Alfred Cheney Johnston’s Jazz Age Beauties
I suppose once upon a time Alfred Cheney Johnston was an accomplished commercial photographer – albeit one whose work often focused on showgirls and celebrities and who had a certain artistic flair (while also being a member of the Algonquin Round Table alongside Ms Dorothy Parker, so he kept interesting company).
His work at the time was probably often higher end smut – “artistic” erotica rather than the p word… you could probably trace a line from his work to some of the more creative photographers whose work appeared in and around the likes of Skin Two magazine in the 1990s and earlier 2000s.
…but over time, his work has come to represent a particular spirit and aesthetic and as often is the way with “saucy” pictures and artwork, has gained a respectability as the years have gone by (see also E.J. Bellocq – though his work still retains/began with more of a transgressive darkness than Johnston’s).
Now, his work seems to perfectly capture elements of the 1920s and 1930s and it has been collected in the 2006 Jazz Age Beauties: The Lost Collection of Ziegfeld Photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston, compiled by Robert Hudovernik.
…now this should be an utterly lovely, decadent feeling item but… well, the printing / image quality. A considerable number of the photographs are pixellated and have the appearance of lossy web found JPEGs that have been resized to fill the page – which contrasts with the technical ability that appears to be on display in Mr Johnston’s work.
A shame really, because the book is a labour of love and the only (easily) available printed and bound collection of his work. Still worth a look-see but a slight missed opportunity.
Visit the books at it’s publishers Rizzoli here.
Peruse the book here.