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Peter Fetterman Gallery : The Power of Photography #31


This is the 31th 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.


Max Yavno 1911-1985
Cable Car, San Francisco, 194
© Estate of Max Yavno/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“But oh, San Francisco! It is and has everything. The wonderful sunlight there, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes. Beautiful Chinatown .. Every race in the world. The sardine fleets sailing out. The little cable cars whizzing down the city hills” ~ Dylan Thomas (Poet, Writer) 1914 – 1953

The first photo I ever purchased in 1979 was by Max. He was a wonderful character and only the second photographer I got to know well. An amazing talent. This is one of his most celebrated images and the cover of his great book “The Photography of Max Yavno”. His training at The Photo League in New York before he ventured West gave him insight into urban life. He worked extensively in Los Angeles and San Francisco and produced great books on both cities. This is at the downtown turnaround at Powell and Market Street, the busiest hub of the city’s cable car lines. Conductors dismount and turn the vehicles in a circle so they’re facing North instead of South. I have always thought of this image as the perfect urban ballet and Max as the master choreographer. George Balanchine with a camera!


Andre Kertész 1894-1985
Puddle, Empire State Building, 1967
© Estate of Andre Kertész / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“I photographed real life – not the way it was, but the way I felt it. That is the most important thing, not analyzing but feeling” ~ Andre Kertesz (1894-1985)

Most of us walking past the Empire State Building would naturally tend to look up and photograph it from that angle. But Andre was not like anyone else. He was one of the handful of truly great geniuses of this medium. His great gift was for time and again to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. He would often do the complete opposite to how most people perceive the world.

He always had a camera with him. On a rainy, late summer day in 1967 he was on his way to visit his great Hungarian photographer friend Cornell Capa (1918 – 2008) an amazing photographer and human being who was one of my early mentors and the founder of the ICP Museum. Cornell practically lived across the street from the Empire State Building. Andre was surprised and delighted to see that the tallest building in the world at the time could be de constructed and turned upside down through a simple reflection in a puddle.. Such visual alacrity.


Ralph Gibson
Untitled, 1986
© Ralph Gibson / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“First you study photography, then you practice photography, then you serve photography, and finally one becomes photography.” ~ Ralph Gibson

This great Ralph Gibson photograph is your daily reminder to give yourself a break and sit and enjoy a café au lait, or whatever your café beverage of choice may be. We might not all be able to sit on a patio in Paris or Rome, leisurely watching passerby’s. But we can take a minute to listen to our bodies and give them a chance to rest. After that, its back to the hustle!


Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexico, b. 1902-2002)
La Hija de los Danzantes [The Daughter of the Dancers], 1933
© Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“I just get the will to do it. I don’t plan a photograph in advance… I work by impulse. No philosophy. No ideas. Not by the head but by the eyes. Eventually inspiration comes – instinct is the same as inspiration, and eventually it comes.” ~ Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexico, b. 1902-2002)

Manuel Alvarez Bravo had a special talent of casting an everlasting spell on his viewers through his captivating and deeply rich photography. La Hija de los Danzantes (The Daughter of the Dancers) is an example of Bravo’s uniquely spellbinding style and immediately invites your eyes in through the buildings’ deteriorating-patterned façade. Keeping us on our toes and peering for more, one can begin to daydream about what the woman is looking at through the window. Is she mesmerized by the other reality visible only through the window in the wall? Just like Bravo, as viewers of the photographic medium, we are enamored by the ability to observe.


Willy Ronis 1910-2009
La Ciotat, 1947
© Estate of Willy Ronis / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“Most of my photographs were taken in the spur of the moment, very quickly, just as they occurred. All attention focuses on the specific instant, almost too good to be true, which can only vanish in the following one” ~ Willy Ronis

Willy loved to travel around the South of France on his motorcycle with his wife Anne-Marie. On one of these trips he saw two kids diving from the chains of a ship and created one of his most enduring images. A great example I think of “Chance favors the prepared mind”. Do you agree?


Elliott Erwitt
Paris, 1957
© Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“Be sure to take the lens cap off before photographing” ~ Elliott Erwitt

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard” is supposedly a death bed quote attributed to character actor Edmund Gwen. When director and screenwriter George Seaton visited Gwen as he lay in bed ill, George Seaton said to Gwen “This must be terribly difficult for you”. Edward Gwen is supposed to have replied “Not nearly as difficult as playing comedy” Whereupon Gwen died.

There are surprisingly very few comedic images in the history of Photography, but Elliott has displayed this rare gift perhaps more often than others. Although I have always respected Elliott’s fierce intelligence and who I know is a deeply serious man, he is in a class of his own regarding his extensive comedic output, as is evidenced here. I suspect the geniuses at Google who have been working developing the self driven car may have been inspired by this particular image. If this dog can do it what’s the big deal right?


Edouard Boubat 1923-1999
Ile de France, 1988
© Estate of Edouard Boubat / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“There is something instinctive about the moment you choose to “take” a photograph. It’s not the result of thought or reflection.The strength of the composition is always born of the instinct of the decision. It reminds me of archery. There is the tension of the bow and the free flight of the arrow” ~ Edouard Boubat (1923 – 1999)

What attracted Edouard was the beauty of life wherever he found it. He had a great respect for nature and I had never seen a composition of a field of sunflowers quite like this. It was one of his greatest artistic achievements, almost as if he was channeling the spirit of Van Gogh another master.


Gianni Berengo Gardin
Break During Workday, Milan, 1987
© Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

I’m not quite sure I believe dear Gianni. His modesty is not false. But It takes someone with a special talent to create an image like this which I keep coming back to. Henri Cartier-Bresson held Gianni in the highest regard and included him in his inaugural exhibition “My Hundred Favorite Photographs” when he opened his foundation in Paris in 2003 a year before Henri passed away.

He was not the only great photographer I have known who considers Gianni one of the greats. Sebastiao Salgado, Elliott Erwitt, Ferdinando Scianna and Willy Ronis amongst many other greats expressed the same sentiment to me. To be held in such high regard by so many of one’s fellow artists is rare indeed.


Robert Doisneau 1912-1994
Le Baiser Blotto, 1950
© Estate of Robert Doisneau / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“There are days when the technique of an aimless stroll or destination works like a charm, flushing out pictures from the non stop urban spectacle” ~ Robert Doisneau

It is 1950, post-war life after many years of pain and despair is slowly coming back to “normal”.

Robert along with his friends and colleagues Bresson, Ronis, Boubat, Sabine Weiss and others ushered in the new golden era of photojournalism. Robert in real life was just as charming and humorous and tender as so many of his images are. We were having lunch one day and after the lunch was over we strolled together for an hour or so and I observed the way he observed. It was a walking “master class” in how to see and I felt so honored to be invited along. One of my most treasured memories of working with all these greats.


Louis Stettner 1922-2016
The Family (“Manege”) 14th Arrondissement, Paris, c. 1950-51
© Estate of Louis Stettner / Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

“I always felt the difference between New York and Paris is that Paris nourishes you by the fact that it is very beautiful.You see living history all around you. The whole flavor of the place is one of harmony and beauty. It raises the human spirit” ~ Louis Stettner

Louis moved to Paris in the late 1940’s and immediately felt at home there and that this is where he also belonged. He was immediately embraced by the French photo community and “adopted” by the older Brassai. He also became friends with the other great French humanist photographers like Edouard Boubat, Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis. He roamed around the streets like a natural “flâneur” where he encountered this family on a Sunday stroll. A simple pleasure.


Peter Fetterman Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, #A1
Santa Monica, CA 90404


The Power of Photography is now a book published by ACC ART Books.

Peter Fetterman : The Power of Photography
Pages: 256 pages
Size: 7.87 in x 9.06 in
ISBN: 9781788841221

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