Hans Namuth - Subject Interaction and Technique

Subject Interaction and Technique

Namuth found that the rapport he developed with his subjects was integral to making them feel comfortable being photographed while working. While Namuth was known to be a technically skilled photographer, his sociable and outgoing personality contributed largely to his notability in the New York art scene. Namuth was also persistent when persuading his subjects to agree to be photographed, including sculptor Joseph Cornell, who took two years to be convinced. He generally managed to put his subject at ease well enough so that they could work naturally in their environments without any artificial stiffness. Largely because of this, self-conscious artists such as Clyfford Still and Saul Steinberg agreed to be subjects for Namuth's photography. However, critic Sarah Boxer suggests that it is difficult to view photos of such artists without considering the possibility that they were trying to gain fame in a manner similar to Pollock. Though Namuth developed personal relationships with many of his subjects, art critic Hilton Kramer describes Namuth as "something of a hero worshiper."

Namuth's photographs included objects related to his subjects, such as paint tubes, items from around their homes, and their works of art. His photos also captured his own interactions with subjects, showing how comfortable they were at the time of shooting. Some subjects, such as Frank Stella, seemed to be intoxicated with the idea of being photographed by Namuth, while others, including Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg, ignored Namuth during their photo sessions. Other photographs exude tension between photographer and subject, as if Namuth were an unwelcome guest in their workspace, as in the cases of artists Louise Nevelson and Jasper Johns. Often, Namuth's subjects are uncomfortable in front of the camera, as were architects Eero Saarinen and Buckminster Fuller. Almost all of Namuth's images of male artists, with the notable exception of Pollock, appear to be taking contemplative or otherwise self-absorbed poses.

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