Category Archives: images

the succinct

One take on ‘simplicity’ is the quality of being succinct: getting a [sometimes complex] message across briefly, clearly, with a minimum of havering and expatiation, in a tidy package of nicely chosen words, or in an image that the viewer may grok without the need for exegesis. Sometimes there’s a way to express a complex story, with details and interconnections with other stories, in a spare or even gnomic gesture: one can know the story at a glance. Here are three examples taken today that seem to meet this criterion of the succinct:


Ann, Wife of

font6

tragedy2


and some from earlier captures:

Boothbay2

screech

awaken


My usual mode of photographic operation seems to favor the whimsical, which tends toward unconventional readings of images and require explanation, or the narrative, which attempts to engage the viewer in digressive backstories that revel in complexities and outward-bound links. Too many years in classrooms, not enough time in quiet contemplation of what I see. One can see a lot by looking.

simplicity

I’m thinking more and more about an online photography workshop with Andy Ilachinski (see his blog) that begins in a month or so. The subject, or title anyhow, is “Cultivating the Art of Simplicity in Photography” and so I’m grappling with what simplicity connotes. Seems like a good idea to keep a running tally of thinkage and experiments in this medium.

This foggy morning it occurred to me that we continually process the images—the video—of our lives. The focus of our attention, the frame, keeps moving, and we extract moments that please us, then (if we’re photographers) capture as still images to REMEMBER (and perhaps further explore) the moments of pleasedness.

Those thoughts in mind, I chanced to look out the window and saw this:


out the window

Since one of the issues I’m exploring at the moment is the personal importance of monochromatic [“black & white”] images, I tried out several filters (red, orange, yellow, green, blue) and chose the green as best exemplifying the overall feel of the moment of capture:

out the window

Now, it’s not that the image is really marvelous, but it does capture something of where my attention went at the moment: to the fog-shrouded treeline in the distance, to the imperfections in the nearest leaves, to the mid-August moment of Queen Anne’s Lace in the lower left. The image is a satisfactory rendering of a moment, something not-just-quotidian to contemplate.

There is a sort of simplicity here, an encoding of a still and quiet moment. Needs more thought, in a reflective mode.

On the Bancroft-Tyszkiewicz Account

I was first drawn to this family saga by seeing Clara Peabody Bancroft’s over-the-top memorial at Pere Lachaise:


PereLachaise9

We can interpret the memorial variously: it’s an opulent sculpture of an elegant lady, modishly dressed and replete with possibly allegorical rose-strewing; or perhaps it’s the opening paragraph of a story, the sort that Somerset Maugham or Saki might have turned into something eternal. Or a puzzle of parvenus and arrivistes, of money and society. Or it can be read as a series of family calamities, or medical missteps. The elements of each of these scenarios seem to be gloriously present.

Clara Peabody was born in New Hampshire in 1826, and married Edward Bancroft in 1845. Edward was from Worcester, and became a Boston banker and broker (perhaps specializing in cotton), but the details of his occupation are pretty sketchy so far. Their sole surviving child Clara Elizabeth was born in 1857, and Edward died in Naples in 1865.

Here is Edward’s rather modest headstone in Mount Auburn Cemetery:

Bancroft2

Edward Bancroft

Departed this life at
Naples Italy
in the morning of Sunday
February 19 1865 Aged 42
By his own request his body
reposes here

I have not been able to discover how Edward came to die in Naples, or what took Clara to Europe (her own passport was issued in 1866, and includes her daughter and a servant), or when Clara returned to her residence in Newton Center (where the 1870 census records her as having a Personal Estate of $200,000).

Clara Elizabeth married Count Benoit Tyszkiewicz in Newton MA in 1874 (she was 18, he 22). Just how he came to be in Boston is a mystery, but in 1875 he and his bride had returned to Europe, and he commissioned a schooner at Havre:

In 1875, the Polish Count Tyszkiewicz Benoit, then
aged 23, would have a sea vessel for his travels. He has
spent two years in Boston, where he was impressed
by the big American schooners . Back in France, he
ordered Jacques Augustin Normand, Director of Augustin
Normand shipyards in Le Havre, the Zemajteij
which will become known as Velox. From the specifications
drawn up by the count, Mr. Normand will
design a schooner quite innovative that will mark his
time and influence the plans of the future construction
of yachts, both American and English.
The design of its hull, in particular, is revolutionary :
the Velox is the first ship to combine the breadth of
American yachts with the depth of the English shells.
This gives it great rigidity to the fabric and allows it to
carry more sail area than the competition.
The hull construction is also original: Jacques Augustin
Normand will use the method of triple-lined (2 longitudinal
and diagonal) which brings lightness and rigidity.
This is a first for a vessel of this size. The stability
is provided by a ballast 87 tons.


(Wikipedia, translated from the French)

It’s not clear when Clara Bancroft relocated to Europe, but her grandsons Benoit and Edouard were born in 1875 and 1880, and she herself died in Switzerland in 1883. She was first buried in Passy, but was moved to Père Lachaise the next year. A plaque on the magnificent tomb says

Son gendre et ses petits enfants pour accomplir les dernières volontés de sa fille la comtesse Tyszkiewicz ont élevé ce monument témoignage d’un vieux souvenir.

(Her son-in-law and grandchildren, to fulfill the last wishes of her daughter the countess Tyszkiewicz, have raised this monument in witness of an old memory)

The old memory may be of Clara strewing rose petals, and clearly it was the count who commissioned Henri Chapu’s sculpture.

But the story continues. Clara’s will specified that her daughter should be the beneficiary of a $100,000 trust, which would pass to her children if she should die. Clara Elizabeth did in fact die (of pneumonia) less than a year after her mother, just a few months after the birth of her third child.

The Bancroft plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery has a memorial


Bancroft1
upon which are inscribed the names of the various Bancrofts, but only Edward is actually in residence, and all of them enjoyed post-mortem travels (Edward’s wife Clara died in Switzerland but is interred at Pere Lachaise; their daughter Clara died in Switzerland but reposes in Czerwony Dwor, the seat of the Tyszkiewicz family).

Bancroft3

Just who had the monument erected is another mystery.

There was a court case in Boston in 1904, the Tyszkiewicz children seeking distribution of the principal of the trust, and their maternal kin desiring that the original terms of the trust continue. The children lost the judgement, and I can find no further information on their lives. (See the text of the judgement).

Count Benoit Tyszkiewicz lived until 1935. According to the Almanach de Gotha, he married the princess Marie Lubomirski in 1885. He seems to have been active in the development of sugar beet cultivation on his Polish estate, and his avocations included photography (membre de la Société française de photographie [1884] et du Photo-club de Paris [1898]).

Further detail, translated from Polish Wikipedia:

Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz
Date and place of birth December 11, 1852
Date and place of death May 13, 1935, Menton
Father Michał Tyszkiewicz
Mother Maria Wanda Tyszkiewicz
Wife Klara Elżbieta Bancroft
Children Benedict John, Edward, Elisabeth Maria

Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz, Leliwa (born December 11, 1852 in Diam , May 13, 1935 in Menton , France) is a Polish photographer .

Son of Michał Tyszkiewicz (died 1854) and Maria Wanda of Tyszkiewicz (died 1860). After premature death of parents (both died of tuberculosis) from the age of 8 brought up by Benedykta Tyszkiewicz , grandfather from the mother, patron and collector, owner of the Red Court , marshal of the Kaunas gubernian .

Tyszkiewicz’s sports interest in the early years of his life made him travel to the Seine on a ship belonging to Grandfather Benedict, as well as a trip to the United States, where he was in contact with the family of the wealthy owners of the Peabody ships. Benedict developed not only sailing passions, but also (in 1874) married a representative of the family, young Elzbieta-Klara Bankroft.

In 1875, a naval architect, Żak Augustyn Normand, designed the costume of the Count “his yacht of dreams” (42.2 meters long and 7.2 meters wide), in honor of Benedict’s property in Lithuania and Żmudzi was named “Żemajtej” . The Count was planning to take a trip around the world on his award-winning world exhibition in Paris (1878). Due to the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War, however, it reached only Gibraltar and Algeria . Until 1881, the Count was a member of the Nice Regiment Committee .

During his stay in Lithuania he remained a patron of Polish sports organizations, and also contributed to the establishment of Sokol gymnastics company.

Tyszkiewicz debuted in 1876 at an exhibition in Philadelphia, where he presented a reportage from a trip to Algeria . In Poland his works were presented in 1894. His works consist of photographs from foreign trips and works made in the atelier, mainly portraits. His work has enjoyed international recognition, which was reflected in the achievement of the 1899 gold medal at the Berlin exhibition. He was a member of the Paris Photo Club. The artist’s work and most of his work were destroyed during the First World War.

The surviving photographs are held by the Musée Nicéphore Niepce in Chalon-sur-Saône , France, and have been exhibited in Lithuania in 1999.

Benedict Tyszkiewicz, like other members of his family, including his grandfather Benedict, remained a collector and patron of the arts. The Tyszkiewicz Collection from the Red Court, owned by Tyszkiewicz, was one of the richest family archives in Lithuania. It counted 20,000 documents, 12,000 letters, over 10,000 books. The collection at Red Castle in Kaunas included a rich gallery of paintings by Polish and foreign painters Canaletto , Bacciarelli , Czechowicz , Wańkowicz , Rust , a collection of slippers (destroyed in the Warsaw Uprising), tapestries and makat . Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz was also known as the painting buyer Stefan Batory at Pskov’s Jan Matejko for 60 000 francs, which decorated one of the rooms in a residence in Red Dwor.

Benedict Tyszkiewicz was a very wealthy man, not only the numerous travels, but also the residence of Wiala (Wiała) in the Minsk district. Not only was it decorated with a magnificent garden, but also enormous game and hunting pavilions. The cost of their maintenance greatly affected the state of Benedict Tyszkiewicz’s finances, which eventually decided to liquidate them.

Family

Benedykt Tyszkiewicz from a short-lived (9-year) marriage with Klara Bancroft (died 1883 in Chur , Switzerland ) had three children: the heir of the Red Court of Benedictine John , married to ???, Edward Branicki, married to Adel Dembowska, and Elżbieta Maria, wife of Stanisław Witold Plater Zyberk.

Literature [ edit ]

L. Narkowicz, Tyszkiewicz’s Ordinance in Zatrocz , Warsaw 2007, p. 30, 87-88.
A. Snitkuviene, Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz (1852-1935) from the Red House – a forgotten photographer , “Dagerotyp” 6 (1997).
A. Snitkuviene, Exhibition of Benedicts Henryk Tyszkiewicz and John Batho in Lithuania , “Dagerotyp” 9 (2000).
T. Zielińska, Polish Aristocratic Family Order , Warsaw 1997.
Flea Market Treasure. Photography by Benedict Tyshkevich
Benedykt Tyszkiewicz (fotografiakolekcjonerska.pl)
W. Chomański, Kovno “Sokol” , “Our Time” 11/2005 (661)
Glossary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic countries, Volume XIII
Tyszkiewicz Palace and Park complex

and more on the Red Court (translated froma Polish site):

Attractions of the Red Court near Kaunas

In the recently renovated Tyszkiewicz Palace in Red Dwor near Kaunas, every day, up to the Three Kings, trips, entertainment for children and adults, and tasting of Tyszkiewicz dishes are organized. Raudondvaris castle and chapel is a monument of Renaissance architecture from the beginning of the 17th century. The palace rises on the upper terrace of the Niewiazy River, 9 km from Kaunas in the direction of Jurboks. The main building of the palace complex in Czerwony Dwor is a castle from the second half of the 17th century with a tower. The manor house consists of a palace, a 3.8 ha park with two outbuildings, an orangery, stables and a glacier.

The construction of the castle in Czerwony Dwor in the second half of the 16th century began by Wojciech Dziewałtowski, the Kaunas subcommittee. Later the castle-palace complex was successively owned by the most famous Lithuanian magnates: Jan Eustachy Kossakowski, Janusz Radziwiłł, Jan Karol Worlowski, Antoni, Józef, Henryk, Kazimierz Zabiello, Michał, Benedict Emanuel and Benedict Henryk Tyszkiewicz. The architecture of the castle-palace complex in Czerwony Dwor is the most visible traces of the activities of the Tyszkiewicz, the last owners of the palace. After a fire in 1831, in which wooden court buildings burned down, Count Benedict Emanuel Tyszkiewicz built a new palace, brick. The castle became then a magnificent residence, where rich collections of paintings, works of art, rare books, exotic plants and animals were collected.

The palace and court buildings in Czerwon Dwór have been restored in the last few years. The Kaunas Tourist Information Center is currently operating in the former ice rink. In the palace they found headquarters: Juozasa Naujalis, Museum of Culture and Court Painting, Office of Civil Status. There are conference rooms, a hotel and – in basements – ballrooms. In the stables and coaching room the Art Incubator has opened with a theater and concert hall for 500 seats, there is a gallery of photography and art, studios and apartments for temporary artists staying.

During the Christmas holidays there are many interesting projects in Red Dwor. In the Art Incubator there are concerts. For children and adults, trips are organized on the grounds of the former Tyszkiewicz estate, during which the Old Keyman talks about the castle and its inhabitants, the tasting of the Tyszkiewicz cuisine is taking place in the cellars of the palace. Santa Claus is waiting for the children in Red Court. The cycle of Christmas attractions will last until 5 January inclusive.

co incidence

I really admire Andy Ilachinski’s photography, and often enjoy the enlightenments of quotations he pairs with images in his Tao of Digital Photography blog. This morning’s Schopenhauer passage projected me into a 3-way conjunction with a deceased wombat and a decaying stump:

…All the events in a man’s life accordingly stand in two fundamentally different kinds of connection: firstly, in the objective, causal connection of the natural process; secondly, in a subjective connection which exists only in relation to the individual who experiences it, and which is thus as subjective as his own dreams, whose unfolding content is necessarily determined, but in the manner in which the scenes in a play are determined by the poet’s plot….
(http://tao-of-digital-photography.blogspot.ca/2017/04/a-great-dream.html)

This morning I happened to learn that Patrick the Wombat had expired in Ballarat, probably around the time I discovered Patrick’s visage at the dead center of a tessellation of an elm stump at Horton Landing, Nova Scotia:


elm stump5x2

(zoom in to inspect the visage more closely here)

Just sayin’

coming to grips with our lack of understanding

I was listening to a recent (July 14 2016) episode of Open Source as I walked yesterday, in which Greil Marcus was interviewed by Max Larkin about three songs (Dylan’s Ballad of Hollis Brown, Geeshie Wiley and LV Thomas’ Last Kind Words Blues, and Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground) that Marcus has written a book around (Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations). A short segment seemed especially relevant to issues of art and creativity that I’ve been thinking about lately, so I transcribed it when I got home:

To me, works of art, whether they’re songs, whether they’re novels, whether they’re paintings, whether they’re movies, are fictions: they’re imaginative constructs that people create and then they inhabit and then they tell you stories from that position, as if they’re true. But they’re making things up, they’re lying. These things didn’t happen. And so the fact that Geeshie Wiley and LV Thomas were from here as opposed to there, that they lived at this time as opposed to that time, all of that is interesting and will tell you something about how these songs came to be musically as part of a tradition, but will not tell you anything about why the recordings they made, and especially Motherless Child Blues and Last Kind Words Blues, are absolutely unique, why there is nothing like them. That is because they had the tools and they had the will and the desire and the genius to be able to turn that into an artifact that we can listen to and say “who ARE these people?” and when we say “who are these people, we don’t mean “are they really from Houston?” which is where they were from, was LV Thomas really a lesbian, which she was was. That’s not what we mean by “who are these people?”. It’s like, “what is this ABOUT?” How can people DO these kinds of things? It’s our sense of awe in the face of great art. It’s a sense of coming to grips with our lack of understanding of how something so beautiful, so preordained, so unlikely, has come to be.

click to hear:

The sense of the sublime that inhabits the art that moves us (musical, graphic, narrative, photographic, whatever) is hard to pin down or distill into words. We knows it when we sees it, and that sense of knowing may or may not be transitive: others may not feel or apprehend or catch or get it. I’m aware of this feeling with every batch of photographs I process and put into my Flickr photostream—there’s an ineffable something that inhabits some images, often because of some imaginative construct that I’ve put onto them in capturing or processing. Sometimes there’s a story, either manifest or lurking under the surface. Sometimes it’s just a portent, or an allusion that only comes into focus within a set of images. Here’s one that produced that sort of frisson, though I haven’t yet imagined the narrative into which it might fit:

Cambria13

inversion conversion reversion

I’m still processing our visit to the Qu’est-ce que la photographie? exhibit at the Pompidou, and looking forward to the arrival of the catalog (ordered via Amazon) and the challenge of reading the French text that accompanies the images.




Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to break out of preconceptions about stuff you think you know about –to see the familiar in new ways, and to find context and meaning for the unfamiliar. The Pompidou exhibit flung down just those challenges, and I’ve been exploring them ever since our visit. I’ll try to unpack some of that in what follows.

Consider two rather startling images, neither of which was familiar to me (and I’d never heard of the photographers either, which just goes to show my own insularity):


 


(see the Pompidou pages for Mulas’ Una mano sviluppa l’altra fissa and Rautert’s Sonne und Mond von einem negativ; and take a look at the website for Ugo Mulas (1928-1973) and a recent New Yorker piece on work by Timm Rautert (1941-))

Neither is quite what it seems at first glance, and the viewer struggles a bit before catching on.
Mulas inverts tonalities and flips horizontally: one hand becomes two. Rautert tweaks a single negative to represent two different celestial bodies.

It’s interesting to explore the notion that multiple renderings of an image can disclose things hidden or obscured in any one version, and the kindred idea that any photograph is potentially many photographs. Where does ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ lie? Is our perception of an image all subjective prevarication?

Digital tools put these questions at the ends of our fingers.

Inversion of tonalities and mirror-imaging are two techniques that are easy to play with using GIMP, and I’ve done quite a bit of that as I’ve explored tessellations of Betsy’s and my own images (see some examples and a few more). Is such manipulation merely a gimmick, or is there something more to it? This is a question that comes up often in the world of Art, and I’m learning to enjoy the ambiguities and widen my purview.

An interesting challenge came my way shortly before we left for France, as I read through the announcement of an exhibit that will open soon at the deCordova Museum in Massachusetts: Integrated Vision: Science, Nature, and Abstraction in the Art of Len Gittleman and György Kepes. Len Gittleman was our teacher in 1963-1964, and we revere him, but the description of the show brought me up short:

Gittleman’s Lunar Transformation portfolio is a series of ten vividly colored serigraphs created from black and white photographs taken during the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in 1971. Gittleman’s discerning use of color transforms the craters and crevices of the lunar surface into vibrant, colorful abstractions which aesthetically parallel the art movement of Abstract Expressionism. The serigraphs’ strong graphic presence reflects the awe-inspiring nature of their source material.

Wait a minnit, I found myself thinking, that’s not photography… and then I heard myself and had to laugh at stick-in-the-muddism. Of course it’s photography, just maybe not the comfortable and predictable sort that I know I like

As I’ve suggested in recent posts, visiting the Griffin Museum and Florence Henri and Qu’est-ce que la photographie exhibits has been ramifying across my own photographic life. This morning I woke up thinking about alternative presentations of an image that’s been a conundrum for me over more than 40 years: Poor Alice G.. I remembered that I’d once scanned a slide of the photo, but happened to reverse it, and I thought well why not? …and so




I’m not sure that either bit of trickery illuminates the tale of Poor Alice G. any further, or that these renderings have any place in Nova Scotia Faces, but the exercise did get me thinking about how confining a straight-ahead descriptive take on that gargantuan project would be.

Remember to breathe

Smacked upside the head

Sometimes it’s a bit of text, sometimes a phrase in a tune, sometimes a (photo-)graphic, but the experience is pretty much the same: a brief guffaw loosed at the sheer excellence/audacity/brio of the thing. Case in point, this from the end of a piece by Charles Simic, from New York Review of Books, which just rolled in via RSS:

Here, to give you an idea, is the beginning of a story called “Water Liars” from a collection of [Barry Hannah’s stories] called Airships:

When I am run down and flocked around by the world, I go down to Farte Cove off the Yazoo River and take my beers to the end of the pier where the old liars are still snapping and wheezing at one another. The line-up is always different, because they are always dying out, or succumbing to constipation, etc., whereupon they go back to the cabins and wait for a good day when they can come out and lie again, leaning on the rail with coats full of bran cookies. The son of the man the cove was named for is often out there. He pronounces his name Fartay, with a great French stress on the last syllable. Otherwise, you might laugh at his history or ignore it in favor of the name as it’s spelled on the sign.

I’m glad it’s not my name.

This poor dignified man has had to explain his nobility to the semiliterate of half of America before he could even begin a decent conversation with them. On the other hand, Farte, Jr., is a great liar himself. He tells about seeing ghost people around the lake and tell big loose ones about the size of the fish those ghost took out of Farte Cove in years past…

Having previously read the story and knowing what was coming, reading this far was all that was required for my purpose, which was to close my eyes and go to sleep with a smile on my face.

Maybe epiphany is a sufficiently weighty word to bear this freight of delight. I guess I could say that I live for such moments of glee, and this one sent me directly to Amazon to snag Hannah’s book on the Kindle.

A photographic example from the just-concluded trip to France is another suchlike, a scene I glimpsed for just a moment while ankling around in Pont-Aven (on the south coast of Brittany) and had the wit to capture:


Everything about this is just right: the apparent transparency of some of the figures, the dim reflection in the window glass through which I shot, the illusion of depth in the room, the moments of movement transfixed… I took a lot of pictures that I like in that fortnight, but this one seems to me the most glorious. I might never have seen the opportunity if I hadn’t just been to the Florence Henri exhibit at Jeu de Paume…

addendum: it occurred to me to try a bit of manipulation, inspired by the Qu’est-ce que la photographie? exhibit:

artful dreaming

I’ve been reading Will Gompertz What Are You Looking At? The surprising, shocking, and sometimes strange story of 150 years of modern art, and this morning woke from a dream in which I was conducting a seminar in looking at photographs, and presenting an exercise for the participants. I showed them three photographs and asked that they write a response to the question “What are you looking at?” for the three. The idea was that some would know the photographs and/or their makers already, and might write on the place of each in the photographer’s oeuvre; some would be seeing the images for the first time, and might respond more subjectively; some might respond from a technical perspective, discussing how the images were captured and processed; and some might come up with other entirely novel responses to the three pictures. These were the three that came clearly to mind in the dream:


In case they’re not familiar to you, the first is Edward Steichen’s 1903 portrait of financier J.P. Morgan (see discussion), the second is by the 18-year old Jacques-Henri Lartigue in 1912 (see discussion), and the third is from August Sander’s People of the 20th Century, taken in 1914 (see discussion).

I was just imaging the discussion that would result from everyone’s reading of each other’s responses when I woke up. What surprises me is how clear the whole thing was, the images and the process and some of the outcome.

What I love about Gompertz’ title is the various emphases one might give: WHAT are you looking at? What are you looking at? What are you LOOKING at? What are you looking at? All deliciously valid questions, of course, and applicable to any appreciation of visual material (which is just Gompertz’ point, natch). And pursuing this set of questions seems a worthwhile objective for the New Year.