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

  1. It’s fascinating to learn about how Griffin managed that photo in such low light. I look forward to learning more about Arthur Griffin and his “friendly fury”.

  2. Thanks for the story behind the photograph. Knowing it has only enhanced the movement. Of course, I went looking for movement in the audience. That there was so little speaks to Paderewski’s abilities as well.

  3. Mary Ann Alwan says:

    What a great story behind the photo! It makes me think of all the technical details, like f/stop and shutter speed, being collected by today’s digital cameras. Wouldn’t it be great, though, if they could also capture the creative thinking and often-times problem-solving that goes in to making a beautiful photograph? With this article, you have helped to round out this photograph’s grand metadata for all of us readers and photographers – thank you! I look forward to more!

  4. Paula Tognarelli says:

    When I was in high school I used Arthur Griffin’s photo of Paderwewski as a model for a woodcut print I did. I called it “The Concert.” It’s ironic that I met Arthur Griffin almost 38 years ago and didn’t know what the future would hold. And now here I am the director of his museum.

    Another synchronistic event happened when I first came to museum as an intern. I was told to look for an image from Arthur’s archive for the Christmas card we were going to send out. In searching I found an image of the creche statues on the Common that were set up each year around the holiday. The irony is that my grandfather Rudolph Tognarelli made those statues on the common. He was a stone mason and sculptor. I guess it was all meant to be.

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