Paul Outerbridge Jr: Photographs


Photographs are copyright of the estate of Paul Outerbridge Jr

This last month I have seen a small flurry of activity regarding the photographic body of work by Paul Outerbridge Jr. ( 1986 – 1958). Outerbridge was a eccentric contemporary and competitor of Edward Steichen, a friend of Marcel Ducamp, Man Ray and others while living in Paris and known for both his Platinum and Carbo-Color Prints. The latter better know for both the phonographic virtuoso technique and the fetish nude subject matter.

I decided to provide a quick review of my 1980 first edition of Paul Outerbridge Jr: Photographs published in hardcover with dust cover by Rizzoli, New York. I take full credit for a couple of the not-so-great copies of photographs from the book, below. Thus if Outerbridge was alive as the perfectionist that he apparently was he would have skinned me so I will have to make do with him just rolling in his grave.

This is a retrospective monograph of Outerbridge’s body of work edited by Graham Howe and G. Ray Hawkins and was the first published book about Outerbridge. Now how ever there have been a number of books produced about Outerbridge’s photographs and life.

Outerbridges photographic career can be broken into two distinct periods which the book provides a portfolio from his platinum prints dating from 1921 – 1933 and then after learning the Carbo-Color process a portfolio of prints from 1935 – 1939.

During Outerbridge’s platinum period he was very much a competitor to Steichen’s commercial photography. Apparently the aesthetic side of their photographic competition was narrowed down between photographs of cups and saucers versus eggs and the ability to make the best possible photograph of a entirely white on white subject. There were other aspects of this rivalry which to the credit of Howe and Hawkins makes for an interesting read.

Outerbridge was captivated by the cubist movement and he felt that photography was even a better medium to create cubist work, which most of his contemporaries in Paris agreed. When Outerbridge moved to Paris it appears that he and Man Ray became close friends. The book’s authors trace some of Outerbridge’s later erotic work back to Man Ray’s own private photographic studies of himself with Kiki who was Ray’s model and muse that apparently was shared with Outerbridge.

Outerbridge was an earlier innovator of the limited edition print as he usually only printed one of each of his Platinum prints and like wise later when he began printing his Carbo-Color prints. Both processes are very labor intensive printing processes with the  Carbo-Color print taking upwards of nine hours to produce.

Since the Carbo-Color printing process utilized actual ink the prints are said to be absolutely amazing in their three dimension appearance. (Thus if you are in the Los Angeles area there will be an exhibition of Outerbridge’s photographs at the Getty Museum on exhibition March 31 – August 9th, 2009).  Regretfully that amazing color or feeling is not apparent from the printing of this book.

The 160 pages of the book provides a broad but not inclusive survey of Outerbridge’s body of photographic work with a strong concentration and emphasis on his earlier Platinum work.

For the color photographs the nudity was at the time very controversial and eventually led to the declining interest in Outerbridge’s prints in the 1930’s – 1950’s these are pretty tame by today’s Internet standards. Outerbridge apparently did understand the current issues of the time with his nude studies which he created as “neo-classical” studies which were his public work.  Because of the subject matter Museums did not purchase these or allowed them to exhibited.

He also had an “interest in sexuality, eroticism, fetishism and decadence”.  The latter were privately held for himself and a small group of friends with only a very few of these included within the book.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale











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