Category Archives: Photography

Artists + Families = Fun!

By Julia Einstein
Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

Crop! Dodge and burn! Contact! Words used daily by photographers are fun to roll off your tongue. Cibachrome, collodion tintype, and gum bichromate! These tongue twisters come from the darkrooms of the 19th century.

Saying it and seeing it are what it’s all about at the PMA on Saturday, October 6, when artist Brenton Hamilton collaborates with families for a special afternoon. Brenton will share his love of history and the art of Winslow Homer with visitors while they work with him to try out a photo collage technique. Inspired by the process of gum bichromate printing, Brenton has created a large-scale structure (and oversized Homer figures!) for families to play with layering of negatives to create a fun collage!

Photo Credit: Mark Dawson

Brenton’s gum bichromate prints are featured in the exhibition Between Past to Present: The Homer Studio Photographic Project. Gum bichromate was in general use from 1894 to1920. It is a non-silver printing method using paper coated with a solution of gum arabic, containing potassium or ammonium bichromate, to make it light sensitive, and a pigment to provide image tones. This process allows extensive physical manipulation of the image by the photographer, sometimes resulting in an image which looks more like a drawing or watercolor painting than a photograph.

Brenton Hamilton, "Homer’s Magician," 2012, gum bichromate print, ©Brenton Hamilton.

Brenton Hamilton, Homer’s Magician, 2012, gum bichromate print, ©Brenton Hamilton

“What Were You Thinking?” A Discussion Between the Bowdoin Photography Club and Artist Tanja Hollander

The impetus behind an artist’s work is sometimes never known. What inspired the artist to follow a specific path or subject matter? Why was a certain media used? How did the artist know his subjects? On Wednesday, March 7, the Bowdoin College Photography Club had the opportunity to ask artist Tanja Hollander these questions and more during their tour of her exhibition, Tanja Alexia Hollander: Are You Really My Friend?, on view through June 17 at the Museum. The video below is an excerpt from the discussion, highlighting Tanja’s initial thoughts about the project and how it came to be an exhibition at the PMA!

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The Pictorialists vs. Group f/64

By Kim Grant
Associate Professor of Art History, University of Southern Maine

I was delighted to be asked to teach a mini-course on Pictorialist photography and the Group f/64 for the Portland Museum of Art. Not only does the course provide an opportunity to show and discuss a great many beautiful photographs from the early 20th century, it also directly addresses an issue that I find fascinating: the debates on what makes a photograph a work of art. Nowadays, when many people (although certainly not all) have accepted that pretty well any sort of object might be considered a work of art, it seems incredible that for over 100 years people argued vigorously about whether or not photography could be an art form. The Pictorialists and the Group f/64 disagreed on many aspects of what made a photograph an artwork, and their debates renewed earlier 19th century debates on the same subject.

Where do science, technical concerns, and mechanics stop and art begin? There really is no final answer; each time finds its own solutions. In the first half of the 20th century people often seemed more certain of what art was and what it wasn’t than they do now. Another striking difference from today was the respect given to amateur photographers in the early 20th century. Then it was the amateurs who were artists, while professional photographers were often viewed as commercial technicians. Of course, in reality the distinction was often blurred, and professionals made artistic photographs as well as producing commercial images to order. Now we might find their commercial images more interesting, and sometimes even more artistic, than the photographs they considered art. Tastes and attitudes have changed. What once seemed like a revelation of beauty becomes stale and is replaced by something completely different. I wonder as I look at the photographs of the Pictorialists and the Group f/64 which style would most appeal to people today.

Professor Grant will be teaching a three-part mini-course at the Museum on Thursday, September 30, October 7 and 14, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Price: $40.00/$30 members/Free for Museum Docents, K-12 teachers, and Maine college students. Learn more.