Home / Photographers / Hesser - Edwin Bower / Edwin Bower Hesser "The Dance Album" Desha Delteil_david [26]

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    ohikkoshi wrote on Jun 9, '09
    Thank you for the possibility to view this a really wonderful album. What a thinami lines! And what a web of words!

    woody2662 wrote on Jun 8, '09
    This is very nice. Thank you for taking the time to write up the background. I have a few other Hesser photos but knew very little about him.

    ziegfeldgrrl wrote on Jun 8, '09
    A fantastic album, David, thank you so much for sharing these. Gorgeous and the info is wonderful. The first time in public... what a great addition!

© David S. Shields

Edwin Bower Hesser "The Dance Album"   Jun 5, '09 8:47 PM
by David for group historicalziegfeld

E. B. Hesser attributed his choice of photography as a medium of expression to a conversation with Alfred Cheney Johnston in 1919. Hesser during the early 1920s maintained studios in New York and Los Angeles, spending portions of the year in each location. Like Johnston and Nickolas Muray, Hesser was drawn to the nude as an expressive subject. In 1922, Hesser undertook a project that would be one of his life's aesthetic challenges, a series of nude dance portraits of model Desha Delteil, who during the post-WWI period was Muray's muse.

The album was an experiment amalgamating the styles of the three photographers whom Hesser greatly admired: the posing alluded to Muray's experiments with torsioned full length bodies; yet the moody soft-focus recalled Arnold Genthe's dance portraits of the late 1910s in which atmosphere was so thick that the dancer's body visually flattened; finally, the use of balls, bows, swords, and scarves as props alluded to Johnston's exploration of the body with symbolic objects.

While several copies of "The Dance Album" were hand printed by Hesser, they vary in number of images from 18 to 25, print tone, and sequence. That held by U.C.L.A.'s special collections department is the most comprehensive--yet it has extraneous images added to the sequence. A version in private hands in New York is the least afflicted by tone degradation, a problem with vintage Hesser images. Individual images found their way into the four Art magazines Hesser superintended during the 1920s.

Hesser never was fully satisfied with "The Dance Album" and reworked various images with different exposures. It never came into print. Perhaps part of his anxiety arose from his consciousness of Muray's extraordinary sequence of nude images of Desha. (These can be viewed on the web at the site of the George Eastman House.) Hesser's "Album" was a means of grasping the kinetic beauty of the female nude, a concern that animated Maurice Goldberg, Arthur Kales, Muray, John De Mirjian, and G. Maillard Kesslere among the performing arts photographers on Broadway. In contrast, Johnston highlighted serenity, composure, and stillness.

This is to my knowledge the first time "The Dance Album" has been available to the public. David S. Shields

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