Photography & The Linked Ring
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Photography as Art and Science in London - Art Capstone
by Jacob Dupuis
|Logo of the Linked Ring, 1893|
- 1 Photography as Art and Science in London - Art Capstone
- 2 Abstract
- 3 Introduction
- 4 Section 1: Background
- 5 Showcasing Photography as a Science
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 References
This project looks at the historical development of photography in London. In the 19th century, photographers organized into groups such as The Linked Ring and Photo-Secession, and this project looks at the reasoning behind their formation, and the technical and artistic concepts that they created and how it has effected photography and some professional photographic technology today. The deliverable applies some of those concepts and principles to street photography that I created while in London for the project. Being in London where a lot of modern photography's history began means that there were a lot of resources in the city to help me develop the project.
This project looked at the historical development of Photography in London and applies some of those principles to photographs that I created here in the city. It provides a summary of how modern photography came to bloom in London, and how it influenced developing techniques in today's digital photography world. The works of the Linked Ring are often studied in a historical or practical way, but my project combined both with modern techniques. Instead of focusing on the experiments or technology of the time period, the project looked at how the styles can be adapted to use with modern cameras. The background of the project contains information about what led up to this shift of how photography was viewed by society as the 20th century began.
Section 1: Background
The Linked Ring
|Founding Committee Members||Date Unknown|
At the start of the 1890s, several photographers grew unhappy with the way that the Royal Photographic Society and its members were looking down upon those who wanted to try new techniques and capture photographs that were different from the traditional portraits and landscapes that were being produced. Photographers George Davison, Henry Robinson and Henry Van der Weyde decided to then form a club that would support photographers who wanted to experiment with new techniques and promote the fine art aspects of photography as well. This movement became widespread in Europe and the U.S., with groups such as the Vienna Camera Club, Photo-Club de Paris and Photo-Session following en suite. The group grew to 114 Links (as the members were known) and would eventually open invitations to American photographers. In order to receive an invitation, Photographers must have a deep understanding of every aspect of the art form, from the chemical development processes, to optical and mechanical skills. Alfred Stieglitz, an American Link, would go on to say “a photograph is not artistic if it is technically perfect, but pictorially rotten.” (quote) This quote reflects that the Links not only strived for technical knowledge, but for a creative angle of their works as well. 
Members of the Linked Ring would go on to develop new photography techniques such as efficient daguerreotype, platinum and palladium toning, artificial lighting in images, carbon-printing, image manipulation, depth of field and low light images. While it was known as a brotherhood, the group would have 4 woman photographers as active members with one holding a leadership role for sometime, something that had not been seen a lot in the photography world until this point. All of its members contributed significantly to photography history. Primarily members were from England, but membership opened up to Americans eventually. The Brotherhood would then vote on disbanding the organization as it felt that too much American influence was occurring. This would lead to the fame and rise of Alfred Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession movement, as he continued to pursue similar goals. 
The Photographic Salon was created as a way to showcase the works of the Links for the mass public in London to enjoy. The theme of every photography Salon was just three words: difference of opinion. This further echoed the motivation behind the group entirely. Occurring several times a year, the members of the Linked Ring would vote on prints or plates to be displayed in the collection. The Photographic Salon was also one of the first recorded displays of photographs spaced out at eye level, as opposed to filling an entire wall with images. Below are images that were displayed in the 1896 Salon. 
Pictoralism is a movement that is derived from painting and sculptors to describe photographers who were seeking a change from traditional forms. Pictorial photographs are considered as photos that emphasize beauty, tone, composition and subject, rather than images captured for the sake of documenting reality. The images above are examples of Pictorial Photography, taken from a Photographic Salon exhibit. These images would have been considered 'abstract' or 'artistic' at the time due to their composition or the techniques used to create them.
Around the early years of the Linked Ring, a companion (and later member) of the group named Alfred Stieglitz was based in New York City and shared similar ideas. Stieglitz would go on to form the Photo-Secession group after being scorned for his choices for a gallery display for the American National Arts Club. The movement became a step away from traditional art methods and styles and opened the door in American photography for Avant-garde works that were starting to become popular in Europe at the time.
|For the MET Museum||Taken in 1915|
The founder of Photo-Secession and one of the first Americans in the Linked Ring, Alfred Stieglitz was an important figure in the history of modern photography. Stieglitz conceptualized the idea of photography being an art form, and helped to bring the concepts of modern art to creatives in America. He spent a lot of time practicing and learning in Europe and especially London, capturing images of the city life and the River Thames. Several series of notable works from his career include Equivalents, Low Light Experiments and his images of the human body. For each of these, he always used the latest technologies available, and developed his own methods of applying them. In the case of Equivalents, Stieglitz focuses on the new development of panchromatic emulation which allowed for the camera to capture all visible wavelengths of light in a monochrome image.  Equivalents focuses on clouds, with no other references as to location as the camera is always pointed directly at the sky. Equivalents has been widely considered as the first recognized series of of abstract photography, with the intention of viewers to interpret it how they please. The images that Stieglitz created of human bodies are his largest and most valued collection today. They almost exclusively feature his wife, artist Georgia O’Keefe, and focus on movement and details as opposed to traditional portrait compositions. Stieglitz would take these images on platinum/palladium plates, and later experimental silver plates that would provide sharper contrast in the colors. The Victoria and Albert Museum features a large collection of these images in partnership with the Georgia O’Keefe Foundation.
Stieglitz had been publishing works and journals on ideas, and concerns about the state of the photography on behalf of the Camera Club of New York from 1897 until the turn of the century. When the club was originally formed, Stieglitz declined the role of president, as he felt he had more power and influence while being in charge of the club’s magazine. The periodical was entitled Camera Notes, and often faced criticism as Stieglitz frequently called on photographers to embrace new concepts and styles such as pictorial photography. Stieglitz felt that the Linked Ring was missing out on a chance to spread its concepts, and having control over Camera Notes allowed him to spread the ideas behind Photo-Secession in a way that Linked Ring never was able to. When he formed the Photo-Secession he resigned from Camera Notes, but due to his name recognition was able to start another periodical entitled Camera Work; which became a huge success, selling equal to Camera Notes previously had. This platform allowed the Photo-Secession to become widespread before even opening a physical gallery, which they would not do until 3 years later.
Alfred Stieglitz Statements & Gallery
Stieglitz published often, writing essays on the state of photography, his identity as an artist, and the world itself. Most of these works or his quotes are still famously quoted, such as this one published in a periodical magazine where Stieglitz shares his thoughts on pictorial photography: The point is, what you have to say and how to say it. The originality of a work of art refers to the originality of the thing expressed and the way it is expressed, whether it be in poetry, photography, or painting. That one technique is more difficult than another to learn no one will deny; but the greatest thoughts have been expressed by means of the simplest technique, writing. The most famous words by Stieglitz can be found below along with a gallery of his works. The Alfred Stieglitz statement is a declaration that he would often list with his gallery displays.
I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography my passion, the search for truth, my obsession. – Alfred Stieglitz, 1920 Statement
Pictorialism was a core principle of the group and its movement, as Stieglitz and other photographers wanted to be able to showcase their private experiments and manipulations of traditional techniques, because they felt their results were truly spectacular and new. In both Photo-Secession and the works of the Linked Ring, new styles and technical advancements came to be. Image manipulation, cropping and color adjusting started to become widely used in order to provide new looks at previously seen subjects. Technical procedures such as film developing, tintypes and coloring were not the only things to change however. Content of photography shifted away from traditional portraits and landscapes to include geometric, abstract designs and everyday life. The beginnings of low light photography, and use of lighting to alter a scene also came about during the rise of pictorialism. Pictorialism provided photographers the same unique control and personality in their images as painters previously had.
Showcasing Photography as a Science
London Street Photography
For my deliverable I decided to create 4-5 images that reflect photography elements that members of the Linked Ring used or created here in London. I looked specifically at Alfred Stieglitz for images 1-3. Instead of using their exact methods and technology, I decided to use modern imaging software and hardware to emulate the visual aspect of images, and did my best to use the pictorial mindset when framing and taking the images. I decided upon Alfred Stieglitz's work to emulate because of the coloring of his images due to the development processes that he used. Because I do not have access to the same types of camera technology, I am unable to create images using the same processes. The advancement of digital technology and imaging however is truly incredible and even cellphones have the capability of creating great images. For this project, I used a Fujifilm X100s and a Leica M camera. I decided upon these traditionally styled Rangefinder cameras for the state of the art technology that they both have, and the reputations and history of the companies that develop them.
Since 1934, Fujifilm has been creating film, cameras and lenses of high quality for consumers and professionals alike. When the company stepped away from film and into its new revamped line of digital, it brought its years of expertise with it. Fujifilm's sensors known as X-Trans function similar to film cameras by changing the pattern of pixels, allowing the company to emulate colors and tones of its film lines, on the digital camera. The X100s from Fujifilm is a small mirrorless camera that contains a cropped X-Trans sensor, and a 23mm f2.0 lens that is equivelent to a 35mm image. This camera utilizes Fuji's different film modes to produce film like colors and images. Using the X100s, I took images 1-3 on Westminster Bridge in London. The images are actually taken at 50mm, as I used a glass conversion lens to get a more narrow shot. The images were taken using the Fujifilm ACROS emulation. ACROS is a film look that mimics the grain of a film camera to provide texture in the black and white look. The tones also are softer in the shadows when the camera is taking the image, but more contrast heavy in the highlights, with less grain existing in the white parts of the image to make it look more realistic. I then took the images into Adobe Lightroom, a RAW image editor, and adjusted the white balance to give it a warm look. This was because Alfred Stieglitz shot with Platinum and Palladium chemical process, which gave a warmer tone to the prints. The resulting images were scaled down to be displayed on the internet, but capture tourists viewpoints in the political area of the city.
Image 4 was taken on a different camera than the Fujifilm, this time a Leica M. Upon exploring in London, I reached out to the Leica Store Mayfair and they graciously let me try out some of their cameras one afternoon. A German company, Leica Camera has been one of the highest caliber camera makers in the history of photography. The cameras were first produced in 1923, and the first compact cameras made that used 35mm film. Only two members of the Linked Ring ever used Leica cameras, and it would not be until after the group disbanded that Leica would become widespread in Britain. Today the cameras are used primarily by journalists and professionals as they create an incredible image, and have incredible lenses. I tested several Leica cameras but decided to use the mirrorless Leica M Monochrom. As the name suggests this Leica M shoots exclusively in Black and White. This creates a very detailed image with incredible sharpness as there are no filters in front of the sensor that detract from quality in order to detect color. The camera is meant to capture even more range of 'colors' than a normal color camera would. I paired the camera with a Noctilux-M 50mm f0.95 lens at first, but switched for the same lens in f2.0 aperture as it was very bright out and f0.95 would be unusable in the direct sunlight. Using the Leica was an incredible experience out on the street and I took several images that I was happy with, but image 4 stood out enough that I decided to use that one. Without editing, the black and white image is straight from the camera and down scaled to be displayed here. It has incredible quality and details and the framing leaves viewers pondering for meaning in the image. The lines in the image draw towards the center where I had just noticed the $14,000 cellphone being displayed and framed in the window. The businessmen that had turned their heads provide interesting thinking material, as it is unclear what they are looking at: the $14,000 phone, or the $10,000 camera and lens that I got to shoot with? This image reflects the pictorial method of using high caliber technique to create artistic photos that leave viewers questioning and developing thoughts about.
In conclusion, this project examined the history of pictorial photography in London, and how it's influence spread to America. Alfred Stieglitz who is considered one of the most important and influential photographers who had lived, was a big push behind pictorial photography and led the Photo-Secession movement which worked in conjunction with the Linked Ring. Projects that follow could look into the actually techniques of the photographers, and use film and chemical development processes that were the product of these photographers.
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