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Mosaic in Life Magazine & Andreas Feininger

LIFE magazine has posted an archive of millions of photos on Google Images, and of course I was searching “mosaic” and found a set of photos from 1955 of a woman making a mosaic coffee table, taken by Andreas Feininger. Idly searching on who Feininger was, I discovered he was a well-respected photographer, originally an architect from Germany, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1936, and started as a staff photographer for LIFE. He went on to write many textbooks of photography.

In an interview with Feininger and the ASMP in 1990 he said he was not a people photographer, and one of the few times he photographed a person, it was a mosaic(unnamed)artist, sort of the Donna Reed of the mosaic world. I can’t imagine mosaicking in bangle bracelets, and a flared skirt! I particularly like the can of “Miracle” cement. In other ways though, I feel a kinship with this anonymous woman, as she unpacks the box of tile sheets. And the close-up of her hands laying tile is even more familiar, with the timelessness of the human hand creating something.

There’s a quote in Feininger’s book, The Roots of Art: “Everything made by human hands, and most things conceived by the human mind, have their prototypes in nature.” Grouting is our way of making rocks or fossils–the latter being the sturdiest of mosaics! Conglomerate is a rock consisting of individual stones that have become cemented together with pressure and dissolved minerals.

I wonder who this woman was. Did she keep making mosaics? I am fascinated by the picture of her grouting with her bare hands(it appears she did take off the bangles). In case I didn’t mention it in my previous post, this is not recommended! Grout is very alkaline and leaches all the moisture from your skin, and can cause contact dermatitis with repeated exposure. Did she go on with her tin of Miracle, and keep creating with her hands?

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