The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans

Copyright the estate of Frederick Evans 2010 courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum and photo-eye

The retrospective monogram, The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans, curated by Anne Lyden, complemented by Hope Kingsley’s essay, provides a wonderful tribute to this renowned English photographer (b. 1853, d. 1943, England).

Evans was an active photographer from the early 1880’s well into the 1930’s. Although his subjects ranged from portraits to the rural landscape and English country homes, he is best known for his poetic photographs of English and French Cathedrals. Evan’s aesthetic interpretations of these “great ecclesiastical sites” were praised by Alfred Stieglitz, who featured Evans photographs and writings in his journal Camera Work (issue #4, 1904) and exhibited Evans photographs at his “291” gallery in New York in 1906.

The book includes Evan photographs from his entire body of work. His cathedrals photographs are from his studies at Canterbury, Gloucester, Lincoln, Ely, Wells, Southwell, Durham, Westminster Abbey and Winchester in England, and Rheims, Bourges, Arles and Rouen in France.

Even though I have seen Evan’s “A Sea of Steps” (Stairs to the Chapter House, Wells Cathedral, 1903) countless times, it still remains one of my favorites Evans photograph and I still consider it amazing tour de force. This one photograph seems to embody all of the aesthetic beauty that Evans aspired a photographic print to achieve.

Although Evans became a member of the Linked Ring in 1900, he was a strong advocate of the straight photograph, utilizing unaltered negatives and photographic prints. This was in marked contrast to the then prevalent photographic altering practices of the Pictorialist and other members of the Linked Ring.

Evans photographic techniques and style laid the foundation for the practice of pre-visualization and the concepts behind the zone system. His idea for the aesthetic appreciation for the photographic print as an object has a large influence in the modern practices of matting and display of photographic prints. Thus many of book’s interior plates illustrate Evans photographs in the context of the multi-tiered mattes that he chooses to complement and enhance the experience of a specific photographic image.

The book is printed on luster paper and although the interior printed plates are unvarnished, the resulting images have a beautifully long tonal range, probably not equal to the original; it provides a wonderful appreciation of Evans evocative photographs. Each interior image has been printed as close as possible to the color tint of the original platinum print, with a full range of pale yellow, light greens, hint of rose and a full variety of grays, enhancing the reading experience of the book and a further appreciation of Evan’s photographs.

By Douglas Stockdale

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