The internet is good for some things. Whilst idly browsing YouTube links of 19th century photography – don’t tell me you don’t do the same – I came across Gertrude Käsebier. Our Gertrude married Edward Käsebier and he financed her life artistic. When he shuffled off this mortal in 1910 she went plunged even deeper into photography but both before and after his demise she created some of the most empathetic portraiture of the period.
At a time when photography either seems to have either been rigid and formal with stiff-necked Victorians staring out with wild seriousness or all neo-classical posing as chubby aristos pretended to be Eros Käsebier’s work stands out as formal portraiture that allows its subjects to speak.
In addition to the straightforward portraits there are some intriguing set-ups. In the video below look out for Lollipops which would win awards today and The Billiard Game which uses focus and composition in a way that seems both thoroughly modern and yet also thoroughly of its time. Of the portraits, those of Stieglitz, “Miss N” and Rose O’Neil stand out.