Alvin Langdon Coburn Vortograph 1916–17

  • Not on view

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.

Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/8" (28.2 × 21.2 cm)
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund
Object number
© George Eastman House

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