Artist: Henry Hamilton Bennett, Lena Henke
Venue: 1857, Oslo
Exhibition Title: H.H. Bennett, Lena Henke and Cars
Date: September 14 – October 21, 2012
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of 1857, Oslo, and Wisconsin Historical Society
An Introduction to The Beauties and Wonders of Western Scenery
In the middle of nowhere, soon to become somewhere, the frontier was insistently forced forward amid rocks and riverbeds and pine trees and the dodging feathers of the indigenous people of America squatting in the bushes. As the civil war was wrapping up Henry Hamilton Bennett, photographer, took a picture of his crippled right hand to accompany his application for a war veteran’s disability pension.
Photography was a radical idea. The camera was the first machine to steal the world. Early photographers like Bennett were working at the frontier of imaging and would go on to change the way we see everything, including ourselves. Being among some 3000 listed photographers in the United States in 18—, Bennett had a 30-year window of professional solitude before the Kodak Box Camera was introduced to the herd.
Henry Hamilton Bennett made his career in his modest hometown of Kilbourn City, Wisconsin, and put his interests to work on the immediate surroundings, which, cut from the right angle, would manifest into spectacular images.
Columns of Stone / Carefully Arranged Boulders / Carved Islets / Prosaic Rocks
With self-built cameras, Bennett returned to the same sites over and over to perfect his studies. He developed sensitivity for depth and drama understanding that the inclusion of human scale would add awe and wonder to the compositions. When photographing caves he sometimes constructed wooden platforms that would carry him out to a desired viewpoint. He went as far as whitewashing cave walls to allow for faster exposure.
His subjects were the natural sculptures of the landscape.
His subjects were nature’s own monuments, right in his own backyard.
His objective was to frame the sculpted subjects of the natural site.
The prints peddled by Bennett became proofs as much as mementos. The landscape soon attracted visitors who came to see the sights with their own eyes, carried on fashionable steamboats upriver to remote stretches previously the sole domains of raftsmen.
Sightseeing was born after photographers had first recorded the sights.
Bennett also pioneered another essential photographic principle. He designed and constructed an instantaneous shutter, and was in 18— among the first cameramen to capture fast moving objects and force them to stillness.
At a time when no one had seen anything but the moon and sun suspended in mid-air, his first photos were claimed to be falsifications and montages. But it was a true sensation, also to the inventor himself, when he laid eyes on the imprint of a man caught midflight between a precipice and a monument of stone. Or when the tossed ropes of the raftsmen were frozen to the negative plates like lines drawn in air.
Lena Henke is also from home, a small village somewhere in Germany.
Her group of grey, greyblack and black columns, fiberglass and suspended fabric sculptures have permanently solidified and will make moving about the photographs more difficult. And underneath their arches there is nothing, there is nothing, there is a string curtain and there is perfume and deodorant.
During the exhibition the main gallery space will be used for daytime car parking.