Music and photography have always had a special relationship. They are spiritual siblings in that both musicians and photographers see the world in terms of tones and movements and beats (think of photobooks). Ansel Adams was a pianist as was Paul Caponigro among many others. Even us work-a-day photographers show this intriguing propensity. The lead guitarist and singer for the Brooklyn based band, Naked Heroes is a photographer at the Frick during the day and the head of photography at MOMA just told me that he recently purchased a rad new Telecaster.
Oliver Gagliani was a musician before he devoted his life to photography. During the Second World War Oliver Gagliani had his hearing damaged and although he fully intended to continue in music, something unexpected occurred. In 1946, while intending to go to the San Francisco Symphony at the War Memorial Opera House, he mistakenly walked next door into the San Francisco Museum of Art (at the time housed in the War Memorial Veterans Building). There he saw the traveling retrospective of Paul Strand organized by the Museum of Modern Art in 1945. Reminiscing about the event he recalled; “It was beautiful, his counterpoint of light and shade, object and space, just as in the music I had studied for so long. I returned to see it twenty times.” It was then he decided to pursue photography and studied with Minor White and Ansel Adams.
Gagliani, like many of his generation of photographers, advocated straight photography. But as an acolyte of the tradition of the “Equivalent” he used the material in front of his camera to make a music of the spirit. Like Minor White he was a master craftsman of the silver gelatin print. He had the ability to to bring out the most luscious of gray and black tones from a print, the viewing of which can definitely be a transcendent experience. His prints force you to see the music first and then the object in the real world.
I never tire of seeing prints made by Oliver Gagliani and now a wonderful selection of his vintage prints are on view at The Gitterman Gallery on 41 East 57th Street (#1103).