This is the sixteenth 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.
Thurston Hopkins (1913-2014)
Keeping Warm, Islington, London, 1950
© Estate of Thurston Hopkins/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Thurston Hopkin’s dream was to work for Picture Post, the UK equivalent of Life Magazine. It was like a rite of passage to join their ranks.
As Thurston told me once, while walking the streets of London doing reportage for other assignments he met many cats that were made homeless by all the war bombings. He proposed to his editor that he do a story on “The Cats of London.” The editor agreed and off Thurston went. Many of these strays had to establish themselves in the bomb sites. They were living and breeding more or less as wild cats would, surviving on the scraps given by friendly neighbors. Back in those days even the normal, “domestic” cats that had loving homes would spend lots of time on the streets. It was a common practice to let the cat out of the house before the owners went to bed as cat doors did not exist then. So even the kitties that had homes were still street cats first and house cats second.
The streets have changed, the cars for sure have changed, but the cats are the only things that have not changed in 70 years. The alternative title for this image is “Purr-Fect Parking.” Don’t you just love that English wit
Pentti Sammallahti (b. 1950)
Lake Numazawa, Fukushima, Japan, 2005
© Pentti Sammallahti/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
“Numakawa Lake, Japan” is one of Sammallahti’s most ethereal, tranquil and haunting photographs. A large majority of the image consists of a lustrous solid black of the trees, yet behind the darkness shines a silvery lake, scattered with dozens of small birds. This photograph has always reminded me of Edward Steichen’s iconic photograph “The Pond – Moonlight, 1904.”
Sammallahti’s photograph of Numakawa Lake, Japan, is worthy to be deemed one of his masterworks – a photograph that fully encapsulates a photographer’s most exemplary and refined artistic vision.
Herman Leonard (1923-2010)
Charlie “Bird” Parker with Metronome All Stars, New York City, 1949
© Estate of Herman Leonard/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
There was no one quite like Charlie Parker in the history of Jazz. At age 11 he had just begun to play the saxophone. At age 20 he was one of the great ground breakers of all the previously adhered to “rules” and was leading a revolution in modern jazz. At 34 he was dead from years of drug and alcohol abuse. He was a kind of a Jackson Pollock figure. Bird’s saxophone was his brush. They both broke completely new ground and both were emotionally unsuited to handle intense fame.
Herman was the key chronicler of this music genre. He took the most iconic photographs of all the key players, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, you name them. He was living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and lost his complete archive of 8000 prints in the disaster. Fortunately his negatives were in storage at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and he moved to Los Angeles to be near his family.
We started to work even more closely with him when he was here. He was a tall, elegant and graceful man. Incredibly humble despite his enormous accomplishments.
He never went for the obvious shot but approached his subjects with empathy and intelligence. No one captured the soul of Jazz better as is evidenced here in his subtle portrait of Parker and his fellow musicians during a recording session. A masterpiece in creation.
With Herman you always heard with your eyes. And as Parker once famously said,
“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”
Steve Schapiro (b. 1934)
Rosa Parks, The Selma March, 1965
© Steve Schapiro/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
On Dec 1st, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a seamstress after a long day’s work on her way home on her usual bus, rejected bus driver James F. Blake’s order to relinquish her seat in the “colored” section to a white passenger after the “White’s Only” section was filled. She was arrested and charged.
This single act of defiance changed the course of history. She became a role model for courage in the face of racial injustice and started a revolution for freedom which spread around the world.
As she eloquently said,
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free…so other people would also be free.”
Henry Gilpin (United States, B. 1922 – 2011)
Highway 1, Big Sur, CA, 1963
© Estate of Henry Gilpin/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
When I think of the legendary Pacific Coast Highway 1, the mental image that comes to mind is always that of Henry Gilpin’s incredible photograph of the Big Sur coastline. I have seen hundreds of outstanding photographs along Highway 1, but none are more vivid and impactful than Gilpin’s. This image truly stands alone as probably the greatest photograph made of Highway 1 in Big Sur. It is the perfect representation of Gilpin’s devotion to the inimitable California coast.
The silver serpentine roadway weaves throughout the foggy, shadowed ridges of the Big Sur coastline, while the sun glistens on the rough sea below. There are no people or vehicles along the roadway. In this rare moment, the road is all yours.
Henry Gilpin’s photographic career spanned nearly four decades. Throughout the 1970s, he taught alongside Ansel Adams during Adams’s Yosemite workshops, in addition to having a career of teaching photography at Monterey Peninsula College for 37 years. Surprising to many people, Gilpin also spent 25 years with the Monterey County Sherriff’s Department, retiring in 1976 as a Captain. He devoted the rest of his life to his family, teaching and photography.
Sarah Moon (b. 1941)
La Ralentie, 2011
© Sarah Moon/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Haunting is not a word I use lightly when thinking or writing about a photograph. But with this image it is the most apt word that comes to mind. Since the day I first saw this image that is what has happened. It conjures up a great novel whose central character I cannot stop thinking about. Her story envelopes me, her past, her future. I feel I know her, I feel connected to her. I need to hear from her.
This is the world Sarah creates. A deeply felt and romantic world out of a novel by Thomas Hardy or Tolstoy.
Arnold Newman (1918-2006)
Igor Stravinsky, New York City, 1946
© Estate of Arnold Newman/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
If there ever were such a thing as the “perfect” photograph this might well be it. It is Arnold’s most famous image and it is easy to understand why. In it he captures the essence of the person he is photographing. Even if you did not know who Igor Stravinsky was you would surmise he was a pianist or composer or both. He was in his element or as photo historians have put it his
“Environment.” The way the top of the piano reflects a musical note. This man is not an airline pilot taking a little break on a piano stool. Music is this man’s life. He even imitates the raised piano lid with his elbow bent and his hand to his face. The piano lid is indeed reflecting all the notes that are flowing around the composer’s head. Newman, through his own genius, is composing the photo in the same way that Stravinsky is composing the music.
Many great portrait photographers never left their studios for the most part. But Arnold had an intense curiosity and wanted to go out into the world and discover how his subjects lived. This suited his restless personality. He would talk your ear off for sure as he often did mine but that was part of his charm. He also was very self-deprecating as you can glean from his famous quip, worthy of George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde –
“Photography is 1% talent and 99% moving furniture.”
Ansel Adams (United States, b. 1902-1984)
Still Life, San Francisco, 1932
© Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust/ Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Of course Ansel is most well known for his epic and majestic depictions of the pristine American West. But a great artist is a great artist and he was no exception to this in that he could tackle any subject matter and turn it into something special.
I imagine that his talent was in part due to his early training and desire early on to excel as a concert pianist. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Ansel, when he decided that the roving life of a performer and the “politics” of the music world was ultimately not for him, redirected his interests to photography. He was a true autodidact and a completely self-taught photographic artist who never lost the self-discipline to always be improving his craft.
One wonders how a simple arrangement of common place objects can turn into something so beautiful and even majestic as this physical print is. He approached this “scene” as an exercise in composition and application of available light sources. His ongoing technical mastery was the stuff of legend. Even many of his contemporary greats like Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Wynn Bullock sought his opinion on technical matters.
Yes, he was in a class all of his own.
Paul Caponigro(b. 1932)
Galaxy Apple, New York City, 1964
© Paul Caponigro/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
I’ve always considered this photograph of “Apple, New York 1964” by Paul Caponigro to be his “Starry Night” masterpiece. Photography is a medium of recording visual information, but sometimes the camera goes beyond seeing what the human eye can see and a photograph transcends beyond the subject matter, thus creating something surprisingly new. Caponigro has always had a way of accessing this “otherworldliness” in his photographs. His images reach into the unknown and the unseen.
Upon first view of this photograph, one cannot help but think it’s a view of a galaxy of stars. Even upon close inspection, when your eye can visually detect the contours of the apple, the impression of the galaxy persists. The macrocosm and microcosm are seen as one.
“My most difficult years were living in NYC. I had a good dose of it, two years of dealing with cockroaches in the apartment and the chaos of fire engines and police sirens all night long. It was like doing two years in the Army, a tour of duty, let’s say. I hardly photographed and if I did, I couldn’t go out in the streets. I didn’t want to be there, especially with a tripod. So, I brought fruit and vegetables into the apartment and I wound up making the cosmic apple. The Galaxy Apple.”
– Paul Caponigro
Raymond Cauchetier (1920 – 2021)
Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg off-set on the Champs Elysees “À Bout De Souffle”, 1959
© Estate of Raymond Cauchetier/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
I think I spent a large part of my youth in a darkened room watching movies. It was an escape and a longing for a different life like the kid in “Cinema Paradiso.” My two principal hangouts were the Academy Cinema on Oxford Street in London (long gone) and the British Film Institute Cinema on the South Bank near Waterloo (still there thankfully). They became my universities. I majored in World Cinema!
The French New Wave was one of my favorite periods, Godard, Chabrol, Varda, Demy and especially Truffaut were my heroes. Flash forward many years. I revisited this image and set out to find it’s maker, Raymond Cauchetier. For some reason it took a long time to find him, no contact information, no email. etc. I finally located him thanks to the celebrated cinematographer John Bailey who knew him and on my next trip to Paris we arranged to meet up, helped by his wonderful wife Kaoru. Raymond still lived in the 5th Floor walk up he was born in. No elevator. I arrived at their door, forgive the pun “Breathless.”
It was a wonderful rendezvous. Raymond’s treasures had been stored in boxes for over 40 years, never really seeing the light of day. What made these images so special were that they were not the usual run of the mill film publicity stills. He had photographed the actual making of the films and the actors both on and off the set. Raymond had directed his own “mise en scene” and has given us his own fresh take on what was being revealed before his eyes to be preserved by his camera, a key period of the history of the medium.
As Raymond tells it,
“I was unable to get an accurate photo of the scene Goddard had just shot. So I asked Belmondo and Seberg to walk to the bottom end of the Champs-Elysees where the pavement was still deserted and to replay the scene just for me. They very kindly agreed.”
And this became his most famous photograph and the image of this seminal film we all fondly remember.
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