History of Photography

History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 3



GUSTAVE LE GRAY  (collection)








Gustave Le Gray. Sailing Ship, 1857

Gustave Le Gray (see collection)

Gustave Le Gray combined the imaginative curiosity and skill of both artist and scientist. While still a student in the studio of the academic salon painter Paul Dclaroche, he became aware of photography but did not involve himself in the new medium until the end of the 1840s. His inability to survive as a painter in the overcrowded art field of Second Empire France kindled an enthusiasm for working with die paper negative. A strong interest in the chemistry of paint, applied now to the problems of the calotype, led him to perfect in 1849 the dry waxed-paper process that came to be utilized, at least briefly, by most of the major figures in mid- 19th-century French photography. Although Le Gray also had worked out a collodion process at the same time, he was uninterested in glass at first and did not publish either discovery until 1851, when they appeared in his publication Nouvcau Traite theorique et pratique de photographic sur papier et sur verve (New Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Photography on Paper and Glass), by which time Archer already had made the first public disclosure of a collodion method.

The instructor of many artists and intellectuals eager to learn photography, including Du Camp, Fcnton, Le Secq, Marville, and Negre, Le Gray was held in uniformly high esteem by his contemporaries for his ability to use light suggestively. He was invited to participate in important photographic projects, among mem the Missions heliqgraphiques, where he photographed by himself as well as with O. Mestral, and in 1856 he was asked to provide a reportage on the newly established Imperial Army camp at Chalons (pi. no. 199). Enshrouded in mist and surrounded by silent, empty terrain, the groups of soldiers in these images suggest an unworldly convocation, a vision that accorded with the emperor's almost religious regard for this military encampment. On his own, Le Gray made artistic calotype photographs in the Barbizon tradition at Fontainblcau forest in 1849 and five years later, in collodion, of the movement of clouds and sea at Sete (Cette) (pi. no. 116), and at Dieppe where he recorded Napoleon Ill's naval tleet. These images, exhibited repeatedly, were highly acclaimed, inviting a first prize at the 1855 Exposition Universelle.

In view of these successes, Le Gray's withdrawal from die photographic scene after 1858 may seem difficult to understand, but his situation reveals some of the problems confronting photographers in France in the 19th century. Lacking independent means, Le Gray was able to support himself by commercial photography—portraiture, technical illustration, reproductions of artwork—and indulge his high standards through the generosity of a patron, die Comte de Brigcs. However, as the medium itself became more competitive and commercial, and the count's patron-age ended, Le Gray found himself more interested in problems of light and pictorial organization than in making salable views that "were got up in a style that renders them a fit ornament for any drawing room." What his friend Nadar characterized as poor business sense was more probably Le Gray's reluctance to accept prevailing marketplace standards; in any event, he left family and associates and traveled to Italy, Malta, and finally Egypt, where he finished his career as professor of design in a polytechnic institute.

The acclaim accorded Le Gray was for the exceptional quality of his salt and albumen prints as well as for his innovative vision. His technical mastery of gold-chloride toning, which permitted the revelation of details buried in the deepest shadows, derived from a conception of printing as an integral aspect of an entire process by which die photographer transforms nature into art.

Gustave Le Gray. Pius IX's Railroad Car, 1859

Gustave Le Gray (see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Gustave Le Gray (1820–1884) is known as the most important French photographer of the nineteenth century because of his technical innovations in the still new medium of photography, his role as the teacher of other noted photographers, and the extraordinary imagination he brought to picture making.The Getty-Le Gray
Le Gray was originally trained as a painter, studying under Paul Delaroche, but crossed over to the new medium of photography in the early years of its development. He was more than just a photographer he expanded this new medium with his technical inventions. One of the most defining is that of the waxed-paper negative. This invention he developed and perfected in France around 1849 as stated in A World History Of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum.A World History of Photography Le Gray had also worked out a collodion process at the same time, but did not publish either discovery until 1851. This resulted in the collodion technology being accredited to Frederick Scott Archer who discovered his process in 1850 and then published it in 1851.
Later in life Le Gray expanded his horizons by touring the Mediterranean with the writer Alexandre Dumas, père. Le Gray then carried on to Lebanon and ending his journeys in Egypt where he became a professor of drawing. He died in 1884 in Cairo.

Gustave Le Gray. The Breaking Wave , Sete, 1857

Timothy O'Sullivan (see collection)

Timothy O'Suilivan came to landscape photography after four years of experience photographing behind the lines and on the batlefields of the Civil War. A former assistant in Mathew Brady's New York studio, in 1861 he had joined the group known as "Brady's Photographic Corps," working with Alexander Gardner. Because Brady refused to credit die work of individual photographers, Gardner, taking O'Sullivan along, established his own Washington firm to publish war views. War images taken by O'Sullivan arc wide-ranging in subject and direct in their message, including among them the weariness of inaction and continual waiting, and the horror of fields of the dead (pi. no. 209).

After the war, O'Suluvan, faced with the dullness of commercial studio work, discovered an optimum use for his energies and experience as a photographer on the survey teams that were being organized under civilian or militanry leadership to document wilderness areas west of the Mississippi. Departing from Nevada City with 9 x 12 inch and stereograph cameras, 125 glass plates, darkroom equip-ment, and chemicals, for more than two vears he explored the strange and inhospitable regions along the 40th Parallel with a group headed by the eminent geologist Clarence King. Following a brief period with the Darien Survey to the Isthmus of Panama, where bodi the humid atmosphere and the densely foliated terrain made photography difficult, he found another position on a western survey. As Weston Nacf has pointed out photography on die Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, as the expedition commanded by Lieutenant George M. Wheeler of the Army Corps of Engineers was called, "was not so much a scientific tool as it was a means of publicizing the Survey's accomplishments in the hopes of persuading Congress to fund military rather than civilian expeditions in the future."

O'Sullivarfs purpose in joining this team was more likely personal than political in diat he was allowed by Wheeler to be his own master, in charge of portions of the expedition, and dius did not have to take orders from geologists. Involved in the dramatic if not scientifically defensible exploit of attempting to ascend the Colorado River through the Grand Canvon, Wheeler noted O'Sullivan's professionalism in producing negatives in the face of all obstacles, including a near drowning. Following another brief period with King, O'Sullivan joined a Wheelerlcd survey to the Southwest where he documented not only geological formations but members of the pueblo and rock-dwelling tribes in the region of the Canyon dc Chelle (pi. no. 163). After 1875, O'Sullivan's problematical hcakh and the winding down of survey photography put an end to further involvement with die western landscape. Following a brief period in 1879 as photographer in the newly established United States Geological Survey, of which King was first director, and a position with the Treasury Department in Washington, O'Sullivan was forced by his tubercular condition to resign; he died a year later in Staten Island at age forty-two.

O'Sullivan approached western landscape with the documentarian's respect for the integrity of visible evidence and the camera artist's understanding of how to isolate and frame decisive forms and structures in nature. Beyond this, he had the capacity to invest inert matter with a sense of mysterious silence and timelessness; these qualities may be even more arresting to the modern eye than they were to his contemporaries, who regarded his images as accurate records rather than evocative statements.

TIMOTHY H. O'SULLIVAN. Black Canyon, Colorado River, from Camp 8, Looking above, 1871

Timothy H. O'Sullivan
(see collection)

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (c. 1840 – January 14, 1882) was a photographer prominent for his work on subjects in the American Civil War and the Western United States.
"The Harvest of Death": Union dead on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, photographed July 5–6, 1863, by Timothy O'SullivanO'Sullivan was born in New York City. As a teenager, he was employed by Mathew Brady. When the Civil War began in early 1861, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Union Army and, over the next year, fought in Beaufort, Port Royal, Fort Walker, and Fort Pulaski.
After being honorably discharged, he rejoined Brady's team. In July 1862, O'Sullivan followed the campaign of Maj. Gen. John Pope's Northern Virginia Campaign. By joining Alexander Gardner's studio, he had his forty-four photographs published in the first Civil War photographs collection, Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War. In July 1863, he created his most famous photograph, "The Harvest of Death," depicting dead soldiers from the Battle of Gettysburg. In 1864, following Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's trail, he photographed the Siege of Petersburg before briefly heading to North Carolina to document the siege of Fort Fisher. That brought him to the Appomattox Court House, the site of Robert E. Lee's surrender in April 1865.
From 1867 to 1869, he was official photographer on the United States Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel under Clarence King. The expedition began at Virginia City, Nevada, where he photographed the mines, and worked eastward. His job was to photograph the West to attract settlers. O'Sullivan's pictures were among the first to record the prehistoric ruins, Navajo weavers, and pueblo villages of the Southwest. In contrast to the Asian and Eastern landscape fronts, the subject matter he focused on was a new concept. It involved taking pictures of nature as an untamed, un-industrialized land without the use of landscape painting conventions. O'Sullivan combined science and art, making exact records of extraordinary beauty.
In 1870 he joined a survey team in Panama to survey for a canal across the isthmus. From 1871 to 1874 he returned to the southwestern United States to join Lt. George M. Wheeler's survey west of the One Hundredth Meridian. He faced starvation on the Colorado River when some of expedition's boats capsized; few of the 300 negatives he took survived the trip back East. He spent the last years of his short life in Washington, D.C., as official photographer for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Treasury Department.
O'Sullivan died in Staten Island of tuberculosis at age 42.


163. TIMOTHY H. O'SULLIVAN. Ancient Ruins in the Canyon de Chelle, New Mexico, 1873.
Albumen print-International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

The Western Landscape— Natural and Fabricated

This selection of early views of the American West suggests the dual role that the photograph played after the Civil War in the exploration and development of this relatively unknown part of the continent. Taken between the years 1867 and 1878, these pictures are the work of five among the numerous photographers who either accompanied geological survey teams, were employed by railroad companies, or were professionals with established studios in West Coast cities. Beyond their roles as documenters, all were inspired by the spectacular scale and breadth of the pristine wilderness landscape, by its strange rock formations, its steamy geysers, and its sparkling waterfalls. Using the cumbersome wet-plate process, they sought out the vantage points that might make it possible to recreate for Easterners a sense of the immensity and primordial silence of the region.

A number of the same photographers were called upon to document the building of rail lines, bridges, water sluices, and urban centers. Eadweard Muybridge produced a panorama of the young and growing metropolis of San Francisco, from which four of the thirteen mammoth (18 x 24 inch) plates are reproduced, showing cable cars, churches, and public and commercial buildings as well as dwellings laid out in a well-defined street system. As the frontier moved westward and industrialization began to change the character of the landscape, Americans increasingly turned to the photograph as a means of both celebrating technology and of expressing reverence for the landscape being threatened by its advance.

164. CARLETON E. WATKINS. Magenta Flume, Nevada Co., California, c. 1871.
Albumen print. Baltimore Museum of Art; Purchase with exchange funds from the
Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; and Partial Gift of George H. Dalsheimer, Baltimore.

165. EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE. Panorama of San Francisco from California Street Hill, 1878.
Albumen prints. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

166. CARLETON E. WATKINS. Multnomah Fall Cascade, Columbia River, 1867.
Albumen print. Gilman Paper Company, New York.

167. FRANK J. HAYNES. Geyser, Yellowstone, Wyoming, c. 1885.
Albumen print. Daniel Wolf, Inc., New York.

168. ANDREW f. RUSSELL. Hanging Rock, Foot of Echo Canyon, Utah, 1867-68.
Albumen print. Western Americana Collection.

169. WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON. Grand Canyon of the Colorado, 1870-80.
Albumen print. Prnate collection.


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