The Uncommon Print

The Hulett Collection is delighted to present a new online series called The Uncommon Print, where we will showcase an artwork biweekly that, whether iconic or obscure, is rare in its existence as a lifetime signed silver print. Enjoy!
  • The Uncommon Print #3

    Charles Harbutt

    Palazzo dell/arte, Milan, Italy, 1970, printed 1970
    For the third edition of The Uncommon Print series, we chose one of Charles Harbutt's notable photographs, "Palazzo dell'Arte, Milan," taken in 1970 and also printed in 1970 making it vintage. I acquired this piece directly from Charles shortly before his passing and wasn't expressly looking for a vintage print but as it turns out he did not make many prints of this image in his lifetime. He offered me this print he made in 1970 shortly after returning from the trip where he took it. For me, the tonality of this silver print is essentially a masterclass in what a phenomenal printer can do in the darkroom and the image encapsulates his mastery in composition and storytelling.

    The photograph captures the essence of a moment in time, showcasing the elegance and grandeur of the Palazzo dell'Arte in Milan. Through his lens, Harbutt not only captures the architectural beauty of the building but also imbues it with a sense of mystery and intrigue. The play of light and shadow, the framing of the scene, and the inclusion of human figures as the focal point create a visual narrative that draws you into the photograph. This rare, vintage print serves as a testament to Harbutt's ability to effortlessly freeze a moment in time and evoke emotions.

    Charles's photographs have been widely collected and exhibited at (among others) the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney and at the Beaubourg, the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. In 1997, his negatives, master prints and archives were acquired for the collection of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Ariz. 

    Charles Harbutt was a prominent American photographer known for his exceptional contributions to documentary photography and photojournalism during the latter half of the 20th century. Born in 1935, Harbutt began his career as a photojournalist in the 1950s, working for prestigious publications like Life and Magnum Photos (which he served twice as President). His distinctive style combined a keen eye for composition with an intimate understanding of human emotions, capturing poignant moments from everyday life. In the 1960s, Harbutt co-founded the influential photography agency, "Concerned Photography," which played a significant role in shaping the course of modern documentary photography. Throughout his career, he consistently pushed the boundaries of the medium, experimenting with both black and white and color photography to convey complex narratives and evoke deep emotions.
  • The Uncommon Print #2


    Broken Plate, Paris, France, 1929, printed 1970's
    For the second edition of The Uncommon Print, we chose to highlight André Kertész's Plaque Cassee (Broken Plate) created in 1929 and printed in the 1970's. While I'm familiar with close to forty prints of this image in existence, mostly 8 x 10" and 11 x 14" in size, I have only been able to find three examples of this image printed as a 16 x 20" and signed in his lifetime. Beyond the rarity of the size, the story of how this image came to be is quite fascinating. 

    When André left Paris for New York in 1936, he left behind most of the negatives he had created there. They were entrusted to the care of a woman who had been one of his editors. Unbeknownst to him, she had removed them to her country house in the south of France for safekeeping during the war. While testing a new lens in Paris in 1929, he had gazed out the window and made this exposure, which was quite unremarkable until it was damaged while in the custody of his French friend. This negative, with its bullet-hole-like fracture, was returned to him in 1963, along with other negatives, damaged and undamaged, that he had completely forgotten. He discarded all the broken ones except this. "An accident helped me to produce a beautiful effect," he remarked. Even though the negative was made decades earlier, this photograph represents Kertész's style of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    You could go to any number of museums and see this work. The Getty in LA, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Boston each have one. The Whitney in NY and SFMoMa in SF. The difference is they all have 8 x 10" prints and this is truly an image that grows in impact the larger it is. This 16 x 20" nearly full bleed print size reveals every intricate detail in the photograph, from the texture of the walls to the cars on the street below. It's like being transported to Montmartre.

    André Kertész was born in Budapest, Hungary and studied at the Academy of Commerce until he bought his first camera in 1912. Kertész has been hailed as one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century. Working intuitively, he captured the poetry of modern urban life with its quiet, often overlooked incidents and odd, occasionally comic, or even bizarre juxtapositions. He endeavored "to give meaning to everything" about him with his camera, "to make photographs as by reflection in a mirror, unmanipulated and direct as in life." Combining this seemingly artless spontaneity with a sophisticated understanding of composition, Kertész created a purely photographic idiom that celebrates direct observation of the everyday. Neither a surrealist, nor a strict photojournalist, he nevertheless infused his best images with strong tenets of both. "You don't see" the things you photograph, he explained, "you feel them."
  • The Uncommon Print #1

    Imogen Cunningham

    Portrait of Sherwood Anderson and Elizabeth Prall, 1927
    For our inaugural print, we choose Imogen Cunningham's delicate portrait of American author, Sherwood Anderson and his spouse, Elizabeth Prall (partially pictured) that she created in 1927. Imogen's love for Pictorialist photographic work and her time spent under the tutelage of Edward Sheriff Curtis is clearly present here in this portrait taken during a sitting with the author and his wife. Originally, the subject of the sitting was Sherwood himself but Imogen was quite taken with his spouse, Elizabeth Prall and opted to include her in many of the photographs taken during that session.

    This is the only print of this image I have seen outside of the one held in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian. While I know of a handful of signed prints made in her lifetime, this is the only one I've been lucky enough to add to the gallery collection. 

    Imogen Cunningham occupies a singular position in the history of American art of the twentieth century. For seventy years Imogen's camera explored, with innovation and a unique perspective, all the major traditions associated with the medium of photography as a art form.

    Sherwood Anderson was born in Camden, Ohio. Considered one of the great American writers, Anderson published a number of novels, short story collections, volumes of poetry, and memoirs during his lifetime, but he is best known for Winesburg, Ohio (1919).