Photographer of the Day: Nadar

Nadar

b. 1820 d. 1910

Today’s Photographer of the Day is Nadar, lesser known as Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, one of the most famous early photographers and an overall outstanding human being. He didn’t just take pictures, but he was also a caricaturist and an aviation enthusiast– perhaps one of the first. He was also homies with Jules Verne, and anyone who is friends with Jules Verne is a friend of mine.

So, let’s begin with the most important thing:

HOMEBOY HAD A HOT AIR BALLOON. HOW HARDCORE IS THAT?

Nadar was well known for taking aerial photographs of Paris from his own personal balloon.

I seriously can’t handle this guy. He took many portraits of people who are considered famous today, and man, he also had a good time doing it.

Photograph of Michel Eugène Chevreul with, I think, Nadar. I know that hair anywhere.

This elegant yet risque portrait of Sarah Bernhardt probz has a good story.

Sarah Bernhardt, Pierrot dans la pantonime– I wonder what conversation preceded this gem. “Hey. Sarah, wanna clown around?”

“Nadar pls.”

“No, really, here’s a clown suit.”

I wonder if this guy, Caran d’Ache, was trying to be serious here. And Nadar was like “Nah, let’s make this ridic because trollin'”

Also, Nadar liked to take self portraits. In his balloon. That was “flying” in his studio.

I would seriously love to be besties with Nadar. Home boy was the coolest. Let me prove how cool he was with a story:

My home boy Nadar loved balloons, so he asked this one guy to build him a hella big balloon. Apparently, Nadar’s homie Jules Verne was inspired by this and wrote Five Weeks in a Balloon. Sadly, the balloon was damaged after the second flight. What’s crazy to me was Nadar was like: “You know the future of flying? Heavier than air machines. Because science.” And, since Verne and Nadar had the greatest bromance of all time, they created “The Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Means of Heavier than Air Machines.” That’s a mouthful. I guess it could be TSFTEOALBMOHTAM for short. But I think sneezing would also work.

Nadar was also the first person to use artificial light in photography, since he was bein’ his self, takin’ photos in the catacombs because you only live once, right?

He also lent his studio to the Impressionists for their first ever exhibition. Did I mention home boy was the coolest?

I mean, I’d be friends with him:

Work it, Naddie.

That’s all for Nadar, the original MVP. The next PotD will be Catherine Opie, so keep an eye out for that gem.

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Man Ray

Man Ray

b.1890 d. 1976

 Today’s PotD is Emmanuel Radnitzky, who went by the name Man Ray. He actually refused to acknowledge his original name, which idk why**, because anyone with “Rad” as a part of their last name won the last name lottery. But, whatever Man Ray, you do you.

** I actually found out that he shortened his name because his family was afraid of antisemitism. That is NOT very rad at all. Way to go, America. Way. To. Go.

And we’re not talking about this Man Ray.

Man Ray was buddies with some names we are largely familiar with today: Dali, Picasso, Duchamp, Joyce, Stein, and Ernst, among many others. He was a part of that cool kid’s group at the beginning of the 20th century. He thought of himself as a painter, but it is actually his photographs that he is well known for.

He discovered solarization, and made his own photograms, which he called “Rayographs,” because when you’re Man Ray, you can do what you want, like name things after yourself. Who wouldn’t? #swag

Hello my name is Man Ray and I do photography without a camera. #soavantgarde #coolerthanyou #swag

Man Ray also did normal things like portraits, notably of his super neat-o friends, like Joyce and Stein.James Joyce, being the moody writer he is. Much agony. Very art.

Manny, get my good side. Picasso painted my bad side and I’m still salty about it.

So, he was the man. He did fashion photography, made avant-garde films, and even hung out with Duchamp to make readymades. He also said some pretty zen things about photography and art that make you go “whoa Man (Ray.)” You may even write one down in your sketchbook for inspiration.

“To create is divine, to reproduce is human.”

“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.”

“I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions.”

Word.

Man Ray had a hand in the beginnings of the first modern art collection, and has been referred to, many times, as one of the most important artists in modern art history.

So, that’s Man Ray for you! What a guy.

The next PotD will be Nadar. Keep an eye out, and if you want to read about more photographers, be sure to check out the Photographer of the Day tab!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Belle Johnson

Belle Johnson

b. 1864, d. 1945

We’re skipping out on contemporary photography this time to talk about Belle Johnson, a woman photographer who does not get the attention she deserves. She is famous, but in the kind of way that no one cares. You get me?

Btw, we’re not talking about this Belle

We’re talking about THIS Belle

Just had to clear that up.

I adore this woman. She graduated the top of her class at her college, and went on to teach, but was like “nah man, not for me,” and left that job. SHE LEFT A JOB BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T LIKE IT. How many people go to school for a job that they don’t like, but keep working at it anyway? But yes, homegurl quit being a teacher and went to work at a photography studio. She ended up buying the studio within a year, and taught herself how to take nice photos with photography magazines.

Talk about self-motivation. It took me two hours to finally shower today, and Belle here is buying studios and wrecking expectations. Oh, and get this, her studio burned down. So she got a new one. Say what?

Johnson was one of the founding fathers mothers of the Photographers’ Association in Missouri, traveled around to keep up with the latest photo knowledge, and won countless awards for her photography. She is one of my biggest inspirations, because it seems like she did it all and she did it well. Good job, Belle. I wanna be like you.

But let’s look at the work that made Belle Johnson so important:

Three Women

Kittens

Innocence

Johnson was obviously the first photos-of-cats lady, way before icanhascheezburger got on that. She has a lot of pictures of kitties, so if you’re into that, go ahead and look ’em up.

The thing about her work is that while she was working as a studio photographer, she was also producing her own work. That takes a TON of self-discipline, since a lot of professionals feel like they just don’t have the time to make work they want to make. But, we all know that Belle was not lacking self-discipline, so there ya go.

Her photo Three Women, is one of my all time favorites. I used to have EXTREMELY long hair, so I was like “At least my hair wasn’t THAT long.”

There you have it. Belle Johnson is important and don’t you forget it. There aren’t nearly enough women photographers from her period that are celebrated, so keep her in mind.

The next photographer of the day is another one of my favorite ladies, Barbara Kruger. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Rineke Dijkstra

Rineke Dijkstra

b. 1959

When learning about contemporary photography, Rineke Dijkstra is one of the first photographers mentioned, at least in my experience. As the Photographer of the Day, I’m going to try and tell you just why that is.

First of all, Dijkstra is the bees knees. She lives and works in Amsterdam, and started her career as a commercial photographer. She began her foray into the portraiture she is known for when she had an assignment to photographs that pointed to summertime. Beach balls, piña coladas, bonfires– but actually no. She photographed adolescent bathers. It might sound weird now, but she had permission and it was the early 90s. Twenty years ago people were a lot less paranoid than they are now, and because of that Dijkstra made a body of work called Beach Portraits, which, when displayed, were printed life size. Talk about impact.

Can you imagine going up to people on the beach and being like, “yo, I’m a photographer and I wanna photograph you in your swimsuit.” I’m sure these bathers didn’t come to the beach anticipating a photo shoot. I mean, look at their body language– obviously unprepared. Understandably.

The thing about this body of work that I can’t help but notice is the technicalities of it, which are actually pretty simple. Dijkstra’s subjects look separated from the background because of a head-on flash. Folks, this is a prime example to how flash can actually help your work. I think this technique makes the backgrounds look like backdrops. Pretty neat-o.

Beach Portraits is just one example of Dijkstra’s works, which are almost always portraits and are almost always portraying people in a vulnerable way. She had a commission from the Anne Frank Foundation, where she took photos of adolescent school girls to make the point that any girl could be like Anne Frank in adverse circumstances. Her work is not just for show, as the connection between people– their awkwardness, their vulnerabilities, their humanity.

Also, anyone notice how the girl in the orange bathing suit is kind of like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus? Well, you’re not the only one.

The next PotD will be Harold E. Edgerton, so keep an eye out for that and for some new work coming from yours truly. So no, I have not exchanged photography for rants about photographers. Sorry to disappoint.

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Hans Aarsman

To keep myself fresh on my photographer knowledge, I’m going to start doing “Photographer of the Day” posts. If I tell you guys about these photographers, odds are I’ll remember them more readily when the time calls for information about them and their work.

So here we go.


Hans Aarsman

b. 1951, Amsterdam

To begin, Aarsman was a part of a movement called New Topography, which was founded on the idea of photographing new-but-not-new landscapes, circa 1980s and 90s. They worked to create landscapes that included the ordinary, everyday objects that normally go unnoticed, like perhaps a stop sign on a street corner. The “great” landscape photographers of the early-ish 20th century (y’all know about Ansel Adams,) showed the United States what lied out west, and so because of their images National Parks and other attractions for tourism were put in place. The New Topographers, wanting to create their own beautiful landscapes, but found that their work would be hindered by a car, or a parking lot, or anything that we see everyday but pay no mind to. They decided, why not make these ordinary objects just as important as the landscape? So they did. They brought attention to things that are normally ignored or not thought about in an objective style.

Hans Aarsman’s photography falls into this movement. His most notable body of work, Hollandse Taferelen, focuses on the transient moments of ordinary becoming extraordinary in the Dutch countryside. Here are some images from that project:

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See what I mean about transient?

Aarsman is still with us today, and he is an author, a lecturer at Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, and a playwright, in addition to being a photographer. Follow his example kids, he’s what we call a “go-getter.”

The next photographer of the day will be Bayard Hippolyte, so keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!