Cameron, Julia M.
Coburn, Alvin L.
Talbot,William H. Fox
Architecture, Documentary, Portraiture
Biography: Born in German in 1905, John Gutmann trained
and exhibited as a painter. Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933, he immigrated
to the United States. Before leaving Germany, he bought a camera
and arranged to sell photographs of America to be used in German
magazines. He turned to photography as a way of earning money
during the Great Depression in America when jobs were scarce.
Gutmann was fascinated with the new way of seeing the world that
photography provided. He thought of the camera as a human eye,
which inspired him to photograph whatever he saw, however he saw
it. When he looked up in wonder at a multistory parking garage,
his camera looked up too.
He described the American city as "foreigna landscape
in which buildings had replaced mountains, automobiles had replaced
trees, and neon and painted signs had been substituted for flowers."
His pictures showed startling new views of familiar scenes. American
photographs were not always as daring and experimental with how
they took photographs at that time, so his work was though of
as bold and modern. Gutmann currently resides in northern California.
Photographing primarily in the street, Gutmann used his eye and
his camera to capture the exuberance and rhythm of America. He
found Americans exotic and optimistic despite the Depression and
looming war. His interest in photographing things uniquely American
inspired Portrait of Count Basie. San Francisco in 1939. Jazz
was an American form of music popular for its modern sound. In
this work, Gutmann has captured the flare and style of a jazz
performance by the High Hatters, with Count Basie in the background.
This scene was photographed during the Worlds Fair in San
Gutmann photographed his subject from a worms-eye view.
Notice, also, how the framing of the image cuts or crops part
of the singers from the view. At the time, this approach to angle
and framing was not widely used by American photographers, but
was a part of the new way of photographing that was being developed
in Europe and making its way to America. Such use was considered
odd and daring.
More on John Gutmann:
Several Links to Online Galleries of John Gutmann
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