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image icon 'Jazz', c1930

'Jazz', c1930
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a black-and-white photograph taken around 1930 by John Kauffmann (1864-1942), measuring 22.0 cm x 31.2 cm. It captures the reflection of a timber rowboat in water - a section of the boat can be seen in the upper right corner of the image. The slight rippling of the water's surface has broken up the reflection of the boat's timbers into a series of zigzag lines. Three strands of thick rope can be seen running diagonally across the image from the top-left corner to just below centre right.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a work by John Kauffmann - Kauffmann was one of the most significant and creative Australian exponents of a style of art photography known as Pictorialism; Pictorialism posited that photography could function like painting or printmaking in expressing personal feelings and imaginative ideas; he was born in Adelaide and spent a decade in Europe (1887-97) studying the new theory and practice of art photography; by 1917 he was established as a professional photographer in Melbourne; Kauffmann played an important role in introducing Pictorialism to Australian photographers
  • is an excellent example of Pictorialism - Pictorialism was an international photographic movement popular from around 1885 to the 1920s; the primary influence for many pictorial art photographers, including Kauffmann, was Impressionism (in which images are suggested rather than depicted literally), which explains why the subjects of many pictorial-style photographs (usually black-and-white or sepia-toned) were shown in soft focus, as if through a veil; some critics referred to it as the 'fuzzy-wuzzy' school of photography
  • shows how Kauffmann adapted ideas from Impressionism - seaside, lake and river settings were popular among late-19th-century-impressionist painters because reflections in the water created an opportunity to enliven their images with flickering and dancing dots and lines; the title 'Jazz' suggests that the artist saw connections between these dancing reflections and the pulsating rhythms of jazz music
  • demonstrates a creative approach to the subject - Kauffmann framed his shot with only a small section of the boat visible, leaving the water next to the hull as the primary area of interest; the lengths of rope play an important visual role by echoing the curvature of the boat's form and its reflections, by interacting as a linear element in contrast to the waving reflections, and by creating a visual link between the boat and the outer limits of its reflection
  • demonstrates Kauffmann's skill in using a camera as a means of exploring and revealing the beauty to be found in everyday things; the titles of some of Kauffmann's photographs such as 'The lonely cottage', 1907, 'Sunlight and shadows', 1910-20, and 'Youth and the veteran', 1930s (a study of a huge old gum tree standing alongside two very young saplings) give clues to his poetic response to everyday subjects
  • is a gelatin-silver photograph - gelatin-silver was the most common form of black-and-white prints; gelatin-silver prints were first were marketed commercially in the 1890s and were predominant after the First World War; the name came from the inclusion of light-sensitive grains of silver, suspended in the gelatin surface of the photographic printing paper.