Through the Lens: Four Notable Photographers

Through photography, artists share a diverse history through portraiture, photojournalism, and documentary. Here are four of my personal favourite photographers, all featured within our forthcoming Prints & Multiples auction.   

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Buena Fama Durmiendo (Good Reputation Sleeping) c.1938, silver gelatin print, printed later. $3,000-6,000

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Mexican artistic photographer, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, was an influential figure in 20th century Latin American art. Victor Blasco, a prominent curator of photography, recounts Álvarez Bravo’s connection to the surrealism movement whilst speaking specifically to his notable photographic work, La Buena Fama Durmiendo (Good Reputation Sleeping). According to Blasco, in 1939, while waiting for his pay check at the academy, Álvarez Bravo received a call from someone representing the French poet and writer André Breton. They were requesting a photograph for the cover of the International Surrealist Exhibition catalogue, which was scheduled to be published in January 1940. Álvarez Bravo, prompted by a strange instinct, contacted his friend Dr. Francisco Arturo Marin, and requested bandages for his model. The doctor, believing there had been an accident, rushed to the scene. Meanwhile, Álvarez Bravo directed Alicia, one of his models, to ascend to the roof, while a porter was dispatched to locate a cactus at a neighbouring market. After assembling all the components on the roof in the midday heat, Álvarez Bravo composed one of his most famous photographs. 

David Moore (1927-2003) Sisters of Charity, Washington DC, USA, 1956, silver gelatin print. $6,000-9,000
© Lisa, Michael, Mathew and Joshua Moore.

David Moore
David Moore developed a distinct photographic sensibility over the course of his career, demonstrating an ability to capture moments of serendipity and coincidence in his work. Using the visual plane perspective, he connected seemingly unconnected subjects. 

The aerial shot, Sisters of Charity, taken in 1956 from the mezzanine level of Washington National Airport, captures a truly serendipitous moment. It depicts a group of nuns in traditional wimples; at first glance, the hats could be mistaken for origami boats or birds. Moore’s great sense of design, composition, and form are captured in this rhythmic shot, which reflects his fascination with the ambiguous nature of photography. His expansive negative archive bears witness to his lasting influence in portraiture, fine art, and documentary photography.

Arnold Newman
American photographer Arnold Newman, often regarded as the creator of environmental portraiture, was best known for his photographic work of politicians and artists. As he explained, “I didn’t want to make a photograph with some things in the background. The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn’t mean a thing.”1 

The most well-known example of Newman’s spectacular portraiture is his image of Russian composer and conductor, Igor Stravinsky, whose ballet and orchestral work, the Rite of Spring, premiered in Paris in 1913 and sparked one of the most intense riots in musical history due to the score’s avant-garde nature and the unconventional choreography. The portrait is heightened by its nearly monochromatic tonality, accentuating the stark contrast between the white wall and the black piano. Newman purposefully integrated the open lid of the piano into the composition, likening it to the shape of a musical flat symbol – forceful, linear, and aesthetically resonant, mirroring Stravinsky’s artistic essence.  

Max Dupain
Max Dupain was widely regarded as the pioneer of modernism in Australian photography, which marked the departure from the sentimental style of soft-focused, nostalgic imagery and moved towards an embrace of an aesthetic typified by light contrasts, sharp focus, angles, and new compositions. The photograph on our cover, Jean with Wire Mesh, depicts Jean Lorraine, a cherished model and close confidant of Dupain and his first wife Olive Cotton, assuming a captivating pose in front of the lens. 

Shot from an elevated angle, she appears ensconced in introspection, her upper body mostly obscured by the mesh that envelops her. Her forehead, hair, and upper arm, however, are exposed to uninterrupted light, so that movement appears to sweep upwards and out of the frame. The mesh, rendered disorderly by the effects of light, delicately veils her curves while simultaneously highlighting them, resulting in a composition that exudes both sensuality and opulence.

1. All About Photo, ‘Arnold Newman’, (accessed 21 February 2024)

Our Prints & Multiples Auction will take place on Wednesday 10 April in Melbourne. For viewing times and to see the full catalogue please visit our website.

By Hannah Ryan, Prints & Multiples Specialist

Top Image: Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006) Igor Stravinsky, New York City 1946, silver gelatin print. $4,000-6,000

April 2024