Tag Archives: Ciudad de México

Edmond Hamel, pictorialist photographer in Mexico 1903-1919

We just acquired a wonderful album of pictorialist photographs, most of them taken in and around Mexico City between 1908 and 1919. All the photographs are attributed to Edmond Hamel, a French national living in Mexico. As far as we know, all these prints are unique.

Monumento a Colon, Paseo de la Reforma, circa 1915

Little is known about Edmond Hamel. He probably learnt photography in France and settled in Mexico before 1903. Hamel is listed as a “carroceria” (a coachbuilder) in Mexico City in 1903. He stayed there until at least 1919. His whereabouts after that date are unknown.

Self portrait in photo lab, 1918

Those prints predate Hugo Brehme classic pictorialist views by at least a decade, and might even be earlier than Jose Maria Lupercio’s most bucolic views. The album contains 52 prints, in a variety of process : bromoil, silver gelatin and platinium. A few of them are signed and dated.

The album will be visible during the Paris Photo fair on boot D32. You can also follow us on instagram at : gregoryleroyphoto

Street beggar, Mexico, circa 1905

Street beggar, Mexico, circa 1905

Untitled, Mexico, circa 1905

Peasants and Iztaccihuatl, circa 1915

Xochimilco, 1913

Detail of Edmond Hamel signature

Mexican market, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1910

A Mexican beauty, circa 1915

Untitled, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1915

Pal Rosti in Mexico, 1857-1858

Pal Rosti Barkoczi (also known as Paul de Rosti) was a pioneer of photography in Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico.

View of Mexico City from the Cathedral, 1857-1858

View of Mexico City from the Cathedral, 1857-1858

He was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1830. Rosti studied at the university of Munich School of Science for four years then geography and ethnography in Budapest in 1853. In 1854 and 1855, Rosti is probably in Paris, learning photography. Although he doesn’t appear in the extensive list of Gustave Le Gray students, he certainly learnt his waxed paper negative process. On August 4th 1856 he embarks from le Havre to New York, and travels in the United States as far as Wisconsin. In January 1857 he arrives in Cuba. From there he sailed to Venezuela, travelled South to the Orinoco river, then sailed back to the West Indies, on his way to Veracruz, where he landed on July 28th 1857.

Pal Rosti arrives in Mexico almost four months before Désiré Charnay (who lands in Veracruz in late November). Rosti’s views of the Ciudad de Mexico are therefore the earliest views paper photographs of the city. But it is almost certain that Rosti and Charnay met in Mexico City (more on than in our next post…).

Pal Rosti makes at least 32 negatives during his eight months in Mexico – all of them in Mexico City and between Mexico City and Veracruz.

Salto de Agua, Mexico City, 1857-1858

The Salto de Agua and the Belen aqueduct, Mexico City, 1857-1858

Rosti departs Veracruz on April 7t 1858 and lands on 8 August 1858 in Southampton. From there, it is very likely that he travels to Paris, then Hungary thru Berlin. On November 1st 1858, Rosti visits Alexander Von Humboldt, the inspiration for his travel,  in his house in Berlin and offers him an album of forty seven photographic views (the copy presently at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne). At the beginning of 1859, he exhibits his photographic views of Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico at the National Casino in Budapest.

The Borda gardens, Cuernavaca, 1857-1858

The bindings of all four existing album bear the mark of Despierres from Paris. We therefore know that all prints were made between his arrival in Southampton and his arrival in Berlin. It is more than likely that the prints were also made in Paris – the Le Gray atelier a prime suspect for such a wonderful job. We also know that Rosti had less than three months, between his arrival in England and his meeting with Humboldt, to have the photographs printed and the album bound – including travel time from Southampton to Berlin via Paris. That might explain why so few copies of the album are known.

La Santissima, Mexico City, 1857-1858

Four albums are known, three of which are located in Hungary and one in Germany. The contents of the three albums located in Hungary are not identical. The copy in the National Széchenyi Library which was originally given to the Hungarian National Museum contains 45 prints, the album in the Museum of Photography contains 47 prints, the album of the Loránd Eötvös Geophysical Institute contains 40 prints. The album in Cologne contained 47 prints (with 5 missing today).

Door of the Sagrario, Mexico City, 1857-1858

In the two 47 prints albums, four pictures show parts of Havana, 11 photograph landscapes and buildings in Venezuela, and the remaining 32 from Mexico.

San Antonio waterfall, near Cuernavaca, 1857-1858

El Choro de Regla, 1857-1858

I am very grateful to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne for letting me have a long look at this stunning album.

Tlamanalco, ruins of the colonial church, 1857-1858

The French legation, Mexico City, 1857-1858


Edward Weston, Portraits of Jose Clemente Orozco, 1926

The following portraits of Mexican painter Jose Clemente Orozco are photoshop renditions of ten negatives found in the Anita Brenner collection in Mexico City. 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. 1926

Of these negatives, only one print is known to exist. That print was part of a Sotheby’s sale in Paris on November 19th, 2010, lot 28, and attributed at the time to Tina Modotti. I was the expert of the sale and I was wrong… Now I’ll explain why we can now attribute these images to Edward Weston. 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

We knew from Weston daybooks that on Sunday 4th 1926 Anita and Weston visited Jose Clemente Orozco studio, but Weston doesn’t mention taking photographs : « May 4. Sunday, Anita and I went to Coyoacan to visit with Orozco the painter. I had hardly known his work before, which I found fine and strong. His cartoons – splendid drawings, in which he spared no one, either capitalist or revolutionnary leader – were scathing satires, quite as helpful in destroying a « cause », heroes and villains alike, as a machine gun. I would place Orozco among the first four or five painters of Mexico, perhaps higher. » Edward Weston Daybook.


Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

While working on Brenner’s daybook, published after the Sotheby’s sale, we realized that Weston had indeed take a few portraits of Orozco that day (interestingly, Anita gets the date wrong, May 2d instead of 4th)… : « Sunday, May 2 (sic). Went out this morning to Orozco’s studio with Edward Weston. Edward made some portraits of him. Orozco showed us some of his old things and a few studies for the frescos he is doing. I got a beautiful complementation to my article on him. Some drawings, a small oil painting on paper, and a large one, head, perfectly first class. »

So we know for a fact that Weston made some portraits of Orozco, and probably to be used by Anita Brenner for an article. It would explain why he did not print more from these negatives, and why they were found in Anita Brenner estate.

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

These portraits were not used in the article mentioned in Anita’s daybook (it is not clear what article she is talking about, but the portrait is not reproduce in Forma or Mexican Folkways, the two revistas she was involved with). She did published an article in New Masses in New York, in January 1927, but I have been unable to get a look at it. 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Anyway, I am glad I can finally attribute these remarquable portraits to Edward Weston. It is quite unusual to recover such a important body of work from one of the greatest photographer of the XXth century.

Anita Brenner’s Journal of the Roaring Twenties, edited by her daughter Susannah Glusker, is available from the University of Texas Press : it is an entertaining and fascinating account of the artistic and cultural life in Mexico City during the Mexican “renaissance”.

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The adventurous and tragic life of Jacob Granat

We just found in Paris around twenty nice Mexican photographs, mostly tipos and views
of the City of Mexico, titled and signed « J. Granat » – a name unknown to us. We quickly discovered that these photographs were widely produced as offset post card – but the
original photographic prints are rare. Included in the lot of prints was an unsigned street
view of calle San Francisco in Mexico City, with a Granat shop in the foreground, its likely
owner in the doorway. As good a clue as it gets.

Jacob Granat was born in 1871 in Lemberg (today Lviv), a city in Western Ukraine, at the
time part of the Austrian empire. In 1900, at the invitation of his uncle Jacob Kalt, he
moved to Veracruz in Mexico, and a year later in Mexico City. We know that he had an uncle
or a cousin working at the casa Boker, one of the most successful German owned business
in Mexico. Interestingly, Guillermo Kahlo worked at casa Boker during the last years of
the 19th century, and probably took his first photographs during the construction of the
new Boker shop in 1898-1899.

We also know that Jacob Granat became rapidly the « curio king » of the capital, selling luggages, post cards and other souvenirs from his shop in calle San Francisco, in the
Historical center. But the bulk of the business was apparently luggages, and we are
inclined to think that Jacob Granat was not the photographer, but the distributor of
these images, either in photographic prints or in post cards.

Guillermo Kahlo and Jacob Granat were born the same year (1871), were both German
speaking and both had strong connections with the Boker family. It is therefore almost
certain that they knew each other. It is tempting to speculate that when Granat opened
his « curio shop » he asked Kahlo for some tipos photographs. We will need further
research to validate this hypothesis.

Jacob Granat credits

Tipos Mexicanos

Calendario Azteca

Evangelista, Mexico

Tortillera, Mexico

Su Chata


Los Consentidos de la casa

Ruinas de Mitla

Indias Amatecas

In 1906, Jacob Granat sold his shop to purchase the old Borda palace, where he opened
the first movie theater of the city, the famous Salon Rojo. Salon Rojo rapidly became the
most luxurious and successful theater in the city, and a center of night life for Mexico rich
and famous. It attracted politicians, notably Francisco Madero, who used to hold political meetings in Salon Rojo, and became a friend for Granat. In 1911, Madero was elected
president, and did probably reward Granat for his support.

In June 1912, Jacob Granat was one of the founder and the first president of Alianza Beneficencia Monte Sinai, the first Jewish charitable organization in Mexico.

in the mid 1920’s, Granat sold the salon Rojo and moved back to Europe, settling in Austria.
The reason of this exile are unknown. Some of Granat descendants speculate that he could
not deal with the grief from his friend Madero’s assassination.

Little is know of Jacob’s whereabout in Austria. Some of his relatives still living in Mexico
wrote recently that he tried to move back to Mexico after the Nazi invasion of Austria,
but could not, or was not allowed, to travel.

Jacob Granat was murdered by the Nazi regime at Auschwitz in 1943.

So let’s go back to the photograph of the Granat shop, and zoom in : here is the moving
image of a man I like to think is Jacob, the « curio king » in the doorway of his shop,
his face sadly in the shade of his straw boater.

Jacob Granat, Calle San Francisco, circa 1903






A few views of Mexico, circa 1863-1866

This is the last of our post on the Germigny archives – this time, the photographer will, for the moment, remains an anonymous French soldier. The photographs are dated around 1863-1866 and follow the road from Veracruz to the city of Mexico. Some of them are remarkably charming… They were taken using glass plate negatives and are printed on albumen paper, most of them unmounted and untrimmed.

Port of Veracruz

Port of Veracruz


Veracruz, the custom house


A factory, Mexico

A factory, Mexico

Construction of a bridge for the railway, probably from Veracruz to the city of Mexico

Construction of a bridge for the railway, probably from Veracruz to the city of Mexico

A dog's nap...

A dog’s nap…

Factory in Mexico

Factory in Mexico

French soldiers posing outside of a farm.

French soldiers posing outside of a farm.


An other dog’s nap.

Paso del Diablo, near Vera Cruz

Paso del Diablo, near Vera Cruz

Paso del Diablo, near Vera Cruz

Same as previous image, but unmounted and untrimmed.

Colonial courtyard, City of Mexico

Colonial courtyard, City of Mexico

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And we take this opportunity to wish you all happy holidays…