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Die Kunst in der Photographie

Herausgegeben von Franz Goerke

Between 1897-1908, 66 individual art folios containing a total of 356 individual large format hand-pulled photogravures and 318 autotypes were published in the German photographic art publication "Die Kunst in der Photographie" (The Art in Photography). Franz Goerke (1856-1931), the editor and publisher of this publication, was an important exponent of German art photography. Speaking of Goerke, none other than Dr. Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, who taught the young Alfred Stieglitz photographic chemistry in Germany in his formative years, said of this new publication in a photographic review of the first year of publication (1897) that Die Kunst in der Photographie is a "...totally new and original undertaking. Many waffle about art in photography, but what nonsense. Here [speaking of Goerke] we are dealing with the work of a sensitive expert." (Rolf H. Krauss History of Photography, Volume 10, Number 4, page 267, October-December 1986)
"This publication may well be the most important and valuable documentation of art photography in the German language but, because of its rarity, has remained virtually unknown." (265)
The Krauss article is critical in our understanding of the importance of this publication. Krauss gives us some more background on Goerke: that "sensitive expert" (as stated by Vogel) was the publisher Franz Goerke. He was born on 14 November 1856 in Königsberg. He received his original training in banking, but was apparently inclined to devote himself to more general studies. He photographed as a hobby, and in October 1889 he founded, together with 52 other members, the "Free Photographic Association" in Berlin, in which he accepted the office of Recorder. The article then states that Goerke was also president of this photographic association from 1912-1919. (267) In the same year that he first published Die Kunst in der Photographie, Goerke in 1897 became the director of "Urania" in Berlin. Founded in 1888, this institution for continuing popular education in the sciences was originally named after the Greek muse of astronomy and astrology, and since 1968 as the German Cultural Association, Berlin, a Community Institution for the Cultivation of Science, Research, Art, and Cultural Film, as well as Public Readings by Poets". (268)
Beginning after 1893, Krauss has researched that Goerke‘s involvement with the Free Photographic Association was of a populist nature: Using his own photographs converted into lantern slides, Goerke was one of the first to put on and promote "Projector Evenings" for club members. (268) Krauss also enlightens us that "Learning through Observation" was the goal for "Urania" members-and it was embraced by Goerke and made him a follower of Jugendstil (art nouveau): "His faith in the beneficial fruits of the science, his love of the art and his conviction that art is capable of developing a person‘s artistic sensibility, together with his missionary zeal and determination to pass his insights on to others, made Goerke an exponent of the Jugendstil." This happened in a historic moment in which it was feasible for non-professionals, dilettantes, amateurs and hobbyists to generate a new sense of the times." (268)
As an active member and officer of the Free Photographic Association, Goerke had directed "the aesthetic parts" (267) of numerous photographic exhibitions associated with his club, including the important 1896 International Exhibition of Amateur Photography (in the Reichstag) and also "those in the Royal Academy of Arts, Berlin, 1902 and 1905." (268)
And so in Goerke we have a very visible cheerleader who had the connections neccesary to give the new artistic photographic movement some room to finally stand on its‘ own. In the introduction to the first issue he wrote:
"The development of amateur photography has reached a critical point. Out of the wide circle of amateurs has emerged a small community which sees more in photography than a playful hobby. A new era in amateur photography has thereby begun, the era of artistic and highly personal photography… The publisher has in this work set himself the task of presenting an overview of this kind of photography, its problems and achievements, through the medium of reproduction prints." (translated from the original German)
Two years after this important publication ended, in 1910, (Krauss makes the observation: "after which the publisher, (Knapp) one may surmise, put an end to this costly prestige project.") "Goerke was totally justified in saying: "This work, to the success of which the finest art photographers at home and abroad have contributed, is likely to be of permanent value in the history and development of art photography." (270)
The number of issues varied through the years. From 1897-1903, six issues were published each year, or every other month. Beginning in 1904 it was published on a quarterly basis until 1907. The final year featured 8 individual issues. It was also not a bound publication but issued in thin cardstock folio folders: letterpress was issued with beautiful large plate photogravures and starting in 1901, autotypes (actually, similar to halftones) were also included as photographic supplements. (these are tipped on various colored paper stock) In total, 674 "art supplements" made up the full run of this publication.
In Frank Heidtmann‘s Die deutsche Photoliteratur 1839-1978: Theorie, Technik, Bildleistungen : e. systemat. Bibliogr. d. selbständigen deutschsprachigen Photoliteratur / German Photographic Literature, 1839-1978: Theory, Technology, Visual: A Classified Bibliography of German-Language Photographic Publications (München; New York; London; Paris: Saur, 1980) this publication is included in entry #00370 where it says:
"It was the first photographic journal in the world that concerned itself only with the photographic image and its aesthetics, which ignored all other themes, and treated art photography as an international movement."
A fascinating comparison with the Stieglitz publication Camera Work is also included in the Krauss overview of Die Kunst in der Photographie. Coming out six years before the first issue of Camera Work published in 1903, the importance of this largely unknown publication is the effect that it had on the photographic pictorialism movement and the promotion of artistic photography worldwide. Strikingly, the work of 23 individual photographers appear in each publication. (there are a total of 79 individual photographers and artists represented in Camera Work) Perhaps more fascinating however and certainly the need for more scholarly research is warranted on this front is the fact that 278 individual photographers from around the world made contributions to this groundbreaking body of work. It is difficult to deny this publication had an immense influence that has been largely ignored in the English-language histories of photography.
This first year bound folio contains 36 photogravures and 52 pages of text with additional photographic illustrations. We have included a representative page with a printed halftone photographic illustration for purposes of giving people a feel for the "look" of this publication. Themes of the first six issues are as follows for 1897:
1. Der Camera-Club in Wien
2. Die Berliner Vereine
3. Der Photo-Club in Paris
4. Die Association Belge de Photographie
5/6: The Linked Ring
The following articles are also contained in this first bound yearly folio volume:
p. 1 Forward by Franz Goerke
p. 3 Alfred Buschbeck: Zur Geschichte der künstlerischen Bestrebungen im Wiener Camera-Club.
p. 9 Walter Körber: Die optischen Täuschungen im Dienste der bildenden Kuntst.
p. 21 Franz Goerke: Der Photo-Club in Paris
p. 29 Marcel Vanderkindere: (Brüssel): Die "Association belge de Photographie"
p. 37 Alfred Horsley Hinton: Die englische Schule der künstlerischen Photographie.
p. 49. Richard Stettiner: Gedanken eines Theortikers über Bildnissphotographie.
Through a series of galleries, Photoseed is pleased to share some of the masterpieces and obscure yet deserving work of early photographic art published as large plate photogravures in Die Kunst in der Photographie from around the world. Although we do not own the entire run of this important work, we nonetheless intend to present a good portion of it. Later, we will also present a separate gallery of select autotypes (halftone) plates that appeared in the publication from 1901-1908.
David Spencer (November 2006) 



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