U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Puyo and Demachy said it first [was Re. Paper Negatives]

Re: Puyo and Demachy said it first [was Re. Paper Negatives]

Judy Seigel wrote:

I'm so glad that John G. points out that there can be such a thing as too much detail --AND THE SKY HAS NOT FALLEN !

Permit me to call attention to the FIRST photo artists to point this out (ie., try and stop me) -- in which, aided by French photographer Marc Bernier and a dictionary of classic ("antique") French, I translated the the introduction to Puyo and Demachy's 1906 "Art Processes in Photography." (See Post-Factory #1, pages 3 through 7. I may also have mentioned in passing that the issue can be found at

I quote a few lines here only to give the gist; the original is a marvel of analysis by these two pioneers of the how and why of "interventions" with gum bichromate.

For example:

"INTERPRETATION: The print as produced physically by the negative may be correct from a documentary point of view, but it lacks the qualities of a work of art unless they are introduced by the photographer...

"[We] take every means to simplify information of no interest that this perfect instrument supplies with such prolixity. Thus we prefer a method of printing which permits... suppression of useless details...

"Perhaps we will be accused of obliterating photographic character? That is exactly our intention...

"[C]harcoal, lithography and etching extend their arms [but] it would perhaps be too simple to take shelter there. Nothing will tempt us from photography [chosen for] its photographic character of a happy sort... [But] photography gives too much...[and] we dare choose among its prodigalities ...."


But 100 years later, the ethos of photography has evolved -- into the assumption that the level and perfection of detail is a valid measure of value. How did this happen? My husband, arriving back from the gym tonight, reflected that when he was a kid, nobody went to a "gym," nobody HAD a gym, there were no gyms, except for boxers (he had, he recalled, once dated the daughter of some lightweight champion, tho that's probably off topic). So where did all these gyms COME FROM, he wondered.

Nobody my family knew ever went to a gym, either, least of all my own parents. Today, everybody I know goes to a gym, and if I miss at least twice a week I expect to put on 5 pounds and grow lame. And gyms happened in LESS than 100 years, less than 50, even. I leave the explanation of gym culture to historians, at least for now, but find the parallel with elevation of photo detail striking. The difference is that I think gyms are mostly good, but take a neutral stance on detail... The similarity is that both happened under their own steam, without my permission or help.

The Gymnasium system of Per Ling was up and running in Northern Europe by 1835. This was adopted widely by Europeans for troop training. There was even the equivalent of the Nautilus machine available c. 1880 by Gustav Zander.

There was a health club chain open in the US c. 1870 with the development of the "Health Lift"reactionary lifting machine. Club swinging, parallel bars and pulley weights were standard too. Oh, and a lot of the gyms were for women, as Jan Todd and other historians of Physical Culture have noted. Genevieve Stebbins, the Delsarte proponent was a paid member of the Dudley Sargent gymnasium at Harvard c. 1890. A number of schools implemented the Delsarte method of physical culture training as described by Stebbins and her contemporaries. A quick perusal of early issues of "Health and Strength" or "Physical Culture" magazine will reveal ads for quite a few gyms and facilities for women (and men). "Pudgy" Stockton was a professional bodybuilder in the 1930's, and she was by no means the first.

Gordon Cooper