Louis Stettner (1922-2016) was an American photographer of the 20th century whose work included streetscapes, portraits and architectural images of New York and Paris. His work has been highly regarded because of its humanity and capturing the life and reality of the people and streets. (from Wikipedia)
The Louis Stettner exhibit at SFMOMA is wonderful and if you’re in SF and like photography, it’s worth a visit. While there’s a lot of his work that i don’t find particularly interesting, a number really resonate for me, and there’s lots to see.
A few notes on the walls of SFMOMA about Stettner:
BRASSAI ON STETTNER: No matter how passionately Louis may become involved with what is most immediate and commonplace around us, he does not allow himself to be seduced by the picturesque. Stettner’s stimulant, his pre-established theme, is our natural environment, which he reveals with the utmost accuracy and the simplicity of great art.
OBLIQUE GAZE: Stettner defined himself as a “realist”. … He did not, however, always follow formal principles associated with the style of “realism”: frontal presentation of the subject, its placement at the center of the image, or its perfect legibility. As seen here, Stettner often preferred off-center framing and complex compositions.
ATMOSPHERIC QUALITY: Stettner enjoyed working in the rain, snow and fog, as evidenced by the pictures in the gallery. He was among the best photographers of the thickness of the air that separates the camera from its subject. The atmospheric quality of this space in between serves as a filter overlaying reality, making Stettner’s gaze visible.
This Stettner, in particular, always inspired me in the way the subjects were arranged in the frame. In my mind it is in the same category as this photograph, by Rudolph Burkhardt, c.1940 “War Posters, France”
These two photos catch an arrangement of subjects — and so when I found myself watching a group of seaglass hunters in Davenport, CA a few years ago, I found the anonymous subjects with this same sort of array, which i liked.
Over Thanksgiving I took some pictures at San Francisco de Asis, the famous church in Taos New Mexico. I took about five photos trying to get it the way i wanted it. I knew the crosses were distinctive and i wanted all four in the frame; the three on the church are fixed, but the fourth is on an arch about 50 feet from the church, and so body position and very subtle shifts in camera will leverage the parallax and appear to move the first cross around. Where to place it? In #1 i like the position, but i don’t like how the horizontal bar of the cross aligns near the church border; in #2 that problem is fixed by moving a tiny bit. But #3 was my favorite, with the 4th cross pushed farther to the left to balance the composition a little better.
MAGNUM Contact Sheets on Amazon
Suzanne’s Instagram (@sfritzhanson)
If you like our show, please subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcasting app, and please rate the podcast. And don’t forget to join the Neomodern Facebook group to discuss the show, share your photos, hear about specials for printing or framing your best images. Thank you!