Since the early nineties James Craig Annan had been one of the chief forces in the development of pictorial photography. This portfolio of prints is his masterpiece. Limited to an edition of 75, the eleven plates include some of Annan’s most sophisticated and celebrated early work. The small photogravures masterfully etched and printed by Annan himself on Japan tissue and individually signed, explore for the first time the instantaneous moments accessible only to the camera combined with the control, art and craft of traditional etching. The tension between photography emulating painting and a truthful photography able to represent a new art form is clearly visible in Venice and Lombardy and reveals Annan’s ability to articulate the most advanced issues of his time. The portfolio, according to Ken Jacobson, contains signed, tiny, gem-like photogravures that might be seen as the precursor for the style of Camera Work – Stieglitz’s widely praised journal, vehicle of modern photography and photogravure tour-de-force. Stieglitz greatly admired Annan and was certainly influenced by this work.
About half of the images in the portfolio are figure studies. Campo San Marglierita [sic), Pipa and A Mendicant reproduce people from the lower classes, a theme widely explored by several foreign painters in nineteenth-century Venice, but rarely approached without falling into the stereotype of a pleasant scene. On the contrary, Annan’s images reflect the artist’s formal concerns in the carefully studied compositions and in the balance of lights and shadows. Campo San Margherita shows two figures sitting in the center of a small square, cut in an unconventional vertical shape which recalls Japanese arc.
Naef, Weston J. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. New York: Viking Press, 1978. no. 20
Caffin, Charles H, and Thomas F. Barrow. Photography As a Fine Art: The Achievements and Possibilities of Photographic Art in America. New-York: Morgan, 1901 p.11
Buchanan, William. J. Craig Annan: Selected Texts and Bibliography. Oxford: Clio Press, 1994. fig. 9. P. 8 and p 83
Bologna, Gabriella, ‘The Aesthetics of British Photography. A Case Study: James Craig Annan’s Portfolio Venice and Lombardy’ in Anon. 2013. Aesthetic Lives : ‘New Experiences New Subjects of Poetry New Forms of Art’. High Wycombe Bucks England: Rivendale Press