Pioneer of Photography: Jeanne J. Bertrand

Jeanne J. Bertrand

You probably have already heard the story of street photographer Vivian Maier and her discovery by former real estate agent John Maloof from Chigago. This began in late 2007, and a good online source is the article “The Life and Work of Street Photographer Vivian Maier” by Nora O’Donnell.

Little known, though, is the fact that, as a four-year old child, Vivian Maier and her mother lived with French photographer Jeanne J. Bertrand for some time. On the web site of writer Jim Leonhirth I found a PDF of an article from the Boston Globe, dated August 23, 1902. This fascinating article, entitled “FROM FACTORY TO HIGH PLACE AS ARTIST. Jeanne J. Bertrand, a Girl Of 21, Has Become One of the Eminent Photographers of Connecticut.” describes the story of a 21-year old French girl, who gave up a job at a needle factory in Torrington, Conn., to study the art of photography— in the late 19th century (this happened most likely around 1898) quite an adventure.

Besides the fascinating story, I wonder inhowfar Jeanne J. Bertrand may have—if only unconsciously—had an influence on Vivian Maier respectively her decision to take up photography. Since Jim Leonhirth is preparing a book on the life of Jeanne J. Bertrand, this may shed some further light on Vivian Maier as well.

Painting: Mark Rothko

Just found at Googe Books, and highly recommended: “Mark Rothko: A Biography” by James E. B. Breslin. Although the book is not available in its entirety, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in painting, Abstract Expressionism, or Mark Rothko in particular. Among the chapters available are “Starting Out in the Depression”, a detailed account of Rothko (at that time still “Marcus Rothkowitz”) working for the WPA; “All-Out War”, the period during WW II; “Recognitions”, describing the years after 1949, when Rothko had found his mature format of stacked rectangles; and “The Dark Paintings”.

Jazz: Dorothy Ashby

Dorothy Ashby

Photograph © Copyright unknown.

Just found: Three pieces1 recorded by jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. Those are excerpts from her 1958 album “In A Minor Groove”.

Related post:

Dorothy Ashby – In a Minor Groove 1958. Quote: “This is a delightful package that deserves further recognition as a project unique to jazz and modern music, perfectly showcasing Dorothy Ashby as an individualist for the ages.” — Michael G. Nastos

1 “It’s A Minor Thing”, “Rascallity”, and “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home”.

Editing photographs in CinePaint

After having been tired of the comparably low quality the Gimp 2.6.7 offers, about one week ago I stumbled upon a .deb file1 of CinePaint 0.25, and much to my surprise, it worked! (In the past, making CinePaint work under Ubuntu was sort of a challenge: often, there were no appropriate .deb packages available, and when compiling CinePaint from source I often ran into problems with the color management.) Now I’m in the process of applying the bitmap editing techniques I used to use with the Gimp to CinePaint. About the main issue are masks. While mask handling using the Gimp is a bit difficult, it is even more so in CinePaint. But: the reward is the really impressve quality one experiences when working with CinePaint. (I usually work in 8-bit mode, although CinePaint offers up to 32-bit color depth/channel.)

Since CinePaint is an application for retouching film, the requirements are somewhat different from those of say, Photoshop. One thing, though, I would really love to see in CinePaint is the possibility to tweak an existing mask. (And, maybe, a quickmask mode. 😉

When starting CinePaint, it becomes immediately apparent that it is targeted at pros. The interface, somewhat resembling the one of Gimp (CinePaint evolved out of Gimp 1.0), is stripped of anything unnecessary; the filters available are stripped down to the absolute essentials: blur, gaussian blur, motion blur, sharpen, unsharp mask, two noise filters, and a few others. But–unlike the Gimp–CinePaint offers, as I said, up to 32-bit color depth/channel (including HDR), proper CMYK, and a well-designed color management system, afaik based on LittleCMS.

CinePaint is currently available for Linux, MacOS X, and BSD. Additionally, a tarball is available, in order to compile CinePaint from source. (There used to be a version for Windows available as well, and, according to the information on the CinePaint web site, will be availabe again sometime in the future.) In addition to the current version (the ‘Film Gimp’ version, which is based on GTK 2) , a new version named ‘Glasgow’ is under development. Unlike the ‘Film Gimp’ version, ‘Glasgow’ is based on FLTK and will consist of a number of different applications (see the overview on the CinePaint site).

To sum it up, due to the really professional approach and the clear interface, CinePaint is one of my favorite graphics apps. I’m especially curious how the new ‘Glasgow’ version will evolve.

Related: CinePaint.

1 You can find it at

Photo editing (2)

My latest edit of a photograph from Stockvault. Software used: Gimp 2.6.7.

Photo editing

This is a free photograph that I downloaded from Stockvault (original: left; edited version: right). To my surprise, I came up with a not-so-bad contemporary fashion photography effect.

On fashion photography

I come to realize that I find most of contemporary fashion photography boring. Technically perfect—but that’s about it. Two notable exceptions that come to my mind are Sheila Metzner and Ellen von Unwerth.