Arthur Griffin’s Singular Vision at Lafayette City Center Passageway

photoThe Griffin maintains a gallery at the Lafayette City Center Passageway in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. Arthur Griffin’s Singular Vision is on view there. Recently, as part of Art Week, the curators of the exhibit, John Lawler and Peter Griffin, did a gallery tour of the exhibit.

Here is a link ( image-3096 ) to a short video of John Lawler and Peter Griffin discussing Arthur’s photograph of Al Capp.

 

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Arthur Griffin and the Griffin Museum in Black and White Magazine

Recently, David Best called me for an article in Black and White Magazine. We had an enjoyable conversation and the result is here. – Paula Tognarelli
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Ted Williams and Arthur Griffin

The Swing

The Swing, 1939 © Arthur Griffin

Ted Williams and Arthur Griffin met in 1939; Ted was about to seize the role of Rookie of the Year, and Eastman Kodak wanted Griffin to test its new color film. Griffin was at Fenway Park with his usual assortment of equipment, working on a story, in black and white, for the Boston Globe. He also carried with him his 4˝ x 5˝ view camera and Kodak’s new color film made specifically for these view cameras.

Their careers rising simultaneously, these two men connected that historic day when Williams eagerly posed for two hours. The resulting photos, the first color images ever taken of Williams, provide a unique and exceptional collection of photographs of Williams early in his career.

At age 19, Ted Williams was not yet soured by carping sports columnists or feuds with management and fans, so he gladly agreed to pose. Griffin experimented for himself and Kodak that summer day; the color film was slow and not good for action shots, but Williams, exhibiting his batting stance and swing, was so engaging a figure that Griffin was determined to catch him.

At the time, the Globe printed only in black and white, and Griffin filed away the striking color photographs of “The Splendid Splinter.” By the time color photography became more widely used in the press, Williams’ amiability had diminished, and he had no time to pose for new photographs. This undeveloped film of Williams was discovered 50 years later, and the images are now part of his and Griffin’s legacies in both baseball and photographic history.

Arthur Griffin was a pioneer in the use of both color film and the 35-millimeter camera and published six books. Considered New England’s “photographer laureate,” he spent 60 years as a photographic journalist on assignments that took him around the world and into the company of the renowned.

This collection of photographs of Ted Williams made on that fateful day in 1939 is a unique tribute to this late baseball legend and has been widely praised as some of the finest baseball photographs taken. The images represent not only baseball history but also photographic history. It’s a great story and one that needs to be shared with the public.

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Arthur Griffin’s Quincy Quarry, 1938

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 5.08.47 PMIn photography, we often refer back to Henri Cartier Bresson’s introduction of capturing the “Decisive Moment.” What constitutes this perfect moment in time…is it purely aesthetic or is it defined by the emotional impact of the image?

Arthur Griffin’s Quincy Quarry taken in 1938 was featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine in August of that year. The image takes on an unfamiliar perspective; the viewer is only able to see the area of departure of these divers without clues to where they may be landing. For a Massachusetts native, this image may not be jarring but imagine the young child who picked up this issue of LIFE in another part of the country and had so many questions about where those men would touch down.

Griffin captured the divers at an opportune moment, highlighting the point of departure and leaving room for the imagination to map out their trajectories. The presence of shadow against the rock quarry wall and the two men’s arms reaching out to the edge of the frame constituted this image to be selected for the cover of the issue. The bounds of the rectangle tightly hug in the action of the jumpers, freezing this exciting moment in time for us to experience almost 76 years later.

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Arthur Griffin’s image of Ignacy Paderewski makes an IMPRINT.

Ignacy Paderewski Copyright Arthur Griffin. Courtesy of the Griffin Museum of Photography

Ignacy Paderewski Copyright Arthur Griffin. Courtesy of the Griffin Museum of Photography

In his introduction to Arthur Griffin’s book “New England in Focus”, writer John Updike referred to his friend Arthur’s “friendly fury” that “rendered him ageless…” Here to me is an image by Arthur Griffin that really speaks to this energy that Updike makes reference. Taken on May 11, 1939 at the Boston Opera House, this image is of the great pianist Ignacy Paderewski.

This image makes an IMPRINT as we realize the photograph was taken in dim lighting, with very slow black and white 35mm film and the audience is on the stage with the subject. Needless to say it was a very challenging photograph to articulate.

But how did Arthur shoot this image with so very little light? He held the program for the concert in front of his lens, then opened the shutter and left it open. When he thought Mr. Paderewski’s head might be still, he removed the program. When the pianist moved his head again, Arthur put the program back in front of the lens building up exposure. He used the stage curtain to determine when the pianist’s head returned to the original position. Arthur repeated this procedure through 2 rolls of film. Out of 72 tries, two images were usable, although hints of movement are present.

Despite the difficulties it took to render this photograph, it appeared on the front page of “The Globe” right after the performance and appeared again at the time of Paderewski’s death in the rotogravure section of “The Globe” in 1941.

If you are interested in learning more about this image or its availability please contact us.

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Welcome to IMPRINT the Griffin Museum’s brand new monthly online communication.

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Welcome to IMPRINT the Griffin Museum’s brand new monthly online communication. Here, we invite you to join us as we celebrate pioneers in photography who without question shape the way we observe and document life with our cameras. In this space through words and images our goal is to be both informative and efficient reminding visitors of both the inspiration and education to be had in simply looking back.

As we launch this new online forum we find ourselves naturally turning to the timeless images created by our founder Arthur Griffin. The recent publication of Arthur’s rich canon of photographs through Digital Commonwealth has endowed us a golden opportunity to revisit his robust embrace of life and his gift for telling its story with a camera.

In celebration of this occasion over the next several months IMPRINT will be saluting “Griff”, highlighting a blend of the iconic and a few of the hidden gems which to our eyes tell his full story as an artist and storyteller. In doing so, myself and the staff will share our thoughts and our experience with his work while at the same time welcoming the guest input of those in Arthur’s wider circles. And, as IMPRINT unfolds we look forward to in time extending our salute to feature a host of other masters whose passion for the photographic image has left more than just a signature.

So stay tuned right here where the museum staff and a host of guest contributors will be sharing a monthly stroke from those geniuses whose presence has amused, captivated and impressed us long after the show is over. The Griffin Museum of Photography was founded in a spirit of community. In keeping with that tradition we welcome your insights and input as we together build this new interactive forum. Ready, set, go… 

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