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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion - August 2018 - Edward Steichen's "Moonlight"

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minniev
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Monthly Masters' Discussion - August 2018 - Edward Steichen's "Moonlight"

Post by minniev » Wed Aug 01, 2018 3:26 pm

Introduction
This month we'll be discussing the confluence of photography and painting. Study this image by one of the most influential photographers in the history of our art, and consider the influence of both genres and how they work together, both in Steichen's time and our own era.

About Steichen
Born in 1879, Steichen produced an enormous body of work over his 94 years, and influenced the field in many other ways. He was director of the Photography division at MOMA for two decades, during which he curated the exhibit "The Family Of Man", the most famous photo exhibition of all time. He was the first fashion photographer, and was responsible for bringing Ansel Adam's "Moonrise, Hernandez" into prominence. He is an inductee of the International Photographic Hall of Fame.

About "Moonlight"

Is Edward Steichen’s ethereal image a photograph or a painting? It’s both, and that was exactly his point. Steichen photographed the wooded scene in ­Mamaroneck, N.Y., hand-colored the black-and-white prints with blue tones and may have even added the glowing moon. The blurring of two mediums was the aim of Pictorialism, which was embraced by professional photographers at the turn of the 20th century as a way to differentiate their work from amateur snapshots taken with newly available handheld cameras. And no single image was more formative than "Moonlight". If you have time, look at other versions: there are many.

The year before he created "Moonlight", Steichen wrote an essay arguing that altering photos was no different than choosing when and where to click the shutter. Photographers, he said, always have a perspective that necessarily distorts the authenticity of their images. Although Steichen eventually abandoned Pictorialism, the movement’s influence can be seen in every photographer who seeks to create scenes, not merely capture them. "Moonlight", too, continues to resonate. A century after Steichen made the image, a print sold for nearly $3 million.

As you consider this image, here are some questions to guide your thinking.
1.What is your impression of this image? Composition? Lighting? How does it make you feel? Would you want it on your wall?
2. Does the blurring of the image detract or add to its impact, or neither?
3. What is the difference between capturing scenes and creating them? Is one better than the other? Why?
4. The colors, and even the moon, may have been added by the artist. Is editing an image make it look different that the scene fundamentally different from changing your viewpoint, lens or camera setting? Why or why not?
5. Is the controversy Steichen faced about altering a photograph still pertinent today? What is your stance on combining painting and photographic art?
6. Do you attempt work that combines painting and photography? If so, how do you approach this confluence? Would you post an example? Or perhaps link to a work you admire that combines these genres?

Links For Further Study

About Steichen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Steichen
https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/stei/hd_stei.htm
http://iphf.org/inductees/edward-steichen/
About Moonlight
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pond% ... 4Moonlight
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/15/usa.arts
https://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/i ... cons-21272
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/267815
http://100photos.time.com/photos/edward ... light-pond
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"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by pop511 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:52 pm

Stunning.....
Thank you so much. Enough here to keep me busy for days:
ed davis

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Post by minniev » Sat Aug 11, 2018 12:28 am

pop511 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:52 pm
Stunning.....
Thank you so much. Enough here to keep me busy for days:
Gee whiz, I’m so thrilled anyone finally responded in the thread :D Have fun, it was interesting reading.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Charles Haacker » Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:50 pm

I see that I missed the July discussion but it's probably just as well. Steichen's Moonlight is the diametric opposite of the pictures from July. Restful, peaceful, contemplative, one wants to sit on the bench just behind one and just watch the moon come up.

I confess I had never seen this astonishing picture! It's love at first sight for me. I had no idea what a gum bichromate was. I had to look everything up, Steichen's bio (pictures of him as a Navy Commander photographing in the Pacific in WW2), relationships, affairs, paintings oh my...

It should be noted that, because of the intensive hand processes necessary to make this picture, there are only three known to exist, and each is slightly different. That is why they fetch stratospheric prices at auction. The originals cannot ever be reproduced. In that sense they are perhaps more painting than photograph. Does it matter? Not to me. As a photographer I have always been all about getting the pitcher, don't much care how. Steichen's early training was in drawing and painting, but almost simultaneously he was attracted to photography. That isn't surprising given that the Colossus of American Realism, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), used and advocated the use of photography. And why not? Painters had been using the camera obscura for centuries as an aid to drawing, if nothing else to get the perspective right. Capturing and/or creating scenes are obverse and reverse of the same coin. I am a photographer for the simple reason that I can neither draw nor paint, but if I could would I not want to try both? So many of the folks on this site go off on pretty wild creative tangents now and then, doing with Photoshop and other apps things they might not be able to do otherwise. I even got on that bandwagon with my silly decorative boat. I may not do it again, or at least often, but there is much to explore. I'm fairly confident that the visual artists of the turn of the 20th century would be all over the tools available in the early 21st. :thumbup:
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by PietFrancke » Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:11 pm

I like Chuck's comments about this very much. I am with him 100 percent - I would have this hanging on my wall in a heartbeat. It gave me much to think about with it's understated beauty and mood.

Since a master such as he is intended to be imitated, I paid him homage by attempting to edit an image of mine into his colors and mood. It made me realize (amongst other things) how lacking my composition was and I gained great regard for how he created such beauty with the roughest of equipment and process.
floodPlain2.jpg

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Post by Charles Haacker » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:29 pm

PietFrancke wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:11 pm
I like Chuck's comments about this very much. I am with him 100 percent - I would have this hanging on my wall in a heartbeat. It gave me much to think about with it's understated beauty and mood.

Since a master such as he is intended to be imitated, I paid him homage by attempting to edit an image of mine into his colors and mood. It made me realize (amongst other things) how lacking my composition was and I gained great regard for how he created such beauty with the roughest of equipment and process.

floodPlain2.jpg
I LIKE what you did! (OK) :thumbup:
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by minniev » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:08 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 2:50 pm
I see that I missed the July discussion but it's probably just as well. Steichen's Moonlight is the diametric opposite of the pictures from July. Restful, peaceful, contemplative, one wants to sit on the bench just behind one and just watch the moon come up.

I confess I had never seen this astonishing picture! It's love at first sight for me. I had no idea what a gum bichromate was. I had to look everything up, Steichen's bio (pictures of him as a Navy Commander photographing in the Pacific in WW2), relationships, affairs, paintings oh my...

It should be noted that, because of the intensive hand processes necessary to make this picture, there are only three known to exist, and each is slightly different. That is why they fetch stratospheric prices at auction. The originals cannot ever be reproduced. In that sense they are perhaps more painting than photograph. Does it matter? Not to me. As a photographer I have always been all about getting the pitcher, don't much care how. Steichen's early training was in drawing and painting, but almost simultaneously he was attracted to photography. That isn't surprising given that the Colossus of American Realism, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), used and advocated the use of photography. And why not? Painters had been using the camera obscura for centuries as an aid to drawing, if nothing else to get the perspective right. Capturing and/or creating scenes are obverse and reverse of the same coin. I am a photographer for the simple reason that I can neither draw nor paint, but if I could would I not want to try both? So many of the folks on this site go off on pretty wild creative tangents now and then, doing with Photoshop and other apps things they might not be able to do otherwise. I even got on that bandwagon with my silly decorative boat. I may not do it again, or at least often, but there is much to explore. I'm fairly confident that the visual artists of the turn of the 20th century would be all over the tools available in the early 21st. :thumbup:
Thanks Chuck. I looked at the different versions before posting this and made a decision which, according to my own bias!

I agree with you that the artists of the past would be all over the tools we now have. I am a photographer in part because I cannot paint, but many are photographers because they are visual artists in multiple genres, and that has its roots in artists like Steichen who did not see any contradiction in expressing his vision with both.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by minniev » Mon Aug 13, 2018 4:10 pm

PietFrancke wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:11 pm
I like Chuck's comments about this very much. I am with him 100 percent - I would have this hanging on my wall in a heartbeat. It gave me much to think about with it's understated beauty and mood.

Since a master such as he is intended to be imitated, I paid him homage by attempting to edit an image of mine into his colors and mood. It made me realize (amongst other things) how lacking my composition was and I gained great regard for how he created such beauty with the roughest of equipment and process.

floodPlain2.jpg
That is truly Steichen-esque! I like it a lot, it is a Piet original channeling Steichen. Understated and moody.
Thanks for chiming in and especially for contributing an image.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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