Category Archives: Quotes

Edward Steichen – To Catch an Instant

“Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. [It is] a major force in explaining man to man.”

Steichen Quoted in Time Magazine, “To Catch the Instant” 7 April 1961

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Edward Jean Steichen (March 27, 1879 – March 25, 1973) photographed by
Fred Holland Day (1901)

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Edward Steichen. Self-Portrait with Studio Camera. c. 1917

 

Born in Luxembourg, Steichen moved to the United States in 1881.  1894, at the age of fifteen, Steichen began a four-year lithography apprenticeship with the American Fine Art Company of Milwaukee. After hours, he would sketch and draw, and began to teach himself to paint.

Having come across a camera shop near to his work, he visited frequently until he bought his first camera, a secondhand Kodak box “detective” camera, in 1895. Steichen and his friends who were also interested in drawing and photography pooled together their funds, rented a small room in a Milwaukee office building, and began calling themselves the Milwaukee Art Students League.

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The artist Alphonse Mucha, as photographed by Edward Steichen, c. 1895

Steichen met Alfred Stieglitz in 1900, while stopping in New York City en route to Paris from his home in Milwaukee. In that first meeting, Stieglitz expressed praise for Steichen’s background in painting and bought three of Steichen’s photographic prints.

 He was elected a member of London’s Linked Ring Brotherhood in 1901.
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Camera Work

In 1902, when Stieglitz was formulating what would become Camera Work, he asked Steichen to design the logo for the magazine with a custom typeface. Steichen was the most frequently featured photographer in the journal.

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Edward Steichen, The Flatiron c. 1903

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Edward Steichen, The Big White Cloud, 1903

Edward Steichen + The Pond - Moonrise + 1904 + platinum print with applied colorMetmuseum
Edward Steichen – The Pond – Moonrise, 1904
Edward Steichen, Moonlit Landscape, 1903
Edward Steichen, Moonlit Landscape, 1903
Cooper_s Bluff-Moonlight Strollers, 1905
Edward Steichen, Cooper’s Bluff-Moonlight Strollers, 1905

In 1904, Steichen began experimenting with colour photography. He was one of the first people in the United States to use the Autochrome Lumière process. In 1905, Stieglitz and Steichen created the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, which eventually became known as 291 after its address. It presented among the first American exhibitions of Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brâncuși.

Edward Steichen, Rodin, le Monument à Victor Hugo et le Penseur, 1902

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Edward Steichen, Rodin, le Monument à Victor Hugo et le Penseur, 1902

In late summer 1908 Rodin moved the plaster of his sculpture of the French writer Honoré de Balzac out of his studio and into the open air so that Steichen, who disliked its chalky aspect in the daylight, could photograph it by the moon. Waiting through several exposures as long as an hour each, Steichen made this exposure at 11 p.m., when the moonlight transformed the plaster into a monumental phantom rising above the brooding nocturnal landscape. Steichen recalled that when he presented his finished prints some weeks later, an elated Rodin exclaimed: “You will make the world understand my Balzac through your pictures. They are like Christ walking on the desert.”

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“Open Sky” Rodin’s Balzac 1908 Reproduction:© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1911, Steichen was “dared” by Lucien Vogel, the publisher of Jardin des Modes and LaGazette du Bon Ton , to promote fashion as a fine art by the use of photography. Steichen took photos of gowns designed by couturier Paul Poiret, which were published in the April 1911 issue of the magazine Art et Décoration.

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Edward Steichen, a Paul Poiret design

According to Jesse Alexander, this is “… now considered to be the first ever modern fashion photography shoot. That is, photographing the garments in such a way as to convey a sense of their physical quality as well as their formal appearance, as opposed to simply illustrating the object.”

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Edward Steichen, with what is deemed is the first “fashion photoshoot”, 1911

Steichen practiced painting in Paris intermittently between 1900 and 1922; there he met Rodin and was exposed to modern art movements, and was thus able to advise Stieglitz on exhibition selections.
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Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and His Daughter Katherine

“The break between Stieglitz and Steichen came on the verge of the United States’ entry into World War I, perhaps chiefly because Steichen was a dedicated Francophile and Stieglitz was openly sympathetic to Germany. Or perhaps it was because Steichen had come to believe that Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession and its instruments—291 and Camera Work—had become the vehicles for a personality cult.

After the war he replaced the rather vaporous symbolism of his earlier Pictorialist style with optical clarity and greater objectivity of description. Steichen spent several years experimenting with realistic effects of light, tone, and shadow; during this period, he famously photographed a white cup and saucer against a black velvet background more than one thousand times, hoping to achieve a perfect rendering of subtle gradations of white, black, and gray.

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Edward Steichen, Lighters

In a further reaction to what now seemed to him pious Photo-Secessionist attitudes, Steichen threw himself wholeheartedly into commercial photography, establishing a successful commercial studio when he moved to New York City in 1923. He devoted the next 15 years of his life primarily to fashion photography and celebrity portraiture for Condé Nast publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair and to advertising photography for the J. Walter Thompson agency. Most notably, as part of his work for Condé Nast, Steichen created striking portraits of figures such as Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin that helped to define the era.

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Edward Steichen, Isadora Duncan at the Columns of the Parthenon, Athens, 1921

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Edward Steichen, Gloria Swanson 1924
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Edward Steichen, Martha Graham 1931
Edward Steichen, White, 1935
Edward Steichen, Study in White for Vogue, 1935
He closed his very successful studio on January 1, 1938, and spent much of the next four years pursuing his long-time avocation of plant breeding at his home in Connecticut, concentrating on the delphinium in particular.
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Edward Steichen with his delphiniums, 1938
One month after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. Navy made Steichen a lieutenant commander in charge of directing a photographic record of the naval war in the Pacific.
In 1947 Steichen was named director of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, a position he would hold until his retirement 15 years later. “The Family of Man,” an exhibition he curated in 1955, was arguably the most important work of art in his long career. The exhibition was based on the concept of human solidarity, and Steichen selected 503 images from countless prints submitted from all over the world. It is said that the exhibition was seen by almost nine million people in 37 countries. Steichen went on to curate many smaller exhibitions at the museum, some of which were the first substantial shows of the work of important younger photographers, thus continuing his role as a tireless advocate of the medium throughout the remaining years of his career. His autobiography, A Life in Photography, was published in 1963.
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Portrait of Edward Steichen by Philippe Halsman, 1955
Sources:
International Centre Photography: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/edward-steichen

 

“He was an illumination thrown upon life.”

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” Specialism consists in seeing the things of the material world as well as those of the spiritual world in their original and consequential ramifications. The highest human genius is that which starts from the shadows of abstraction to advance into the light of specialism. (Specialism, species, sight, speculation, seeing all, and that at one glance; speculum, the mirror or means of estimating a thing by seeing it in its entirety)” ~ Honore de Balzac

 

Balzac was standing before the fireplace of that dear room where I have seen so many remarkable men and women come and go. He was not tall, though the light on his face and the mobility of his figure prevented me from noticing his stature. His body swayed with his thought; there seemed at times to be a space between him and the floor; occasionally he stooped as though to gather an idea at his feet, and then he rose on them to follow the flight of his thought above him. At the moment of my entrance he was carried away by the subject of a conversation then going on with Monsieur and Madame de Girardin, and only interrupted himself for a moment to give me a keen, rapid, gracious look of extreme kindness.

He was stout, solid, square at the base and across the shoulders. The neck, chest, body and thighs were powerful, with something of Mirabeau’s amplitude, but without heaviness. His soul was apparent, and seemed to carry everything lightly, gaily, like a supple covering, not in the least like a burden. His size seemed to give him power, not to deprive him of it. His short arms gesticulated easily; he talked as an orator speaks. His voice resounded with the somewhat vehement energy of his lungs, but it had neither roughness nor sarcasm nor anger in it; his legs, on which he rather swayed himself, bore the torso easily; his hands, which were large and plump, expressed his thought as he waved them. Such was the outward man in that robust frame. But in presence of the face it was difficult to think of the structure. That speaking face, from which it was not easy to remove one’s eye, charmed and fascinated you; his hair was worn in thick masses; his black eyes pierced you like darts dipped in kindliness; they entered confidingly into yours like friends. His cheeks were full and ruddy; the nose well modeled, though rather long; the lips finely outlined, but full and raised at the corners; the teeth irregular and notched. His head was apt to lean to one side, and then, when the talk excited him, it was lifted quickly with an heroic sort of pride.

But the dominant expression of his face, greater than even that of intellect, was the manifestation of goodness and kindheartedness. He won your mind when he spoke, but he won your heart when he was silent. No feeling of envy or hatred could have been expressed by that face; it was impossible that it should seem otherwise than kind. But the kindness was not that of indifference; it was loving kindness, conscious of its meaning and conscious of others; it inspired gratitude and frankness, and defied all those who knew him not to love him. A childlike merriment was in his aspect; here was a soul at play; he had dropped his pen to be happy among friends, and it was impossible not to be joyous where he was . ~ Alphonse de Lamartine

From Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901], at sacred-texts.com Chapter 12 Honoré de Balzac.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/cc/cc21.htm

 

For those who read French, you can read Lamartine’s work “Balzac et ses ouevres online at https://archive.org/details/balzacetsesoeuvr00lama

 

and Honore de Balzac, by Albert Keim and Louis Lumet at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3625/3625-h/3625-h.htm


 

The Perennial Philosophy of Aldous Huxley

220px-PerennialPhilsophy“Knowledge is a function of being.” – Aldous Huxley

“Based upon the direct experience of those who have fulfilled the necessary conditions of such knowledge, this teaching is expressed most succinctly in the Sanskrit formula, tat tvam asi (“That art thou”); the Atman, or immanent eternal Self, is one with Brahman, the Absolute Principle of all existence; and the last end of every human being is to discover the fact for himself, to find out Who he really is.” – Aldous Huxley

“Mr. Huxley quotes from the Chinese Taoist philosophers, from followers of Buddha and Mohammed, from the Brahmin scriptures and from Christian mystics ranging from St John of the Cross to William Law, giving preference to those whose writings, often illuminated by genius, are unfamiliar to the modern reader.”

The final paragraph of the cover text:

“In this profoundly important work, Mr. Huxley … provides us with an absolute standard of faith by which we can judge both our moral depravity as individuals and the insane and often criminal behaviour of the national societies we have created.”

Free download or read online from Archive.org https://archive.org/details/perennialphilosp035505mbp

The Guest House: Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

The Guest House

This human being is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

Both the landscape and its beholder – Simone de Beauvoir

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Formerly, I had been quite satisfied with myself, but I had taken very little trouble to increase my self-knowledge; from now on, I would stand outside myself, watch over and observe myself; in my diary I had long conversations with myself. I was entering a world whose newness stunned me. I learned to distinguish between distress and melancholy, lack of emotion and serenity; I learned to recognize the hesitations of the heart, and its ecstasies, the splendor of great renunciations, and the subterranean murmurings of hope. I entered into exalted trances, as on those evenings when I used to gaze upon the sky full of moving clouds behind the distant blue of the hills; I was both the landscape and its beholder: I existed only through myself, and for myself… My path was clearly marked: I had to perfect, enrich and express myself in a work of art that would help others to live.
― Simone de Beauvoir

Walking in Two Worlds – a letter from Carl G Jung to Edward Thornton

20th July 1958

Dear Edward,

The question you asked me is -I’m afraid- beyond my competence. It is a question of fate in which you should not be influenced by any outer arbitrary influence. As a rule I am all for walking in two worlds at once since we are gifted with two legs, remembering that spirit is pneuma which means “moving air”. It is a wind that all too easily can lift you up from the solid earth and carry you away on uncertain waves. It is good therefore, as a rule, to keep at least one foot upon terra firma. We are still in the body and thus under the rule of heavy matter. Also it is equally true that matter not moved by the spirit is dead and empty.

Over against this general truth one has to be flexible enough to admit all sorts of exceptions, as they are the unavoidable accompaniments of all rules. The spirit has no merit in itself and it has a peculiarly irrealizing effect if not counterbalanced by its material opposite. Thus think again, and if you feel enough solid under your feet, follow the call of the spirit.

My best wishes.

Yours cordially,

C.G. Jung

Synesius – A letter to Hypatia: On Dreams

In a letter to Hypatia of Alexandria, of whom he was a student, Synesius of Cyrene wrote that his essay, or as he called it “book” was:

“[…] set up as a thank-offering to the imaginative faculties. It contains an inquiry into the whole imaginative soul, and into some other points which have not yet been handled by any Greek philosopher. But why should one dilate on this? This work was completed, the whole of it, in a single night, or rather, at the end of a night, one which also brought the vision enjoining me to write it. There are two or three passages in the book in which it seemed to me that I was some other person, and that I was one listening to myself amongst others who were present.

Even now this work, as often as I go over it, produces a marvelous effect upon me, and a certain divine voice envelops me as in poetry. Whether this my experience is not unique, or may happen to another, on all this you will enlighten me, for after myself you will be the first of the Greeks to have access to the work.”

An extract from On Dreams:

“[…] divinations are amongst the best vocations of man; and if all things are signs appearing through all things, inasmuch as they are brothers in a single living creature, the cosmos, so also they are written in characters of every kind, just as those in a book some are Phoenician, some Egyptian, and others Assyrian.[1]

The scholar reads these, and he is a scholar who learns by his natural bent. One reads some of them and another reads others, one reads more and another less. In the same way one reads them by syllables, another reads the complete phrase, another the whole story. In like manner do the learned see the future, some understanding stars, and of these, one the fixed stars, another those flames which shoot across the sky. Again, there are those who read it from the entrails, and from the cries of birds, and from their perches and flights. To others also what are termed omens are manifest, written indications these of things to be, and again voices and encounters otherwise intended, for all things have their significance for every one. [1285] In the same way, if birds had had wisdom, they would have compiled an art of divining the future from men, just as we have from them; for we are to them, just as they are to us, alike young and old, very old and very fortunate. It must needs be, I think, the parts of this great whole, since it all shares one feeling and one breath, belong to each other. They are, in fact, limbs of one entire body, and may not the spells of the magicians be even such as these? Obviously, for charms are cast from one part of it to another, as signals are given, and he is a sage who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe. One thing he attracts to himself through the agency of another thing, for he has present with him pledges of things which are for the most part far away, to wit, voices, substances, figures. And as when the bowel is in pain, another part suffers also with it, so a pain in the finger settles in the groin,[2] although there be many organs between these parts which feel nothing.

This is because they are both portions of one living organism, and there is that which binds them one to the other more than to other things. Even to some god, of those who dwell within the universe, a stone from hence and a herb is a befitting offering; for in sympathizing with these he is yielding to nature and is bewitched. Thus the harp-player who has sounded the highest note does not sound the sesquioctavus next, but rather strikes the epitrite and the nete, a heritage today from a more ancient state of harmony.

But there is in the cosmos, even as in human relationship, a certain discord also; for the universe is not one homogeneous thing but a unity formed of many. There are parts of it which agree and yet battle with other parts, and the struggle of these only contributes to a harmonious unity of the whole, just as the lyre is a system of responsive and harmonious notes.[3] The unity resulting from the opposites is the harmony of both the lyre and the cosmos. Archimedes the Sicilian asked for a point of support outside of the earth wherefrom he might prop himself against the whole earth, for he said that as long as he was himself upon the earth he had no power over it. But the man, howso great his knowledge of the nature of the universe may be, once placed outside of it, could no longer make any use of his wisdom. He uses the universe against itself; accordingly his touch with it once lost, he will watch it in vain, and the lifeless symbols only would then be recorded. And small wonder, for whatever of the divine elements is outside the cosmos can in no wise be moved by sorcery.

He sits apart and careth not. nor taketh any thought thereof.[4]

It is the nature of pure reason not to be deflected; it is only the emotional element which may be cajoled. Wherefore the multitude of things in the universe and their relationship furnish the bulk of the subject-matter in the initiations and prophecies. There is a multitude of the discordant elements, but a relationship is the unity of things existing. Now, as to initiations, let not our law-abiding discourse noise them abroad; there is no offense, however, in explaining divination.”

Letters of Synesius of Cyrene to Hypatia of Alexandria http://www.livius.org/su-sz/synesius/synesius_letter_154.html

 

 

Full text of Synesius On Dreams http://www.livius.org/su-sz/synesius/synesius_dreams_02.html

 

 

Arts require a living body to interpret them: Lorca on Duende

“All arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present.” – Federico García Lorca

“When we acknowledge duende, when we allow ourselves to look at it squarely and invite it into our experience… in those moments we are capable of true transformation. Without integrating an embodied understanding of the truth that this moment – this project, this relationship, our entire lives – will ultimately shift and expire, all of our actions will be undermined with a false sense of permanence. May everything I do take the impermanence of my own life into account. I care for my body not in spite of, but rather because one day, not too long from now, it will rot into the ground. I pursue my passions believing that someday, as whatever-it-is that these passions are made of continues to exist after my death, this incomprehensible assemblage of something will be enriched because of how I chose to shape it when I was alive: I am a throughput. Upon my expiration, may the energy that was me be more capable of creative expression, more self-aware, and better able to love because of the work that I did while I was alive.” ~ Lorca

 

Balzac: The more he saw

The more he saw, the more he doubted. He watched men narrowly, and saw how, beneath the surface, courage was often rashness; and prudence, cowardice; generosity, a clever piece of calculation; justice, a wrong; delicacy, pusillanimity; honesty, a modus vivendi; and by some strange dispensation of fate, he must see that those who at heart were really honest, scrupulous, just, generous, prudent or brave were held cheaply by their fellow-men.
‘What a cold-blooded jest!’ said he to himself. ‘It was not devised by a God.’
From that time forth he renounced a better world, and never uncovered himself when a Name was pronounced, and for him the carven saints in the churches became works of art”
― Honoré de Balzac