Monday, August 30, 2010

Art of Photography - Grete Stern

"Grete Stern (born in Wuppertal, Germany in 1904) came to Argentina in 1935, in exile from the nazi regime. By then she was a graphic designer and an accomplished photographer, formed at the School for Applied Arts, in Stuttgart, and at Walter Peterhans's workshops privately at first, then at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Most of Grete's work in Germany was carried out at the ringl + pit studio she had set up with her friend Ellen Auerbach, and has recently been enthusiastically appraised by European and American critics, as well as by scholars. But the bulk of her production - both as to importance and quantity was carried out in our country over nearly fifty years of uninterrupted activity. Her work, remarkable in quality and variety of genres, had not previously been collected into book form nor described and reviewed, as undertaken in this volume. Grete Stern, formed in the refined, creative European vanguard of the twenties, is an essential artist in modern Argentine photography, and she has contributed decisively to founding it.
In 1948 she received an original proposal: supplying photographs to illustrate a section of Idilio magazine, published by Abril, entitled "El psicoanálisis le ayudara" (Psychoanalysis will help you). Edited by sociologist Gino Germani under de penname of Richard Rest, it conveyed psychoanalytical views on the dreams of its women correspondents. Grete proposed illustrating the dreams with photomontages. Her collaboration lasted around three years, in the course of which over one hundred and fifty pieces were published. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most important series of photomontages made in our country.
It is an acknowledged fact that modern photomontage, developed in Germany after the First World War, was applied to political propaganda, advertising, and experimental photography. Grete imbibed it first during her apprenticeship as a graphic designer and then as a photographer. As already mentioned, it was a creative procedure she found attractive and inspiring. Up to the time of her Idilio series, Grete's photomontages in Argentina had been few and occasional.
The texts describing the dreams to be illustrated by Grete were provided by Germani. Usually, they strictly reproduced the letters sent in by readers. Grete and Germani used to talk over the letter's intended interpretation, and he would request that the layout show certain characteristics, that flowers or animals be depicted, or unstable shapes, or some figures performing certain actions. Thence Grete would develop her combinative creation and her own point of view on the subject, which resulted in pieces of fairly free invention.
Each photomontage was published with a title:"Ambition dreams', "Mask dreams", "Dreams of discontent", and so on, plus a comment written by Germani. The comments referred to the image composed by Grete as though it were a literal illustration of the dream described by the reader; based on it Germani produced interpretations and recommendations.
The leading character in the photomontages was of course Idilio's reader - Germani's correspondent - who belonged to the lower classes in our country, especially the rising middle class of President Peron's first years in office. That female character is present in the images, either explicitly or implicitly: she takes part in her own dream or "looks on through the viewfinder, as happens in subjective movie footage.
The subject matter originated in the dreams Germani found to be the most interesting for his analyzing, and among these main lythe ones emphasizing anguish and conflict. Grete's idea of female independence was very strong, and her critical attitude with respect to dominant values constraining and limiting it was a part of her idiosyncrasy. The possibility of expressing her viewpoints on these issues through her photomontages therefore came natural to her.

Grete's dreams were for the first time presented as independent photographs by the end of the fifties at the Faculty of Psycho of La Plata University. They were first displayed in Buenos Aires in 1967, with the collaboration of poet Elva de Loizaga. From then up to 1982, when they hung at the great FotoFest show at Hous U.S.A., only art collector Jorge Helft took notice of them. FotoFest their prestige grew sharply, to the extent that they now rated at their original and true significance.
(Fragments from Luis Priamo at: Grete Stern: Obra fotográfica en la Argentina, Fondo Nacional de las Artes, Argentina, 1995)."