Text from John Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art
During the thirties and forties Paid Outerbridge was a famous and successful commercial photographer, noted especially for the high quality of his color illustrations, which were done in those years by means of an extremely complex and recalcitrant process called the carbro print. In all the arts, work that is praised when new because of its difficulty is often forgotten once the technical problem has been simplified. Such is the case with most color photography of a quarter century ago, including that of Outerbridge.
He was, nevertheless, a photographer of exceptional talent, and it is perhaps a comment on the profession rather than on Outerbridge to say that his best work was done when he was a youthful student in the Clarence White School of Photography. These pictures exhibit an original sense of abstract photographic form, which remains impressive even in the work of the twenties - a decade in which pure graphics was a central preoccupation of adventurous photography.
The photograph reproduced here is a puzzle - literally and surely intentionally. A three-dimensional form (apparently but not assuredly a bricklike form, with parallel edges) rests on or floats in a plane or space that cannot be rationalized. The puzzle is made more challenging by virtue of the very real and specific quality of light that falls on the subject. In sum the picture is a challenge to our naive trust in the evidence of our senses.
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