Eliot Porter was primarily known for his color photography and I admit to owning one of his fine color monographs (American Places) – one of the only color photography books I have! In fact, Porter is one of the few color photographers I really like. So it was very interesting to me to explore his early black and white work, created mostly before he became a renowned color photographer of birds and the natural landscape.
Porter originally was recognized for his black and white work exhibited by Alfred Stieglitz at the famous “An American Place” in 1938. A year later Beaumont Newhall used his black and white images in the first exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art’s photography gallery. Nevertheless Porter turned to color and that is really what established his ultimate fame – and rightly so – he was good at it! However, this wonderful large format book contains over 90 beautiful black and white images of the Southwestern United States landscape, and the old buildings and other interesting artifacts he found there. There are only two pictures containing people, but one is a striking portrait of the painter Georgia O’Keefe.
It takes you back to a far different and simpler – and some would argue – a better time … and when I look at it I daydream just a little.
The photographs are aesthetically and technically exquisite and there is a wonderful introduction written by Porter about his life as a young man and how he switched careers to become a photographer. You can find this beauty for a song. Get it and maybe daydream a little.