Drawing with light

Carlotta CorpronCaptured Light,  ca. 1946-48 (51.1982)

Carlotta Corpron, Eggs Encircled,  ca. 1947 (52.1982)

Carlotta Corpron, Rae Ann with Amaryllis,  1945 (64.1982)

Carlotta Corpron, Light Follows Form,  1948 (58.1982)

Carlotta Corpron, Big Cubes,  1944 (430.1993)

Carlotta Corpron, A Walk in Fair Park, Dallas,  ca. 1948 (54.1982)

Born in Minnesota in 1901 and raised in India, Carlotta Corpron didn’t start her focus on photography until 1933, after receiving her M.A. and buying a camera to study the texture of fabrics. From the moment she graduated from the Teachers’ College of Columbia University in 1926 she started teaching a variety of art, design and photography classes. In an interview with The Amon Carter Museum, where a retrospective of her work was shown in 1980, Corpron modestly commented that she felt that her students made work that was “truly creative”, but that she was grateful that after all these years people were interested in the work she had done years before.

Carlotta Corpron work is mainly known for her exploration of light. Her interest in the subject was being motivated by Gyorgy Kepes, the Hungarian artist and one of the founders of the Institute of Design, who she met when she was teaching at the Texas Women’s University in 1942.

In a relatively short but productive few years, Corpron created six series in the 1940s through which she examined the expression and effect of light in photography: Nature Studies, Light Drawings, Light Patterns, Light Follows Form, Space Compositions and Fluid Light Designs.

After Nature Studies, she continued her investigation with Light Drawings. To create A Walk in Fair Park, Dallas, part of this series, Corpron would move her camera along with the movement of the lights in the dark, thereby creating steady and surprising patterns of light.

During this time, Gyorgy Kepes inspired her to continue her investigation and create a light box: a perforated box with light sensitive paper inside. By shining a light through the holes in the box, random and abstract forms of light and shadow were created on the paper inside. The works that Corpron created this way were part of her series “Light Patterns”.

In Light Follows Form, from which an example is shown above, Corpron used light as a sculptural tool and further explored the use of light on three-dimensional forms. In the interview with The Amon Carter Museum she explained how she “found these three shapes [… and] I happened to notice the light coming through the Venetian blind and how it followed the form, and so I grouped them in a such a way that the light would follow a form. And it is wonderful how it contracts and expands and gives a rich tone.”

Carlotta Corpron retired from teaching in 1968 and it wasn’t until later in life that her work became recognized again. In the 1970s and early 1980 her photographs were part of several important group exhibitions, among which Recollections: Ten Women of Photography at the International Center of Photography in 1979. A retrospective was organized at The Amon Carter Museum in 1980, which also took on her archive. Carlotta Corpron died in 1988, at the age of 87.

About claartjevandijk

Assistant Curator, Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
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