Paul Outerbridge

New Color Photographs
from Mexico and California 1948-1955 

 Paul Outerbridge, Gas Station, Mazatlán, Mexico, c.1950 CarbroArt™ digital pigment transfer process, printed at Steidl in Göttingen, 2018,  Arches 88, 300 gsm 100% cotton acid-free paper, 16" x 20" framed Edition of 25 

Paul Outerbridge, Gas Station, Mazatlán, Mexico, c.1950
CarbroArt™ digital pigment transfer process, printed at Steidl in Göttingen, 2018, 
Arches 88, 300 gsm 100% cotton acid-free paper, 16" x 20" framed
Edition of 25 

 

Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) earned his extraordinary reputation as a master of color photographic practice by making virtuoso carbro-color prints of nudes and still lifes, mainly in the studio, during the 1930s. His new photographs from California and Mexico (1948-1955) mark the discovery of a powerful and previously unknown body of work by one of America’s earliest masters of color photography.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Outerbridge took his camera to the streets, crossing the border between California and Mexico and photographing the people and places he found. Shooting in bold, luminous Kodachrome, his photographs explore the quirkiness of 1950s leisure culture and examine the blending of two interwoven societies at a distinctive time in history. As brilliant and innovative today as when they were made, these images demonstrate Outerbridge’s breathtaking mastery of the new art of color photography.

Outerbridge left New York in the 1940s, taking up residency in the Mediterranean-style oceanside town of Laguna Beach, California. Living there until his death in 1958, he spent about seven years working on this remarkable body of work, furthering his characteristic precisionist style and dramatic use of color to develop a new visual vocabulary that anticipated the work of photographers working a quarter of a century later, including that of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Joel Meyerowitz, who strove in the 1970s to develop a similar, bold new language in color photography.

Employing a 35mm camera rather than the large-format equipment of the studio, Outerbridge captured vivid pictures on the y. His images were made using the same precision that characterized his 1930s studio work, but applied to the kinetic world of the street. In the tradition of such photographers as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Anton Bruehl, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, all of whom made significant photographic forays into Mexico, Outerbridge ventured south in his 1949 black Cadillac, frequenting the seaport towns along the Baja peninsula. One of his favorite stops was Mazatlán, on Mexico’s western coast, where he took particular pleasure in surveying the urban architecture, and absorbing and documenting the brightly-colored topography and the bustling city streets. Outerbridge was keenly aware that the beauty of everyday objects was also tied to the larger meanings anchored in the social landscape.

Paul Outerbridge’s work in California and Mexico between 1948 and 1955 brings to light a forgotten body of photographs bridging the gap between modern and contemporary practice. Outerbridge’s vision and technique con rmed that he instinctively knew the power of color, and, fortunately for us, he created an astounding body of photographs to prove it. 

 
 Paul Outerbridge, Hotel Lobby, Mazatlán, Mexico, c.1950 CarbroArt™ digital pigment transfer process, printed at Steidl in Göttingen, 2018,  Arches 88, 300 gsm 100% cotton acid-free paper, 16" x 20" framed Edition of 25 

Paul Outerbridge, Hotel Lobby, Mazatlán, Mexico, c.1950
CarbroArt™ digital pigment transfer process, printed at Steidl in Göttingen, 2018, 
Arches 88, 300 gsm 100% cotton acid-free paper, 16" x 20" framed
Edition of 25 

 

About the Edition

These extraordinary prescient images of the 1940s and '50s are masterpieces of color photography that the artist never lived to see printed. He did, however, leave very specific instructions for their printing that have been faithfully followed in the making of this limited edition.

Curatorial Assistance has worked with Steidl, the world famous printer in Göttingen, Germany, to create a new proprietary CarbroArt™ print process that is a facsimile of the exquisite and permanent color-carbro prints of the 1930s that Outerbridge famously pioneered in his color photographs from that era.

Thanks to this collaboration we now have new masterful color carbro transfer prints with the same richness of Outerbridge’s color-carbro prints that, until now, were the hallmark of faithful and permanent color print processes.

—Graham Howe 

 
 
 

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