What first catches my eyes in Gertrude Käsebier’s 1913 photograph is the streaming sunshine illuminating the interior scene while one bold slant of sunlight has entered the room through the open screen door:
Next, as I survey the five people gathered near the open door, the sailor’s attire worn by the four male figures prompts me to wonder: Are they off to a morning sailing outing or maybe even a regatta? And, what is the relationship between these five people?
The succinct summary in the catalog entry provides helpful context: “Photo shows Clarence White and family, posed just inside doorway, at F. Holland Day’s house in Maine.” White, Day, and Käsebier (along with other notable photographers including Alvin Langdon Coburn, Frank Eugene, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, et. al.) had all been associated individually and in various combinations with the effort to establish photography as a fine art accorded the status of painting, sculpture, drawing, and printmaking. So, my imagination takes over at this point speculating that perhaps Day was hosting White (and family) and Käsebier for a holiday of snapshooting and late-night discussions of the aesthetic qualities that make fine photographs worthy of distinction as “art.” Sign me up for next summer’s gathering!
- View a generous portion of the Library of Congress’ strong collection of Käsebier’s photographs via the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- Get better acquainted with the photographic career of Gertrude Käsebier, who succeeded in the realms of photographic portraiture, photojournalism, and fine art photography. Curator of Photography Beverly Brannan’s essay is one in a series dedicated to enterprising women photojournalists spanning more than a century beginning in the late 1800s.
- Start with Curator of Photography Verna Curtis’ blog post “Platinum Photographs: Art from a Noble Metal” then follow it with “Pictorialism in America,” an essay by Lisa Hostetler of the Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to fill in the story of the effort to attain fine art recognition for photography.
I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the photographs of Gertrude Kasebier you posted. Never have I seen such a group of photos of Sioux Indians that shows them so obviously connecting with the photographer (all have pleasant expressions on their faces) and looking relaxed. The details of their garments and decorations are fascinating. They give me new appreciation of the pieces made by contemporary Sioux that were given to me. The domestic shots also seem so natural. These all bring home the power of the camera in the hands of a sensitive artist to give us some sense of the presence of past fellow humans. The library has done a beautiful job of making these available for us to view in all their glory. Many, many thanks!
Thank you for your note in which you express your appreciation of and admiration for Käsebier’s photo portraits so keenly, particularly the ones of Sioux people at the turn of the 20th century. Thank you also for your appreciation of the Library’s work to digitize and thus expand access to the pictures collected over many years and preserved here.