Monday, September 17, 2018

Present at the creation …

… Clarence H. White & His World: Exhibit of Photography as Early Art | National Review. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

“Lyrical” is the word most often used to describe his work, but that’s too glib and dismissive in that it suggests a reassuring beauty, almost a mild sedative. Yes, he did many photographs of young women, psychologically absent, as allegories of spring, and Spring in Triptych from 1898 is the best known. They’re beautiful, and I have no quibble with beauty, but in White’s case they’re daring and new. He used low light to reduce shadows, creating a limited, consistent tone and flattening space but only as much as he wanted. He made contact prints from his negative, cut and cropped, and moved bits around. He found a composite pose of the figure and distribution of foliage he liked and arranged the puzzle pieces in a Renaissance-style triptych. Drops of Rain from 1902 is an abstract, offbeat play of forms — the glass orb became a favorite prop — juxtaposed against the drops of rain. His son was the model. Like the boy’s youth, it’s about transience and fragility.

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