Every photograph - whether family snapshot or museum masterpiece - comes to life out of the silver shadows in the negative. Yet the value and intrinsic beauty of the photographic negative have been woefully underappreciated. Auction houses disdain negatives of even the most celebrated photographs, insurance companies routinely underestimate their worth, and the general public never gets to see them. Only archivists, dealers and photographers themselves understand how priceless, unique and visually stunning negatives truly are.
Celebrating the Negative rectifies matters in glorious fashion. John Loengard has tracked down and photographed the negatives of some of the most famous images ever made: Alexander Gardner's legendary portrait of Abraham Lincoln and Walker Evans' haunting portrait of Bud Fields and his family; Ansel Adams' serene Moonrise, Hernandez, N. Mex. and Robert Capa's D-day beachhead. Loengard's work literally and figuratively illuminates these negatives, revealing how the photographer has manipulated the image to produce the final print by choosing what to crop or enlarge, what to darken or lighten. The mastery of Man Ray, Yousuf Karsh, Alfred Stieglitz, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz and Edward Weston, to name but some of the many photographers represented here, shows up in their negative capability.