'Can you imagine a more perfect way of studying and permanently recording the subtle play of sunlight on moving water? I have spent hours on the canals of Venice, and in the waterways of other places, feasting my eyes on the rhythmic beauty and the poetry of liquid surfaces, hours punctuated at intervals of exceptional charm by the click of the shutter. They have been rare days, and full of great joy - for whatever the camera may not do, it certainly does this one thing: it teaches you to look at the world about you.' - A.L. Coburn (Pall Mall Magazine, 1913, p. 19)
George Bernard Shaw, an early and very significant supporter and spokesman for Coburn stated that the goal of his photography 'is always to convey a mood and not to impart local information'. Shaw wrote the catalogue introduction for the 1906 one-man show at the Royal Photographic Society and along with Ezra Pound, H.G. Wells and Henry James, was one of Coburn's most important literary supporters. Through Shaw Coburn gained access to many of the most celebrated figures of the period, many of whom he included in his 1913 book, Men of Mark and 1922 More Men of Mark.
A masterpiece of the platinum gum process, 'Shadows and Reflections, Venice' 1905 is a natural evolution in Coburn's body of work. It is a celebration of the platinum gum technique which he described in a 1957 article 'I want to mention a process of photographic printing which I was the first to employ, and which I still believe to be one of the most perfect, satisfying and permanent that has ever been available. ('Retrospect', The Photographic Journal, p. 37)
Regarded as an icon of the Photo-Secessionist movement, 'Shadows and Reflections, Venice' has been reproduced widely, including its early appearance in Camera Work, Number 21 in January 1908 and throughout Coburn's career as one of his most important Secessionist works.
Only three additional gum platinum prints of this image are known to exist, including those in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester and a private collection. There is also one later gelatin silver print in the collection of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester.