In 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.
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.
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…