“Salad forks! From Aunt Constance... isn't she a dear? ... You don't suppose she thought I was hinting, do you?”
Photograph for magazine advertisement, ‘Treasure’ Solid Silverware, by Rogers, Lunt & Bowlen; unidentified magazine, December 1927, page 687;
Gold toned photogram, 7.4 x 7.3" not signed. Provenance: The family of the artist.
Condition: very good overall: glue residue verso; image unaffected. The work is archivally matted, and framed in a handmade, narrow, metal-leaf, grooved moulding.
The photogram is an old technique of interrupting the enlarger's light source, not with a camera-based negative, but with other objects, to make an image. In this case, Otis cut out paper, curled and sliced it to let light partially in around edges, to give the resultant exposure the illusion of figures in space. His intricate exploitation of the medium has gone almost entirely unacknowledged by photography historians, though he was given recognition in the Art Directors Club Annuals, in his day.
The use of cut paper (with its reliance on silhouette) reduces the sense of personality; Otis's figures are literally cardboard types. And yet, the shadows and highlights make them scintillating. Reading through the dialogue given to these flatware people is remarkable. The young wife turns out to be shallow and a clever manipulator of social etiquette! I have to believe this was an intentional and highly effective way to sell silver spoons.
On scrutinizing the image, there is only one tiny change to the image as published: the spoon has been turned into a fork in “post-production”. It is not recorded how many prints of this image were produced, but it's likely this one is unique, since the artist had little or no opportunity to offer them via galleries.