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This small square publication was published in 2007 on the occasion of a photographic exhibition “La Main” (The Hand) held at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France. The format is 16 centimeters by 16, with 21 numbered pages with an essay by Joelle Bolloch who also curated the exhibition and has 62 photographs in both color and black and white.

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Text from the rear cover.

The erudite essay explains the importance of the hand in photographs by a number of well known early photographers Adolphe Bilordeaux, Andre Eugene Disderi, Auguste Vacquerie, Felix Nadar, Laure Albin Guillot and many other mostly French photographers, but it also includes images by Edward Steichen  and Julia Cameron just to mention two and below are some examples of the photographs in the catalog.

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The body expression with the hands raised by the very famous dancer Loie Fuller

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About 1853 showing the hand of the wife of author Victor Hugo with a bracelet.

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About 1850, an anonymous daguerrotype

Much praise is given for both the catalog and exhibition because this particular topic has not been shown frequently in photo exhibitions.

The hands are often a focal point in figure painting also, and the same concerns arise for the photographer, as well as, for the painter. The concerns as to the position of the hands and their expressiveness on the whole are of course easier solved by the photographer today.

The shortcoming in the catalog, in my opinion, is the listed bibliography which is rather scant on one page with a mere 16 titles. Naturally compiling a bibliography is a personal preference for most but the particular book shown below titled Haende und was sie sagen could and should have been included, in my opinion.

The book in English “Hands and What They Say” is number 11 in the Swiss SB series and dates from 1929, it has a thorough semi scientific explanation of the character which corresponds to certain types of hands with 64 photographs of various hands from famous and not so famous sitters.

The cover shows the hands of the Austrian author Franz Blei a friend of the writer Franz Kafka. This book predates all the listed works in the selected bibliography of the Orsay exhibition by decades and  it was perhaps the very first publication of its kind dealing with this topic.It also has a very similar small format.

The entire SB series is a must have for the serious collector of photography books and with this link you can see them all here.

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Now let me see your hands!

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The father of Russian literature Leo Tolstoi

Number 23 in this series Das Letzte Gesicht (The last Face) deals with the face as seen in an old custom the so called Death Mask, popular throughout the centuries in many different cultures attempting to preserve a very last lasting image either as a mask or as a photograph. We are not going to bore you with macabre details but the last mask is of an anonymous girl picked up out of the Seine River in Paris and that is how the book ends. P1040728

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