Celebrating the Negative is a study of the original film on which famous images have been captured by some of the most important photographers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Loengard’s pictures are of the photographers’ famous images as negatives—not prints. Through the loving observation of the original matrixes of some of the most iconic images, Loengard demonstrates to us that the photographic negative is an object of great beauty.
I photographed the negatives in this exhibition as quickly and simply as possible. I used a small camera on a tripod. Any light box, window or even a sunny wall would do as a background. I wanted to catch the moment when the negative first came out of its envelope and was shown with pride. How people touched the negative played subtly against the image on the film itself. At least, I felt this was so. I’m surprised by the widespread disinterest in the negative, because when exposed, it is the plan for what the print will show. I know that once in the darkroom, I’ll recollect how light fell upon the subject; what shadows I wanted to lighten; what gesture I’d hoped to see clearly, and what shapes I expected to dominate the scene, when color and one dimension vanished. All these commitments are lodged in the negative. Making a print simply brings them to life. Ansel Adams likened the negative to a composer’s musical score, and the print, to its performance. The serious work was done when the film was exposed.
—John Loengard, 2008
NUMBER OF WORKS:
20" x 24" and 16" x 20"
Approximately 300 linear feet (91 linear meters)
Story panel about the making of each work
Celebrating the Negative (1994)
Arnold Newman, Igor Stravinsky, 1946, April 12, 1994
Richard Avedon, Ronald Fischer, Beekeeper, 1981, May 3, 1994
André Kertész, Satiric Dancer, 1926, March 3, 1993
Imogen Cunningham, Magnolia Blossom, 1925, August 17, 1993
Nickolas Muray, Babe Ruth, circa 1940, March 4, 1993
Lewis Wickes Hine, Icarus atop the Empire State Building, 1931, March 4, 1993
Man Ray, Femme avec Longs Cheveux, circa 1929, April 26, 1994
Walker Evans: Photographer's Window Display, Birmingham, Alabama, 1936, July 8, 1992
Harry Callahan: Aix-en-Provance, 1958, February 10, 1994
Edward Weston: Pepper #35p, 1930, May 15, 1992