This is the thirteenth 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.
Eve Arnold (1912-2012)
Gala Opening, Metropolitan Opera, New York City, 1950
© Estate Eve Arnold/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Eve was diminutive in size but a giant amongst 20th Century photojournalists. Taking up photography as a single mother at the age of 38 years old, her drive and determination and not the least her prodigious talent, cast an enormous shadow that very few photographers (mostly men) found hard to keep up with.
Everyone relaxed in front of her lens and her empathy and ease with people from all professions and walks of life allowed her to gain their trust. She photographed migrant workers and movie stars, Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe and Joseph McCarthy, veiled women in the Middle East and field workers in China.
But this is my favorite image of hers, shot outside the old Metropolitan Opera house in New York which evokes such glamour and style from a long lost era, which she graciously made for me a year or so before she passed away in London. She had a wonderful apartment in my favorite street in London, Mount Street, and to have tea with her and listen to her stories was a rare gift.
Bert Hardy (1913-1990)
Cockney Life at Elephant and Castle, January 9th, 1949
© Estate of Bert Hardy/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Bert was born in London in 1913 as the eldest of 7 children in a working class family. He left school at the age of 14 years old to work as a messenger, collecting and delivering film and prints from West End chemists for a film processing company. Captivated by photography and combining his interest in cycling he began freelancing for The Bicycle magazine. There he came into contact with the new miniature 35mm cameras.
After buying a second hand Leica he worked for a photographic agency before being taken on as a staff photographer at the prestigious Picture Post in 1940, the English equivalent to Life Magazine.
Of course all collecting is autobiographical and this reminds me of my early days in London.
I just love the minutiae of English daily life especially all those cups of tea on the left hand side of the image.
Memories come flooding back.
Cornell Capa (1918-2008)
Bolshoi Ballet School, Moscow, 1958
© Estate of Cornell Capa, Magnum Photos/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Cornell was a true mentor who was unknowingly responsible for a large part of my photographic education. The institution he founded, ICP, was always my first port of call on my frequent visits to New York. In that beautiful old mansion on 5th Avenue, I saw shows that fundamentally changed how I felt about the world, a testament to the power of photography. In this most stimulating of cities, there are more famous cultural institutions, but the ICP always seemed like home. Such an institution is not created by accident. It requires a guiding hand, a person of great vision and heart.
I felt honored that he trusted me to mount an exhibition of his work in my gallery and to produce a special book for him, a small token of what I owed him for his inspiration. He was always so modest and self-effacing about his own achievements as a photographer for which he dedicated 30 years of his life too.
I just love this image. It is not just a photograph of a dance class but an insight into an almost forbidden society, taken with acute intelligence at the height of the Cold War.
Coffea Liberica – Liberian Coffee, c. 1870-1879
Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
At the gallery we love and respect the beauty of the photographic print. This rare and beautiful albumen print in perfect condition from the 1870’s is an example of the power of great 19th Century photography. Described as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the island Ceylon was conquered by the English in 1796 and for many years was at the center of the spices and trade routes. Rich in ivory, cinnamon, coffee, gems and pearls, the island became increasingly accessible during the 19th Century. Its exotic scenery was well documented by commercial photographers throughout the 19th Century.
The gallery loaned many of its Scowen prints for a major exhibition on Sri Lanka to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art which was on view from 2018 – 2019.
Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
© Estate of Imogen Cunningham/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Imogen Cunningham spent her whole life as a feisty, independent spirit, defying convention and what was expected of her. She was a woman of strong values and towards the end of her life championed many important human causes including significant contributions for the Peace Movement and anti war activities.
She was also a great GREAT photographer.
This has always been one of my favorite images of hers. It would seem that every photographer at some stage of his or her career has attempted nude studies. The familiarity of this genre has made it very hard to create something extraordinary and fresh, but Ms. Cunningham certainly did this here. The composition is beyond sublime with her subtle use of light and shapes, overlapping arms and legs playing off the triangular form of the breast and the space in between.
She also intuitively recognized that by printing it small and not indulging in the ego of the photographer to make it “big” would make it more powerful and intimate. This is truly one of the true “gems” in the history of photography.
A print of this image will be in a big retrospective of her work being mounted by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Spring 2021 when hopefully life may be more “normal” and travel to it will be safe and pleasurable.
Marc Riboud (1923-2016)
Yves Saint-Laurent, Paris, 1964
© Estate of Marc Riboud/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Marc Riboud was one of the all-time great 20th Century photo journalists in the tradition of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, traveling the world in search of ground-breaking stories. But sometimes as all photographers know a great image can be found on your doorstep.
Several years ago I was visiting Marc’s studio in Paris and by accident whilst looking through other material to curate an exhibition for the gallery I came upon this portrait of the great French designer Yves St. Laurent. I had seen many other photographs of him before. He had been shot by everyone including Avedon but this struck me as truly special. It was made even more meaningful for me when I found out it had been taken on the first day of YSL starting his own fashion house after having left working for Christian Dior.
Marc captured so brilliantly the style, intensity and ambition of the man dressed impeccably with his working sketches in front of him. As YSL said himself, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
It is such a positive image of a new beginning, re-invention and hope for the future, something we are all wishing for now.
Wolfgang Suschitzky (1912-2016)
Charing Cross Road [puddle jumper], 1937
© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Wolf Suschitsky brought a very sophisticated European eye to his newly adopted country in the 1930’s. He lived to be 104 years old and had a distinguished career as a much respected cinematographer as well as his great photographic work. He was erudite and compassionate and had old world manners. Whenever I went to visit him in his Little Venice flat in London I would always make a new discovery. Spurned on by his strong Viennese coffee and strudel he always served.
I love the spirit of this image, a woman on her way to a secret destination jumping over a puddle to get there in haste. It tells an unknown story that we can all relate to in someway and I must say even though I am incredibly spoilt living in the perfect California climate I do miss the London rain and the other gifts to be found in that special City. Mr. Johnson was right and what he said in 1777 is still true today.
Edward Curtis (United States, b. 1868-1952)
At the Old Well of Acoma, 1904
© Estate of Edward CurtisCourtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Edward Curtis, apart from being a truly great photographer, is also one of the most remarkable and colorful personalities in the history of photography. Completely driven in his passion to record and document a way of life he knew was about to disappear he endured such personal and financial hardship to fulfill his vision. It took him 30 years to complete the project with many missteps and disappointments along the way that cost him his marriage and health. But the end result is exceptional and his legacy is secure. He captured his subjects with such reverence and respect and showed us their humanity.
This is a particular favorite of mine, one Acoma girl quietly sitting on a rock watching as her friend or family member fills a pottery vessel with water from a pool. What can be a more simple vista for an image, but it is filled with so many other levels of meaning for a way of life soon to be transformed.
Miho Kajioka (b. 1973)
© Miho Kajioka/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
In the tumultuous times we are all living through I am increasing drawn back into Japanese culture and tradition. I find some solace there to help me understand the incomprehensible and the feelings of uncertainty we are all truly experiencing. I am seeking something ethereal and calming in an era where everything seems fragile and vulnerable.
I find comfort and beauty in Miho Kajioka’s exquisitely beautiful and minimalist prints, especially this one. Four tiny images of lips are so powerful when hung together. Miho often writes and talks about the ritual of The Tea Ceremony and how important it is in developing her imagery. According to Kakuzo Okakura’s “The Book of Tea” – “It is essentially a worship of the imperfect, it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
As Miho says, “The philosophy of tea ceremony, it is like a gate where people go through and then they see the world differently with new aspects.”
This is something we are all searching for now.
Pentti Sammallahti (b. 1950)
Helsinki, Finland (Embrace), 1983
© Pentti Sammallahti/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
I must say I completely agree with our friend Pentti. Whenever I see giant prints I must say there is something that makes we want to run away and hide under a rock. I get a headache because I feel I am being beat over the head with a hammer and the image is screaming out at me, “Look how important I am!”
I much prefer the subtlety when I hold a beautifully hand-crafted gem in my hand. Such was the feeling when I first saw a print of “The Embrace.” I guess I am a hopeless romantic but it is very hard to create a “romantic image” that seems fresh and alive and not forced or cliched or contrived.
This is truly a special photograph which I look at everyday as it makes me happy. I feel I am there in the moment with this couple and I am caught up in their story because the emotion it emanates is truly universal and much needed. The print is just sublime in it’s tonal range and depth and power.
Thank you, Pentti.
Peter Fetterman Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, #A1
Santa Monica, CA 90404