Information on the technical terms used:
Until the early 1930’s, the size of the negative specified the size of the positive print in analog photography. Due to the large formats of the glass plates and their associated high depth of focus, subsequent enlargements were unnecessary, the glass plate negative was set directly on the photographic paper and exposed. Positive prints therefore are the same size as the glass plate negatives and are in 9 x 12 cm, 13 x 18 cm, 18 x 24 cm, 20 x 30 cm or 30 x 40 cm format. Nearly all vintage prints from professional photographers have approximately these sizes, depending on borders and subsequent trimming, whereby the 13 x 18 and 18 x 24 cm formats were most widely used in the professional photography of the 1910’s to the 1950’s. Following the introduction of the small format film strip (with its very small print size of 24 mm x 36 mm compared to those of the glass plate prints ) and with the development of the LEICA camera in the early 1920’s, large lab developers took over the job of developing and creating positive prints for amature photographers. The prints from „shutterbugs“ shrunk to small and mini formats ( 6 x 9 cm, 4,5 x 6 cm ).
Gelatine silver print
Photographic paper made from a chemical emulsion coating of silver salts in gelatine was the most commom medium used in the last century for a black and white positive print. Other methods ( bromoil process, carbon (pigment) print, gum bichromate, etc. ) were infrequently used due to their technical complexity and high cost. While these techniques were especially appropriate for photographic motifs needing an atmospheric, softly focused, impressionistic aesthetic ( for example, landscapes and portraits ), the gelatine silver print, with its extremely high depth of focus and cool metallic toning was the ideal medium for photographic motifs from the architectural, technical, and advertising genres. Therefore it comes as no surprise that precisely those Bauhaus-aesthetic oriented photographers of the 1920’s and 30’s preferred the gelatine silver print above all other positive print making methods.
Glass plate negative
Today, photographers are either still using, or once again using analog 35 mm negative films or photographing digitally without any negative film at all. In past decades, it was not only common to use analog negative films, but there was a downright abundance of various negative formats and negative films. Glass negatives were the most common type in use by professional photographers until about 1950. This method involves the application of a light-sensitive emulsion on a glass plate which was then used as a photo negative. These negatives are distinguished by their exceptionally high depth of focus due to their size ( the glass plates were available in 9 x 12 cm, 13 x 18 cm, 18 x 24cm, 20 x 30 cm and 30 x 40cm formats). They were therefore especially popular for use in capturing architectural, landscape, and advertising images. Since the introduction of digital photography, the size of the negative no longer plays a role in the depth of focus of an image. The decisive factor now is the amount of pixels per inch (PPI) programmed into the camera at the time of the shoot.
Hand made print
A positive print made by a photographer, from a negative image he himself has captured. Hand made prints are rare and generally of high handcrafted quality, because any potential technical mistakes made by the photographer were carefully compensated for during the developing phase, and for artistic reasons, the prints were often intensively edited (for example, through post-exposing, clarity and gradation correction, toning, etc.) Vintage prints from famous photographers are almost always hand made prints.
The term „New Objectivity“ was first used in 1925 for the title of an exhibition of modern painting current at that time in the Kunsthalle Mannheim (Mannheim modern art museum). Following the „wild “ artistic movements from the 1910’s to the early 1920’s in Germany and Europe, represented by Expressionism, Kubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Vorticism, and Futurism, a few artists began returning to the concentrated, calmly analytical, detailed representation of reality. Things should not be represented according to the artists particular „whim“, but how they actually were: clear, straightforward, defined, and unspectacular. Immediately this movement was seized by photographers, who understood this new, unbiased view of reality as the innermost essence of photography. The „New Objectivity“ became the most successful photographic artform of the 1920’s and 30’s, with artists such as Albert Renger-Patzsch, Hugo Schmölz, Walter Hege and the Bauhaus photographers in Germany, who became as successful as they were popular. Eventually the term „New Vision“ was adopted for this type of unromantic, clear-eyed perception of reality.
Since its invention, the art of photography has oscillated between the conflicting poles of exactly replicating reality and the search for a reality behind THE reality, or the search for images, discovered first by the photographer, using his camera, his ideas, and the artistic manipulation of the negative or positive. Both of these, both primary core philosophical undercurrents of the photographic medium, repeatedly alternated, appeared together, competed with each other, and fought with each other, but they existed then and they exist now, ever since the Frenchman,Neciphore Nièpce, produced the first true photograph in 1826. Around 1860, painting succumbed to a fever. This fever shook the art world and its public to the core, one either wished for it to disappear completely or one wished above all else to have it. This fever was called Impressionism, meant not only to revolutionize painting, but to revolutionize the art of seeing itself. No longer was it sufficient to more or less skillfully represent the images of reality, now for artist had to define himself: radically subjective, radically personal. This new wave was so dramatic, that it seized photography as well and pushed its attempts to record the world with the exactness of a diligent cartographer into obscurity for several decades. Photographers christened their impressionism Pictorialism and from then on, with the camera and grainy film material, formulated dreamlike, blurred, romantically imagined worlds filled with wavy cornfields, playful sun reflections and beautiful people in softened poses. The photographers Edward Steichen, Alvin Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Frederick Holland Day, Frank Eugene, brothers Theodor and Oskar Hofmeister, Adolphe de Meyer, Heinrich Kühn and Alfred Stieglitz became the most famous protagonists, and the american magazine„Camera Work“ its most influential medium. For more than 30 years, the romantic painterly vision of the pictorialists dominated the photography scene, until with a single, sudden, destructive force, the grenades of World War I blew their dreamy corn fields apart. What was left in the end were the battle fields and a sharper, soberer look at reality: The photography of the „New Objectivity“.
The handcrafted and artistic quality of a photograph isn’t necessarily based on the education of the photographer, but exceptional works of photography, those that are hand-processed, optically sophisticated, and conceptual, were nearly always from professionals, in other words, made by photographers professionally schooled in the art and craft of photography. The professional photographer didn’t simply take „snapshots“, but carried out particular commissions. Photography was his full-time occupation.
Many professional photographers were initially introduced through their commissions and clients to the themes, for which they are now well-known and admired. For example, Hugo Schmöz and Werner Mantz are regarded as the most qualitatively outstanding German architectural photographers of the 1920’s and 30’s as a result of commissions from a Cologne housing development company. Peter Keetman became one of the most famous automobile photographers of the German post war era as a result of a commission from VW.
Silver belongs to the most necessary chemical components of the analog process of making black and white photography. The silver content in the film material and in the emulsion on the photographic paper allows analog black and white negative developing and the making of analog black and white positive prints possible. The silver content in negative film material is so high, that even now the valuable precious metal is distilled from discarded black and white negative films, through a sophisticated process, in order to extract it for reuse. Beyond its chemical importance for the technical production of analog negatives and positives, the silver content in the photographic paper coating is responsible for precisely that desirable and mysterious silvery shimmer which, especially in technical images, leads to a perfect analogy of photographic material and image, non-replicable in modern digital technology. This silvery beauty, however, has its price. If a photo positive is exposed to daylight for a long period of time ( more than 20 years ) then the photograph may exhibit some silvering. The precious metal content in the photographic paper appears on the surface and is visible as a fine, silvery bloom, especially along the edges. There are as many collectors, for whom silvering is indicative of damage to the photograph, as there are those who find it aesthetically enriching.
In contrast to the expressionists and dadaists after World War I, visual artists were unable to seriously deal, in their work, with the atrocities and the underlying causes following World War II. The recent catastrophe was simply far too massive, far too all-encompassing. The possibility of an answer was found by artists in 1940’s and 50’s beyond all reality: in abstraction. They could be both:
Firstly, a revolution against the establishment, represented in Germany by the pedantic state sponsered realism of the Nazis, and secondly, the dawn of a new era, whereby the old, culpable, broken world was left far behind, in order, through the frenzy of color and form, to create a completely new and therefore innocent world. The photographers of those times were in conflict. On the one hand, they only needed to take their cameras and „hold them up“, in order to capture the horrifying results of the war. On the other hand, doing so would mean conforming to the long established conventional practice of documentary photography.
Where was their dawn of a new era, their new image of the world? In 1951, the photographer Otto Steinert curated an exhibition of modern German photography in the Kunsthochschulgebäude in Saarbrücken (Art Academy building in Saarbrucken). He named the show „Subjective Photography.“ The exhibit was an overnight sensation. Here was a truly risky new vision of the world, no longer „factual“, but radically subjective. The title „Subjective Photography“ became the art historical term and the slogan of a new generation of photographers.
In „Subjective Photography“ the photographer was once again permitted to be an artist, no longer related to those photographers of the early 1900’s with their painterly motifs in soft focus, but now with the arsenal of abstraction. Seemingly banal, motifs practically photographed to death, from the factory chimney, through to the harvested field, to raindrops on the window glass, were now reworked with intensive graphic processes to become re- and/or newly formulated images reminiscent of abstract painting. Manipulations including purposeful blurs, extremely sharp contrasts, smudges, negative prints and solarization were all permitted and desired. Deep into the 1960’s, the protagonists of „Subjective Photography“ Otto Steinert, Ludwig Windstosser, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Peter Keetman, Toni Schneiders, Heinz-Hajek Halke and Kilian Breier defined the German photography scene, until they were caught up to and finally surpassed by new trends, including Pop- and Op-Art.
A photographic print made from the original negative, created on or near the actual date the negative was taken. For example, a photo whose original negative was taken in 1930 and from which hand made prints were created (usually by the photographer himself) within the same year or shortly thereafter. If the print has managed to survive the passage of time, then it may be considered a vintage print. Vintage Prints are therefore rare and usually of high handcrafted quality.