31 March 2010

Eveyln Hofer's Transcendent Moments

Evelyn Hofer was a great collaborative photographer. Whether she worked with writers like Mary McCarthy on The Stones of Venice or V. S. Pritchett on Dublin: A Portrait, or intuited the presences of people long gone, Hofer was something very different from the photographer-as-voyeur.

From her birth in Marburg, Germany (1922) to the end in Mexico City (2 November 2009), Hofer seemed at home everywhere. For four decades she covered the art beat for the Conde Nast publications Vanity Fair, Vogue, House & Garden, and The New Yorker.

Often pictured, architectural gems like the much-imitated Villa Medici in Rome, Victor Horta's Art Nouveau Hotel Solvay, and Jean Lurcat's Maison de Verre in central Paris become, for Hofer's lens, an entrance into a further dimension. Of course, photography notoriously flattens three dimensions into two but, in Hofer's works, we seem to gain a dimension.

Think of some musicians and repairers of instruments who find something in the wood that holds past vibrations, comparable to insects frozen in amber. Fanciful, or possibly not yet understood, the phenomenon is easier to see in a poet's gloves laid in blue tissue.

In 1989, Hofer retraced the steps of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1832 tour of Italy, a time when the young minister doubted his vocation and mulled the ideas that he would propose to his fellow New Englanders as Transcentalism.

Of course the images here, in color, are only part of Hofer's work. She chose to photograph people usually in black and white.
NOTE: On view at the New York Public Library until May 23: In Passing - Evelyn Hofer, Helen Levitt & Lilo Raymond.


1. Mountjoy Square - Dublin, 1967.
2. Villa Medici - Rome, 1982.
3. Jean Lurcat Interior At Maison de Verre - Paris, 1982.
4. Marianne Moore's Gloves, 1983.
5. Foyer At Hotel Solvay - Brussels, 1985.
6. The Hills of Italy from Emerson In Italy, 1989.