Friday, 20 January 2012

If Time and Space are relative, how come they never came to any of my Birthday parties?

I have spent the last couple of weeks sharing my office with an odd looking man. Look who's talking, I hear you think (?).
I find myself staring at his face for several minutes at a time, and I can't quite pinpoint why.

The man in question is the Father of Modern Physics, the Nobel Prize winning, Gravity bothering, light-bending, haircut dodger himself, Albert Einstein.

I recently bought a fantastic portrait photograph, a Silver Gelatin print, taken by the Uber-Cool Austrian-American photographer Trude Fleischmann at Princeton, sometime around 1946.

Fleischmann was born in Vienna in 1895 and at a young age discovered an interest in photography. At the age of nine she was given a camera as a Christmas gift and started experimenting with it. As a young woman she studied Photographic arts at college in Vienna, among the earliest Women to do so. Her natural talent and willingness to push boundries soon made her an important part of the Viennese art scene during the 1920's and 1930's, and she photographed many of the cities cultural and intellectual elite.

Forced to leave Austria after the Anschluss in 1938, Fleischmann travelled through Europe and eventually moved to New York and set up a studio there, becoming an American citizen in 1942.
Her talent for interesting portraiture and street photographs meant that her reputation soon grew and she had a very succesful career in her new homeland. She died, in upstate New york, in 1990.

The image is a fairly well known one that I was quite familiar with, after all, it has been published many times over the last 65 years, or so. What I didn't know was that this particular portrait was Einstein's own favourite.

Loosely inserted into a pouch on the back of the frame is a hand written letter, in bright red ink, on the photographers own note paper with her name printed at the top, from Fleischmann;

"April 22, 1968.

Dear Karen,
Thank you so much for your beautiful card. I am so glad you both like the picture so much. It was Einstein's favorit picture as his secretary wrote to me after his death. And that makes me very proud. I took the picture in 1946 (I think) at his place in Princeton. He was so sweet and encouraging, he made me feel at home with him (I was so excited, but he made me talk, he listened to me, I was completely overwhelmed. He was the most wonderful person in the world.

Dear Karen, enjoy the picture.I hope it will bring you good luck.

Enjoy your life and have a wonderful time.


Why did Einstein favour this portrait over all others? There are some wonderful photographs of him.
I could bang on about the lighting, his expression, the relevance of the pipe, but I'm not going to.
I have criticised pontificating art "experts" many times myself and hypocrisy is not my thing, so, I will show the image again.

Just Look at it and decide for yourself if you agree with Einstein.

The boffins operating the Large Hadron Collider in their vast underground bunker near Geneva (Had the Bond villian's lease run out?) may think they have proven Einstein wrong about some of his theories, but I personally think he was spot on about this one.

I'm off to stare at it again.