Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

Wingate Paine, Sam Haskins and Jean-Loup Sieff – copy vs influence!

Monday, February 20th, 2012

This week’s Photo Eye auction video by Eric Miles prompted me to tackle a perversion of art history scholarship which has taken root in American auction houses and galleries since the Steven Kasher Gallery show in 2008 of Wingate Paine’s photographs.

In the video referring to Wingate Paine’s book ‘Mirror of Venus’ (1966) Mr Miles describes Paine as being “As American as baseball” and credits him with creating photographic icons of the 60s sexual revolution. Eric Miles goes on to identify Paine as being the American branch of the 60′s style revolution happening in London in particular drawing a parallel with the movie ‘Blow Up’ and the fashion designs of Mary Quant.

There is only one problem with this heroic American view of Mr Paine’s images – it’s a lie. In a lifetime of observing Sam’s influence and influences, I have never come across another photographer whose entire artistic ‘signature’ has been based on copying Sam’s work to the same extent as Mr Paine. Of course Sam is highly referenced, more today than ever, and photographers like Tom Munro or Mario Testino have copied Sam’s work copiously. The thing is that next week Mr Munro will be all over Avedon and the week after that Guy Bourdin then Newton etc. Mr Paine on the other hand has Sam’s ‘style’, not to mention specific ideas, all over his entire career.

Wingate Paine – an ‘acquired’ artistic signature

Five Girls by Sam Haskins 02From Five Girls by Sam Haskins (1962)

Gill on Floor Conversation No2 by Sam HaskinsFrom Five Girls by Sam Haskins (1962)

Gill on Floor Conversation by Sam HaskinsFrom Five Girls by Sam Haskins (1962)

Women lying down by Wingate Paine 01Wingate Paine (circa 1965/6 or later)

Gill and Curl by Sam HaskinsGill and Curl from Five Girls by Sam Haskins (1962)

Wingate Paine 03Wingate Paine (circa 1965/6 or later)

Bes Five Girls by Sam Haskins 01The first content page of ‘Five Girls’ by Sam Haskins (1962) and below a close up crop.

Bes Five Girls by Sam Haskins 01 crop

Mirror of Venus CoverFront cover of ‘Mirrror of Venus’ by Wingate Paine (1966)

At some basic level I don’t really have a problem with Paine’s work in its own right. Deep down it is just how the art world works, especially in fashion and glamour with its ubiquitous ‘mood board’ syndrome. Mr Paine made a living as a photographer, which on its own is fine. There are however two problems here, one is art historical accuracy and correct credit and the other is understanding the difference between plagiarism and ‘reference’ or ‘influence’. There is a very important and distinct difference, not just for reasons of academic sequencing, but because the work of master artists who evolve their art form automatically carries a power which is self evident – especially over time.

Apart from the need for veracity in tracing the history of style and ideas there is another magical lie-detector at work here – the camera itself. And, this test, Mr Paine passes with credit. Photography perhaps more than any other art form provides a direct view onto the artist’s heart. Mr Paine couldn’t resist putting his hand into the cookie jar of Sam’s creativity – all the way up to his elbow – but in the process of stealing he revealed a truth. He really did love women and the photographic process, it is just sad that he couldn’t find his own voice to sing their praises.

‘Mirror of Venus’, Mr Paine’s compendium of work was published in 1966, four years after Sam’s ‘Five Girls’ and two years after ‘Cowboy Kate and Other Stories’. Mr Paine’s book went on to be reprinted several times and remained a best seller well into the 70s, which is an important commercial underpinning to the self delusional process of stealing an artistic identity – copying is profitable! It should however be borne in mind that at this time Cowboy Kate was in the process of selling nearly a million copies worldwide – probably a photo book record – and the widespread praise and exposure of Kate and Sam’s other work no doubt played a part in helping to boost sales of ‘Mirror of Venus’.

The debt that Mr Paine owes to Sam cannot be overlooked by contemporary commentators as serious and highly regarded as Photo-Eye. Which is not to say, in the overall evolution of ideas, that Sam’s thinking was not passed on to some photographers through Wingate Paine’s book. Until that is, those who thought that Paine was an American ‘original’ acquired libraries that were worth more than their cameras. At which point one would hope that they ‘discovered’ the true originator of the ideas and style adopted by Paine simply by looking at ‘Five Girls’ and ‘Cowboy Kate’ by Sam Haskins.

The question of where copying ends and influence or evolutionary reference starts is perhaps best answered by looking at the history of all ideas and even at evolution itself. The question is answered with eloquence in the series of four online videos by Kirby Ferguson, ‘Everything is a Remix’. His constant return to the mechanics of evolution, ‘Copy – Transform – Combine’ is immensely useful in clarifying the difference between copying or plagiarism and evolution or influence. In the art world, if you just ‘Copy’ or just ‘Copy and Combine’ that will inevitably produce a failure, a very low voltage version of something else which has real power. Without transformation there is no evolutionary ‘influence’. Real evolution always transforms and always leads to new life forms. That’s life and that’s art.

Below: An example of copying and combining without ‘transforming’, a case of 1+1=0.5

Sunday Bentley 01 by Sam HaskinsSunday from ‘Other Stories’ in ‘Cowboy Kate and Other Stories by Sam Haskins (1964)

Kate Cover by Sam HaskinsCover of ‘Cowboy Kate and Other Stories by Sam Haskins (1964)

Wingate Paine does Kate 04Wingate Paine (circa 1965/6 or later)

Sam Haskins and Jean-Loup Sieff a cross fertilising dialogue of influence

In terms of artistic merit the creatively ‘thin’ nature of Mr Paine’s work stands in sharp contrast to the work of those artists like Jean-Loup Sieff – also referenced in Eric Miles video – who was both an influence on Sam and influenced by him. Mr Sieff was a master photographer whose work carried his own distinctive, original ‘signature’. In the creative environment of Mr Sieff’s mind or Sam’s or any master photographer’s, influence is always ‘transformed’ never just copied or combined.

Mr Sieff started his career as a photo journalist and a member of Magnum and like many other photographers, ‘Five Girls’ was more than an inspiration to him. Like all ground breaking photography, it constituted permission to see, feel and think in a new way. Jean-Loup’s own genius and common values and subject matter (nudes, nature, meticulous lighting, eroticism) led to a long running cross fertilisation between himself and Sam. Although Sam featured in a book that Mr Sieff produced of contemporary photographers, they sadly never met.

It’s been impossible for me to tell which of the following shots came first but it really doesn’t matter – there was an influence dialogue between Sam and Jean-Loup. Both these shots explore ‘frame within a frame’, nudes and a single light source.

Jean Loup Sieff 01Jean-Loup Sieff 1970s

Apple Diagonal by Sam Haskins“Diagonal Apple” by Sam Haskins 1970s

Again, not sure of the dates of the Sieff image and again it doesn’t matter.

Tea Break by Sam HaskinsTea Break by Sam Haskins from Cowboy Kate and Other Stories (1964)

Sieff tea breakJean-Loup Sieff 1960s

Here there is little doubt that the Haskins image was published first.

Cheating Ace from Cowboy Kate by Sam Haskins‘Card Cheat from Cowboy Kate by Sam Haskins (1964)

Jean loup sieff plaitJean-Loup Sieff (circa early 1970s)

In preparing this post I took great care to look over the original material and as far as possible check dates. In the context of the Paine/Haskins story this revealed a very important and ironic footnote to the understanding of ‘Copy – Transform – Combine’. It turns out that in the process of stealing from Sam with both arms, Wingate Paine produced an image in ‘Mirror of Venus’ based on a photograph in ‘Cowboy Kate’ (a model sitting on an unmade bed) – just as Sam was working on ‘November Girl’ (published in 1967). It’s very likely that Paine’s copy, with its room corner set, in turn, sparked an idea in Sam’s head, for the ‘Parisian loft’ set which is among some of the best loved images from ‘November Girl’. In other words, I think he stole back from the thief! Which reinforces the Oscar Wilde insight “Talent borrows, Genius Steals” only Mr Wilde forgot to add “…and transforms.”

Sunday Bed by Sam HaskinsFrom Cowboy Kate & Other Stories by Sam Haskins (1964)

Wingate Paine model on bed 01Wingate Paine (circa 1965/6 or later)

November Girl by Sam HaskinsFrom November Girl by Sam Haskins (1967)

Ludwig

Julian Restoin Roitfeld quotes Sam as influence for new lingerie designs

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

This week an article in the New York Times quoted Julia Restoin Roitfeld as crediting Sam for inspiration when designing her new Kiki de Montparnasse lingerie range.

NYT Julia Roitfeld Slide Show 01

Julia, daughter of the legendary former editor of French Vogue, Carine Roitfeld (also a Sam Haskins fan) mentions Sam’s work in the window although the article itself doesn’t carry a shot of the store front. Below is a photograph of Kiki’s window in NY taken in 2007 by Sam’s grandson Oren.

Cowboy Kate in Kiki Window 2007 460

A slideshow of the opening party held at Kiki’s New York store is available here.

Sam’s work is routinely ‘referenced’ by the fashion and photographic world but the number of times that he is openly credited are, by comparison, minute. However, I have noticed a positive trend among fashion designers, in contrast to photographers, of being much more generous about citing Sam’s influence on their thinking.

Sam on French Breakfast TV

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

A very charming team from the French breakfast TV show 'Tele Matin' interviewed Sam while we were hanging the show at Milk Gallery. The video they made aired twice, once in October 2009 and again in December 2009. The show's co-anchor Isabelle Chalençon is seen below wearing her Sam Haskins T-shirt while presenting the story.

This video along with others made by CNN and The New York Times form a precious record. They are the last recordings of Sam's voice prior to his stroke which happened just days after this footage was shot. The bruise clearly visible on his right cheek is as a result of a fall he took in Korea on his way to New York. Despite being in constant pain from a tripod fracture of his cheekbone, he kept to his schedule and met all his commitments to the press and the sponsor, Tommy Hilfiger.

France always had a special place in Sam's heart. Not just because from the moment his first book 'Five Girls' was published, the French warmly embraced his work and awarded his second book 'Cowboy Kate' with the coveted Prix Nadar but mainly because collectively the French seemed to be looking at the photography more than the nudity. Sam's work also appeared on two covers of French PHOTO. He had many fond memories of his trips to the city of light, starting in 1950 when he first travelled to the French capital as a student based in London through to presenting his slide show on the first level of the Eiffel Tower in the 80s and shooting for French Vogue in his late seventies.

Some of Sam's greatest contemporary colleague/heroes were also based in Paris; Guy Bourdin and Jean-Loup Sieff. Although Sam contributed to a book published by Sieff featuring the portraits and quotes of other photographers, and they certainly were an influence on one another, they sadly never met.

On this occasion, Paris came to Sam in New York and not only Paris, in five hectic days before the show he was interviewed by journalists from a dozen different countries and the book/exhibition was covered by over 100 magazines in 25 countries. The last interview was on Friday morning and the following morning, September 19th 2009, Sam had the tragic stroke that precipitated a rapid decline that led to his death two months later at home in Australia.

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Sam-for-Tele-Matin-01.jpg


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Sam-for-Tele-Matin-05.jpg


Get the Flash Player to see this video.

[posted by Ludwig]

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African Image – Celebrating sub-Saharan Africa

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

'African Image' was published in 1967 the last full calendar year that Sam and Alida were based in Johannesburg. This was his parting love letter to Africa. It was long before art books on Africa were popular and Sam's wife Alida had a tough time getting publishers to take the book. She twisted arms by saying they could have 'November Girl' (the book the followed 'Cowboy Kate') if they also took 'African Image'. It has in the meantime become a collectors piece both among lovers of photo books and collectors of African art. It’s the latter aspect of Africa, its indigenous art, that forms the core theme of a title that Sam affectionately referred to simply as 'Image'.

Although there were many workshops and lectures in subsequent years, Sam didn't return to shoot in Africa until he produced the 1999 Pentax Calendar in the Cape a very different celebration.

Sam had admired the pictures of Brodovitch dynamically editing the layout of a Richard Avedon book with loose prints spread out on on a carpeted floor high in a Manhattan skyscraper. In a slower and vertical version of that process he taped the entire book to the studio wall (see photo below). Almost daily for many weeks he made changes and additions, refining sequence, cropping, and shooting fresh material to fill gaps until the entire book rang like a bell.

Sam-Haskins-African-Image.jpg

Below are the cover and back cover from the African Image dust jacket.

African-Image-Dust-Jacket-Cvr-01.jpg

African-Image-Dust-Jacket-BCvr-01.jpg


The quarterly Bergdorf Goodman magazine (March 2010) published this week features an article about African Image that includes some of the following spreads.

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mask-sandwich.jpg


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Mask-and-Triple-fig-Still-LIfe.jpg


Mount-Kenya-and-mask-03.jpg


Sculpted-Face-and-Running-Kids-B.jpg


Tree--and-Giraffe.jpg


[Ludwig - Sam's son]

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