Imagine being able to explore more than 70 million negatives, glass plates and vintage prints from some of the world’s most exciting collections of imagery. Well, Stuart Möller has the daunting privilege of doing this every day, in his work at The Getty Images Archive. Vast and wonderfully eclectic, the Archive features the Hulton Deutsch, Picture Post and Express collections among others, and has provided inspiration for our Getty Images collection at Surface View. We asked Stuart whether with such a wealth of images at his fingertips, is it still possible to have a favourite image?
“It’s very difficult to choose one particular image as a favourite because of the sheer size of the Archive, but for me, I just love the ‘La Fenice’ Venice Opera House taken in 1954 by Erich Auerbach, who focused on documenting the classical music world of the era. Despite spending much of every day looking through scores of images, and having seen this photograph hundreds if not thousands of times, I’ve never tired of it. I think that’s because it’s got the best of both of my favourite kinds of photography rolled into one image. So while it has an abstract nature because of its beautifully balanced linear composition, its subject matter gives us a wonderful varied glimpses at the human condition.
Now that this image is available at a larger scale, we can really contemplate every micro-play that makes up the whole, via the intricate little situations taking place in every cubicle. You’ll find people watching people, conversations, laughter, seriousness, excitement, boredom, the various relationships and lonesomeness to the sense of occasion and excitement of anticipation of a performance. There’s always something new to discover in it. For instance,
(as I discovered only a few weeks ago) there’s only one single person amongst the whole multitude of characters, who is actually looking straight at the camera, and therefore the viewer.
So if I had to choose one, I’d choose this one; it encapsulates everything I find so exciting about the Archive and the medium of photography as a whole. It is a true gem in a vast ocean of treasures”.
Name ‘La Fenice’
By Erich Auerbach