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Letters 09-01-2014

Hamas Shares Some Blame

Even when I disagree with Mr. Tuttle, I always credit him with a degree of fairness. Unfortunately, in his piece regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict he falls well short of offering any insights that might advance his readers’ understanding of the conflict...

The True Northport

I was disappointed by your piece on Northport. While I agree that the sewer system had a big impact on the village, I don’t agree with your “power of retirees” position. I see that I am thrown in with the group of new businesses started by “well-off retirees” and I feel that I have been thoroughly misrepresented, as has the village...

Conservatives and Obamacare

What is it about Obamacare that sends conservatives over the edge? There are some obvious answers...

Republican Times

I read the letter from Don Turner of Beulah and it seems he lives in that magical part of the Fox News Universe where no matter how many offices the Republican Party controls they are not responsible for anything bad that happens...

Home · Articles · News · Art · The Lost World
. . . .

The Lost World

Robert Downes - January 15th, 2004
Photographers were my heroes during my college days in the mid-‘70s, minoring in photojournalism. By then, many of photojournalists believed that photography had eclipsed the arid, minimalism of the painting arts, bringing a power to fathom the depths of the human soul and perhaps even change the world.
Photographers weren‘t just heroes, they were legends, still quivering with energy from the spent days of Life magazine, which made photography an essential weekly glimpse of the world in many American households before its death at the hands of television. Henri Cartier-Bresson introduced the idea of the “decisive moment“ in capturing some split-second insight into the human soul. W. Eugene Smith taught that “depth of feeling is more important than depth of field“ in his Rembrantesque photo essays from battlefields or the backhills of Appalachia. Irving Penn captured the mystery of the self, isolating subjects such as the New Guinea mudmen or Paris fashion models before a portable backdrop he took all over the world. Jerry Uelsmann twisted nature into Dali-like hallucinations of space and time with multiple exposure darkroom techniques. Ansel Adams and Minor White explored the mysteries of the Zone system, turning black & white photos into a palette of tones glorifying the spirit of nature.
You can capture a glimpse of that glory at an exhibit appearing at the Dennos Museum Center through March 7: “The Thing Itself: Daguerreotype to Digital.“
“The Thing Itself“ includes all of the above-mentioned photographers and many more masters of the art, including Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Minor White, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams and many others.
Any one of the photographers at the Dennos might merit a full exhibition of their own, so what the Dennos provides is a gourmet‘s plate of appetizers, with a choice bite from each master of the art. The exhibit also reminds us of what has been irrevocably lost in the digital age: today‘s photographers can download the “decisive moment“ from the rolling stock of digital cameras, or recreate fantasy worlds at the helm of a computer equipped with Photoshop. There‘s no element of genius, insight or initiative involved compared to what the masters of the art created with sweat behind the viewfinder and under a darkroom‘s red glare using silver nitrates, Dektol and fixer.
Standing alone, “The Thing Itself: Daguerreotype to Digital,“ would be well worth any photographer‘s visit, but combined with an exhibit of the Hubbell Space Telescope photos and the rock music photography of Tom Wright, the current Dennos line-up is an absolute must for anyone who‘s ever been transfixed by the photographic arts.

-- by Robert Downes
 
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