Arnold Genthe


Arnold Genthe - (1869-1942) - German - won international fame as a pictorialist who in his portraiture captured the unposed moment of personal expression. He pioneered spontaneous shooting in studio situations. A camera artist of broad range, he won notice for his hidden camera portraits of San Francisco's China Town before the 1906 Earthquake. He supported himself as a studio portraitist while on the West Coast and became the premier photographer of the city's elite. At various points in his career, he would make a prolonged visit to a locale and attempt to capture visually the genius of a place. He portrayed Japan, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Greece in this manner. Yet these pictorial vacations did not support him. He organized his business so that half of his revenue came from portrait sittings, the other half from magazine and book illustration. He sunk much of his money into the purchase of oriental antiquities. His dance photography remained pictorial in its envelope of shadow, mist, and mystery, but were shot with the highest speed shutters and films available to capture the instant of gesture. He preferred to shoot dancers improvising works rather than performing choreography. Absolutely convinced of the aesthetic rightness of his work, he would prohibit cropping and editorial intervention in the publication of his images. His theatrical portraiture swathed sitters in mystique, sometimes at the expense of accurate depiction of features. He preferred not to portray moments of passionate expression, rather contemplative poses by solitary figures. Photographs l to r: Mrs. Patrick Campbell [Public Domain], Elsie Ferguson [Shields Collection], Mae Murray [Ralph DeLuca Collection], Ignaz Padarewski [Public Domain]



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