Ben Rose

Life Dates

Ben Rose was known for his innovative photographic techniques and modern subjects, but his introduction to art was traditional: the Philadelphia native studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts), where his instructors included Russian photographer Alexey Brodovitch. He would return later in life to teach at his alma mater, as well as at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Rose experimented with different technologies throughout his career. From 1939 to 1941, he worked primarily with a Contax 35 mm film camera. From 1942 to 1947, he shifted to the 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 format, and began taking on editorial work for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Life, Charm, and Scientific American, and for the N. W. Ayer advertising agency in Philadelphia. Around 1948, Rose’s photography became much more abstract; his black-and-white pictures of electrified power lines from this period recall the Cubist painting styles of artists such as Marcel Duchamp.

In the early 1950s, Rose turned to Cirkut cameras, as his son, Peter Rose, describes:

My father began redesigning the motors and using the modified apparatus to make a suite of panorama studies of the New York metropolitan landscape. He first worked with radio and acoustic triggering of speed lights in 1954, and he invented an accurate system for using libration to photograph the moon in stereo. He was responsible for reviving the stroboscopic technique and advanced its scope, in the 1960s, using early computers of his own design to control complex Rube Goldberg–like assemblages of camera motors, strobe lights, and turntables in order to construct what we would now call “virtual” images.

During Rose’s tenure as president of the American Society of Media Photographers from 1962 to 1965, he organized many conferences and colloquia. He also received awards from the Art Director's Clubs of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit.

For Rose, the process of creating photographs was extremely technical, but he also considered the perspective and experience of the viewer. As Peter Rose recalls, his father’s thought process “embodied a desire to summon the conventions of perspective and to make them do some other kind of bidding, to bend the familiars of space into alien figurations, to try to enclose the viewer with a cunning geomancy.”


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