Vortographs

I was reminded this morning of Alvin Langdon Coburn‘s Vortographs, creating in 1917. He was the first photographer to ever show abstract photographs in the history of art. He was a satellite member of the Vorticists movement and photographed both Pound and Epstein as part of the set of images.


The tool he used was something that he called a ‘Vortiscope’, three mirrors attached together in the form of a triangle in 1916. Later he photographed pieces of wood and crystal on a glass table and in the autumn of that year he experimented further with mirrors and the Vortiscope to shoot portraits in silhouette.

He initially labeled his work as cubist however later he picked up the Vorticist label. The exhibition at the London Camera club in 1917 included prefaces by both Pound and Coburn, however their collaboration was to be short-lived as Pound had little appreciate for the photographic medium and what Coburn had managed to achieve with it. This divide led to Coburn withdrawing from the Vorticist movement and really from photography altogether.

By the year after, 1918, Coburn had formed links with an artists colony in Wales where he pursued his interests in Freemasonry, astrology and the occult.

And here are his photographs.

vortograph pound vortograph_2 Alvin Langdon Coburn - Vortograph, 1917 vortograph_1917 ezra-pound m196700980021