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HomeContentsThemes > Distortions

Contents

Introduction
331.01   Distortions: Defined
331.02   Introduction to distortions
331.03   Examples of distortions
Photographers
331.04   Louis Ducos du Hauron: Transformiste
331.05   Herbert G. Ponting: Distortograph: William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Mayor of Chicago (1927)
331.06   André Kertész: Distortions
331.07   Weegee: Distortions
331.08   Bill Brandt: Distortions
This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated. 
  
Status: Collect > Document > Analyse > Improve
 
  
Introduction 
  
331.01   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Distortions: Defined 
  
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"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
 
distort
–verb (used with object)
  1. to twist awry or out of shape; make crooked or deformed.
  2. to give a false, perverted, or disproportionate meaning to; misrepresent: to distort the facts.
 
  
   Abstraction distortions 
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331.02   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Introduction to distortions 
  
The use of distorting mirrors and lenses creates elongated, squashed, stretched and crushed forms and this characterisic of fairground mirrors has been used by photographers to create unwordly forms and it is particularly suited to the taking of nudes.
Berenice Abbott is best known for her photographs of New York but she was also interested in scientific photography and patented the 'Distortion Easel'[1][2] that was a device for controlling angles and levels of distortion that could be used for photography. Her patent, filed in 1948, described the easel as follows:
The present invention is of particular application in the production of distorted photographic prints wherein an artistic result is specially had by the selective exaggeration and diminution of certain features of the subject. For example, the easel of the present invention may be conveniently employed to produce caricatured portraits, surrealist scenes, and other novel pictures the artistic merit of which resides in the essential unnaturalness of the reproduction of the subject.[3]

 
André Kertész in 1933 produced a remarkable series of photographs called 'Distortions' (published in 1976[4]) in which mirrors were used to distort nudes into bizarre abstractions.  
  
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Weegee is remembered for his night shots of New York city crime scenes but he also shot distortions[5] including a series in Paris with a twisted out of shape Eiffel Tower.  
  
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331.03   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Examples of distortions 
  
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At various times photographers have experimented with placing some form of distorting device between the camera lens and the subject of the photograph. André Kertész[6] using a distorting mirror of the type found in a fairground whilst Weegee[7] used a plastic lens. 
  
   Abstraction distortions 
View exhibition 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
 
  
Photographers 
  
331.04   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Louis Ducos du Hauron: Transformiste 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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Louis Ducos du Hauron (1837-1920) known for his development of early colour process also expermented with a device for elongating and shortening the sitter creating effects similar to a fairground mirror. He named the device the "Transformiste" and it was illustrated in Walter E. Woodbury's book Photographic Amusements (1905).[8] 
  
331.05   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Herbert G. Ponting: Distortograph: William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Mayor of Chicago (1927) 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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British photojournalist Herbert Ponting (1870-1935) was the photographer for Captain R.F. Scott's expeditions to Antarctica (1909, 1910-1912).[9] These distorted portraits of William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Mayor of Chicago taken in 1927 was far from his normal work. 
  
331.06   Experimental and manipulated photography >  André Kertész: Distortions 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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André Kertész (1894-1985) was a master of light who experimented with Modernist approaches to photography including using diverse viewpoints, reflections, close-ups and abstraction of scale and distortions.[10]
 
In around 1928-1930 Kertész made a number of distorted portraits of caricaturist Carlo Rim (1905-1989)[11] in the funfair mirrors at Luna Park.[12] The French magazine Le Sourire gave Kertész an assignment to take distortions and he bought two distorting mirrors and had them placed in his studio.
 
Kertész wrote:
A Hungarian friend of mine introduced me to the editor of the magazine "Le Sourire," a very French sort of magazine–satiric, risqué. Many artists worked for this publication. They had never published photos before. The editor asked me to do something. I bought two distorting mirrors in the flea market–the kind of thing you find in amusement parks. With existing light and an old lens invented by Hugo Meyer, I achieved amusing impressions. Some images like sculptures, others grotesque and frightening. I took about 140 photographs in a month, working two or three times a week. “Le Sourire” published a couple of them, and we planned a book, but it had to wait forty years to be published–but that is another story.[13]
The possibilities for experimentation with the distortions and he made a series of around 200 nude distortions using the models Najinskaya Verackhatz and Nadia Kasine which remain imaginative and witty.[14] 
  
331.07   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Weegee: Distortions 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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Weegee wrote a number of books[15] from 1946 onwards and is best known for as being a crime reporter in New York. Ever humble he called himself "weegee The Famous" which was the wet stamp he used on his prints. Weegee experimented with a whole range of novelty lenses and filters to experiment with a while range of visual effects.[16] In the online exhibition "Weegee's World: Life, Death, and the Human Drama" at the International Center of Photography (ICP) the distortions of Weegee are described in the following passage:
There were three basic methods Weegee used to create these distortions. Weegee's first experiments were made by placing a textured or curved glass or other translucent material between the enlarger lends and the photographic paper. This effect would alter the image of the negative to varying degrees depending on the density pattern, or texture of the material he used. He also tried manipulating or mutilating copy negatives by placing them in boiling water, or melting them with an open flame. The third method he employed involved making multiple exposures from the same or various negatives. Given his darkroom talent, he sometimes combined these techniques. Weegee later added a system by which he would affix a kaleidoscope to the end of the camera lens, or use it to replace the camera lens, letting the refractive designs multiply what the camera would have recorded as a single image. From this period until his death, Weegee concentrated on what he alternately called his "distortions," "caricatures," "creative photography," or most often, his "art."[17]
 
  
331.08   Experimental and manipulated photography >  Bill Brandt: Distortions 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
  
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In an interview in October 2000 curator Francis Hodgson of the exhibition "Toppers and Cloth Caps: The Social Divide According to Bill Brandt", The Special Photographers Gallery, was interviewed by photographer Geraint Cunnick. He described the context for Bill Brandt's the distortions in Perspective of Nudes (1961).[18]
Geraint Cunnick: I gather that Perspective of Nudes received a mixed response at best when it was first published…
 
Francis Hodgson: Perspective of Nudes is very late compared to the images within it. You have to compare those pictures with Kertesz's distorted nudes and Lee Friedlander's nudes – Brandt is before either of them at doing it even though Perspective of Nudes is not published until the early 1960s, but many of the photographs date from the 1940s. Kertesz was doing it before, to be fair and with a very similar sensibility – the idea being that the female figure is something that everybody understands but the distortions by themselves lead to other kinds of beauty. I think Brandt was always considered the greatest photographer, the "granddaddy"; even though he lived through the period when photographers were not much respected.[19]
 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ In 1947 Berenice Abbott opened her "House of Photography" which sold her inventions including the "Distortion Easel".
    www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/archivalcollections/pdf/abbottb.pdf 
      
  2. Λ In the The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection (AC1992.197.114) at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) there is a 1937 self-portrait of Arthur Siegel taken with Berenice Abbott’s Distortion Easel. See - Robert Sobieszek and Deborah Irmas, 1994, the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers) 
      
  3. Λ As Berenice Abbott claimed in her Patent Application (US2565446 A - Filed: 10 March 1948, Published: 21 August 1951) 
      
  4. Λ André Kertész, 1976, Distortions, (Paris, Editions du Chęne) 
      
  5. Λ Weegee, 1959, Weegee's Creative Camera, (Hanover House); Weegee, 1964, Weegee's Creative Photography, (Ward, Lock & Co.) 
      
  6. Λ André Kertész, 1976, Distortions, (Paris, Editions du Chęne) 
      
  7. Λ Weegee, 1959, Weegee's Creative Camera, (Hanover House); Weegee, 1964, Weegee's Creative Photography, (Ward, Lock & Co.) 
      
  8. Λ Walter E. Woodbury, 1905, Photographic Amusements including a Description of a Number of Novel Effects Obtainable with the Camera, (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association) 
      
  9. Λ Herbert G. Ponting, 1921, The Great White South, or, With Scott in the Antarctic being an account of experiences with Captain Scott's South Pole Expedition and of the nature life of the Antarctic, with an introduction by Lady Scott, (London: Duckworth) 
      
  10. Λ André Kertész, 1976, Distortions, (Paris, Editions du Chęne) 
      
  11. Λ Carlo Rim was a pseudonym of Jean Marius Richard. 
      
  12. Λ Luna Park was an amusement park in Paris that operated from around 1907 until 1931. 
      
  13. Λ André Kertész, 1985, Kertész on Kertész: A Self-Portrait, (Abbeville Press) 
      
  14. Λ One series of twelve distortions by André Kertész was published in Le Sourire, 12 March 1933.
     
    In September 1933 André Kertész published five of his distortions with the headline “Kertész et son miroir” in Arts et Métiers Graphiques.
     
    The book published over forty years later was - André Kertész, 1976, Distortions, (Paris, Editions du Chęne) 
      
  15. Λ Books by Weegee have gone through numerous reprints, editions and translations - Weegee, 1946, Naked City, (New York: Essential Books); Weegee, 1959, Weegee's Creative Camera, (Hanover House); Weegee, 1961, Weegee by Weegee, (New York: Ziff-Davis Pub. Co.) [First edition]; Weegee, 1964, Weegee's Creative Photography, (Ward, Lock & Co.) 
      
  16. Λ Weegee, 1959, Weegee's Creative Camera, (Hanover House); Weegee, 1964, Weegee's Creative Photography, (London: Ward, Lock, and Co.) 
      
  17. Λ Weegee's World: Distortions
    (Accessed: 5 June 2014)
    museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/weegee18.html 
      
  18. Λ Bill Brandt, 1961, Perspective of Nudes, (London: The Bodley Head) 
      
  19. Λ Curator Francis Hodgson of the exhibition "Toppers and Cloth Caps: The Social Divide According to Bill Brandt", The Special Photographers Gallery, interviewed by photographer Geraint Cunnick, 23 October 2000.
    (Accessed: 5 December 2013)
    www.americansuburbx.com/2009/06/theory-toppers-and-cloth-caps-social.html 
      

alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  

HomeContents > Further research

 
  
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General reading 
  
Fineman, Mia, 2012, Faking it: Manipulated photography before Photoshop, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art) isbn-10: 0300185014 isbn-13: 978-0300185010 [Distributed by Yale University Press] [Δ
  
Woodbury, Walter E., 1905, Photographic Amusements including a Description of a Number of Novel Effects Obtainable with the Camera, (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association) [Δ
  
 
  
Readings on, or by, individual photographers 
  
Bill Brandt 
  
Brandt, Bill, 1961, Perspective of Nudes, (London: The Bodley Head) [Δ
  
André Kertész 
  
Kertész, André, 1976, Distortions, (Paris, Editions du Chęne) [Δ
  
Kramer, Hilton, 1976, André Kertész: Distortions, (New York: Knopf) isbn-10: 039440890X [Δ
  
Weegee 
  
Weegee, 1959, Weegee's Creative Camera, (Hanover House) [Δ
  
Weegee, 1964, Weegee's Creative Photography, (Ward, Lock & Co.) [Δ
  
 
  
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com 
  

HomeContentsPhotographers > Photographers worth investigating

 
Berenice Abbott  (1898-1991) • Bill Brandt  (1904-1983) • Robert Doisneau  (1912-1994) • Louis Ducos du Hauron  (1837-1920) • André Kertész  (1894-1985) • Man Ray  (1890-1976) • Herbert G. Ponting  (check) • Weegee  (1899-1968) • Edward Weston  (1886-1958)
HomeThemesExperimental and manipulated photography > Distortions 
 
A wider gazeRelated topics 
  
Experimental and manipulated photography 
Surrealism 
 
  

HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Distortions

Please submit suggestions for Online Exhibitions that will enhance this theme.
Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
ThumbnailAbstract: Distortions 
Title | Lightbox | Checklist
Released (July 14, 2008)
 
  

HomeVisual indexes > Distortions

Please submit suggestions for Visual Indexes to enhance this theme.
Alan - alan@luminous-lint.com

 
  
   Photographer 
  
ThumbnailAndré Kertész: Distortions 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailBill Brandt: Distortions 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailHerbert G. Ponting: Distortograph: William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Mayor of Chicago (1927) 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailLouis Ducos du Hauron: Transformiste 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
ThumbnailWeegee: Distortions 
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer 
 
 
  
   Themes 
  
ThumbnailExperimental: Distortions 
 
 
  
Refreshed: 05 September 2014, 03:25
 
  
 
  
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