Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Lust of the Eye - Why we collect

Paul Marsan Dornac Portrait of an unidentified writer 1890s (Albumen print, 25,8 x 20,2 cm)

Courtesy of Bassenge, Berlin (Photography, Sale: 90, Lot: 4047, Dec 5, 2007)

This is the first part of a series of short pieces that will examine collecting photographs. As these texts are refined they will be converted into illustrated articles on Luminous-Lint. I welcome all comments on how they can be improved.

There is an increasing amount of research into the question of why we collect and there are numerous books that explore the financial, socio-cultural, historical and psychological reasons. Susan Pearce, Emeritus Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester in England has spent years examining these issues and uses the expression "the lust of the eye" which seems to be deeply within us and concerns our desire to place ourselves within a value framework. My aunt Madge described shopping as "looking for something to want" which also seems to be appropriate to our collecting quests. By collecting items we affirm our own aspirations in a physical form and these not only inspire us but also show others what we believe in and how we want to be seen. The research of Susan Pearce has shown that about 66% of respondents describe themselves as collectors and this seems to be true in most developed countries and may be a symptom of disposable income. There are gender issues here with women being more prone to display their collections in public areas of the house as they are more family based and men being prone to be more private in their interests.

The most commonly stated reasons for collecting include the following and each of us will have varying combinations of these.

  • Learning - gaining knowledge and understanding

  • Relaxation - being removed from the day-to-day stresses

  • Pleasure - a personal association with objects of beauty or significance

  • Pride - of ownership in a collection

  • Social interaction - with fellow collectors e.g. the Daguerreian Society

  • Competitive challenge - the pleasure of the hunt

  • Recognition - acknowledgment by fellow collectors and connoisseurs

  • Altruism - building collections to share with others through donations and bequests

  • A desire for structure - a collection is a small part of the world over which the collector has total control

  • Nostalgia - physical connections with a different age

  • Financial - the accumulation and diversification of wealth

It is an interesting point that the financial aspects of this are normally put at the end of the list and few at photography collecting seminars would be honest enough to put it first. It is rather like having an unwanted guest at a dinner party but the financial aspects of collecting are not only a motivation but a key component of refining collections.

Further reading

Pearce, S. 1992, Museums, Objects and Collections: a cultural study, Leicester University Press

Pearce, S. (ed.) 1994, Interpreting Objects and Collections, Routledge, London and New York

Pearce, S. 1997, Collecting in Contemporary Practice, Sage, London.

Pearce, S. (ed.) 1997, Experiencing Material Culture in the Western World, Leicester University Press

Pearce, S. 1995, On Collecting: an investigation into collecting in the European tradition, Routledge, London and New York.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Newsletter 2.6 - Apr 26, 2008 emailed out

Luminous-Lint Newsletter 2.6 - Apr 26, 2008 has been emailed to all those on our mailing list and you can subscribe to these free newsletters if you haven't already done so.

Past issues of the newsletter are in the library on the Luminous-Lint website.

We will be including some new developments on our affiliates in an additional newsletter later in the week.

We have strict anti-spam and privacy policies.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sarah Anne Johnson

Congratulations to Sarah Anne Johnson who has just won the $50,000 inaugural Grange Prize and her work will be exhibited at Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

For further details:

News report (CBC)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

David Travis at the Art Institute to retire

The Art Institute of Chicago announces the retirement of David Travis, the Chair of the Department of Photography, effective June 30, 2008. Travis began his career at the Art Institute as an assistant curator of photography in the Department of Prints and Drawings in 1972 and was a full curator in 1975, when the Department of Photography was officially established.

James Cuno, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute, said, "David Travis has had a long and extraordinarily productive career at the museum, and it is impossible to conceive of the department here without his imprint. As the leader of the department for more than 30 years, David has built a very deep collection, overseen the renovation of the photography galleries and vaults, developed a conservation program, and produced widely respected scholarship. We wish him the best as he moves on to devote more time to writing and lecturing."

Travis has organized and presented more than 150 exhibitions of photography at the Art Institute in his 36-year tenure, including exhibitions of the work of Walker Evans, André Kertész, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Brassaï. He is perhaps best known for his landmark exhibitions On the Art of Fixing a Shadow, an exhibition of more than 400 photographs, and Starting with Atget: Photographs from the Julien Levy Collection. He has additionally prepared many thematic exhibitions, from images of "seas and skies" - featuring the work of Gustave LeGray, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Dodo Jin Man-to the photographic work of Chicago's own Institute of Design from 1937 to 1971.

Travis has also guest curated a number of exhibitions that have been shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For his special contributions to the advancement of awareness and understanding of French culture, he was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1987. He has also been a guest scholar at the J. Paul Getty Museum and in 2002 he was named a "Chicagoan of the Year" by Chicago magazine. At the Edge of the Light: Thoughts on Photographers and Photography, on Talent and Genius, a collection of his lectures and essays, was published in 2003.

[Press release]

Portraits: Dancers

André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri
Emma Livry

Carte de visite
kindly provided by Paul Frecker

A new exhibition Portraits: Dancers from the 1860s to the present day has been added to Luminous-Lint. It begins with a carte de visite by André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri of Emma Livry taken between 1859-1861. Paul Frecker kindly provided the biography of this dancer:

Born in Paris on 14 September 1842, Emma Livry made her début on 20 September 1858 in La Sylphide. She quickly became one of the brightest rising stars of the Paris Opéra and the darling of Paris audiences. A glorious career seemed certain, particularly after she caught the eye of Marie Taglioni, who had originated the role. Taglioni worked with her daily, and created her only ballet for her, Le Papillion, with music by Offenbach.

At that time, stages were lighted by gas jets, and since accidents were frequent, the long tutus worn by dancers were treated to make them flame resistant. However, the process made the muslin turn yellow and stiff, and like many other dancers, Livry refused to wear costumes that had been treated.

During a rehearsal of The Dumb Girl of Portici, Emma's skirt caught fire. Two male dancers tried to extinguish the flames, but Emma suffered severe burns. She died of complications eight months later. She was twenty-one years old.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crime and possible criminals

Anon. Mugshot 2400 n.d.
Gelatin silver print, Mugshot, 2 7/8 x 2 7/8 in
Steven Kasher Gallery

I mounted the online exhibition Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots on Luminous-Lint in November 2007 that included photographs kindly provided by Stephen Kasher. There is also an exhibition provided by Ordinary Light "Murder Most Foul: A Selection of Nineteenth Century Murder Cases" that includes the stories and photographs behind some infamous cases.

I'd like to extend the crime theme with a new online exhibition by including photographs of:

a) Crime scenes
b) Criminals
c) Wanted posters

All suggestions will be gratefully received.

Subscribing to Luminous-Lint newsletters

Some of you may not be aware of the www.luminous-lint.com newsletters on fine photography and you can see the past ones in the library on the website.

You can subscribe to these free newsletters - just answer a couple of questions and that is it.

These will keep you up to date with all the improvements at Luminous-Lint and what is happening within the fine art photography community globally. The newsletters are for those with an interest in photography and the readership is photo-historians, critics, collectors, educators, auction houses, gallery owners, curators and photographers.

We have strict anti-spam and privacy policies.

Online newspaper on fine photography

For those you don't subscribe to the Luminous-Lint newsletter and may not know there is an online newspaper containing headlines and articles collected from around the world dealing with Fine Photography. This brings together information to keep you up to date and you can see it at:

Luminous-Lint‘s Shared Items

If you create newsfeeds on photobooks, photographic exhibitions, photography collecting or articles that are appropriate for our community let me know so they can be included. More sophisticated resources are on the way so keep watching...

Photography blogs

The high level of interest in photobooks as shown in the Christie's New York Sale (Thu Apr 10, 2008) and the upcoming sale at Swanns (Thu May 15, 2008) is also reflected in some excellent online blogs on books that can be found at:

Photography and Books
Bint Photobooks on Internet

Other blogs on photography worth watching include:

Conscientious - Fine-art Photography Blog
Muse-ings: Thoughts on Photography and What Inspires It
Big Happy Funhouse (found photos)
Art News Blog

One of the persistent difficulties with blogs is their longevity with many vanishing within a few months or years for example the Photo Book Guide (www.photobookguide.com) which has not had a posting since December 2007 or the excellent one by Alec Sloth that ceased in September 2007. If you have suggestions for other blogs that should be included send them through. Luminous-Lint will syndicate the most interesting articles through the community.

Monday, April 21, 2008

NY auction results

Courtesy of Brian Appel here are the:

Top 20 Photographs in the New York Auctions - Spring 2008


Back in December 2005 I launched www.luminous-lint.com as a resource for collectors and connoisseurs who wish to explore the rich diversity of photography. This project has expanded far beyond my original expectations and now includes over 28,000 images and details on over 6,000 photographers and this is far from all.

When I started the site I set myself several guidelines:

  • All forms, techniques and processes of photography should be included as Daguerreotypes, cyanotypes, carte de visites and montages are an essential part of the history.

  • All regions of the world should be included.

  • All historical periods should be covered.
The intention was to be critically selective and inclusive so the website could grow organically and at the same time evolve depending upon user comments and requirements. This flexibility has been rewarding and the website includes vast amounts of unpublished photographs, texts, anecdotes and unexpected connections.

It is not the intention of Luminous-Lint to include every photographer but to seek out those, both living and dead, who fill in specific gaps in the overall structure. As this blog progresses I'll explain the structure that is evolving.

All the best, Alan Griffiths