Saturday, February 11, 2012

Photography in Black and White

Black and White Photographers

Photographs in Black and White

Robert Adams     Disfarmer        Bernd and Hilla Becher        David Plowden        FSA Photographers  


   Robert Adams born May 8, 1937, is an American photographer who focused his camera on the changing American west. His photographs explore the 19th century doctrine of Manifest Destiny; the dream that the American West was wide open for exploration and consumption. His black and white photographs show the exploitation and consumption of the land as new houses were built to house the growing population. His photographs rarely contained any human figures and they explored the, “contradiction between landscapes visibly transformed or scarred by human presence and the inherent beauty of light and land rendered by the camera.” (pbs).
Adams photographed the new housing developments that were springing up out west filled with people looking for a new life in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These were people who dreamed of a new life out west only to discover their newly acquired homes were built in housing tracts surrounded by very little nature and sometimes surrounded by nuclear weapons plants.
  Automobiles and expressways were also photographed by Adams as a source of change that was changing the environment of the west. More people meant more cars, which meant more roads to be built and more artificial lighting. Adams’ work explores the natural views and natural beauty that have been destroyed by “progress.”

"Robert Adams." Matthew Marks Gallery, Web. 18 Dec. 2012. < >.

"Robert Adams." Museum of Contemporary Photography, 2005, Web. 14 Dec. 2012.
  < >.

"Robert Adams.", Web. 18 Dec. 2012. < >.

 "Robert Adams: Landscapes of Harmony and Dissonance.", Web. 14 Dec. 2012. < >.

Books the Central Library own on Robert Adams

Interiors 1973-1974
Our Lives and Our Children : Photographs Taken Near the Rocky Flat Nuclear Weapons Plant

What Can We Believe Where? : Photographs of the American West

Who was Disfarmer? Disfarmer was born Mike in 1884. He took the surname Disfarmer after he broke all ties with his family. Disfarmer rejected the Arkansas farming world and the family in which he was raised. Meyer told a reporter that meyer meant ‘farmer' in German, and since the he was not a farmer, he took the name ‘disfarmer.' ‘Dis' is said to mean ‘not' in German.  He so detested his background that he claimed a tornado had lifted him up from places unknown and deposited him into the Meyers family.
  Disfarmer became the resident photographer in the town of Heber Springs, Arkansas. Disfarmer is known for his simple stark black and white portraits of the rural people in his town. With no formal training, he built a studio and used commercially available glass plates and went on to capture the people of Heber Springs in the early to mid-1900s.
All of his subjects were photographed in direct north light, either sitting or standing facing the camera directly. Photographed in their day clothes, the portraits reveal the simple small town, a region, an era, a way of life, now long gone. His stark unadorned black and white realistic portrayals of his subjects contrast with the Technicolor world we live in today.

Disfarmer. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. < >.

Disfarmer. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.  < >.

Encyclopedia of Kansas. Eileen Turan and Keith Melton Arkansas Arts Center. 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.

     < >.

Books the Central Library owns on Disfarmer:

Disfarmer : The Vintage Prints  

Disfarmer : Heber Springs Portraits, 1939-1946 : From the Collections of Peter Miller and Julia Scully  

Original Disfarmer Photographs

 Bernd and Hilla Becher  are married German photographers known for their black and white documentation of the industrial landscapes of Europe and North America. Their work is considered to be conceptual art, typological studies, and topological documentation. Their photographs are often done in  typology  format, a process that connects one image or one encounter or one object to the next and the next and the next. Their photos include mine heads, blast furnaces, mine heads, storage silos, gas tanks, grain elevators, and water towers.  
  They used an 8 x 10-inch view camera and had a very specific way of photographing these structures. Although they photographed these buildings from a number of different angles, it was always with a straightforward "objective" point of view. They shot only on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows, and early in the morning during the seasons of spring and fall.  
  Both were influenced by Neue Sachlichkeit” or the “New Objectivity” a group of German artists in the 1920s whose works were executed in a realistic style. This style was applied towards literature, art, and architecture; it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness.” Also influential in their work were German photographers Karl Blossfeldt, August Sander, and Albert Renger-Patzsch.
The Becher school has influenced a number of German photographers (specifically those photographers associated with the Düsseldorf School of Photography) including Andreas Gursky, Candida HoferThomas Ruff,Thomas Struth, and Petra Wunderlich. The Canadian Edward Burtynskyalso works in a similar mode.
Berned Becher passed away on June 22, 2007.

Interview with Bernd and Hilla Becher., 2002. Web. 15 Dec. 2011.

     < with-bernd-and-hilla.html >.

 Slade, George. "Reading: "Typology" in Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Photography." . Web.  In Encyclopedia of

     Twentieth Century Photography, 2005. 9 Dec 2011.
< >.

Stimson, Blake. " The Photographic Comportment of Bernd and Hilla Becher ." Tate Papers (2004): Web. 7 Dec. 2011.
 < >.

 Tittel, Cornelius. "High Precision Industrial Age Souvenirs." (2005): Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
 < >.

Books the Central Library owns on the Bechers:

Bernd and Hilla Becher : Life and Work  

The Düsseldorf School of Photography

Industrial Landscapes



 American photographer David Plowden acknowledges America’s rural traditions that are disappearing and rarely seen anymore. His black and white photographs include the steam train, small farms, American farmlands, and small rural towns. Plowden has been said to “photograph the soul of America.” (Fox.).  While showing us what America was, he also shows us what it has become.  
   Born in Boston, MA, October 9, 1932, Plowden began working for the Great Northern Railway in 1959, and then studied under  Minor White  and Walker Evans. He photographed his first steam train when he was 11 years old and that love stayed with him through his life.
After photographing many steam engines Plowden decided to photograph small towns. He felt these towns showed the weathered soul of America and their uniqueness was disappearing due to the homogenization of American culture through the building of highways, shopping malls, and the Walmart. America now has the same fast food places and the same gas stations.
Many ask Plowden, “why do you photograph such old things?” His answer, “I say, because I think they’re of tremendous value.  If you tear down what was there, perhaps you lose sight of who you were, and then of who we are.  If we don’t have tangible evidence – if it’s all gone, I think we begin to lose our bearings.  That’s my feeling anyway.  I think we are very much of a rootless, and a very discouraged, country.” ( Photographing America's).

While looking at Plowden’s photographs there is a sense of sadness, sadness and loss. Sadness because American as lost so much of its culture that it will never regain again. His photos show  a culture lost. Plowden says in an interview, “"I think we've become very, very inhuman. We've lost the art of communication and neighborliness.” (Fox.).

"American Views: Photographs by David Plowden." Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
     < >.

Fox, Randy. " David Plowden: Photographing the Soul of America." Web. 15 Dec. 2011.
 < >.

"Photographing America’s Weathered Soul: An Interview With David Plowden." Web. 15 Dec. 2011.
 < >.
  Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. "David Plowden." Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. " Imprints. David Plowden: A Retrospective." Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
     < >.

Books the Central Library owns on David Plowden:

David Plowden : Vanishing Point : Fifty Years of Photography

A Handful of Dust : Photographs of Disappearing America

Requiem for Steam : The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden 

Small Town America

A time of Trains 



The FSA, many don’t know what these letters stand for. FSA is The Farm Security Administration, begun in 1937; it was part of the New Deal and was part of the effort to fight rural poverty and to help farmers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Roy Emerson Stryker was the head of a special photographic section in the RA and FSA from 1935-1942. During its eight-year existence, the section created the 77,000 black-and-white still photographs many which are located at the Library of Congress. These photographs can be viewed at the American Memory  site housed within the Library of Congress. 
These photographers were hired so they could show the rest of America how the rural poor were living and what the government was doing to assist them. Some of the most famous Depression-eraphotographerswereWalker Evansand Dorothea Lange. Not only did the New Deal provide work for photographers but it illustrated the need for New Deal programs which were a source of controversy at the time.

Gorman, Juliet. " New Deal Narratives." 2001. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
 < >.

Indiana Univiersity Libraries. " Celebrating New Deal arts and culture : Documenting America. " 2006. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
 < >.

Library of Congress. " America from the Great Depression to World War II: Black and white photographs from the FSA-OWI
     1935-1945. " 1998. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.  < >.
Library Of Congress. " New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources." 2011. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
  < >.

 Meyer, Chris. " The FSA Photographs: Information, or Propaganda? " BU Arts and Sciences Writing Program. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
 < >.

Books the Central Library own on the FSA Photographers:

Dorothea Lange : The Crucial Years, 1930-1946

FSA : The American Vision

 Hard Luck Blues : Roots Music Photographs from the Great Depression

The Likes of Us : America in the Eyes of the Farm Security Administration

Migrant Mother : How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression

Walker Evans : Lyric Documentary  

Rochester Public Library, Arts Division

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