Monday, February 16, 2009

The Photography of Carl Van Vechten

The Following Are Photographs Made By the American Photographer and Author, From Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Carl Van Vechten--These Are Prints Van Vechten Made in His Central Park West Studio in Manhattan, Numbered, and Signed on the Reverses From 1934 Until the 1950s. They Were all Once Owned by a The Daily Growler Staff Member and Are Now in Other Collections

"Self-Portrait" 1934

"Self-Portrait" 1935
"Peach Trees at Armonk, New York" 1934
"Mary Martin," the Actress, 1950.

"Charlotte Holloway, Blues Singer" 1953
"Chester Dale," 1940--Stock market whiz who collected modern American art and helped found the Museum of Modern Art and was a patron of Frida Kahlo.
From Brandeis Univ. Carl Van Vechten Photography Collection Catalog:

In 1932 Van Vechten moved on to a new career, from novelist to photographer. While he was always interested in photography, it was the introduction of the new Leica camera, portable and using the inexpensive 35 mm film, that caused him to take photography seriously. Van Vechten took thousands of photographs on all subjects, but his favorite subject, and the one he is most known for, is portraiture. Many of the portraits by Van Vechten are of friends and acquaintances in the arts world he moved in. Because of his interest and friends in Harlem, Van Vechten took many photographs of notable African-Americans, documenting an important part of early 20th-century American history ignored and neglected by others.

Van Vechten's photographic career lasted until his death in 1964 at the age of 83. He created more than 15,000 photographs during his career, attempting to chronicle the artistic world of his time. By the time he started his photographic career Van Vechten was financially secure and never had to worry about commercial success. It was only after Van Vechten's death that a serious market for art photography was established; thus Van Vechten was able to pursue his own interests and personal aesthetic.


From The African-American Review, Spring, 1995

In 1932 he [Van Vechten] became fascinated with possibilities of the Leica camera, just then being introduced in the United States, and gave up writing in its favor. Although he experimented with over- and underexposing his images, and with pulling and burning them for contrast, he never retouched any of his prints, nor did he ever crop them radically. Eventually his work became almost resolutely documentary, although he always said he didn't see any reason that it couldn't be beautiful, too. But Van Vechten could be his own worst enemy in the darkroom when he was eager to share his latest efforts with friends and sometimes failed to wash his prints free of their chemicals. As a result, many of his own silver gelatin prints have severely deteriorated.

Unlike most photographers, he made finished prints of nearly every picture he took. When most people recall the Yousuf Karsh portraits of Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway, or even the portraits of Carl Van Vechten himself by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott, they usually know of a single image in each case. Contrarily, there are about twenty Van Vechten portraits of Bessie Smith, all made during a single sitting, several of which have been reproduced; about forty of Marian Anderson during a midnight-to-dawn marathon session with some costume changes; probably that many of Paul Robeson and of Langston Hughes from several sittings over the years; and well over 100 portraits of Ethel Waters. The variety, for all its interest, leads to a lot of unevenness. Van Vechten claimed that he threw out "anything that isn't perfection"; even so, there are better and worse portraits of nearly every subject in his catalog.

Although Van Vechten did most of his work in the studio in his apartment, against appropriate backdrops, Byrd has included some rare al fresco shots: a serene Bricktop at Place Pigalle; a troubled Countee Cullen in Central Park; a very young Lena Horne at Joe Louis's training camp, caught seemingly in motion. And there are some surprises: Aaron Douglas photographed against the colorful murals he had painted on the walls of Van Vechten's bathroom in 1927; Ralph Bunche, the first African American Nobel Peace Prize winner; Cab Calloway, quiet as a still-life and a strong contrast to Van Vechten's better-known hi-de-ho pictures of him; Diahann Carroll at eighteen; Amiri Baraka - then LeRoi Jones - at the time his first book was published.


We Had Totally Forgotten: Buddy Miles Died Last February

Buddy Miles brought Jimi Hendrix back down home, took that British bullshit out of Jimi's soul, and brought him back to this soil in more ways than one in terms of the music he made with Buddy in the Experience.
Back to Reality
We here at The Daily Growler have been blowing the trumpets heralding the arrival of the one god of infinite design we believe in, the god of fractiles and graphically designed new puzzling mazes for we the people of this god to try and "survive" throughout until we reach the cheese at its end--we'd rather think of it in terms of Durrel's novel about going into the Minotaur's cave. We defend Darwinian evolution of the individual survivor--of the fittest in terms of the nonseperation of mind and body--the fittest in terms of reasoning and not anything purely physical (check out Stephen Hawkings or remember Ray Charles)--we believe in survival in terms of a child putting his or her hand in a flame and learning on-the-spot a definition of the original words "Yes" and "No" (it used to be called "reckoning" but now it should have been called "computing" because that's what it was we were doing when we were children learning the meanings of "Yes" and "No"). In most languages you can figure out pretty easily how to speak the yeses and nos. "Si." "No." "Oui." "Non." "Ja." "Nein." Easy as pie. The first words babies recognize are "Yes" and "No" in some form or another (usually accompanied by the shaking of the head sideways for "no" and shaking the head up and down for "yes").
Here's a couple of paragraphs about "yes" and "no" questionings in various languages from the amazing Wikipedia:

Languages have various systems for affirmatives and negatives, named the two-form, three-form, and four-form systems, depending on how many words for yes and no they employ. Early Middle English had a four-form system, but Modern English has reduced this to a two-form system. Several other languages have three-form systems. Some languages do not answer yes-no questions with single words meaning yes or no. At least one—Welsh—is widely but erroneously believed to have no words for yes and no. In fact it has, these being but one of the many ways in which yes-no questions are answered in Welsh. Welsh and Finnish are among several languages that employ echo answers rather than words for yes and no in such circumstances. Some languages, such as Latin, have no yes-no word systems at all.

The differences among the systems, the fact that in different languages the various words for yes and no have different parts of speech and different usages, and the fact that some languages have no yes-no word system at all, makes idiomatic translation difficult.


So that "live and learn" sort of child-like understanding and being able to identify "yes" and "no" in definite ways is the surviving we here at the The Daily Growler Think Tank are talking about, or jabbering about, depending on your understanding of the words we use or the way we corral English--though several of us are multilingual--like Franny & Zoe can speak Hebrew and a little Turkish--and we once heard thegrowlingwolf speaking French, awful French, yes, but French just the same. We overheard him trying to make out at a bar in a former French colony with a French woman he had been quite interested in all afternoon at the pool--plus, he was once married to a Tex-Mex woman who spoke fluent Spanish and pretty good Italian--and was planning to go to Middlebury College to study Chinese.

This is a sermon that is preaching, "Hey, folks, Chaos is here. Get used to it."

According to supercomputer nuts, Chaos can be figured out--the "tree" theory of all system evolutions and deevolutions--but Chaos is ever changing, like fractiles, except most fractiles have a steady state, while Chaos is never steady. Sort of reminds you of the Mad Max movies--remember them? Ah, sweet Chaos! Life is now like a chess game. Bobby Fischer was so chaotic for this reason. Computing every move and every move for many moves ahead will be necessary to survive in this our now Chaotic world. But we are getting too deep...much too deep. The solution is to trash the whole system and start all over--make a bold new move and trick Chaos into looking the other way while we repair ourselves, which is really what we have to do. The USA right this minute is the Chaotic center of the world, but once Chaos takes over, its wings spread wide--it will takeover, and it is doing it, the whole world! How about the judges sentencing teenagers to private-operated kid detention centers (kid prisons) for several millions of dollars in kickbacks?! That's what's headed our ways by the droves--a world of hustlers who may be already out looking for impoverished peoples to enslave. As long as Americans believe that money is wealth we'll be frantically looking for anyway we can get money to keep up our legendary American Dream lifestyles at that ultimate dream level. At the level of SUVs, and soccer moms, and Oprah's telling us what to read, and a continuing influx into the ruined system of extremely dumb and helpless children. And we'll have to learn to wrestle with corporate schemers who will be dying of thrist for money, anybody's money, and then we'll have to contend with the predators these schemers have trained, and soon we'll be dealing with ultraswindlers. And, too, and think of this, we may have to begin again being concerned about graverobbers--think of the valuable stuff buried in the coffins of our cemeteries! So, like we said, as long as we make money equal to wealth, then we're going have a hell of time--muggings are coming back--streetsmarts will be needed in places like L.A. and New York City. In New York City we just have to say to ourselves, "Well, here we go again. The world against New York City." That's how the paranoia starts--we've got to buck up against FEARS. Fears are fictional, you know.

for The Daily Growler

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