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Organ Grinder at 21, quai Bourbon
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Charles Nègre
French, Paris, before March or May 1853
Salt print, from a paper negative
3 15/16 x 3 1/4 in.
84.XM.344.1

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Amidst a rapidly changing urban landscape, Charles Nègre photographed traditional street people. The itinerant musician, stooped slightly from the weight of his instrument, is about to enter a door. One foot stands on the step and his hand rests upon the doorknob. In comparison with André-Adolphe-Eugene Disdéri's Organ-Grinder, made around the same time, this musician is depicted at the weary end of a day's labor rather than playing at his instrument.

Because exposure times in the 1850s prevented much spontaneity, Charles Nègre had to pose his subject upon the threshold in a stance that the organ-grinder could maintain for the duration of the exposure. The vignette effect of the print's darkened edges was a technical sacrifice that Nègre accepted in order to shorten his exposure time. Serving also as a frame for the subject, the dark rim draws the viewer's attention to the isolated figure and produces a more focused image.