car must go through, the car stops and I approach the car, book in hand and you cannot make the following up.
I go to the rear of the car..No one else is there. Dietrich is in the back. I press the book against the window with what must have been some pleading look and like a scene from a movie she rolls the window down. I hand her the book. She signs it and hands it back. Rolls the window back up and the car speeds off.
I guess once a collector, always a collector.
Newcastle United Football Club Changing Room, 1939
© Estate of Humphrey Spender/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Humphrey Spender trained to become an architect at the prestigious London school of architecture the AIA but never practiced. Instead he became an esteemed self taught photographer. He became part of a group of creatives jointly called “Mass Observation” who banded together with the philosophy that “normal” working class people knew nothing about their next door neighbors and they created an impressive body of work to record the reality of daily life in Britain. He subsequently became a photojournalist for important English newspapers like the Daily Mirror and Picture Post before giving up photography to become an artist and textile designer.
His work is relatively unknown and scarce. He tended to conceal his small format 35mm camera justifying his position as “the unobserved observer.” This image is such a great “slice of life.” His work is in distinguished museums including the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT.
A few years ago I had one of these prints on display in the gallery and a gentleman came in and said, “My friend is a collector and I’d like to buy this for his birthday. I know he will love it.”
It turned out his friend was Elton John whom as we all know has one of the world’s great private collections of photography.
So glad it found a loving home.
Andre Kertész (1894-1985)
Pipe and Glasses, Paris, 1926
© Estate of Andre Kertesz/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Kertész loved Paris and Paris loved him back in return by giving him so many gifts on a daily basis and it was undoubtedly one of the most productive periods in his long career.
In art historical terms, “Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses” would be considered a “still life” but for me it is the complete opposite. It is actually full of life. I’m immediately transported to the bustling bohemian life of Paris in the 1920’s in all its energy and creativity where Kertész was included as a prominent figure along with Leger, Chagall, Calder, Brancusi and of course his colleague Mondrian.
It is an image of friendship and mutual respect of two of the greatest 20th Century artists. Kertész has distilled the essence of Mondrian’s credo “Simplify, simplify, simplify” into one of the greatest modernist images in the history of the medium.
Its power lies in the relationship of one object to another and through this visual dialogue gives the viewer a mental picture of the owner of these artifacts and the connection between the photographer to his real subject matter.
Sabine Weiss (b. 1924)
L’homme qui court, Paris, 1953
© Sabine Weiss/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Well Sabine left on a bicycle from her small Swiss town to Geneva and never returned. She apprenticed to a photographer there for a couple of years then she did the gutsy thing of without knowing anyone or having any money she moved to Paris and apprenticed to a fashion photographer, Willy Maywald. After some years there when she thought she was ready to go out into the precarious world of freelance photography, that is exactly what she did and slowly established herself and never looked back. She worked nonstop on assignment with ferocious intensity solving compositional and technical problems for all the major magazines and her commercial clients, but she still managed to do her own self-directed work and created a body of humanist imagery equal to all her contemporaries like Boubat, Doisneau, Ronis, Izis and others.
When you sit with her, even at the age of 96 years old, the intensity and drive for perfection is still there and her passion is contagious.
I love night imagery and this is one of the best and one of her greatest images. She enlisted her husband, the American painter Hugo Weiss, to venture out into that Paris cold night air and she came back with some magic. It is almost like a frame from a great Film Noir “nouvelle vague” piece of French Cinema, full of mystery and suspense. Is he running away from someone or towards a special assignation? We may never know but that is part of its allure especially from this viewer.
As Sabine says about her work, “All the pictures I take are entirely instant. What I like is to make an instant picture. Even if there are no people, I like the click, click, click. I never wait.”
I only hope when I am 96 years old I will be as full of energy and spirit as Sabine is.
Evelyn Hofer (Germany, b. 1922-2009)
Proprietor of the ‘Caracoles’ Restaurant, Barcelona, 1963
© Estate of Evelyn Hofer/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Evelyn Hofer was one of the great, quiet unsung heroines of portrait photography. She was a protégé of the great Alexey Brodovitch who knew a thing or two about selecting the great photographers. She led a very productive life collaborating with distinguished writers providing insightful images to illuminate their texts like Mary McCarthy “The Stones of Florence”, VS Pritchett “London Perceived” and “The Presence of Spain” by Jan Morris.
She produced her own great body of work which reminds me of August Sander. The well respected New York art critic Hilton Kramer once famously quipped that Evelyn was “The most famous unknown photographer in America.”
I love this image. It just puts a smile on my face every time I look at it especially if you are a “foodie.” Just simple human joy. I had never been to Barcelona before until a few years ago where I was working with some Spanish photographers. I just fell in love with the city and found it hard to leave.
Dolores del Rio, c. 1940s
© Estate of George Hurrell/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
I’m not so sure I quite believe what George says. If it were that easy there would have been a busload of Hurrells dominating the field but there were not. He was pretty much in a class of his own as is evidenced by this extraordinary portrait of Dolores Del Rio, the pioneer crossover Hollywood Latina Actress Movie star of whom her friend Marlene Dietrich once said was “The most beautiful woman to ever to set foot in Hollywood.” She had an almost mythical status and was painted by Diego Rivera and photographed by many great photographers including Edward Steichen but this is certainly the most beautiful image of her I’ve seen. It has a special resonance for me as I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago the amazing house that was designed for her and her production designer husband Cedric Gibbons by Douglas Honnold and George Vernon Russell in Santa Monica Canyon in 1929. I’ve never seen a house quite like it.
It is hard to imagine that in the 1930’s and 1940’s there was no tv, no internet, no instagram or social media, no streaming and people flocked to the movies and read magazines to find their entertainment. And the images Hurrell and his contemporaries produced was the way people found out what was “Au Courant.”
A simpler time indeed.
Peter Fetterman Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, #A1
Santa Monica, CA 90404