Delicate and Exquisite – the work of Eliot Porter
Today was a good day at work. Firstly because I was late (which makes the day shorter) and secondly because I had a long lunch, which I don’t usually do. The lunch was had with the lovely Anne O’Hehir (NGA Assistant Curator of Photography) and with Sydney based gallerists, Mary Meyer and her lovely husband and photographer, Bob (who run Meyer Gallery in Darlinghurst). We ended up giving them a whirlwind tour of our photography collection in storage. And this is where we looked at the work of Eliot Porter, who I’m amazed I’d not heard of before (OK, OK I’m not really a landscape photographer!). The Getty Centre had a show of Porter’s work in 2006 called In the Realm of Nature. Here is their blurb:
American photographer Eliot Porter was among the first to successfully bridge the gap between photography as a fine art and its roots in science and technology. Porter promoted the use of color photography from the 1940s until the mid-1970s, a time when most serious photographers worked in black and white. Porter’s work was widely published and used as a powerful visual argument for nature conservation. He explored new ways of presenting the natural world and his artistic and technical contributions to bird and landscape photography transformed these genres.
The work is simply…. exquisite. They are dye transfer prints, a process that William Eggleston would later use extensively and brilliantly. However it was Porter who would use it first with his incredibly delicate images of nature (some calling him the true ‘father of colour photography’… Mmm, not so much Eggleston?). Here are some images, which I have to point out are quite poor, web reproductions and really don’t do the works justice. The prints in the NGA collection (part of a portfolio edition of only 250), are, in a word…. stunning.
Aspens by Lake, Pike National Forest, Colorado, September 14, 1959
Looking South Over Upper Cascade Lake, near Keene, Adirondack Mountains, New York, February 1, 1965
It’s too bad that this process no longer exists. I know there are a few people who still use it, making their own chemistry…. I wonder what the contemporary alternative to dye transfer prints would be?
These images are some more of Porter’s that I found online and really love, though we don’t have them in the NGA collection unfortunately. Too bad cos it would be divine to see them in all their dye transfer glory……
Peeling Birch Bark, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, June 24, 1969
Rose Petals on Beach, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, July 1, 1971
Crab Legs Left by Crows, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, July 17, 1949
(All Eliot Porter images are © 1990, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Bequest of the artist)
Note the date on the last photograph… 1949 people!!! Looking at these works also affirmed that large format is the direction I want to take my work (Porter’s prints are 8×10″ contacts). I’m completely excited about new ideas (very different to my usual work) that I’m developing for after my studies, though at this point (mostly for financial reasons) I’ll stick with the 4×5! Baby steps right…
Lastly, I have some work in a group show called Surfacing at the new Belconnen Arts Centre. Quite appropriate as it’s a selection of four images from my Belco series, interestingly no portraits. Anyway, if you’re in town and want to check out our brand spanking new gallery, come along.
Oh, except I have to mention that you can’t come to the opening unless you get an invite from the Centre directly… To those I spammed with an invite, my sincere apologies. I got into trouble after the Director got wind that I’d forwarded it on…. Oops…. Come along another day…. some great paths by the Lake to rollerskate on!