Tubular Jetty, Mouth of the Adour, Port of Bayonne, 1892
Louis Lafon (French, active late 19th century)
Albumen silver print from glass negative; 14 3/8 x 18 5/8 in. (36.5 x 47.3 cm)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2008 (2008.145)
In April 1858, the director of the École des Ponts et Chaussées, the French national civil engineering school, observed that photography was "by now employed on many worksites, not only to record the details but also to see the state of progress of the construction." Indeed, a photographic library was soon founded at the school and photographic instruction became an established part of the curriculum. Not surprisingly, such photographs—depicting the most advanced industrial technology and produced by photographers unencumbered by the pictorial conventions of Second Empire art—now resonate as prescient examples of a modern aesthetic.
Little is known about Louis Lafon. He was based in Paris, photographed primarily industrial subjects, and won a medal for his submissions to the 1874 exhibition of the Société Française de Photographie. With its depiction of the airy pier hovering between sea and sky like a magic trick of engineering, Tubular Jetty ranks among the period's most striking emblems of modernity.