Photography and Play
Photography and leisure go hand in hand. Cameras are part of our everyday lives, but we are never more likely to take a picture or to be photographed than when we are at play. As recreation and entertainment flourished in the nineteenth century, so too did the new medium of photography. Cameras became increasingly accessible to amateurs and were quickly deemed an indispensible part of what it meant to have fun. Acting as social commentators, many artists also turned their attention to the subject of pleasure and entertainment, often observing how photography itself has changed the way we spend our free time.
Photography and Play reveals the various ways that artists throughout photographic history have turned to topics as diverse as Victorian billiard players, Parisian barflies, moviegoers, sightseers, and suburban sunbathers. The book features eighty-seven photographs, all drawn from the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, that span nearly 150 years of image making. The works included are by such noted artists as Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Bill Owens, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Joel Sternfeld, Alfred Stieglitz, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand--all of whom documented people at play.The illuminating introductory essay traces the relationship between the growing importance of leisure over the past 150 years and the part that photography has played in changing how we see ourselves.
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The commentary on Niagara Falls photographer Platt D Babbitt is of questionable authenticity - It suggests that sight-seers at the Falls were "unaware" of their images being taken - With the daguerreotype method of the era it would have been impossible to have done this: at least to produce a marketable image - with good light and cooperation of subject 6-12 seconds of exposure would have been necessary - Babbitt was no boob. He would not have wasted a daguerreotype plate on an uncertain prospect - Images of his position at Prospect Point show a sample image attached to a tree trunk and an attendant standing to the left - It is more likely this attendant booked the subject (and probably collected the cost) before the subject was carefully posed alone or within a group in profile at the edge of the Niagara River - None of Babbitt's images show movement; an impossible feat if the subject(s) had not been posed.