When we here at S&R honor someone in our masthead, we’re paying tribute to a figure whose career we respect, even revere. But we’re usually telling you more about ourselves than we are the subject being discussed. Such is the case with Andreas Feininger, who today claims our 54th mast. Honestly, I don’t have anything to tell you that you can’t find by Googling his name. Born in Paris to American parents of German descent. Abandoned architecture for photography. Became one of the world’s foremost shooters. Wrote one of the most highly respected books on the subject of photography. Etc.
In most cases, our tribute posts rely on words to explain something of the subject’s place in the Scroguely canon. To that end, I’d like to explain in great technical and scholarly detail the place Feininger occupies in the history of photography. I’m not sure I’m qualified, though. I have long been a fan of the genre, and have lately taken up the process of trying to capture some of the magnificence of the world around me. But that doesn’t make me an expert.
What I can say, though, is that Andreas Feininger is one of the reasons I decided to buy a camera. The starkness of his vision, the ways in which he bent light and shadow to the task of telling a complex story about industry in America, his knack for showing us what was there, before our eyes, in a fashion that connoted far more than it denoted, these qualities inspired me as I’m sure they have inspired legions before me.
The poet inside me worshipped Yeats, and even though I knew I’d never be that good – nobody could ever be that good – he was nonetheless the standard I tried to strive toward. As I now set off to learn the magic of pictures the way a younger version of me did words, Feininger is my new Yeats.
As a writer, I’m dying to say more. But maybe it’s time to shut up and show, don’t tell.
Finally, what I believe is the most stunning photograph I have ever seen: Route 66, Arizona, 1953. The poster has been hanging on my wall for several years.
Image Credits: Fascie Populi, Lo Bueno Si Breve, Nature’s Pencil, George Eastman House, The Guardian, Japanorama, Dieselpunks.org and Jantelagom. To view the source page, mouseover and click on the image.