British photographic history

Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history

In an historiographical essay in his recently published book on The Gernsheim Collection, Roy Flukinger refers in passing to Gernsheim's association with the so-called Combined Societies The Combined Societies - established at a meeting in Cheltenham in March 1945 - was a grouping of disenchanted photographic societies which formed a kind of secession from the Royal Photographic Society. Key figures included the leaders of photographic societies in Hereford (A. Royce Willetts), Bristol (Stanley R. Strickland) and Wolverhampton (Unnamed by Flukinger, together with the photographer Hugo Van Wadenoyen.

Does anybody have any information on the Combined Societies, or any of these key figures? I know that Van Wadenoyen published a number of books (mostly on photographic technique) and, in particular, he is remembered for Wayside Snapshots and is said to have been an influence or mentor to both Ray Moore and Roger Mayne.

I would be grateful for any other information/pointers.

Thanks.

Damian.

Views: 535

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Damian - further to my email this morning I realised I have the BJP for 1945. On 2 March 1945 (p. 76) there is a letter from A Royden Willetts on behalf of Bristol Camera Club (sic), Hereford PS and Wolverhampton PS asking for support for a list of candidates, including Helmut Gernsheim, for election to the RPS Council.

Thare are follow up letters on 9 March 1945, pp. 84-85.

On 30 March 1945, p. 110. There is a letter from the Bristol Camera Club disclaiming any responsibility for the actions of the Bristol Photographic Society concerning exhibition policy and the RPS.

I suspect there is some material in the Photographic Journal that may give another side of the dispute.
Thanks Michael.
There is a story at the back of this I'm sure. It may take some piecing together, however.
Hello, I have been researching Hugo van Wadenoyen for the past several years. He was the brains behind the CS and i have recently been investigating this association. I have masses of information on the CS and on Post War British and European photography. If you can let me know what it is you are interested in i should be able to help. Matthew Mawson


Matthew Mawson said:
Hello, I have been researching Hugo van Wadenoyen for the past several years. He was the brains behind the CS and i have recently been investigating this association. I have masses of information on the CS and on Post War British and European photography. If you can let me know what it is you are interested in i should be able to help. Matthew Mawson

Matthew,

I am now posting about CS/Wadenoyen/Jouhar in this thread, as it seems to be more appropriate here..

When you have had an opportunity to read www.jouhar.com/SDJ/Pictorialism_46.pdf I would be very interested in your views about what the differences in opinion were. From my reading of the speech, it appears that Dr Jouhar's view was that Wadenoyen and some of his fellow CS members were "failed graphic artists who had turned to photography", and the pictures that they were producing were "records" and did not fit Dr Jouhar's definitions of "Pictorialism", and that is why, in his opinion, they were not being displayed at the RPS and the Salon.

Of course, that is only one side of the story (and only one speech, so maybe I have misunderstood ?) so I look forward to hearing from you, some information about the Wadenoyen side of the debate.

Regards
Kelvin
Hello Kelvin.
I think the main arguement was about what was artistic photography. Hugo van Wadenyen believed in the integrity of photographic vision, which meant remaining true to the camera's capacity to record in its most formal sense. This was the dominant gene of the 'Modern' outlook from these years (really from the 1920s) that relied on the Subjective (non-objective) stance of the photographer. Dr Jouhar believed in the freedom of the photographer to create his own master pieces from any given material in order to fulfill his self-expressive needs. The emphasis perhaps is on create - manipulate, but with a strict adherence to rules of composition etc (Jouhar's example of Picasso and the anarchaic Jitterbug (page 10) is very interesting). Although in practice many of Dr Jouhar's photographs could have been shown in a 'Modern' exhibition, it is clear that his outlook was far from modern and that he subscribed to a photographic art theory that was controlled by the old fashioned art movement and tradition. This whole arguement was very similar to the PH Emerson vs H Peach Robinson debate that occured at the turn of the century (also argued out at the Camera Club in London). In the long run it was the Wadenoyen's modern photography (documentary) that eventually came to dominate in the late 1960s. One of the remarkable things about Hugo van Wadenoyen was that he was years ahead of his time but he was unappreciated in his life time, except to a minority who followed his ideas. The dominant Pictorialism remained in the main stream of photography and still remains today.

Wadenoyen and Hoppe were certainly not failed graphic artists turned to photography, both were highly successful photographers with half a century of experience (in 1946) and Hugo had never been a graphic artist. Both had exhibited extensively in the Royal and the Salon, won countless awards, and were at the height of their respective careers. Douglas Glass had been a painter but went on to become a photographer but he was never actually part the CS (he was given a job abroad and was replaced by Helmut Gernsheim as the judge for the 1945 premier exhibition of the CS)

Dr Jouhar exhibited in two of Wadenoyen's early Modern Photography exhibitions in Bristol in 1942 and 1943. Both were shown at the Bristol Art Gallery and he showed the following:

1942:
115. The Only Child
127. Outing Awarded a Gold Star for Special Merit
130. Misty Morn
132. Moorish Maid

1943:
7. Two's Company (Gevaluxe Print) Awarded a Gold Star


I have also seen a review of his V-E Night Impression, 1945, which i will try to find

Hugo gave a lecture to The Camera Club, London, May 4th, 1946, entitled 'Wadenoyen Talks', i assume that Dr Jouhar's talk is in response to Hugo's - unfortunately i do not have the transcript.

Matthew
Matthew,

Thank you very much for that comprehensive reply - I am certainly learning things that I never knew before, and it is very interesting to try to piece together what was going on in the photography world all those years ago. I know from my father, that my grandfather was an outspoken man with very strong views, and I am sure that he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way !!

I believe that he thought that his photographic output backed up his views, and looking at the dozens of prints that I have which were exhibited at the RPS and The Salon, maybe, he had a point. I would certainly like to see examples of Mr Wadenoyens pictures, if possible, to put the debate into an even more relevant context - was he also a member of The London Salon ?

Dr Jouhar's attack on Mr Wadenoyen in his speech is certainly quite strong, and it would be very interesting to get a copy of "Wadenoyen Talks" to see verbatim what Wadenoyen said. In pages 13 to 16 of Dr Jouhar's speech he takes Wadenoyen's points, one by one, and rebuts them, so it would appear that their views were diametrically opposed. !

You mention the Modern Photography exhibitions, in Bristol - I have the original prints of "The Only Child" (which is a picture of a swan with her cygnet) and also "Moorish Maid" (which is a semi-nude woman playing a flute) I probably have the others, as well, but I haven't finished going through them all.

"Two's Company" is a picture of 2 birds in a tree, and it was made from 3 negatives (the original scene with one bird, an extra bird, and clouds added behind the tree - I have the original test print with notes) .On page 15 of the speech, Dr Jouhar answers Mr Wadenoyen's assertion that "Photographers must produce straight and pure photography" by pointing out that it was Mr Wadenoyen who awarded him the Gold Star for that 3-negative print !!

You can see V-E Night Impression (which was also exhibited at The London Salon)
at www.sdjouhar.com/photo_3622311.html

Perhaps a retrospective exhibition of Dr Jouhar's pictures and those of other contemporaries in that 1940-1960 period would be of interest to people today ?

Regards
Kelvin
Kelvin, Matthew,

Matthew is right about the similarity between this debate and that between Henry Peach Robinson and Peter Henry Emerson some 50 years earlier. It is interesting, however, that, whilst his own practice shares much in common with Peach-Robinson, Dr. Jouhar shares some of Emerson’s postion too. Like Emerson, Dr. Jouhar appears passionatley concerned with promoting photographic art and like Emerson, he seems to regard it as crucial that aesthetic, pictorial photography should be maintained separately from the sullying influence of commerce. His objection to the Combined Societies and to what he refers to as their “ill-considered snapshots under the misnomer of ‘Modern Photography’”, is based, in part at least, on an aversion to professional or commercial photography in general – he remarks pointedly on the commercial pedigree of the CS’s prime movers.

But the debate is both wider and older than this. It is not just about what counts as art in photography (although this is Jouhar’s primary interest). It is also a debate about the fundamental nature and value of photography. Dr. Jouhar is dismissive of what he calls “mere ‘Record’” (as opposed to the pictorial photograph) or “their snapshot and record stuff.” Photographers have always expressed ambivalence about the status of their medium - on the one hand art, on the other, visual record or document.

The work of photographers like Paul Strand or Walker Evans shows us that this dichotomy is a false one but photographic art has almost always felt its status to be dependent on the separation. From what I know of Wadenoyen – and Matthew will know more about this than me – he was interested in what and how the camera ‘saw’, not making the camera see what we already think of as pictorial. In this mode, photography becomes an exploration of visual experience in the world, not an abstracted process of pictorial composition. In his Wayside Snapshots, he writes of his impulse “to photograph not the things themselves, but their image on the focusing screen”. In this emphasis on the qualities and properties of the medium itself, rather than on the production of pictures which meet some other standard (this is what he objects to in Pictorialism), Wadenoyen was a modernist and a progressive. Dr. Jouhar characterises Wadenoyen and the other CS movers as a “regressive movement” because he sees their version of photography pulling away from photography’s long struggle to be regarded as art on the same pictorial terms as other media.

But nor was Wadenoyen a straightforward “documentarian”. He explicitly regarded his pictures as insufficiently objective to be counted as documentary, “too coloured by personal feeling.” (This in-between space, between aesthetic picture making and objective record is surely photography's really unique quality - but that's probably my view not Dr. Jouhar's or Wadenoyen's).

At this time, Dr. Jouhar’s position represents the established RPS view and Wadenoyen’s the subversive voice of modernity - hence the vociferousness of the debate. In one sense, however, this whole debate could be seen as a sideshow in the history of photography which, by the 1940s was already well dominated by press and documentary. The history of photography in the 20th century is the history of the rise of a mass medium, rather than an aesthetic or philosophical art debate. (Being provocative).

I hope this discursion is not too off point but sometimes it helps to find out what one thinks by saying it out loud.

*********************************

Matthew,

What is missing in helping my understanding of this debate and its wider context in British photography at the time, is a good sense of what work was being made, exhibited and seen. You seem to have information on at least the exhibitions mounted by Wadenoyen – do you know of others? Can you share this information? How much visual information comes with these records? Is it possible to re-construct what was on show – ie. the pictures themselves.

Thanks both for continuing the debate.

Damian.
Damian -

You have hit the nail on the head with:
"But nor was Wadenoyen a straightforward “documentarian”. He explicitly regarded his pictures as insufficiently objective to be counted as documentary, “too coloured by personal feeling.” (This in-between space, between aesthetic picture making and objective record is surely photography's really unique quality - but that's probably my view not Dr. Jouhar's or Wadenoyen's).

This is what made Hugo so progressive - this is the spirit of the photography that made such a successful comeback in the late 1960s with Ray Moore, Paul Hill, Tony Ray Jones etc. Wadenoyen was not working commercially with this type of photography. You are correct in stating that press and documentary photography was dominant, but only within the professional scene. This type of work was not seen as artistic - it was commercial and it had no illusions of granduer. But Hugo instinctively realised that it was with this style of photography that he could express himself with the camera, breaking away from perverted pictorial traditions and romantic excursions left over from a Victorian age.

The rise of the mass media was shaped by the men and movements who argued out the aesthetic and philosophical debates from within their own history. As Hugo stated: "Art cannot live in a vacuum; it has its roots in the social structure; to be alive it must be expressive of its period...He [the artist] cannot escape his period no matter how he tries..." (exhibition catalogue, 1943).

Matthew
This is a very interesting and absorbing debate.

Damian, you say that Dr. Jouhar is dismissive of what he calls “mere ‘Record'” (as opposed to the pictorial photograph) or “their snapshot and record stuff.” I disagree with your interpretation of what Jouhar wrote - and this is a very important point, I think - Jouhar is very clear in his view that "One type of Photography (Record) is no more superior or inferior than the other (Pictorial)" - His point is that Wadenoyen is sending (what Jouhar considers to be) "Record snapshots" to exhibitions of Pictorial Photography ("like keep sending canaries to a cat show"),and then becoming frustrated "due to rejection of some of his work at some of the important exhibitions".

You make reference to Wadenoyen's "emphasis on the qualities and properties of the medium itself, rather than on the production of pictures which meet some other standard" - This view of Wadenoyen's seems to be at odds with his own Combined Societies Exhibition entry forms (to which Jouhar refers) which tabulate "How your Prints will be Judged"...

Jouhar's view seems to be that the "prime movers" in the Combined Societies (Wadenoyen, Glas, Hoppe', Cash, White, Vining & Straker) are all professionals - they make a living from photography. Jouhar says, "They and the illustrated press perform a very useful function in everyday life", but it seems that they are not producing pictures that are being accepted into the pictorial section of the RPS and the Salon. Maybe that's why they went off and formed their own club - so that they could make their own rules ?

Having said that, Matthew - you said that Wadenoyen "had exhibited extensively in the Royal and the Salon, won countless awards, and was at the height of his career". Do you have some examples of those pictures, or at least the dates when they were exhibited - because it could be that they were exhibited at an earlier time, under different selection criteria, and by the mid-1940's, perhaps the RPS and the Salon were accepting a different type of work ? Dr Jouhar seems to be implying that Wadenoyen's work is NOT being accepted at the time of his speech in 1946 ?

Having just written that, it strikes me that Dr Jouhar was, in fact, the Honorary Secretary of the RPS Pictorial Group between 1944 and 1950 and later the Chairman, and he was elected a member of The London Salon, in 1944 - so perhaps that did not help Mr Wadenoyen's chances !!

Regards
Kelvin
If one accepts Dr. Jouhar's (and the RPS) position in relation to pictorial photography, he is absolutely right that Wadenoyen and his colleagues are "sending canaries to cat shows", with predictable consequences. But Wadenoyen's point is that Jouhar's conception of the pictorial and, more broadly, of what makes interesting photography, is too narrow - and this is, as you say, why they went off and formed their own club.

But I do think that Dr. Jouhar's language is rather dismissive; he calls their work "ill-considered snapshots" and states that "The best of them are no better than you would find anywhere on the walls of an average photographic club." He denigrates the efforts and complaints of Wadenoyen as "sour grapes" and the result of an "inferiority complex".

He does, as you say, affirm that "One type of Photography is no more superior or inferior than the other" but he is really only interested in one kind (Pictorial) and has very particular views about what that kind includes and what it does not. Furthermore, I think he is very clear that the types he identifies should be perceived as separate - "canaries and cats". If the work does not fit his conception of the Pictorial, it is ipso facto "mere Record" (and why, if all types are equal, would he refer to Record as "mere").

I should say that I am stating the terms of the debate here and, from the limited amount I have seen on your website, Dr. Jouhar's own work actually suggests that he came to accept a broader range of photographic interests than his exhibition printing in the 1940s, or his expressed views, indicate. It is interesting that the work you have included from India in 1959 and Africa in 1960 adopts a much more straightforward documentary aesthetic, relying on the inherent exoticism of his subject rather than the more self-conscious pictorial effects of his 1940s exhibition work. On the terms of his 1940s paper, these should be regarded as a very different kind of photography and would probably not fare well in the Salon.

On the question of the Combined Societies Exhibition entry form section on "How your Prints will be Judged" - it is a little difficult to draw conclusions about the significance of this since we do not know what it says, only that some kind of judgments will be applied. It may simply make clear that they expect a broad approach to interpreting what might be considered "pictorial". In any case, I am not arguing that Wadenoyen himself is entirely consistent. In my experience, commentators like Wadenoyen, Jouhar and man many others in the history of photography held strong views and generally expressed them in opposition to somebody else's.

That's all for now - thanks for responding.

Damian.
Hello Kelvin, just getting some facts clear. Hugo van Wadenoyen was the prime mover in the CS. Hoppe was employed as a judge, Douglas Glass never had any involvement with the CS. Cash, White, Vining, Straker et al were exhibitors who sent work in for selection and had no involvement. Wadenoyen formed his own exhibition series (CS) because he believed that the RPS and the London Salon were old fashioned. Most of the photographic press agreed (and other reviewers and critics). Hugo wasn't interested in getting his own photographs accepted in the salon's - he had solo shows and invitations for that purpose. He was interested in promoting Modern photography for the advancement of the medium.

You are right in saying that Hugo and Hoppe exhibited in the Salon and RPS at an earlier time than Dr Jouhar. Hugo gained his FRPS in 1919. He exhibited from 1916 to 1924 in the RPS, and was classed as a leading Pictorialist before renouncing his pictorial tendancies. Hoppe stopped sending prints to the RPS in 1915 and resigned his Fellowship in protest. He also resigned his membership of the London Salon, of which he was a founder member. Hugo carried on exhibiting at the London Salon until 1938, when he to resigned.

The rules for judging were not strict but did expect that submitted prints were straight photographs (not retouched) and were generally of a modern (non pictorial) style. John Piper (a judge) once expressed his disgust at the number of photographs submitted depicting 'swans reflected in water', 'fishing nets hanging on poles' and 'titled-camera shots of outside fire-escapes with plenty of depth-of-field', i.e. the obvious pictorial subject. "It is not that swans and fire-escapes are not beautilful objects; it is that, at the moment, they are dead subjects." (Piper) I can provide a copy of the judging system if required.

Matthew

Kelvin Jouhar said:
This is a very interesting and absorbing debate.

Damian, you say that Dr. Jouhar is dismissive of what he calls “mere ‘Record'” (as opposed to the pictorial photograph) or “their snapshot and record stuff.” I disagree with your interpretation of what Jouhar wrote - and this is a very important point, I think - Jouhar is very clear in his view that "One type of Photography (Record) is no more superior or inferior than the other (Pictorial)" - His point is that Wadenoyen is sending (what Jouhar considers to be) "Record snapshots" to exhibitions of Pictorial Photography ("like keep sending canaries to a cat show"),and then becoming frustrated "due to rejection of some of his work at some of the important exhibitions".

You make reference to Wadenoyen's "emphasis on the qualities and properties of the medium itself, rather than on the production of pictures which meet some other standard" - This view of Wadenoyen's seems to be at odds with his own Combined Societies Exhibition entry forms (to which Jouhar refers) which tabulate "How your Prints will be Judged"...

Jouhar's view seems to be that the "prime movers" in the Combined Societies (Wadenoyen, Glas, Hoppe', Cash, White, Vining & Straker) are all professionals - they make a living from photography. Jouhar says, "They and the illustrated press perform a very useful function in everyday life", but it seems that they are not producing pictures that are being accepted into the pictorial section of the RPS and the Salon. Maybe that's why they went off and formed their own club - so that they could make their own rules ?

Having said that, Matthew - you said that Wadenoyen "had exhibited extensively in the Royal and the Salon, won countless awards, and was at the height of his career". Do you have some examples of those pictures, or at least the dates when they were exhibited - because it could be that they were exhibited at an earlier time, under different selection criteria, and by the mid-1940's, perhaps the RPS and the Salon were accepting a different type of work ? Dr Jouhar seems to be implying that Wadenoyen's work is NOT being accepted at the time of his speech in 1946 ?

Having just written that, it strikes me that Dr Jouhar was, in fact, the Honorary Secretary of the RPS Pictorial Group between 1944 and 1950 and later the Chairman, and he was elected a member of The London Salon, in 1944 - so perhaps that did not help Mr Wadenoyen's chances !!

Regards
Kelvin
Thank you very much for the further information Matthew.
Regards

Kelvin

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2019   Created by Michael Pritchard.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service