Exploring the birth of art photography

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Exploring the birth of art photography

“There are many schools of painting. Why should there not be many schools of photographic art? There is hardly a right and a wrong in these matters, but there is truth, and that should form the basis of all works of art.”
―Alfred Stieglitz in “American Amateur Photographer” magazine, 1893

In the late 19th century, the wondrous advance in science known as photography first became considered as a new medium for art ― not only able to capture the objective facts of appearances, but deeper emotional truths as well.
This historical turning point is the focus of an ambitious exhibit that runs from today until Nov. 27 at Gallery Lumiere, one of Seoul’s few galleries specializing in photography.
The exhibit, titled “Alfred Stieglitz and Camera Work,” centers on Stieglitz, who is known as the “patron saint of straight photography,” and the Photo-Secession movement that he led.
The exhibition showcases 70 rare vintage photogravure and print masterpieces. These fragile works by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Gertrude Kasebier, Ansel Adams and 10 other artists, show the dramatic shift from pictorial photography to fine art.
The gallery has selected works that best represent the turn of the previous century. “Winter on Fifth Avenue” by Alfred Stieglitz is representative of the early stage of his career pursuing strict realism. Stieglitz apparently spent more than three hours in the freezing winter streets of New York to get the perfect proportion and lighting for the photograph. “Lathe, 1923” by Paul Strand features grand factory machinery, revealing the beauty of mechanical congruence. Strand was the first photographic artist to depict machinery and mechanical structures in an artistic way. These early artists opened the way for students to free themselves from the constraints of pictorial photography.
Displayed along with the prints is one edition of “Camera Work,” a quarterly magazine that Stieglitz edited and published. It features hand-tipped photogravures, criticism, and crucial artists of the genre.
“We wanted to recreate the aura of Gallery 291 [which was devoted to the photography of the Photo-Secession] of New York City. A lot of research has been done on our part to recreate the environment of that era, which presents these photographs in a precise manner,” explained Choi Mi-li, director of the Gallery Lumiere.
Ms. Choi hopes that the exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to grasp a major historic development of photography, which today is dominated by digital technology.
“Anybody can come and see this exhibition and feel photography’s beginnings as a true art form ― photography as something one sees and relates to, something that arouses emotions and an awareness of who they are,” says Ms. Choi.

by Cho Jae-eun

The exhibition, “Alfred Stieglitz and Camera Work,” consists of two parts: “Photography’s Turning Point: Alfred Stieglitz and Camera Work” until Oct. 15 and “Pictorial Photography to Straight Photography: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston,” from Oct. 22 to Nov.27.
A discussion, “Gallery Talks,” takes place from Tuesdays through Sundays at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. Lectures by professors and curators will be available in Korean and English. A lecture on “Alfred Stieglitz and Camera Work ― Photogravure” is on Sep. 24 from 7 to 9 p.m. A lecture on “Pictorial Photography to Straight Photography” is on Oct. 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. and Oct. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Gallery Lumiere is located south of the Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong-dong. It is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except for Mondays. Admission fee is 5,000 won ($5) for adults and 4,500 won for students. For more information, visit the Web site, www.gallerylumiere.com or call 02-517-2134.
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