BooknewsPresents the studio work of photographer Albert Arthur Allen, whose career, from 1916 to 1930, focused on female nudes. Daile Kaplan's introduction discusses Allen's legal difficulties with obscenity laws and bankruptcy, his concept of himself as an artist, and his pseudo- scientific "physical and character analysis" of his models. The main part of the volume is devoted to full-page reproductions of Allen's photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
- Twin Palms Publishers
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- 10.60(w) x 10.50(h) x 1.40(d)
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The Premiere Nudes based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
This book covers the history, social situation and product of Albert Arthur Allen. Albert Allen worked in the 1920s and his book and photographic work reflect the concepts of beauty at that time. The hairstyles and props as well as the figures reflect the times. This was a time period when nudes in sculpture and painting were okay but in photography it was considered pornography. Albert Allen forged ahead in spite of all of this. The first part of the book covers his work, ideas (although many of them were quite strange) and photographs that are of an anatomical guide style. Full frontal and rear photographs of what are mostly slightly overweight models by today's standard of beauty but consistently in line with concepts of beauty during the 1920s. While a fascinating read and study of Albert Arthur Allen, most of the photography is very average by today's standards. Then again there were some series that showed true genius in artistic composition and use of light. A fine example of this is the Alo Studies taken from 1916-1923. They resemble Maxfield Parrish¿s work but with nudes. Instead of a study of nudes like most of the rest of the book they are a study in composition, light and art. If you study Albert Arthur Allen as an artistic study or his life as a study of where photography of nudes as an art form has come from then this is an excellent book. Even as a study in sociology this is an interesting book to see how concepts of beauty and acceptance of nude photography as an art form have changed over the years. His concepts of sociology, culture and racial differences and how they affected his photography are fascinating to read.
The great photographers make nudes look natural and simple. A great deal of art lies behind their representations. You need capable models, the right setting, a way to create a mood for the model, great lighting, superb reproductions, appropriate cropping, and the ability to throw out most of what you do. Albert Arthur Allen was a pioneer in photographing the nude who lacked many of these skills, so you can learn a lot by seeing what was right and wrong about his efforts. The book's essay is superb for describing Mr. Allen's life, work, and the context of photography at the time he created these images. His work is very beautifully reproduced here. Mr. Allen will probably be remembered primarily as a pioneer in presenting full frontal female nudity. For this, he spent many years being prosecuted as a pornographer. The images here surpass in being explicit what you would see in an 'R' rated movie. Mr. Allen's best work was from 1916-1923 when he worked outdoors with naturists. The work will remind you of Jock Sturges's images. These were often modestly done, and create a wonderful mood of outdoor idylls. I enjoyed almost all of these works, which he referred to as Alo Studies. He was permanently disabled in 1923 in an accident and had to work indoors thereafter. Mr. Allen was not a good studio photographer. His models were often awkward, they were posed in artificial ways that are often unappealing, and he published a lot of subpar images. His best studio work was of individuals posed to look like classic statuary. Supported by a wealthy family until he went bankrupt in 1927, Mr. Allen had enormous sums to spend on his work. He published a lot despite having had only one solo show. He was able to hire as many models as he wanted. Without having to pass critical tests, his work went off on tangents. He had strange ideas about how the physical type of a person determined other things about them. He did 'classifying' photography to help establish these types. One cannot help but feel that this was in some ways a psychological cover to legitimize his fascination with naked, comely young women. Undoubtedly, his disability may have played a psychological role here. At his worst, the work is exploitive. Imogen Cunningham was doing outstanding nudes at the same time, and the contrast could not be stronger. I thought his work in 'The Boudoir' showed this tendency the most. The work in 'Vacation' looked like an early Playboy pictorial. Overall, his style came closest to Pictorialism, featuring a soft focus and carefully retouched or painted over 'private' areas. After you finish enjoying this book's good points, perhaps you would benefit from thinking about the importance of capturing truth in expression. Where do you see, hear, touch and feel truth being expressed? How can you tell? Why does the essential truth touch us so much more than artifice that misses the truth? See past the images being represented to capture the essence of what is being revealed. Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution