The Seven Arts Chronicle Seven Arts, August Photography Photography, which is the first and only...

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Transcript of The Seven Arts Chronicle Seven Arts, August Photography Photography, which is the first and only...

  • T h e S e v e n A r t s C h r o n i c l e

    ics cannot face its second year w ith that same w ise avoidance of pro­ fessional criticism . Perhaps it is hu­ m anly impossible fo r the Province - town P layers to preserve w ithin them­ selves the same real indifference to outside criticism w ith whch they came into N e w Y o rk last year. B y ju st so much as they value it, how ­ ever, and are influenced consciously or unconsciously by it, they depart from the basic ideal on which the W h a rf T h eater at Provincetow n w as founded— a theater for playw rights, artists, and actors, avow edly experi­ m ental, inviting an audience inter­ ested in experim ents rather than re­ sults, holding themselves serenely

    apart from the current cant o f com­ ment w hich blames or praises, too interested in the p lay fo r the p lay ’s sake to be self-conscious or afra id .

    B u t, not inviting publicity, they have achieved it, and in their pros­ pectus have accepted it. T h e ir ideals m ay be rooted deep enough to sur­ vive the crucial test o f this second and crucial year. I f they do move through their second season here w ithout sw ervin g from their ideal policy to consider plays first, the au­ dience last, and critics not at all, they w ill have w rought out o f themselves one o f the few m iracles o f dram atic history in A m erica.

    Z .

    Photography Photography, which is the first and

    only im portant contribution, thus far, of science to the arts, finds its raison d'etre, like all media, in a complete uniqueness o f means. T h is is an ab­ solute unqualified objectivity. U n ­ like the other arts which are really anti-photographic, this objectivity is of the very essence of photography, its contribution and at the same time its lim itation. A n d ju st as the m ajority of w orkers in other media have com­ pletely misunderstood the inherent qualities of their respective means, so photographers, w ith the possible ex­ ception of tw o or three, have had no conception of the photographic means. T h e fu ll potential pow er of every medium is dependent upon the purity of its use, and a ll attempts at m ixture end in such dead things as the color etching, the photographic painting and, in photography, the gum print, oil print, etc., in which the introduction of hand w ork and m anipulation is merely the expression of an impotent desire to paint. It is this very lack

    of understanding and respect for their m aterial, on the part of the photog­ raphers themselves, which directly ac­ counts for the consequent lack o f re­ spect on the part o f the intelligent public and the notion that photogra­ phy is but a poor excuse for an inabil­ ity to do anything else.

    T h e photographer’s problem, there­ fore, is to see clearly the lim itations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is pre­ cisely here that honesty no less than intensity of vision is the prerequisite of a livin g expression. T h is means a real respect for the thing in front o f him, expressed in terms of chiaroscuro (color and photography having noth­ ing in common) through a range of alm ost infinite tonal values w hich lie beyond the skill of the human hand. T h e fullest realization of this is ac­ complished w ithout tricks of process or m anipulation, through the use o f straight photographic methods. I t is in the organization of this ob jectivity that the photographer’s point o f v iew


    Seven Arts, August 1917

  • T h e S e v e n A r t s C h r o n i c l e

    tow ards L ife enters in, and w here a form al conception born of the emo­ tions, the intellect, or of both, is as inevitably necessary for him, before an exposure is made, as for the painter, before he puts brush to canvas. T h e objects m ay be organized to express the causes o f which they are the effects, or they m ay be used as abstract forms, to create an emotion unrelated to the ob jectivity as such. T h is organization is evolved either by movement of the cam era in relation to the objects them­ selves or through their actual arrange­ ment, but here, as in everything, the expression is sim ply the measure of a vision, shallow or profound, as the case m ay be. Photography is only a new road from a different direction, but m oving tow ard the common goal, which is L ife .

    N otw ithstanding the fact that the w hole development of photography has been given to the w orld through “ C am era W o rk ” in a form uniquely beautiful as w ell as perfect in con­ ception and presentation, there is no real consciousness, even among pho­ tographers, o f w hat has actually hap­ pened : nam ely, that A m erica has real­ ly been expressed in terms of A m erica w ithout the outside influence of P aris art-schools or their dilute offspring here. T h is development extends over the com paratively short period of sixty years, and there w as no real movement until the years between 18 9 5 and 1 9 10 , at which time an intense re­ birth of enthusiasm and energy m ani­ fested itself all over the w orld . M o re ­ over, this renaissance found its high­ est aesthetic achievement in Am erica, where a sm all group of men and women w orked w ith honest and sin­ cere purpose, some instinctively and fe w consciously, but w ithout any back­ ground of photographic or graphic fo r­ mulae, much less any cut and dried ideas of w hat is A rt and w hat isn’ t ;

    this innocence w as their real strength. E veryth in g they w anted to say had to be w orked out by their own experi­ ments ; it w as born of actual living. In the same w ay the creators o f our sky­ scrapers had to face the sim ilar circum ­ stance of no precedent, and it w as through that very necessity of evolving a new form , both in architecture and photography that the resulting expres­ sion w as vitalized. W here in any me­ dium has the tremendous energy and potential power o f N e w Y o rk been more fu lly realized than in the pure­ ly direct photographs of Stieg litz? W h ere a more subtle feeling which is the reverse of all this, the quiet sim­ plicity of life in the Am erican sm all town, so sensitively suggested in the early w ork of C larence W h ite ? W here in painting, more originality and penetration of vision than in the portraits of Steichen, K asebier and F ran k E u gene? O thers, too, have given beauty to the w orld , but these w orkers, together w ith the great Scotchman, D avid O ctavius H ill, whose portraits made in 1 860 have never been surpassed, are the impor- tant factors of a liv in g photographic tradition. T h e y w ill be the masters no less for Europe than for A m erica because by an intense interest in the life of which they w ere really a part, they reached through a national, to a universal expression. In spite of in­ difference, contempt and the assurance of little or no rem uneration they w ent on, as others w ill do, even though their w ork seems doomed to a tem porary ob­ scurity. T h e thing they do remains the same ; it is a w itness to the motive force that drives.

    T h e existence of a medium, after all, is its absolute justification, if as so many seem to think, it needs one, and all comparison of potentialities is use­ less and irrelevant. W hether a w ater- color is inferior to an oil, or whether


    Seven Arts, August 1917

  • T h e S e v e n A r t s C h r o n i c l e

    a draw ing, an etching, or a photo- gratitude everything through w hich graph is not as im portant as either, is the spirit o f man seeks to obtain ever inconsequent. T o have to despise some- fu lle r and more intense self-realiza- thing else is a sign of impotence. L e t tion. us rather accept joyously and w ith P a u l S t r a n d .

    Music and Recruiting It w as at the concert of Ju n e 20th,

    the first of those planned for this season by the C iv ic O rchestral So­ ciety, that M r . O tto H . K ah n ad­ dressed the audience.

    T h e concert, as w e ll as the entire series, had been advertised as “ P a tr i­ otic .” T h e adjective has of late lost something of its edge, its precision of meaning, and most of the people who attended the first concert doubt­ less speculated on the element that w ould distinguish this concert from others. T o some, the w ord no doubt suggested that St. N icholas R ink , w here the concerts take place this year, w ould be festooned w ith the banners of the U nited States, of B ritain and of France. T o some, it foreshadowed the inclusion of certain patriotic airs in the exercises. T o others, the w ord presented itse lf as the advertisem ent of the fact that the society had obtained the services o f a Parisian conductor eager to include a good deal of French music on his program m es. T o few , however, did it intim ate the perform ance that w as to take place.

    T h e guesses w ere accurate to a certain extent. T h e rink w as draped w ith the banners of the U nited States, of Britain and of France. M . P ierre M onteaux did conduct an overture of L alo , the symphonic fragm ent from F ran ck ’s “ Redem ption,” and the air from “ Lou ise” , conducted them incisively as he conducted the T h ird Leonore O vertu re badly. T w o verses of the “ Star-Spangled B an n er”

    w ere sung by M iss A n n a Case, be­ com ingly draped in the folds of the A m erican flag. It w as only when, at the close of the intermission, there ap­ peared in the conductor’s stand not M . M onteaux, but M r . O tto H . K ahn , that the audience realized w ith a shock tha