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Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by ajmiller, Jan 9, 2009.
Interesting article about authenticating historic photographs.
Interesting and perplexing article! The micro and non-destructive analytical techniques are valid and it is gratifying to note that they are now being used to characterise photographs.
The weird part is talk like "original prints made by seminal artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson". So far as I know, except for a few desultory attempts as a raw beginner, Henri Cartier-Bresson made no prints at all, original or otherwise.
Further in the article is a reference to "Henri Cartier-Bresson's original photographs". It is hard to imagine what these words refer to. H.C-B was an implacable and relentless pursuer of subject matter and he exposed a lot of film but that is where his role as a maker of pictures finished. He developed nothing and printed nothing, never usefully went in a darkroom, and had no technical interest in what happened after film exposure save that the contact sheets had to be on his desk first thing in the morning.
To reinforce the strangeness there is a reference to "the photographic paper he used". Again, H.C-B used no paper and had no interest in it except that whatever was delivered from the darkroom was required to advance his career.
The writer of the Art-News article and the people reported on within it seem oblivious of the distinction between H.C-B being credited for a lot of photographs and H.C-B making a lot of photographs. Being credited for a work of art is a function of the social, critical, and aesthetic milieu in which the art is encountered. It is not a fact discoverable by physical and chemical analysis however elaborate.
For the record, virtually all the famous H.C-B stuff was actually made via the craft, creativity, and genius of Pierre Gassmann who turned a lot of indifferently exposed film into the cast-iron masterpieces out of which H.C-B's fame is fabricated.
My personal impression is that H.C-B went beyond an apathy to photograph making and actually feared that his fame might be compromised if it became known how much artistic input from other people had his name on it.
An amusing anecdote relates the time Pierre Gassmann brought H.C-B a pile of contact sheets that had been slaved over in the early hours of the morning. H.C-B was leafing through the sheets when he sensed Gassmann standing behind him. H.C-B spun around and hissed venomously "Get out of here"! Even though Gassmann had seen every frame on every sheet I reckon H.C-B could not stand the though that Gassmann would discover that he (H.C-B) really did not have much of a clue what was there. But if a nice image could be found it would be marked with wax-pencil and, voila, another decisive moment for history.
Sure is nice that the technology will allow identification of the prints though. Isn't it.