Keith de Lellis Gallery is pleased to present a group exhibition of over forty photographs created during the 19th and 20th centuries that historically altered and redefined the capabilities of the medium by utilizing pre-digital innovations such as photo montage, photo collage, double exposures and the darkroom process of composite printing. This show elegantly brings together photographs motivated by both advertising and artistic intents to highlight the significant level of ingenuity applied by artists across the fields to deliberately visualize their subject matter, of which many on display are painstakingly constructed by hand. An example of such artistry is found in a star-studded montage published by L. J. Lipp Publishing of Hollywood, California in 1928 with hundreds of faces of Hollywood’s famous actors and actresses, including Charlie Chaplin and Tom Mix, Hollywood’s first Western star. In another photograph we witness a beaming Fred Astaire miraculously dancing through the clouds as he plays the role of Charlie Hill from the 1952 film The Belle of New York.
Trick photography lends itself to a surreal atmosphere as it is can take elements of reality and assemble them together in an altered, dream-like narrative. Rolf Tietgens (German-American, 1911-1984) made a series of these kinds of images of American mystery novelist Patricia Highsmith, including one on view in which we see a nude Highsmith approaching an illustration of a mysteriously cloaked doorway. Highsmith herself reflected on how photography is able to manipulate reality to question reality, redefining the possibilities not only of photography but how we perceive reality itself, as she inquired in her diary, “where does reality end and photography begin?” (Diaries and Notebooks, 1941-1995).
The birth of photo manipulation followed soon after the invention of photography itself, which officially occurred in 1839 when Louis Daguerre announced his invention of the Daguerreotype in France. Varied in subject matter, several photographs on display in this exhibition were produced during the 19th century and are fantastic demonstrations in early applications of composite printing. On view is an anonymous albumen print made during the 1870s, where the portraits of twenty-three different mafioso described as the ‘Bandits of Sicily’ are captured in a skillfully printed composition. Another photograph from the 1880s comprises a group of thirteen layered studies of women artfully posed in the nude, with some women staring directly back at the viewer while others gaze elsewhere in the distance. A composite print by Marceau of San Francisco combines the portraits of players from the Baltimore and All-American baseball teams during the California Tour of 1897 with a hand drawn background of sporting equipment including a bat, glove and baseball.
Trick Photography and Visual Effects is a notable exhibition that presents the artistic work of over twenty artists who played an important role in advancing the intricate and fascinating history of photographic manipulation. Collectively this exhibition features the work of Pierre Adam, Geo E. Anderson, David Attie, Will Connell, Gordon Coster, Harry Richardson Cremer, Pedro E. Guerrero, John Hatlem, George Platt Lynes, Wendell MacRae, Marceau, Angus McBean, Nino Migliori, Bertram Park, International News Photos, Mario Perotti, L. J. Lipp Publishing, Emery P. Revesz-Biro, Nickolas Muray, Rolf Tietgens, Underwood & Underwood, and Weegee.
Trick Photography and Visual Effects is on view at Keith de Lellis Gallery from January 19, and extended through March 24, 2023. The gallery is located in the historic Fuller building, 41 East 57th Street, Suite 703, NYC.