Age of Silver: Encounters with Great Photographers

‘Usually I think if there is something imperfect in a photograph it makes the picture more real. Photographs that are slick, smooth, and perfect seem less honest to me.’

The Age of Silver book is a dedicated recording of some of the worlds best photographers, in which all photographs presented in the book have been taken by the iconic American photographer John Loengard’s, where he has captured these remarkable photographers in a number of circumstances. Loengard, a longtime staff photographer and editor for LIFE magazine and other publications, spent years documenting modern life for the benefit of the American public. Over the years he has focused his camera on to dignitaries, artists, athletes, intellectuals, urban and natural landscapes, man-made objects, and people of all types. In the Age of Silver, Loengard has focused on of some of the most important photographers of the last half-century, including Ansel Adams, Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Harry Benson, and many, many others.

Complimenting these revealing and beautifully composed portraits are elegant photographs of the artists holding their favorite or most admired negative. This extra part to the project offers an inside peek at the artistic process and is a blunt reminder of the physicality of the photographic practice and the beauty of having that physical object. In terms capturing the truth, there is no more honest or faithful reproduction of life existent in the world of image making than original, untouched silver negatives. So by Loengard including not just portraits of the artists, but also their negatives, he has aimed and succeeded to capture something more than just a piece of the photographer, he has been able to capture the ‘Age of Silver.’

In an in-depth interview with David Schonauer, Loengard talks about his book, as well as talking about his work at LIFE and his viewpoint on photography now. To see the full interview click Here:

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David Schonauer: John, let’s not start by talking about the age of silver—let’s start with the age of digital. How do you think the technology has changed photography?

John Loengard: Well, what I can tell you is that if I were starting out today—or if digital photography had been around in 1953, when I started taking pictures, I would never have taken black-and-white pictures. I can’t imagine why I would. I shot black and white because color film was just this hideous stuff—I’ve often thought that it was invented by a German physical therapist who straightened out peoples’ legs with steel and leather. With color film, you had to take pictures of things that looked good on color film, and a lot of things just didn’t look good on color film. But with digital, you use color the way we once used black and white—you just take pictures of things that interest you.

David Schonauer: Let’s talk about the photographs you made and the way you have presented them in the book.

John Loengard: What I like about the book, among other things, is the variety in the pictures and in the way they appear sequentially. Some subjects are seen from far away, others close up; some pictures show a face, others don’t show a face; some show somebody engaged in an activity that has nothing to do with photography, and others are portraits of people whom I asked to sit in a chair while I took their picture. This variety is what you want to get in any picture story. It’s what you would want to try to get with any one of these people as the subject of a picture story. And I hope my enthusiasm for the subjects comes through. I spent 66 years taking pictures, and I’ve had photographers who were my idols, and I have had photographers who were colleagues, and I’ve edited the work of photographers, and I’ve hired photographers to take pictures. I’m just immersed in photography, and it’s a human occupation that I love. So I hope that’s the feeling that comes across.

David Schonauer: So in the 1980s you began taking pictures of photographers.

John Loengard: I think the first time I did it was for a Lifestory on photographers born in the 19th century. This was in 1981. Mostly I would do the pictures on assignment. In 1989, because it was the 150th anniversary of photography, I thought of doing a project of my own and photographing the whole photographic world—camera store salesmen, scientists, editors…you name it. I started to do it, but the project really didn’t go anywhere.

To see more of Loengard’s exceptional work please click Here.