bloch prints

Ernest Bloch, a major composer of the twentieth-century , was called a romantic in an unromantic age. His music is known for its rich harmonic effects and emotional intensity. Born in Geneva in 1880, he emigrated in 1916 to the United States where he made his reputation as a composer of chamber music and suites for voice and orchestra, a Jewish cycle that paid tribute to his religious heritage, and “America” , a symphonic rhapsody that celebrated his adopted land.

---It is not widely known that Bloch was a talented photographer as well as composer, who counted among his colleagues Alfred Stieglitz. Photographer Eric Johnsondiscovered Bloch’s photographs when he was in college and made a number of prints from Bloch’s negatives. The negatives reside today in the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. Johnson donated close to 100 of the prints he made to the Library of Congress in 2009. These make up the Eric Johnson Collection of Ernest Bloch Photographs. Bloch was especially fond of photographing peasants he came upon during his travels. My personal favorite of Bloch’s photos is his 1912 portrait of the mushroom lady of Satigny, Switzerland, who looks as if she stepped out of a fairy tale.---Read More:

Partly as relief from his work, Bloch pursued another art, photography, for almost sixty years, leaving at his death in 1959 some five thousand negatives that went into the hands of Eric Johnson, a West Coast photographer who curated the vast collection. They reveal the composer’s affectionate eye, as well as his skill with a camera.

---Bloch's interest in the camera led him to meet Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz, who became an important influence. For years, Bloch believed that a camera could not be a tool for significant art. Stieglitz changed Bloch's mind after Stieglitz suggested an experiment. They each took an identical photograph in New York City and Bloch saw how much better Stieglitz's was than his own. After that, Bloch regarded photography as valid art and began to express his emotions about trees and nature with a Leica camera.---Read More:

Many of the pictures were taken in Bloch’s beloved countryside around Geneva; at Satigny where he lived in the years before he came to America, and in the French Haute-Savoie region south of Geneva, where he often took long hikes. Although Bloch’s music was often tumultuously dramatic, his photographs express a more peaceful side of a gifted artist.

---1926 Paris, France. Marguerite, Alexander Barjansky, Suzy Bloch, Lucienne. Photo by Ernest Bloch ---Read More:

But unlike better-known composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, who revolutionized music in the 20th century, Bloch was more conservative, and that isolated him, he felt. He turned to nature and photography for refuge, Johnson says.

“He felt stress and found relief in the Alps. Peasants were the people he liked to be with most. That’s when he was happiest. He appreciated the unassuming quality of people who are close to the land. Pointing at things you care about — that’s what photography is.” Read More:

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