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ALVIN LANGDON COBURN (1882-1966)
I want to see [photography] alive to the spirit of progress; if it is not possible to be "modern" with the newest of all the arts, we had better bury our black boxes. Alvin Langdon Coburn
ALVIN LANGDON COBURN (1882-1966)

Vortograph (The Eagle), 1917

Details
ALVIN LANGDON COBURN (1882-1966)
Vortograph (The Eagle), 1917
gelatin silver print
image: 11 1/8 x 8¼in. (28.4 x 21.3cm.)
sheet: 12 x 10in. (30.4 x 25.3cm.)
Provenance
By bequest from the artist, July 1967;
to The International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, New York;
to the present owner (by deaccession), April 1983
Literature
Modernist Masterworks to 1925 from 'the deLIGHTed eye', A Private
Collection
, International Center of Photography, New York, 1985, p. 17; Weaver, 'Alvin Langdon Coburn: Symbolist Photographer, 1882-1966', Aperture, No. 104, Fall 1986, p. 71 (variant cropping)
Exhibited
Modernist Masterworks to 1925 from 'the deLIGHTed eye', A Private Collection, International Center of Photography, New York, May 15-June 16, 1985

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Lot Essay

Alvin Langdon Coburn's career as a Vorticist photographer began in London in 1917 and lasted for only about a month. Anxious to disprove the common notion that the camera could not be truly abstract, he made 18 Vortographs now prized for their rarity, compositional strength and the fact that they take abstraction in photography just about as far as it can go.
The Vortographs were made with three mirrors clamped together in a triangle, into which the lens of the camera was projected and through which various objects (crystals and wood placed on a table with a glass top) were photographed. The resulting images, exhibited at the Camera Club in London, prompted the Vorticist poet Ezra Pound to proclaim in his introduction for the exhibition catalogue that 'the camera is freed from reality.'

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