Alvin Langdon Coburn

[American, 1882–1966]

Vortographs of Ezra Pound

"Why should not the camera throw off the shackles of conventional representation?"
                                                                                                 - Alvin Langdon Coburn

for more Vortographs see the George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive


Portraits:  George Bernard Shaw - Gertrude Stein - Wyndham Lewis - Jacob Epstein
"I have not attempted to do anything eccentric in the way of portrayals, but I have studied my men and their works with enthusiasm, and in each instance I have tried to catch and reveal the elusive something that differentiates a man of talent from his fellows, and makes life worth while, worth struggling with towards ever great understanding."
                                                                                                                                               from Alvin Langdon Coburn

For more portraits see: New York Public Library has a Men of Mark series:

  Gelatin silver print, 1916-17
  11 1/8 x 8 3/8" (28.2 x 21.2 cm)
  Thomas Walther Collection,
 Grace M. Mayer Fund

Image and text from
Museum of Modern Art

Alvin Langdon Coburn
(American, 1882–1966)

Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925

December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013

The intricate patterns of light and line in this photograph, and the cascading tiers of crystalline shapes, were generated through the use of a kaleidoscopic contraption invented by the American/British photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, a member of London's Vorticist group. To refute the idea that photography, in its helplessly accurate capture of scenes in the real world, was antithetical to abstraction, Coburn devised for his camera lens an attachment made up of three mirrors, clamped together in a triangle, through which he photographed a variety of surfaces to produce the results in these images. The poet and Vorticist Ezra Pound coined the term "vortographs" to describe Coburn’s experiments. Although Pound went on to criticize these images as lesser expressions than Vorticist paintings, Coburn's work would remain influential.

© George Eastman House
Vortographs    from the George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive
"Why, I ask you earnestly, need we go on making commonplace little exposures that may be sorted into groups of landscapes, portraits and figure studies? Think of the joy of doing something which it would be impossible to tell which was top and which was the bottom!… I do not think we have begun even to realize the possibilities of the camera."
                                                                                                                   from Alvin Langdon Coburn

    There are many resources on the net for Alvin Langdon Coburn,
 but a good place to start is:

Alvin Langdon Coburn

at the George Eastman House Still Photograph Archive

135 Selected Images


and the New York Public Library has a Men of Mark series:

Flashpoint Magazine: a Journal of the Arts and Politics - Issue #17