Archive for the 'gallery website' Category

01
Mar
15

Review: ‘Richard Avedon People’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th December 2014 – 15th March 2015

Curator: Dr Christopher Chapman

 

 

You can tell a lot about a person from their self-portrait. In the case of Richard Avedon’s self-portrait (1969, below), we see a man in high key, white shirt positioned off centre against a slightly off-white background, the face possessing an almost innocuous, vapid affectation as though the person being captured by the lens has no presence, no being at all. The same could be said of much of Avedon’s photography. You can also tell a lot about an artist by looking at their early work. In the exhibition there is a photograph of James Baldwin, writer, Harlem, New York 1945, celebrated writer and close friend of the artist, which evidences Avedon’s mature portrait style: the frontal positioning of Afro-American Baldwin against a white background will be repeated by Avedon from the start to the end of his career. This trope, this hook has become the artist’s defining signature.

Spread across two floors of the exhibition spaces at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, the exhibition hangs well. The tonal black and white photographs in their white frames, hung above and below the line against the white gallery walls, promote a sense of serenity and minimalism to the work when viewed from afar. Up close, the photographs are clinical, clean, pin sharp and decidedly cold in attitude. Overall the selection of work in the exhibition is weak and the show does not promote the artist to best advantage. There are the usual fashion and portrait photographs, supplemented by street photographs, photographs at the beach and of mental asylums, and distorted photographs. While it is good to see a more diverse range of work from the artist to fill in his back story none of these alternate visions really work. Avedon was definitely not a street photographer (see Helen Levitt for comparison); he couldn’t photograph the mentally ill (see Diane Arbus’ last body of work in the book Diane Arbus: Untitled, 1995) and his distorted faces fail miserably in comparison to Weegee’s (Athur Fellig) fabulous distortions. These are poor images by any stretch of the imagination.

That being said there are some arresting individual images. There is a magical photograph of Truman Capote, writer, 1955 which works because of the attitude of the sitter; an outdoors image of Bob Dylan, musician, Central Park, New York, February 20, 1965 (below) in which the musician has this glorious presence when you stand in front of the image – emanating an almost metaphysical aura – due to the light, low depth of field and stance of the proponent. Also top notch is a portrait of the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, Paris, France, July 25, 1961in which (for once), the slightly off-white background and the pallid colour of the dancer’s lithe body play off of each other, his placement allowing him to float in the contextless space of the image, his striking pose and the enormousness of his member drawing the eyes of the viewer. All combine to make a memorable, iconic image. Another stunning image is a portrait of the artist Pablo Picasso, artist, Beaulieu, France, April 16, 1958where the artist’s large, round face fills the picture plane, his craggy features lit by strong side lighting, illuminating the whites of his eyes and just a couple of his eyebrow hairs. Magnificent. And then there are just two images (see below) from the artist’s seminal book In the American West. More on those later. 

Other portraits and fashion photographs are less successful. A photograph of Twiggy, dress by Roberto Rojas, New York, April 1967 (below), high contrast, cropped close top and bottom, is a vapid portrait of the fashion/model. The image of Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1964 (below) is, as a good friend of mine said, a cruel photograph of the actress. I tend to agree, although another word, ‘bizarre’, also springs to mind. In some ways, his best known fashion photograph, Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955 (below) is a ripper of an image… until you observe the punctum, to which my eyes were drawn like a moth to a flame, the horrible shackles around the legs of the elephants.

Generally, the portraiture and fashion photographs are a disappointment. If, as Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper states, “Avedon’s portraiture is a search for authenticity in the age of the fake,”1 then Avedon fails on many levels. His deadpan portraits do not revive or refresh the life of the sitter. In my eyes their inflection, the subtle expression of the sitter, is not enough to sustain the line of inquiry. I asked the curator and a representative from the Avedon Foundation what they thought Avedon’s photographs were about and both immediately said, together, it was all about surfaces. “Bullshit” rejoined I, thinking of the portrait of Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957 (below), in which the photographer pressed the shutter again and again and again as the actress gallivanted around his studio being the vivacious Marilyn, only hours later, when the mask had dropped, to get the photograph that he and everyone else wanted, the vulnerable women. This, and only this image, was then selected to be printed for public consumption, the rest “archived, protected by the Avedon Foundation, never allowed off the negative or the contact sheet.”2 You don’t do that kind of thing, and take that much time, if you are only interested in surfaces.

On reflection perhaps both of us were right, because there is a paradox that lies at the heart of Avedon’s work. There is the surface vacuousness and plasticity of the celebrity/fashion portrait; then the desire of Avedon to be taken seriously as an artist, to transcend the fakeness of the world in which he lived and operated; and also his desire to always be in control of the process – evidenced by how people had to offer themselves up to the great man in order to have their portrait taken, with no control over the results. While Avedon sought to be in touch with the fragility of humanity – the man, woman and child inside – it was also something he was afraid of. Photography gave him control of the situation. In his constructed images, Avedon is both the creator and the observer and as an artist he is always in control. This control continues today, extending to the dictions of The Richard Avedon Foundation, which was set up by Avedon during his lifetime and under his tenants to solely promote his art after he passed away.

When you look into the eyes of the sitters in Avedon’s portraits, there always seems to be a dead, cold look in the eyes. Very rarely does he attempt to reveal the ambiguity of a face that resists artistic production (see Blake Stimson’s text below). And when he does it is only when he has pushed himself to do it (MM, BD). Was he afraid, was he scared that he might have been revealing to much of himself, that he would have “lost control”? If, as he said, there is finally nothing but the face – an autograph, the signature of the face – then getting their autograph was a way to escape his mundane family life through PERFORMANCE. Unfortunately, the performance that he usually evinces from the rich and famous, this “figuring” out of himself through others through control of that performance – is sometimes bland to the point of indifference. Hence my comment on his self-portrait that I mentioned at the start of this review. It would seem to me that Avedon could not face the complex truth, that he could bring himself, through his portraits, to be both inside and outside of a character at one and the same time… to be vulnerable, to be frightened, to loose control!

If he shines himself as a self-portrait onto others, in a quest or search for the human predicament, then his search is for his own frightened face. Only in his the Western Project which formed the basis for his seminal book In the American West - only two of which are in the exhibition – does Avedon achieve a degree of insight, humanity and serenity that his other photographs lack and, perhaps, a degree of quietude within himself. Created after serious heart inflammations hindered Avedon’s health in 1974, In the American West was commissioned in 1979 “by Mitchell A. Wilder (1913-1979), the director of the Amon Carter Museum to complete the “Western Project.” Wilder envisioned the project to portray Avedon’s take on the American West. It became a turning point in Avedon’s career when he focused on everyday working class subjects such as miners soiled in their work clothes, housewives, farmers and drifters on larger-than-life prints instead of a more traditional options with famous public figures… The project itself lasted five years concluding with an exhibition and a catalogue. It allowed Avedon and his crew to photograph 762 people and expose approximately 17,000 sheets of 8 x 10 Tri-X Pan film.”3

In his photographs of drifters, miners, beekeepers, oil rig workers, truckers, slaughterhouse workers, carneys and alike the figure is more frontally placed within the image space, pulled more towards the viewer. The images are about the body and the picture plane, about the minutiae of dress and existence and the presence and dignity of his subjects, more than any of his other work. In this work the control of the sitter works to the artist’s advantage (none of these people had ever had their portrait taken before and therefore had to be coached) and, for once, Avedon is not relying on the ego of celebrity of the transience of fashion but on the everyday attitudes of human beings. Through his portrayal of their ordinariness and individuality, he finally reveals his open, exposed self. The project was embedded with Avedon’s goal to discover new dimensions within himself… “from a Jewish photographer from out East who celebrated the lives of famous public figures to an aging man at one of the last chapters of his life to discovering the inner-worlds, and untold stories of his Western rural subjects… The collection identified a story within his subjects of their innermost self, a connection Avedon admits would not have happened if his new sense of mortality through severe heart conditions and aging hadn’t occurred.”4 Definitively, this is his best body of work. Finally he got there. 

Printed on Agfa’s luscious Portriga Rapid, a double-weight, fiber-based gelatin silver paper which has a warm (brown) colouration for the shadow areas and lovely soft cream highlights, the prints in the exhibition are over six-feet high. The presence of Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980 – freckles highlighted by the light, folds of skin under the armpit – and Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old, Sweetwater, Texas, March 10, 1979 – visceral innards of the rattlesnake and the look in his eyes – are simply stunning. Both are beautiful prints. In the American West has often been criticised for its voyeuristic themes, for exploiting its subjects and for evoking condescending emotions from the audience such as pity while studying the portraits, but these magnificent photographs are not about that: they are about the exchange of trust between the photographer and a human being, about the dignity of that portrayal, and about the revelation of a “true-self” as much as possible through a photograph – the face of the sitter mirroring the face of the photographer.

While it is fantastic to see these images in Victoria, the first time any Avedon photographs have been seen in this state (well done The Ian Potter Museum of Art!), the exhibition could have been so much more if it had only been more focused on a particular outcome, instead of a patchy, broad brush approach in which everything has been included. I would have been SO happy to see the whole exhibition devoted to Avendon’s most notable and influential work (think Thomas Ruff portraits) – In the American West. The exhibition climaxes (if you like) with three huge, mural-scale portraits of Merce Cunningham (1993, printed 2002), Doon Arbus, writer, New York, 2002 and Harold Bloom, literary critic, New York City, October 28, 2001 (printed 202), big-statement art that enlarges Avedon’s work to sit alongside other sizeable contemporary art works. Spanning floor to ceiling in the gallery space these overblown edifices, Avedon’s reaction to the ever expanding size of postmodern ‘gigantic’ photography, fall as flat as a tack. At this scale the images simply do not work. As Robert Nelson insightfully observes, “To turn Avedon’s portraiture into contemporary art is technically and commercially understandable, but from an artistic point of view, the conflation of familiarity to bombast seems to be faking it one time to many.”5

Finally we have to ask what do artists Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Avedon have in common? Well, they were all based in New York; they are all white, middle class, and reasonably affluent; they were either gay, Jewish or Catholic or a mixture of each; they all liked mixing with celebrities and fashion gurus; and they all have foundations set up in their honour. Only in New York. It seems a strange state of affairs to set up a foundation as an artist, purely to promote, sustain, expand, and protect the legacy and control of your art after you are gone. This is the ultimate in control, about controlling the image of the artist from the afterlife. Foundations such as the Keith Haring Foundation do good work, undertaking outreach and philanthropic programs, making “grants to not-for-profit groups that engage in charitable and educational activities. In accordance with Keith’s wishes, the Foundation concentrates its giving in two areas: The support of organizations which provide educational opportunities to underprivileged children and the support of organizations which engage in education, prevention and care with respect to AIDS and HIV infection.”6 I asked the representative of The Richard Avedon Foundation what charitable or philanthropic work they did. They offer an internship program. That’s it. For an artist so obsessed with image and surfaces, for an artist that eventually found his way to a deeper level of understanding, it’s about time The Richard Avedon Foundation offered more back to the community than just an internship. Promotion and narcissism are one thing, engagement and openness entirely another.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 2,335

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Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

1. Robert Nelson. “Pin sharp portraits show us real life,” in The Age newspaper, Friday January 2, 2014, p. 22.
2. Andrew Stephens. “Fame and falsehoods,” in Spectrum, The Age newspaper, Saturday November 29, 2014, p. 12.
3. Anon. “Richard Avedon,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015
4. Whitney, Helen. “Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light.” American Masters, Season 10, Episode 3, 1996 quoted in Anon. “Richard Avedon,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015.
5. Robert Nelson op cit.,
6. Anon. “About” on The Keith Haring Foundation website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015

 

 

American photographer Richard Avedon (1923-2004) produced portrait photographs that defined the twentieth century. Richard Avedon People explores his iconic portrait making practice, which was distinctive for its honesty, candour and frankness.

One of the world’s great photographers, Avedon is best known for transforming fashion photography from the late 1940s onwards. The full breadth of Avedon’s renowned work is revealed in this stunning exhibition of 80 black and white photographs dating from 1949 to 2002. Avedon’s instantly recognisable iconic portraits of artists, celebrities, and countercultural leaders feature alongside his less familiar portraiture works that capture ordinary New Yorkers going about their daily lives, and the people of America’s West. With uncompromising rawness and tenderness, Avedon’s photographs capture the character of individuals extraordinary in their uniqueness and united in their shared experience of humanity.

Richard Avedon People pays close attention to the dynamic relationship between the photographer and his sitters and focuses on Avedon’s portraits across social strata, particularly his interest in counter-culture. At the core of his artistic work was a profound concern with the emotional and social freedom of the individual in society. The exhibition reveals Avedon’s sensitivity of observation, empathy of identification and clear vision that characterise these portraits.

Text from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

 

“There is no truth in photography. There is no truth about anyone’s person.” –

“There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is truth.”

“Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”

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Richard Avedon

 

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Richard Avedon People at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

 

 

“Photography has had its place in the pas de deux between humanism and antihumanism, of course, and with two complementary qualities of its own. In the main, we have thought for a long time now, it is photography’s capacity for technological reproduction that defines its greater meaning, both by indexing the world and through its expanded and accelerated means of semiosis. This emphasis on the proliferation of signs and indices has been part of our posthumanism, and it has turned us away consistently from readings that emphasise photography’s second, humanist quality, its capacity to produce recognition through the power of judgment and thus realise the experience of solidarity or common cause.

In keeping with the framing for this collection of writings, we might call the first of these two qualities photography’s ‘either/and’ impulse and the second its ‘either/or’. Where the first impulse draws its structuring ideal from deferring the moment of judgment as it moves laterally from one iteration to the next, one photograph to the next, the second develops its philosophical ground by seeing more than meets the eye in any given photograph or image as the basis of judgment. For example, this is how Kierkegaard described the experience of a ‘shadowgraph’ (or ‘an inward picture which does not become perceptible until I see it through the external’) in his Either/Or:

Sometimes when you have scrutinised a face long and persistently, you seem to discover a second face hidden behind the one you see. This is generally an unmistakable sign that this soul harbours an emigrant who has withdrawn from the world in order to watch over secret treasure, and the path for the investigator is indicated by the fact that one face lies beneath the other, as it were, from which he understands that he must attempt to penetrate within if he wishes to discover anything. The face, which ordinarily is the mirror of the soul, here takes on, though it be but for an instant, an ambiguity that resists artistic production. An exceptional eye is needed to see it, and trained powers of observation to follow this infallible index of a secret grief. … The present is forgotten, the external is broken through, the past is resurrected, grief breathes easily. The sorrowing soul finds relief, and sorrow’s sympathetic knight errant rejoices that he has found the object of his search; for we seek not the present, but sorrow whose nature is to pass by. In the present it manifests itself only for a fleeting instant, like the glimpse one may have of a man turning a corner and vanishing from sight.

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Roland Barthes was trying to describe a similar experience with his account of the punctum just as Walter Benjamin did with his figure of the angel of history: ‘His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events [in the same way we experience photography’s ‘either/and’ iteration of images], he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet’. As Kierkegaard, Barthes, and Benjamin suggest, the old humanist experience of struggle with the singular experience of on-going failure to realise its hallowed ideals only ever arose in photography or anywhere else fleetingly, but it is all but invisible to us now.”

Søren Kierkegaard. Either/Or, volume I, 1843, 171, 173 quoted in Blake Stimson. “What was Humanism?” on the Either/And website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015

 

Richard Avedon. 'Andy Warhol, artist, Candy Darling and Jay Johnson, actors, New York, August 20, 1969' 1969

 

Richard Avedon
Andy Warhol, artist, Candy Darling and Jay Johnson, actors, New York, August 20, 1969
1969
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, New York, May 8, 1957' 1957

 

Richard Avedon
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, New York, May 8, 1957
1957
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Mae West, actor, with Mr. America, New York' 1954

 

Richard Avedon
Mae West, actor, with Mr. America, New York
1954
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'New York Life #5, Lower West Side, New York City, September 9, 1949' 1949

 

Richard Avedon
New York Life #5, Lower West Side, New York City, September 9, 1949
1949
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

Richard Avedon People celebrates the work of American photographer Richard Avedon (1923 to 2004), renowned for his achievements in the art of black and white portraiture. Avedon’s masterful work in this medium will be revealed in an in-depth overview of 80 photographs from 1949 to 2002, to be displayed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne from 6 December 2014 to 15 March 2015.

Known for his exquisitely simple compositions, Avedon’s images express the essence of his subjects in charming and disarming ways. His work is also a catalogue of the who’s who of twentieth-century American culture. In the show, instantly recognisable and influential artists, celebrities, and countercultural leaders including Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Malcolm X, are presented alongside portraits of the unknown. Always accessible, they convey his profound concern with the emotional and social freedom of the individual.

Ian Potter Museum of Art Director, Kelly Gellatly said, “Richard Avedon was one of the world’s great photographers. He is known for transforming fashion photography from the late 1940s onwards, and his revealing portraits of celebrities, artists and political identities.

“People may be less familiar, however, with his portraiture works that capture ordinary New Yorkers going about their daily lives, and the people of America’s West,” Gellatly continued. “Richard Avedon People brings these lesser-known yet compelling portraits together with his always captivating iconic images. In doing so, the exhibition provides a rounded and truly inspiring insight into Avedon’s extraordinary practice.”

Avedon changed the face of fashion photography through his exploration of motion and emotion. From the outset, he was fascinated by photography’s capacity for suggesting the personality and evoking the life of his subjects. This is evidenced across the works in the exhibition, which span Avedon’s career from his influential fashion photography and minimalist portraiture of well-known identities, to his depictions of America’s working class.

Avedon’s practice entered the public imagination through his long association with seminal American publications. He commenced his career photographing for Harper’s Bazaar, followed by a 20-year partnership with Vogue. Later, he established strong collaborations with Egoiste and The New Yorker, becoming staff photographer for The New Yorker in 1992.

Richard Avedon People is the first solo exhibition of Avedon’s work to be displayed in Victoria following showings in Perth and Canberra. The exhibition was curated by the National Portrait Gallery’s Senior Curator, Dr Christopher Chapman, in partnership with the Richard Avedon Foundation over the course of two years. The Foundation was established by Avedon in his lifetime and encourages the study and appreciation of the artist’s photography through exhibitions, publications and outreach programs.

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Dr Christopher Chapman

Dr Christopher Chapman is Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery where he has produced major exhibitions exploring diverse experiences of selfhood and identity. He joined the Gallery in 2008 and was promoted to Senior Curator in 2011. He works closely with the Gallery’s management team to drive collection and exhibition strategy. Working in the visual arts field since the late 1980s, Christopher has held curatorial roles at the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia. He has lectured in visual arts and culture for the Australian National University and his PhD thesis examined youth masculinity and themes of self-sacrifice in photography and film.

A National Portrait Gallery of Australia exhibition presented in partnership with the Richard Avedon Foundation, New York.

 

Richard Avedon. 'Bob Dylan, musician, Central Park, New York, February 20, 1965' 1965

 

Richard Avedon
Bob Dylan, musician, Central Park, New York, February 20, 1965
1965
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955' 1955

 

Richard Avedon
Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955
1955
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957' 1957

 

Richard Avedon
Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957
1957
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Civil rights demonstration, Atlanta, Georgia' c. 1963

 

Richard Avedon
Civil rights demonstration, Atlanta, Georgia
c. 1963
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Self portrait, New York City, July 23, 1969' 1969

 

Richard Avedon
Self portrait, New York City, July 23, 1969
1969
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Michelangelo Antonioni, film director, with his wife Enrica, Rome, 1993' 1993

 

Richard Avedon
Michelangelo Antonioni, film director, with his wife Enrica, Rome, 1993
1993
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

“Insights into the crossover of genres and the convergence of modern media gave Avedon’s work its extra combustive push. He got fame as someone who projected accents of notoriety and even scandal within a decorous field. By not going too far in exceeding known limits, he attained the highest rank at Vogue. In American popular culture, this was where Avedon mattered, and mattered a lot. But it was not enough.

In fact, Avedon’s increasingly parodistic magazine work often left – or maybe fed – an impression that its author was living beneath his creative means. In the more permanent form of his books, of which there have been five so far, he has visualized another career that would rise above fashion. Here Avedon demonstrates a link between what he hopes is social insight and artistic depth, choosing as a vehicle the straight portrait. Supremacy as a fashion photographer did not grant him status in his enterprise – quite the contrary – but it did provide him access to notable sitters. Their presence before his camera confirmed the mutual attraction of the well-connected.”

Max Kozloff. “Richard Avedon’s “In the American West”,” on the ASX website, January 24, 2011 [Online] Cited 01/03/2015

 

Richard Avedon. 'Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1964' 1964

 

Richard Avedon
Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1964
1964
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Twiggy, dress by Roberto Rojas, New York, April 1967' 1967

 

Richard Avedon
Twiggy, dress by Roberto Rojas, New York, April 1967
1967
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old, Sweetwater, Texas, March 10, 1979' 1979

 

Richard Avedon
Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old, Sweetwater, Texas, March 10, 1979
1979, printed 1984-85
From the project the Western Project and the book In the American West
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980' 1980

 

Richard Avedon
Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980
1980, printed 1984-85
From the project the Western Project and the book In the American West
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin & Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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25
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘The Social Medium’ at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA

Exhibition dates: 31st October 2014 – 19th April 2015

 

Another fun posting to add to the archive!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908-1998) 'Three men and three women, seated as couples in banquette in bar or restaurant advertising "Fried Shrimp Plate $.85" and "1/4 Fried Chicken $.70"' c. 1959; printed 2001

 

Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908-1998)
Three men and three women, seated as couples in banquette in bar or restaurant advertising “Fried Shrimp Plate $.85″ and “1/4 Fried Chicken $.70″
c. 1959; printed 2001
Silver gelatin print
Gift of Arlette and Gus Kayafas

 

Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908-1998) 'Photographer taking picture of Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) possibly in Carlton House Hotel, Downtown' 1963; printed 2001

 

Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908-1998)
Photographer taking picture of Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) possibly in Carlton House Hotel, Downtown
1963; printed 2001
Silver gelatin print
Gift of Arlette and Gus Kayafas

 

Charles “Teenie” Harris photographed the African-American community of his hometown of Pittsburgh, primarily for the Pittsburgh Courier, the preeminent national African-American newspaper (c. 1930-1960). Photographing community members, visiting political figures, athletes, and entertainers, Harris set out to bala nce negative views of African-Americans and their communities. Nicknamed “One-Shot,” Harris photographed confidently and with ease, rarely asking his subjects to pose more than once. The resulting 80,000 negatives make up one of the largest collections of photographs of a black urban community in the United States. Harris’ artistic output helps define photography as a tool for preserving the past, his photographs serving as invaluable documentation of the spirit of a par ticular time, place, and people.

Prefiguring the paparazzi images of celebrities that pervade contemporary media, Harris’ photographs of singer/actress Lena Horne and boxer Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) capture his famous subjects in relaxed settings that humanize them. Furthermore, Harris’ photograph of Clay shows the boxer having his portrait taken by another photographer, giving Harris’ image of a photograph-in-process an even greater behind-the-scenes feel.

 

Jules Aarons (1921-2008) 'Untitled (Bronx)', from the portfolio 'In The Jewish Neighborhoods 1946-76' c. 1970; printed 2003

 

Jules Aarons (1921-2008)
Untitled (Bronx), from the portfolio In The Jewish Neighborhoods 1946-76
c. 1970; printed 2003
Silver gelatin print, printer’s proof II
Gift of Arlette and Gus Kayafas

 

Jules Aarons was one of the most respected and prolific American social documentary photographers in the twentieth century. His street photography captured personal moments in the public eye within the urban neighborhoods in which he lived: the Bronx, where he was born and raised, and Boston, where he spent the majority of his adult life. Shot with his twin lens Rolleiflex camera held at waist-level, Aarons’ images are casual, intimate, and lively. Although the artist did not personally know his subjects, his work does not exhibit the detachment found in earlier forms of social documentary photography. His deep associations with the places and people he photographed imbue his images with a warmth and familiarity.

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969) 'Subway Triptych' 2011

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969)
Subway Triptych
2011
Digital photographic prints
Courtesy of the artist

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969) 'An Afternoon in the Sun' 2012

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969)
An Afternoon in the Sun
2012
Digital photographic prints
Courtesy of the artist

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969) 'Ideal Hosiery' 2013

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969)
Ideal Hosiery
2013
Digital photographic prints
Courtesy of the artist

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969) 'Late Day On Broadway' 2012

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969)
Late Day On Broadway
2012
Digital photographic prints
Courtesy of the artist

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969) 'This Isn't Fucking Paris' 2012

 

Greg Schmigel (b.1969)
This Isn’t Fucking Paris
2012
Digital photographic prints
Courtesy of the artist

 

Greg Schmigel works in the vernacular of mid-twentieth century black and white street photography, capturing candid glimpses of everyday moments. While inspired by pioneering artists such as Jules Aarons, whose work is also on view in this gallery, Schmigel creates photographs with a decidedly twenty-first century quality. A mobile photographer since 2007, his device of choice is the most itinerant and convenient camera available: his iPhone. In his work, Schmigel emphasizes that the production of a good photograph is due mainly to the eye of the photographer, and not necessarily dependent on the equipment he uses.

By producing black and white prints from his digital images, the artist casts a timeless aura over contemporary scenes. In photographs such as Ideal Hosiery, the faded signs of a New York City street corner provide an uncanny setting that could easily be found in a photograph taken many decades ago. In other images, however, the omnipresence of smartphones in the hands of pedestrians instantly signals the twenty-first century. In these photographs, Schmigel aptly captures the ironic isolation caused by the very technology created to increase interpersonal communication.

 

 

“Presented at a time when the compulsion to digitally document and share human activity has increased exponentially, this exhibition features works from deCordova’s permanent collection that prefigure and inform current trends in social photography, as well as recent work by contemporary artists who utilize smartphones and social media to record the world around them. The Social Medium features work spanning from the mid-twentieth century to the present, and includes multiple photographic genres such as social documentary, street, society/celebrity, and portrait photography.

The Social Medium was largely inspired by a recent gift of one of Andy Warhol’s Little Red Books, which contains a set of color Polaroids. With his camera, Warhol documented the events of his life – from glamorous celebrity parties to mundane occurrences. The arrival of these photographs, which record Warhol’s artistic and social m ilieu (or environment), created an opportunity to examine the work of other artists who also photograph social experience. Together, the images in this exhibition speak to the continued relevance of the photographic medium’s singular power to capture and preserve personal and societal histories, and provide a selective history of the camera’s role as an extension of memory and a tool that is at once a witness to and participant in human social activity.”

Text from the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

 

Eugene Richards (b.1944) 'First Communion, Dorchester' 1976

 

Eugene Richards (b.1944)
First Communion, Dorchester
1976
Silver gelatin print
Gift of the artist

 

Eugene Richards captures a specific, local community in which he was embedded, to offer us uncanny views of small-town America. In the 1970s, Richards returned to his native Boston neighborhood and produced photographs such as First Communion, which would later comprise his seminal book, Dorchester Days (1978). Richards documented a small section of urban Boston at a time when racial tensions and economic decline were defining Dorchester along with swaths of American cities and towns in similar states of transition and decline. First Communion captures a moment that nods towards social frictions at large, where religious traditions and street life converge in ambiguously innocent tension.

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941) 'N.Y.C. Club Cornich', from the portfolio '82 Photographs 1974 to 1982' 1977; printed 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
N.Y.C. Club Cornich, from the portfolio 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982
1977; printed 1983
Silver gelatin print, 28/30
Gift of Diane and Eric Pearlman

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941) 'N.Y.C. Club Cornich', from the portfolio '82 Photographs 1974 to 1982' 1977; printed 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
N.Y.C. Club Cornich, from the portfolio 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982
1977; printed 1983
Silver gelatin print, 28/30
Gift of Diane and Eric Pearlman

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941) 'Peter Beard's, East Hampton', from the portfolio '82 Photographs 1974 to 1982' 1982; printed 1983

 

Larry Fink (b. 1941)
Peter Beard’s, East Hampton, from the portfolio 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982
1982; printed 1983
Silver gelatin print, 28/30
Gift of Diane and Eric Pearlman

 

Larry Fink is a prominent American photographer who is best known for capturing images of high-profile social events. Fink’s images from the 1970s and 1980s capture individual vignettes within social gatherings, and nod to the development of documentary photography within the image-driven culture of the second half of the twentieth century. These photographs from Fink’s series 82 Photographs 1974 to 1982 and Making Out 1957 – 1980 depict scenes from clubs and parties in and around New York City. Fink’s subjects are caught off-guard by his camera, and their expressions provide windows into their weariness or giddy party euphoria. Capturing groups and individuals at surprisingly intimate and vulnerable moments, his photographs subtly reveal the disconnect often found between a subject’s public image and his or her inner self. For example, in Peter Beard’s, East Hampton, Fink captures a dynamic group of people in various levels of engagement with one another. While some are intertwined, others glance outward to the party beyond, having seemingly lost interest in the gathering at hand.

 

Tod Papageorge (b.1940) 'Studio 54' 1977

 

Tod Papageorge (b.1940)
Studio 54
1977
Silver gelatin print
Gift of Pete and Constance Kayafas

 

In this photograph, Tod Papageorge captures revelers in gritty black and white, employing straightforward photog raphy to show significant, poetic moments from everyday life. Highlighted by the timeless quality of a silver gelatin print, his photograph of partygoers at the infamous New York City nightclub, Studio 54, captures such a scene. Dramatic without arranging its subjects, Papageorge’s photograph freezes the precise moment just before the woman’s upstretched hand makes contact with balloon floating wistfully above her head.

 

Phillip Maisel (b. 1981) 'Wall Photos', from the series 'A More Open Place' 2010

 

Phillip Maisel (b. 1981)
Wall Photos, from the series A More Open Place
2010
Archival inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Phillip Maisel (b. 1981) 'Profile Pictures (4702)', from the series 'A More Open Face' 2011

 

Phillip Maisel (b. 1981)
Profile Pictures (4702), from the series A More Open Face
2011
Archival inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Phillip Maisel’s photographs are layered, ethereal images that evoke the fleeting nature of memories. Though nostalgic in tone, these images derive from a very contemporary source. Setting long exposures on his camera, the artist captures the images appearing on his computer screen as he clicked through his friends’ Facebook albums. The resulting picture-of-pictures is twice removed from its source, emphasizing the swollen state of image culture and the manner in which digital images are created, uploaded, and discarded at an ever increasing rate.

The title of these series derives from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who noted that, through the social media platform, he was trying “to make the world a more open place.” Facebook and other sites have certainly achieved that; however, this extreme openness, the compulsion to over-share personal images and information, creates a paradox given the subsequent lack of privacy inherent in these activities. Maisel’s work comments on this contemporary phenomenon in which individuals willingly share images of their private memories in public venues. Furthermore, by reducing a collection of images to a single photograph, the artist manifests the compression of time and space in the internet age. This layering of images is also a form of erasure; each new image obscures the last, consistently degrading the significance of each individual picture and memory.

 

Neal Slavin (b. 1941) 'Capitol Wrestling Corporation, Washington, D.C .,' from the portfolio 'Groups in America' 1979

 

Neal Slavin (b. 1941)
Capitol Wrestling Corporation, Washington, D.C ., from the portfolio Groups in America
1979
Color coupler print, 60/75
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

Neal Slavin is acclaimed for his group portraits, which range from corporate associates to recreational cohorts to families. The photographs on display offer astute yet humorous studies of groups with specific shared interests that lay at the edges of societal norms. In Slavin’s images, no single member of the group pulls focus from the others and the ultimate personality of the portrait hinges upon the collective aura.

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) 'The Little Red Book 128' 1972

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
The Little Red Book 128
1972
Twenty Polacolor Type 108 Polaroid prints
Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. 2014

Examples of Polaroids in book. 20 total.

 

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Andy Warhol used the Polaroid color film camera. A then-novel technology which developed photographs in a matter of seconds, he employed it to document the events of his life – from the most glamorous celebrity parties to the most mundane and inconsequential occurrences. Warhol catalogued many of these photographs into small red Holston Polaroid albums, consequently known as Little Red Books. DeCordova’s Little Red Book 128, recently donated to the museum by The Warhol Foundation, features twenty photographs from a day in 1972 that Warhol shared with acclaimed writer Truman Capote, socialite Lee Radziwill and her family, and his business associates Vincent Fremont, Fred Hughes, and Jed Johnson. Consisting of both staged portraits and casual snapshots, the book is part paparazzi portfolio and part quaint family album.

Throughout the height of his fame, Andy Warhol was rarely without a camera in hand. The enigmatic artist often preferred social situations to be passively mitigated by his camera lens, rather than experienced physically and emotionally. In many ways, Warhol’s detachment mirrors a contemporary reliance on electronic forms of communication that limit human contact. Warhol once said, “In the future, everyone will be world – famous for 15 minutes.” Unsurprisingly, in all his work and in this collection of Polaroids, the artist blurs the lines between public/private and commoner/celebrity in a manner which is eerily prophetic of current social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, among others, which allow anyone and everyone to have their Warholian 15 minutes of fame, or perhaps even just 15 seconds of infamy.

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) 'Anthony Radziwill' 1972

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Anthony Radziwill
1972
Polacolor Type 108 Polaroid print

 

Prince Anthony Stanislaw Albert Radziwill (4 August 1959 – 10 August 1999) was an American television executive and filmmaker.

Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Radziwill was the son of socialite/actress Caroline Lee Bouvier (younger sister of First Lady Jacqueline Lee Bouvier) and Polish Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł. He married a former ABC colleague, Emmy Award-winning journalist Carole Ann DiFalco, on 27 August 1994 on Long Island, New York.

As a member of the Radziwills, one of Central Europe’s noble families, Anthony Radziwill was customarily accorded the title of Prince and styled His Serene Highness, although he never used it. He descended from King Frederick William I of Prussia, King George I of Great Britain, and King John III Sobieski of Poland. The family’s vast hereditary fortune was lost during World War II, and Anthony’s branch of the family emigrated to England, where they became British subjects.

Radziwill’s career began at NBC Sports, as an associate producer. During the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, he contributed Emmy Award-winning work. In 1989, he joined ABC News as a television producer for Prime Time Live. In 1990, he won thePeabody Award for an investigation on the resurgence of Nazism in the United States. Posthumously, Cancer: Evolution to Revolution was awarded a Peabody. His work was nominated for two Emmys.

Around 1989 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, undergoing treatment which left him sterile, but in apparent remission. However, shortly before his wedding, new tumors emerged. Radziwill battled metastasizing cancer throughout his five years of marriage, his wife serving as his primary caretaker through a succession of oncologists, hospitals, operations and experimental treatments. The couple lived in New York, and both Radziwill and his wife tried to maintain their careers as journalists between his bouts of hospitalization. During this period, Radziwill became especially close to his aunt Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who was also terminally ill with cancer. He died on 10 August 1999, and was survived by his sister, Anna Christina Radziwill. (Wikipedia)

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) 'Lee Radziwill' 1972

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Lee Radziwill
1972
Polacolor Type 108 Polaroid print

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) 'Jed Johnson' 1972

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Jed Johnson
1972
Polacolor Type 108 Polaroid print

 

Jed Johnson (December 30, 1948 – July 17, 1996) was an American interior designer and film director. Initially hired by Andy Warhol to sweep floors at Warhol’s Factory, he subsequently moved in with Warhol and became his lover. As a passenger in the First Class cabin, he was killed when TWA Flight 800 exploded shortly after takeoff in 1996.

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) 'Truman Capote' 1972

 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Truman Capote
1972
Polacolor Type 108 Polaroid print

 

 

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
51 Sandy Pond Rd, Lincoln, MA
01773, United States
Tel: +1 781-259-8355

Opening hours:
Summer
Every day
10 am – 5 pm

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum website

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22
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein’ at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library, New York

Exhibition dates: 16th January – 19th April 2015

 

And still it goes on… whether it be so called Chelsea football “fans” singing racist songs and abusing a black man on the Paris Metro, the Australian government’s “intervention” in Aboriginal communities, or Channel Seven’s adverts for Australia: The Story of Us which states, “This is the story of how a bunch of convicts transformed Australia from a barren, frontier prison into one of the richest countries in the world.”

The use of the word “barren” insidiously supports the hidden tenants of racism, surreptitiously reaffirming the idea that Australia was a terra nullius when it was invaded. And for one of the richest countries in the world, the Aboriginal and refugee population is sure not seeing the benefits, both in terms of freedom (refugee children and Indigenous people from incarceration), health, education and life span.

When will the human race ever grow up? We have been fighting this stuff since time immemorial, or perhaps that should be time ‘in memoriam’ – in honour of those who have passed – and in honour of those that continue to suffer. In the end it all comes down to the intersectionality of power, race, religion, money, gender and place, a moveable and fluid feast of fear and loathing, possession and patriarchy. I don’t believe that it will ever change, unless something truly momentous happens to this world…. the earth self regulates and rids itself of this disease, this human ‘race’. But we can and we will still fight the good fight, against bigotry, war, corporations and government surveilllance, everywhere.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the New York Historical Society Museum and Library for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“All through the march I was thinking, ‘This is history in the making. Can I capture it? Can I give a sense to other people of what I am experiencing myself?’ That was the thread that always wove through the back of my mind. Am I up for the task?… I turned my camera most consciously to the people watching the march. It was meant to free them. The march was meant to give them voting rights. The march was meant to change their lives… I wanted the pictures to be a window for people to look back in time and see what it was like then. I needed to capture a sense of their vision.”

.
Stephen Somerstein

 

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to 25,000 civil rights marchers in Montgomery' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to 25,000 civil rights marchers in Montgomery 
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. '"Things Go Better With Coke" sign and multi-generational family watching marchers' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
“Things Go Better With Coke” sign and multi-generational family watching marchers
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

This is among Somerstein’s favourite shots from the march. “Only in this instant are they looking mostly in the same direction,” he said, recalling that a second shot he took just after lacked the “unity” of this composition.

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Marchers on the way to Montgomery as families watch from their porches' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Marchers on the way to Montgomery as families watch from their porches
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Nuns, priests, and civil rights leaders at the head of the march' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Nuns, priests, and civil rights leaders at the head of the march
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Two mothers with children watching marchers' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Two mothers with children watching marchers
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Looks out at crowd in Montgomery' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Looks out at crowd in Montgomery
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

“I had to be totally cool about it,” Somerstein said of getting this shot, taken from the platform where Martin Luther King was speaking. “You don’t ask people, you don’t discuss it, you just do it… I had 30 seconds to take the photograph.” This image inspired the poster for the current film Selma.

“Somehow, the photographer managed to position himself directly behind Dr. King as he delivered the sonorous “How Long? Not Long” speech: “Somebody’s asking, ‘How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?’ ” it began, ending, “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Holland Cotter)

 

 

Iconic Photographs by Stephen Somerstein Capture the Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

The New-York Historical Society showcases a powerful selection of photographs by Stephen Somerstein that chronicle the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights March, honoring the 50th anniversary of the protest that changed the course of civil rights in America. On view from January 16 through April 19, 2015, the exhibition Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein will feature the work of the 24-year-old City College student, who felt he had to document “what was going to be a historic event.” He accompanied the marchers, gaining unfettered access to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, James Baldwin, Joan Baez, and Bayard Rustin.

Through 55 black and white and color photographs, Freedom Journey 1965 will document the quest for equality and social justice over the five-day march. Then the managing editor and picture editor of the City College newspaper, Stephen Somerstein recalls “When Dr. King called on Americans to join him in a massive protest march to Montgomery, I knew that important, nation-changing history was unfolding and I wanted to capture its power and meaning with my camera.”

The Selma-to-Montgomery March marked a peak of the American civil rights movement. From March 21 to March 25, 1965, hundreds of people marched from Selma to the State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama to protest against the resistance that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other groups had encountered in their mission to register black voters. By March 25, the group had grown to 25,000 people, which Dr. King addressed from the steps of the Montgomery State Capitol. Three months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Somerstein took approximately 400 photographs over the five-day, 54 mile march. Exhibition highlights include images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing the crowd of 25,000 civil rights marchers in Montgomery; folk singer Joan Baez, standing before a line of state troopers blocking the entrance to the State Capitol; white hecklers yelling and gesturing at marchers; families watching the march from their porches; and images of young and old alike participating in the demonstration.

Somerstein pursued a career in physics, building space satellites at the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Lockheed Martin Co. Upon retiring, Somerstein revisited the Selma photographs. Though he had sold a few of them, the majority were not showcased until he participated in a civil rights exhibition at the San Francisco Art Exchange in 2010. “I realized that I had numerous iconic and historic photographs that I wanted to share with the public,” says Somerstein.

This exhibit features the stunning and historic photographs of Stephen Somerstein, documenting the Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights March in January 1965. Somerstein was a student in City College of New York’s night school and Picture Editor of his student newspaper when he traveled to Alabama to document the March.

He joined the marchers and gained unfettered access to everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Rosa Parks, James Baldwin, and Bayard Rustin. “I had five cameras slung around my neck,” he recalled. Over the five-day, 54-mile march, Somerstein took about four hundred photographs including poignant images of hopeful blacks lining the rural roads as they cheered on the marchers walking past their front porches and whites crowded on city sidewalks, some looking on silently-others jeering as the activists walked to the Alabama capital. Somerstein sold a few photographs to the New York Times Magazine, Public Television and photography collectors, but none were exhibited until 2010, when he participated in a civil rights exhibition at the San Francisco Art Exchange.

Rather than choosing photography as a career, Somerstein became a physicist and worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and at Lockhead Martin Company. It was only after his retirement in 2008 that he returned to his photography remarking that he wanted “to have exhibitions of my work and that I realized that I had numerous iconic as well as historic photographs.” Among those photographs were his moving photographs of that memorable march to Montgomery in 1965.”

Press release from the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library

 

 

Selma – Montgomery March, 1965

 

A powerful and recently rediscovered film made during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. Stefan Sharff’s intimate documentary reflects his youthful work in the montage style under the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. The film features moving spirituals. Marchers include Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. (NJ state film festival)

Director: Stefan Sharff

Cameramen:
Stefan Sharff
Christopher Harris
Julian Krainin
Alan Jacobs
Norris Eisenbrey

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Coretta Scott King and husband civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on platform at end of 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March - March 25, 1965' 1965

 

Stephen F. Somerstein
Coretta Scott King and husband civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on platform at end of 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March – March 25, 1965
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

It had taken them 54 miles on the march and their entire lives to reach their goal of voting rights for blacks. Somerstein, who took that photo as a CCNY student, says it’s one of his favorite images from that time.

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Folk singer Joan Baez in Montgomery' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Folk singer Joan Baez in Montgomery
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Hecklers yelling and gesturing at marchers' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Hecklers yelling and gesturing at marchers
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Young civil rights marchers with American flags march in Montgomery' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Young civil rights marchers with American flags march in Montgomery
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

 

“For all involved, danger was ever-present. The march, which covered 54 miles and took five days, from March 21 to 25, had been preceded by two traumatic aborted versions. On March 7, 600 people trying to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River leading out of Selma to Montgomery were accused by local law officials of gathering illegally and were savagely assaulted by state troopers. Two days later, a second group, this one led by Dr. King, approached the bridge, knelt to pray and turned back. If the retreat was intended as a symbolic rebuke to violence, it did no good. That night, a Unitarian minister from Boston named James J. Reeb, in town for the event, was beaten on the street by a group of Selma racists and died.

By the time of the third march, certain protective measures were in place. The force of public opinion was one. Pictures of the attack at the bridge had been widely seen in print and on national television: All eyes were on Selma now. An Alabama judge had finally granted legal permission for a march to proceed. Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson, enraged at Gov. George C. Wallace’s refusal to shield the marchers, ordered federal troops to guard them…

Scads of photographers were on the job that day and, inevitably, certain subjects – political leaders, visiting celebrities – were the focus of many cameras, including Mr. Somerstein’s. Yet most of the people in his pictures are not stars; they’re rank-and-file participants. It’s from their perspective that we see the march. In one shot, we’re in the middle of it, surrounded by fellow walkers. In others, we’re looking out at bystanders who line the way: white office workers; hecklers; multiracial shoppers; African-American children on porches; women, dressed in Sunday best, on the steps of black churches.

This viewpoint subtly alters a standard account of the event, one perpetuated in Selma, which suggests that a small, elite band of high-level organizers were the heroes of the day. They were indeed heroes, but they were borne on the shoulders of the countless grass-roots organizers who paved the way for the march and the anonymous marchers, many of them women, who risked everything to walk the walk…

… in the film, the image [of the back of Dr King’s head] seems to be about the man and his drama; in Mr. Somerstein’s photograph, it seems to be about the crowd. For an account of this and other civil rights era events that balance symbols and facts, I look back to the documentary series Eyes on the Prize that ran on public television between 1987 and 1990. Its use of archival images and contemporary interviews with people involved in the Selma-to-Montgomery march gave equal time to personalities and larger realities. And its news clips of the bloody attack on citizens by the police on the bridge in Selma, despite being choppy and grainy, are to me far more wrenching in a you-are-there way than a Hollywood re-enactment, however spectacular. Mr. Somerstein’s quiet photographs are moving in a similar way.”

Extracts from Holland Cotter. “A Long March Into History: Stephen Somerstein Photos in ‘Freedom Journey 1965′,” on the New York Times website [Online] Cited 19/02/2015

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Family watching march' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Family watching march
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Stephen Somerstein. 'Man with American flag and marchers walking past federal troops guarding crossroads' 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein
Man with American flag and marchers walking past federal troops guarding crossroads
1965
Courtesy of the photographer

 

 

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) delivers his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech on the steps of the state capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, 1965

 

 

Eyes on the Prize (VI) – Bridge to Freedom, 1965

 

Stephen Somerstein talks about a photo he took during the famous 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Ala., march at the New-York Historical Society

 

Stephen Somerstein talks about a photo he took during the famous 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Ala., march at the New-York Historical Society on Wednesday. Somerstein was a 24-year-old college student when he photographed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the march from Selma to Montgomery that changed the course of civil rights in the U.S. REUTERS

 

 

New-York Historical Society Museum and Library
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
Tel: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday, Saturday – 10am – 6pm
Friday – 10am – 8pm
Sunday – 11am – 5pm
Monday – CLOSED

New-York Historical Society Museum and Library website

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18
Feb
15

Exhibition: ”Poor man’s picture gallery': Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography’ at Tate Britain, London

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2014 – 12th April 2015

Curator: Carol Jacobi with Dr Brian May and Denis Pellerin

 

 

I have always been fascinated by early three-dimensional photography, inexpensive stereograph pictures. To me, they are an early form of VR. You bring a machine to your eyes, focus and wham, your in another world – just like wearing an enveloping VR headset. Here are the Pyramids, or the Venice canals, right in front of you. The pictures separate fore, mid and background so there is real depth to the tableaux, like sitting in an iMax cinema and watching old New York come to life. The photographs seem to reach out to you, not just the scene being brought to life, but the transcendence of time as well. This is how these things looked all those years ago in Technicolor 3D. Even now, there is nothing quite like looking through a stereoscope viewer.

In this exhibition we see that, not only did photographers copy famous paintings, but new innovation and mis en scene techniques in photography also inspired painters. “Stereographic techniques of arranging real figures in compositions that were at once carefully composed and naturally spontaneous were particularly pertinent to Pre-Raphaelite painters, who observed and used friends and acquaintances as models in inventive and expressive new poses.”

Both mediums had their advantages: the artistic possibilities of the precocious technology of photography allowed the mind of the viewer “to feel its way into the very depths of the picture” and produce “a surprise such as no painting ever produced.” The photographs added a charm and depth never dreamt of by the original artists, the painters. While “the light and colour [of the photographs] appear crude in comparison with the painting … the stereoscope records ‘every stick, straw, scratch’ in a manner that the painting cannot.” The painters colour harmonies are infinitely more nuanced than the hand-tinted photograph and the brushwork asserts the painter’s individual touch.

But, as curator Carol Jacobi’s erudite essay “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” (which is well worth the time to read) observes, one medium did not defer to the other but played off each other, working in different form in the service of realism. As Jacobi observes, “The problems and possibilities of realism… underpinned the dialogue between painters and stereographers.” For example, “Robinson’s The Death of Chatterton illustrates the way this uncanny quality [the ability to record reality in detail] distinguishes the stereograph from even the immaculate Pre-Raphaelite style of Wallis’s painting of the same subject.” Jacobi also notes that, “Unlike painting, stereographs exclude things outside the frame. When the eyes come close to the stereoscope lenses and manage to bring the image into focus they experience the sudden sensation of being in the picture… Stereography was a new art. Gaudin’s stereograph can be seen exploring its distinctive characteristics, the actuality of figures and its immersive three-dimensionality, to bring the Pre-Raphaelite painter’s composition to life in new ways.” You only have to look at Alfred Silvester’s The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Turf) (detail, below) to understand what Jacobi is proposing.

The actuality and presence of figures and contexts. This is why this form of photography retains its undoubted fascination.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. My apologies for some of the small images in the posting, that was all I could get!

 

‘Poor man’s picture gallery': Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography is the first display in a major British art gallery devoted to early three-dimensional photography. These ingenious but inexpensive stereograph pictures were a nineteenth century craze, circulating world-wide in tens of thousands and more. Pioneers of the art form were quick to challenge fine art itself. Celebrated canvases of the age, such as Henry Wallis’s Chatterton and William Powell Frith’s Derby Day, were recreated in real depth.

This display brings twelve of Tate’s Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite works face to face with a rare collection of their three-dimensional doubles assembled by Brian May. Viewers can finally appreciate the interpretations that the photographers explored and the ways they brought the paintings to life. This display has been curated by Carol Jacobi with Dr Brian May and Denis Pellerin. The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery: Stereoscopy versus Paintings in the Victorian Era by Dr Brian May and Denis Pellerin is published 20 October 2014 by the London Stereoscopic Company.

Text from the Tate Britain website

 

 

“Holmes’s 1859 article confirms that, in its earliest moment, stereography was thought of in relation to realist painting. “The first effect of looking at a good photograph through the stereoscope is a surprise such as no painting ever produced,” he declared, “the mind feels its way into the very depths of the picture.” He provides a sophisticated understanding of the artistic possibilities of the precocious technology, at the date at which the stereographs on display at Tate Britain were made, but it is the stereographs themselves which bear this out.”

 

“Many artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, understood that the world appears to us in three dimensions because our two eyes see from two slightly different angles (look at your hand with one eye covered, then the other eye covered, and you will see it move and alter slightly). Our mind combines these two views to perceive depth. Leonardo concluded that even the most realistic painting, being just one view, can only be experienced in two dimensions.

Nearly 350 years later, in London, the Victorian scientist Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875) took up the challenge. In 1838, he showed that a pair of two-dimensional pictures represented from slightly different viewpoints, brought together in his ‘stereoscope’, could appear three-dimensional. William Fox Talbot announced his technique of print photography a few months later and soon photographs were being taken in pairs for this purpose. Within a decade special cameras and viewers were invented; stereoscopes and stereographs were soon available worldwide. In 1859, Oliver Wendell Holmes’s essay The Stereoscope and the Stereograph celebrated the invention:

The two eyes see different pictures of the same thing, for the obvious reason that they look from points two or three inches apart. By means of these two different views of an object, the mind, as it were, feels round it and gets an idea of its solidity. We clasp an object with our eyes, as with our arms, or with our hands.

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Stereographs sold for a few shillings and people of all classes collected them for education and for pleasure. Small hand-held stereoscopes allowed them to gaze on faraway countries, mechanical inventions, comic incidents, beauty spots, zoological or botanical specimens or celebrity weddings, in the comfort of their homes. Three-dimensional images of famous sculptures were especially successful and Dr Brian May’s and Denis Pellerin’s new book, The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery: Stereoscopy versus Paintings in the Victorian Era (2014) has drawn attention to stereophotographers’ engagement with famous paintings of the age. Tate Britain’s display of some of the stereographs in Brian May’s collection creates a dialogue between these and celebrated Tate works, six of which are discussed here. It also introduces the photographers who, with rapidity and invention, took up this new medium.

The phrase ‘poor man’s picture gallery’, borrowed from print-making, appeared in The Times newspaper in 1858 in an article speculating on making stereographs of ‘our most remarkable pictures’. The writer did not think of these as mere imitations: “So solid and apparently real”, they would have “added a charm never dreamt of by their producers”, the original artists. Interestingly, the writer was discussing attempts to make stereographs from the paintings themselves because, he or she regretted, that such elaborate compositions could never be recreated in real life; “No exertion could gather together the characters with the requisite expression and all the adjuncts of suitable scenery… and retain them still until they were fixed by the camera’. This assertion was incorrect.”

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

Henry Wallis (1830-1916) 'Chatterton' 1856

 

Henry Wallis (1830-1916)
Chatterton
1856
Oil paint on canvas
622 x 933 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Charles Gent Clement 1899

 

James Robinson. 'The Death of Chatterton' 1859

 

James Robinson
The Death of Chatterton
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

James Robinson. 'The Death of Chatterton' 1859 (detail)

 

James Robinson
The Death of Chatterton (detail)
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

 

One of the most famous paintings of Victorian times was Chatterton, 1856 (Tate) by the young Pre-Raphaelite-style artist, Henry Wallis (1830-1916). Again, the tale of the suicide of the poor poet, Thomas Chatterton, exposed as a fraud for faking medieval histories and poems to get by, had broad appeal. Chatterton was also an 18th-century figure, but Wallis set his picture in a bare attic overlooking the City of London which evoked the urban poverty of his own age. The picture toured the British Isles and hundreds of thousands flocked to pay a shilling to view it. One of these was James Robinson, who saw the painting when it was in Dublin. He immediately conceived a stereographic series of Chatterton’s life. Unfortunately Robinson started with Wallis’s scene (The Death of Chatterton, 1859). Within days of its publication, legal procedures began, claiming his picture threatened the income of the printmaker who had the lucrative copyright to publish engravings of the painting. The ensuing court battles were the first notorious copyright cases. Robinson lost, but strangely, in 1861, Birmingham photographer Michael Burr published variations of Death of Chatterton with no problems. No other photographer was ever prosecuted for staging a stereoscopic picture after a painting and the market continued to thrive…

Robinson’s The Death of Chatterton illustrates the way this uncanny quality [the ability to record reality in detail] distinguishes the stereograph from even the immaculate Pre-Raphaelite style of Wallis’s painting of the same subject. The stereograph represented a young man in 18th-century costume on a bed. The backdrop was painted, but the chest, discarded coat and candle were real. Again, the light and colour appear crude in comparison with the painting but the stereoscope records ‘every stick, straw, scratch’ in a manner that the painting cannot. The torn paper pieces, animated by their three-dimensionality, trace the poet’s recent agitation, while the candle smoke, representing his extinguished life, is different in each photograph due to their being taken at separate moments. The haphazard creases of the bed sheet are more suggestive of restless movement, now stilled, than Wallis’s elegant drapery. Even the individuality of the boy adds potency to his death.

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

Michael Burr. 'Hearts are Trumps' 1866

 

Michael Burr
Hearts are Trumps
1866
Hand coloured albumen prints on stereo card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Michael Burr. 'Hearts are Trumps' (detail) 1866

Michael Burr. 'Hearts are Trumps' (detail) 1866

 

Michael Burr
Hearts are Trumps (details)
1866
Hand coloured albumen prints on stereo card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

 

Stereographic techniques of arranging real figures in compositions that were at once carefully composed and naturally spontaneous were particularly pertinent to Pre-Raphaelite painters, who observed and used friends and acquaintances as models in inventive and expressive new poses. Michael Burr was skilled at intimate scenes; The Death of Chatterton was typical of his use of an unusually shallow, portrait-like space. In 1866, Burr’s Hearts are Trumps photographed three women in modern dress. They interact casually around a card table, and one regards us directly, but they are at the same time artfully positioned equally close the picture plane. This created a natural effect while keeping them the same length from the camera to avoid the distortions that a lens gives to near objects at different distances. Six years on, Sir John Everett Millais adapted the stereograph’s composition in his own Hearts are Trumps (1872, Tate). He might have incorporated its informal effect to challenge accusations that had recently appeared in the press that he could not represent modern beauties in contemporary fashion. The life-like size of Millais’s image fills the field of vision with the same impact that the encompassing scene presents in the stereoscope…

Millais’s Hearts are Trumps may have nodded to the alternative stereographic art form, but it did not defer to it. His colour harmonies are infinitely more nuanced than Burr’s hand-tinted photograph. The brushwork whips up extra vivacity and asserts the painter’s individual touch. Nonetheless, Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that stereography had its own artistic possibilities:

The very things which an artist would leave out, or render imperfectly, the photograph takes infinite care with; there will be incidental truths which interest us more than the central object of the picture… every stick, straw, scratch…look at the lady’s hands. You will very probably find the young countess is a maid-of-all-work.

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Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt '
Hearts are Trumps' 1872

 

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
Hearts are Trumps
1872
Oil on canvas
1657 x 2197 mm
Tate. Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1945

 

In its style, which recalls the works of the eighteenth-century painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, and in its flattering depiction of the fashionable sitters, this picture expresses a gentle and nostalgic vision of family life. Elizabeth, Diana and Mary, daughters of Walter Armstrong of Scotland and London, were in their twenties when Millais painted them. Mary holds most of the trumps and looks towards the viewer. Delicately, the card game hints at sisterly competition in husband-finding.

 

William Powell Frith. 'Dolly Varden' c. 1842-9

 

William Powell Frith
Dolly Varden
c. 1842-9
Oil on wood
273 x 216 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Mrs E.J. Thwaites 1955

 

The delightfully fluttery Dolly Varden is a character in Charles Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge, published in 1841. Its action is set in the London of the 1780s. Dickens describes Dolly, daughter of a worthy locksmith, as “the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry coloured mantle.” This work, apart from drawing on a well-known novel of the day, also owes much to a strong nineteenth-century tradition of ‘fancy portraits’ – where likenesses of pretty and anonymous young women would be graced by the names of characters from literature.

 

Frederic Jones. 'Dolly Varden' 1858

 

Frederic Jones
Dolly Varden
1858
Albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

 

The problems and possibilities of realism were fundamental to 19th-century science and literature as well as the arts. It underpinned the dialogue between painters and stereographers. Even painted subjects from history and literature represented by stereographers appear to have been chosen for their familiar, everyday aspects. This shared realism reflected and therefore appealed to 19th-century audiences and was essential to the medium’s success. In 1854 The London Stereoscopic Company was set up on Oxford Street to sell stereographs and stereoscopes. Its first catalogue (1856) advertised scenes as ‘Miscellaneous Subjects of the “Wilkie” character’, referring to the most famous genre painter of the day, Sir David Wilkie. Wilkie’s younger rival, William Powell Frith (1819-1909), and Welsh photographer Frederic Jones (1827 – date not known), a manager of the London Stereographic Company, recreated one of his most popular paintings, Dolly Varden. Frith’s composition was taken in turn from Charles Dickens’s (1812 – 1870) classic realist novel Barnaby Rudge (1841). It drew on the popularity of the author and book, and was intended to reach a similarly broad audience in the form of engraved prints. Although Dickens’s story was set in the 18th-century, the episode Frith chose, in which Dolly came across a man when she was alone in the woods and laughed bravely, appealed to modern preoccupations with women’s vulnerability and independence. Both Frith’s and Jones’s pictures placed the viewer in the position of the approaching man, but only Jones’s three-dimensional Dolly offered the spectator the opportunity to “clasp an object with our eyes, as with our arms, or with our hands,” as Holmes put it, as her predator does in the book. Fortunately, Dolly eventually eluded his attentions.

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

William Collins. 'Happy as a King' (replica) c. 1836

 

William Collins
Happy as a King (replica)
c. 1836
Oil paint on canvas
711 x 914 mm
Tate. Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

 

Michael Burr. 'Happy as a King' 1865

 

Michael Burr (1826-1912)
Happy as a King
1865
Hand coloured albumen prints on stereo card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Michael Burr. 'Happy as a King' (detail) 1865

 

Michael Burr (1826-1912)
Happy as a King (detail)
1865
Hand coloured albumen prints on stereo card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

 

Astronomer and Queen‘s guitarist, Dr Brian May has lent a rare collection of Victorian stereographic photographs to Tate Britain. They are featured in ‘Poor man’s picture gallery': Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography until 12 April 2015. This is the first display in a major British art gallery devoted to the nineteenth-century craze of three-dimensional photography, known as stereographs, and open up this neglected area of British art.

In the 1850s and 1860s pioneer photographers staged real men, women and children in tableaux based on famous paintings of the day, in order to bring them to life as three-dimensional scenes. Henry Wallis’ Chatterton 1856, William Powell Frith’s Derby Day 1857 and John Everett Millais’ The Order of Release 1746 are among twelve of Tate’s famous Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite paintings to be shown with their 3D hand-coloured photographic equivalents.

Stereographs comprise two photographs of the same scene taken from fractionally different viewpoints. When these are mounted side by side and viewed through a stereoscope, the viewer sees just one three-dimensional image. Stereographs were inexpensive, and in the 1850s and 1860s they circulated world-wide in their tens of thousands. Many Victorians became familiar with well-known paintings through their stereoscopic counterparts which became known as a ‘Poor Man’s Picture Gallery’. The photographs were regarded by many as fairly disposable, making them hard to track down today.

The display introduces important figures in stereoscopic photography such as Alexis Gaudin and Michael Burr, and shows how some of their innovations also inspired painters. Burr’s stereograph Hearts are Trumps 1866 anticipated John Everett Millais’ voluptuous painting with the same title six years later, and James Elliott’s Derby Day, One Week after the Derby 1858, pre-empted Robert Martineau’s renowned oil painting of family ruin, The Last Day in the Old Home 1862.

Dr Brian May, said: “We’re thrilled that for the very first time Stereographs are now on view at Tate. In this unique display they can be viewed in their full 3-D splendour alongside the beautiful Victorian narrative paintings to which they relate. We’re grateful to Tate Britain, and hope to inspire a new love of stereoscopy in the 21st Century.”

Carol Jacobi, Curator, British Art, 1850-1915, Tate Britain said: “This display allows us to consider the works in Tate’s collection in a new light. We are delighted to be collaborating with Dr Brian May, who has built this collection over 40 years, and with Denis Pellerin, who has researched the connections.”

The photographs exhibited in this display at Tate Britain are kindly lent by Dr Brian May. This display has been curated by Carol Jacobi with Dr Brian May and Denis Pellerin. The book The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery: Stereoscopy versus Paintings in the Victorian Era by Dr Brian May and Denis Pellerin is published by the London Stereoscopic Company on 20 October 2014.”

Press release from Tate Britain

 

Charles Robert Leslie. 'A Scene from Tristram Shandy ('Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman')' 1829-30

 

Charles Robert Leslie
A Scene from Tristram Shandy (‘Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman’)
1829-30, exhibited 1831
Oil paint on canvas
813 x 559 mm
Tate. Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

 

Anonymous. 'Uncle Toby' Nd

 

Anonymous
Uncle Toby
Nd
Albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt. 'The Order of Release 1746' 1852-3

 

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
The Order of Release 1746
1852-3
Oil on canvas
1029 x 737 mm
Tate. Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1898

 

 

In 1855, the French photographer Alexis Gaudin (1816–1894) saw the Scottish scene from the Jacobite Rebellion, The Order of Release, 1746 by John Everett Millais(1829-1896), at the first Exposition Universelle in Paris. A woman carrying a sleeping child comforts her wounded husband, a defeated rebel, while handing an order for his release to a gaoler. Shortly afterwards, Gaudin made a stereograph, the rare surviving examples of which bear no title, which posed a young woman, child and two men in the same attitudes (Untitled, after Millais, The Order of Release, c. 1855).

Millais’s subject may have appealed to the Frenchman because of its theme of revolution (the Jacobites had been supported by France) and he may have hoped to capitalise on the painting’s popular success. It is notable too, however, that the picture is an example of Pre-Raphaelite realism, not just in appearance, but in the emotions expressed in pose and expression. Millais’s figures were, moreover, renowned as portraits of real people. Pre-Raphaelite painting was a challenge to photography, which Gaudin took up.

Gaudin’s stereograph was not a copy of Millais’s composition; it was a response to it. His image combined a backdrop painted in the conventional way behind the figures with real furniture and a door jutting out in front. Such round and rectangular geometric objects became common in stereographs because they created clear three-dimensional shapes. Like Millais, Gaudin used real models. They express the sternness, despair and stoicism of the gaoler, soldier and wife. The child’s bare legs and feet and head dropping on the mother’s shoulder indicate that s/he is sleeping, innocent of the tense exchange. The dog is probably an example of taxidermy as a real one is unlikely to have stayed still while the photograph, which would have been exposed over several seconds, was taken. Since they were taken and developed, the pictures have been hand-coloured.

Differences between the painting and the stereograph adapted Millais’s image to the new medium and new ideas. The gaoler could be resting the hand holding the order against the rebel’s shoulder to avoid moving and blurring the image, or Gaudin may have liked the juxtaposition of the document of release with the window indicating the outside world. The little dog is less romanticised than Millais’s loyal, silky specimen. It would have been recognisable at the time as a typical British terrier breed, a working dog similar to Bullseye, familiar from Phiz’s illustrations to Dickens’s Oliver Twist (1837). This proletarian touch is compounded by the dog’s apparent interest in the empty food bowl.

Gaudin’s image could conjure reality in ways not available to Millais. Unlike painting, stereographs exclude things outside the frame. When the eyes come close to the stereoscope lenses and manage to bring the image into focus they experience the sudden sensation of being in the picture. Even the tiny scale of the scenes imitates the scale at which distant objects are experienced in life (to get a sense of this, look at a person on the other side of the room and holding your hand near your eye line up your forefinger with their head and your thumb with their feet). This characteristic provided Gaudin with a different way to explore Millais’s theme of imprisonment. The painter created an enclosed feeling for the viewer with a claustrophobic shadowy shallow space. The stereographer used a deeper room so that when seen through the viewer the figure, and the viewer, are enclosed within its walls.

Stereography was a new art. Gaudin’s stereograph can be seen exploring its distinctive characteristics, the actuality of figures and its immersive three-dimensionality, to bring the Pre-Raphaelite painter’s composition to life in new ways. This complexity was admired at the time: “It is a mistake to suppose one knows a stereoscopic picture when he has studied it a hundred times,” Holmes advised. Tate Britain’s display provides the opportunity to view originals with and without the stereoscopic viewer, and examine and appreciate their distinctive approach.

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

Alexis Gaudin. 'Untitled, after Millais, The Order of Release' c. 1855

 

Alexis Gaudin
Untitled, after Millais, The Order of Release
c. 1855
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Alexis Gaudin. 'Untitled, after Millais, The Order of Release' (detail) c. 1855

 

Alexis Gaudin
Untitled, after Millais, The Order of Release (detail)
c. 1855
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Philip Hermogenes Calderon. 'Broken Vows' 1856

 

Philip Hermogenes Calderon
Broken Vows
1856
Oil paint on canvas
914 x 679 mm
Tate, purchased 1947

 

James Elliott. 'Broken Vows' Nd

 

James Elliott
Broken Vows
Nd
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

James Elliott. 'Broken Vows' (detail) Nd

 

James Elliott
Broken Vows (detail)
Nd
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

William Powell Frith. 'The Derby Day' 1856-8

 

William Powell Frith
The Derby Day
1856-8
Oil paint on canvas
1016 x 2235 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Jacob Bell 1859

 

 

When The Derby Day was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1858, it proved so popular that a rail had to be put up to keep back the crowds. It presents a panorama of modern Victorian life, a previously unknown genre which Frith largely created in his earlier work, Life at the Seaside, Ramsgate Sands of 1854 (Royal Collection). Frith was a firm believer in the spurious sciences of phrenology and social type, which considered people’s characters and social origins were visible in their physical features. Each character in Frith’s picture is depicted to conform to these stereotypes, notably in the range of criminal and low-life types present (see Cowling 1989, Ch.2).

On the basis of an initial sketch, which he made after a visit to Epsom in 1856, Frith was commissioned by Jacob Bell, a chemist and amateur artist, to paint a large 5-6 foot canvas for £1,500. He worked on the project for fifteen months, producing two large sketches in addition to the finished work. He brought the composition together with the aid of drawings and sketches, hiring models to pose for all the main figures. He also commissioned the photographer Robert Howlett to “photograph for him from the roof of a cab as many queer groups of figures as he could” (Journal of the Photographic Society, 15 January 1863). He asked a real jockey called Bundy to pose on a hobbyhorse in his studio for the riders on the right of the picture, and also hired an acrobat and his son, whom he saw performing in a pantomime in Drury Lane. For the remaining figures he called on family and friends, as well as a string of young women sent by Jacob Bell.

Despite a remarkable feat of organisation, the picture remains fairly static, and the figures are more interesting when examined individually. There are three main incidents taking place in the picture. On the far left, next to the Reform Club’s private tent, a group of men in top hats focus on the thimble-rigger with his table, inviting the audience to participate in the game. The man taking a note from his pocket is the trickster’s accomplice. He is tempting the rustic-looking man in a smock, whose wife is trying to restrain him. On the right of this group, another man, with his hands in his pockets, has had his gold watch stolen by the man behind. In the centre of the picture we see the acrobat and his son, who looks longingly over at a sumptuous picnic being laid out by a footman. Behind them are carriages filled with race-goers, including a courtesan on the far right, who is the kept mistress of the foppish-looking character leaning against the carriage. The courtesan is balanced on the far left of the picture by the woman in a dark riding habit, one of a number of high-class prostitutes who daily paraded on horseback in Hyde Park.

Text from the Tate website

 

Alfred Silvester. 'The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Rail Second Class)' 1859

 

Alfred Silvester 
The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Rail Second Class)
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Alfred Silvester. 'The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Rail Second Class)' (detail) 1859

 

Alfred Silvester 
The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Rail Second Class) (detail)
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Alfred Silvester. 'The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Turf)' 1859

 

Alfred Silvester 
The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Turf)
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

Alfred Silvester. 'The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Turf)' (detail) 1859

 

Alfred Silvester 
The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (The Turf) (detail)
1859
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

 

The relationship between photography and painting went two ways. In the mid 1850s, Frith began to use photographs to help him paint elaborate and up-to-date scenes on a very large scale. Lively descriptions of racegoers at Epsom often appeared in popular magazines such as Punch (1949) and Dickens’s Household Words (Epsom, 1852) and between 1856 and 1858 he created a panorama of the crowds, Derby Day (Tate). It caused a sensation. Its quality of reflecting its modern audience is clear from a contemporary comment from the Birmingham Daily Post:

Frith’s picture will conjure around it as great a crowd of gazers as any to be found even on the most crowded part of the racecourse.

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Stereography had the potential to take the viewer inside the crowd’s jostling and excitement. “The elbow of a figure stands forth so as to make us almost uncomfortable,” as Holmes observed. To this end, the London photographer Alfred Silvester (1831-1886) published two series based on the Epsom Races, National Sports, The Race-course of which there are several variations echoing the different scenes within Frith’s painting, and The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day (1859) a series of five. They were the portrait shape required by the stereoscope rather than panoramas like Frith’s painting, but Silvester squeezed in dozens of people. The Turf (below) contained an astonishing 60 gesticulating figures in front of a painted backdrop of more distant crowds. Carriage wheels and cylindrical top hats occupy the foregrounds to enhance the three-dimensional effect.

Silvester expanded Frith’s narrative in time as well as content (moving pictures were still 40 years away). The Road, the Rail, the Turf, the Settling Day began with the exodus from London to Epsom Downs and ended with the settlement of bets. This narrative momentum was complemented by motion within the pictures. In The Road, aristocrats ride in their fine carriages while in The Rail (Second Class) (above) and The Rail (Third Class) the less well-to-do travel on the new railway from London Bridge to Sutton, opened in 1847. The Turf shows three horses (sculpted from papier mâché and rather reminiscent of those in the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum) plunging headlong through the crowd. Further movement is contributed by the people. In each, Silvester orchestrated incessant activity in poses which betray no hint that they were held for several seconds. The Turf is the most spectacular, where all 60 people cheer and gesticulate. In The Rail (Second Class) a man kneels solicitously offering refreshment to a woman who appears to have fainted. Her child and others look on while an older gentleman (whose covered nose suggests he may be suffering from syphilis) shows his disapproval. The action continues into depth; in the background two men fight with bottles and a white top-hatted figure looms troublingly over a young girl.

Such photographs informed and challenged the naturalism of Frith’s painting and influenced others of the period. William Maw Egley’s (1826-1916) Omnibus Life in London (1859, below) depicted the discomforts, intrusions and intrigues of mass transport from a viewpoint within – or just outside – the carriage (an omnibus in this case, introduced 1826) which envelops the observer in a similar manner to Silvester’s The Rail (Second Class).

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

William Maw Egley. 'Omnibus Life in London' 1859

 

William Maw Egley
Omnibus Life in London
1859
Oil on canvas
448 x 419 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss J. L. R. Blaker 1947

 

 

The painting of modern-life subjects was popularised during the 1850s by such artists as William Frith (1819-1909). Artists deliberately chose subjects such as racetracks, seaside resorts and busy streets where all classes of society could be represented in the one picture. Following this trend, Egley exhibited Omnibus Life in London at the British Institution in 1859. He may have been inspired by the French artist Honoré Daumier’s pictures of the cramped interior of railway carriages, but comparisons can also be drawn with such works as Charles Rossiter’s To Brighton and Back for 3s 6d (Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery), painted in the same year as Egley’s picture.

The omnibus – a horse-drawn carriage that picked up and deposited people along an established route – was introduced into London on 4 July 1829 and quickly became a popular mode of transport. One observer commented that, “Among the middle classes of London the omnibus stands immediately after air, tea, and flannel, in the list of the necessaries of life… the Londoner cannot get on without it.” (M.E. Purgini in Victorian Days and Ways, London 1936). To achieve as authentic an effect as possible, Egley painted the interior of the omnibus in a coachbuilder’s yard in Paddington. The view out of the back of the bus is of Westbourne Grove, painted from the chemist’s shop at the corner of Hereford Road where Egley lived. He posed the sitters in a makeshift ‘carriage’ constructed from boxes and planks in his back garden.

Egley painted the scene as if glimpsed through a window and attempted to convey the claustrophobic and cramped conditions that the passengers were forced to endure. The subject permitted him to portray every class of society, from an old country woman, perhaps a family servant, with her piles of baggage, to the city clerk with his cane. The old woman stares sympathetically towards the young mother and her children, who avert their gazes, in a gesture of gentility. The mother was modelled on Egley’s wife and the ringletted daughter was posed for by a twelve-year old girl, Susannah (Blanche) Rix.

Egley worked on the picture for 44 days and sold it to a man called William Jennings for £52 10s. It was described by the Illustrated London News as follows: “a droll interior, the stern and trying incidents of which will be recognized by thousands of weary wayfarers through the streets of London.”

Text from the Tate website

 

James Elliott. 'The Last Look' 1858

 

James Elliott
The Last Look
1858
Two photographs, hand-tinted albumen prints on paper mounted on card
Collection Dr Brian May

 

 

Similarly, a series by James Elliott (1833-?) charting the aftermath of the Derby appears to have pre-empted The Last Day in the Old Home 1862 (Tate, below) by Robert Braithwaite Martineau (1826-1869). Elliott’s One Week after the Derby extended Frith’s Derby Day into the future to show an auctioneer assessing the belongings of a family ruined by the races. The Last Look (above) shows them leaving their house. Lot numbers have been attached to the furniture and in the background a servant, who has also lost her home, weeps. A horse print on the floor hints at the husband’s extravagant habits and only the grandmother, wife and daughter look back with regret. The last picture, Sold Up, shows the auction. The doll’s house which the little girl must to leave behind, a miniature replica of her home and her aspirations for the future is placed poignantly in the foreground. These narratives and motifs had been widely used in literature and cartoons since the time of William Hogarth, but Martineau’s image of a middle-class family forced to sell their home is close to Elliott’s The Last Look. Martineau adopted a photographic composition, figures enclosed within a room cluttered with clues to both narrative and depth. A stereograph-style view into another space shows men assessing possessions. Lot numbers are attached to the furniture. Another horse image suggests gambling. Once more, the women show regret while the husband appears unconcerned, cheerily leading his son down the same path.

Extract from the essay by Carol Jacobi. “Tate Painting and the Art of Stereoscopic Photography,” on the Tate website 17th October, 2014 [Online] Cited 14/02/2015

 

Robert Braithwaite Martineau. 'The Last Day in the Old Home' 1862

 

Robert Braithwaite Martineau
The Last Day in the Old Home
1862
Oil on canvas
1073 x 1448 mm
Tate. Presented by E.H. Martineau 1896

 

 

Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7887 8888

Opening hours:
10.00 am – 18.00 pm daily

Tate Britain website

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14
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Witness at a Crossroads: Photographer Marc Riboud in Asia’ at The Rubin Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2014 – 23rd March 2015

 

I am not convinced by these. There are a couple of brilliant images in the posting, such as Forbidden City (Beijing, 1957) and Photography Fair 150 Kilometers from Tokyo (Japan, 1958) but the rest vary between plain (Between Konark and Puri, Orissa, India, 1956), kitsch or is it cheesy (Road to Khyber Pass, Afghanistan, 1956) to downright obvious (Cave Dwelling, between Urgup and Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey, 1955).

Marcus

.
Many thankx to The Rubin Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Road to Khyber Pass' Afghanistan, 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Road to Khyber Pass
Afghanistan, 1956
60 x 94 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Photography Fair 150 Kilometers from Tokyo' Japan, 1958

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Photography Fair 150 Kilometers from Tokyo
Japan, 1958
40 x 50 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Darjeeling' Darjeeling, India, 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Darjeeling
Darjeeling, India, 1956
30 x 40 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Forbidden City' Beijing, 1957

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Forbidden City
Beijing, 1957
40 x 50 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Between Konark and Puri' Orissa, India, 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Between Konark and Puri
Orissa, India, 1956
Vintage print
18 x 27.2 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Camel Market' Nagaur, Rajasthan, India, 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Camel Market
Nagaur, Rajasthan, India, 1956
Vintage print
33.5 x 49.5 cm

 

 

Marc Riboud’s first New York exhibition in over 25 Years chronicles the artist’s expeditions across Asia

Photography exhibition at Rubin Museum of Art offers rare glimpse into life at critical time in trans-regional Asian history

“This October, the Rubin Museum of Art will open Witness at a Crossroads: Photographer Marc Riboud in Asia, a photography exhibition that chronicles the French artist’s journeys across Asia, with particular focus on his travels from 1955 through 1958. The first New York museum exhibition of Riboud’s work in over 25 years, Witness at a Crossroads will illustrate the artist’s perspective on the confluence of tradition and modern culture in mid-century Asia. On view from October 16, 2014 through March 23, 2015, Witness at a Crossroads will feature approximately 100 black-and-white photographs from the mid-to-late 1950s, as well as images from Riboud’s pioneering visit to China in the 1960s. The exhibition will also present ephemeral objects including press cards, contact sheets, and international magazines where photographs of Riboud’s travels were published.

Organized in thematic clusters – regionally and chronologically – the exhibition will examine Riboud’s travels across Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, and Japan. Riboud’s photographs provide an honest and accessible window into the daily lives of the diverse people of the region and illuminate the tension created by cultural shifts during this period. These early images provide important context for Riboud’s later works and illuminate the influence of his experience in Asia on his career.

“Marc Riboud captured a period of significant cultural transformation and postwar modernization through the lives of everyday individuals, creating an important living document. The exhibition provides a broad lens through which to look at trans-regional Asian dynamics and history in these critical years,” said Beth Citron, Assistant Curator at the Rubin Museum of Art. “Witness at a Crossroads is the latest exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art to illuminate the profound impact of cultures across Asia on the work of modern and contemporary artists from across the globe. Our latest exhibition affirms the institution’s commitment to providing a comprehensive view of artistic activity coming out of – and impacted by – these diverse cultures.”

Riboud left for Asia shortly after beginning his career at the photo agency Magnum. The photographer’s explorations were shaped in part by his correspondence with his mentor Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of photojournalism, who provided insight to his protégé on engaging with new cultures. The exhibition highlights common themes in Riboud’s work and underscores the artist’s use of photography to investigate culture and his ability to capture intimate glimpses of everyday life. One of the first foreign photographers allowed into China after the country’s Cultural Revolution of 1949, Riboud was a pioneer in documenting the region, as demonstrated in images such as Forbidden City (1957), where a silhouette of a figure is framed by the angular rooftops, fences, and walls. A strong sense of composition is also apparent in images like On the Backs of Ganges (1956), where bathers relaxing after a swim are divided by a draping sheet in the center of the photograph. Works like Darjeeling (1956), a look at the Indian city on a rainy day, demonstrate Riboud’s ability to create poetic and atmospheric images of the countries he explored.

 

About Marc Riboud 

Before beginning his career as a photographer, Marc Riboud worked as a factory engineer until 1951. After a week on holiday, during which he covered the cultural festival of Lyon, Riboud dropped his engineering job for photography and moved to Paris in 1952. He was invited by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa to join Magnum as an associate that same year.

In 1957, Riboud made his first trip to China. He returned multiple times, including a 1965 trio with writer K.S. Karol. In 1968, 1972, and 1976, Riboud made several reportages on North Vietnam in addition to continuing his travels all over the world, mostly in Asia, Africa, the U.S., and Japan. He is best known for his extensive reports on the East: The Three Banners of China (1966), Face of North Vietnam (1970), Visions of China (1981) and In China (1966). He has received many awards including two by the Overseas Press Clun, the Time-Life Achievement, the Lucie Award and the ICP Infinity Award.”

Press release from The Rubin Museum of Art website

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Cave Dwelling, between Urgup and Uchisar' Cappadocia, Turkey, 1955

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Cave Dwelling, between Urgup and Uchisar
Cappadocia, Turkey, 1955
24 x 30 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Istanbul' Istanbul, Turkey, 1955

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey, 1955
30 x 40 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Jaipur' Jaipur, India, 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Jaipur
Jaipur, India, 1956
23.2 x 33 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'On a Train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou' China, January 1, 1957

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
On a Train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou
China, January 1, 1957
20.2 x 30 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Preparing Kites on a Sunday Morning' Ankara, Turkey, 1955

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Preparing Kites on a Sunday Morning
Ankara, Turkey, 1955
Vintage print
17 x 25.3 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Untitled' Afghanistan, 1955

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Untitled
Afghanistan, 1955
Vintage print
16.2 x 23.7 cm

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923) 'Street Show' Beijing, China, 1957

 

Marc Riboud (French, b. 1923)
Street Show
Beijing, China, 1957
Vintage print
20.4 x 29.9 cm

 

 

The Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street
New York City

Opening hours:
Monday 11.00 am – 5.00 pm
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 11.00 am – 9.00 pm
Thursday 11.00 am – 5.00 pm
Friday 11.00 am – 10.00 pm
Saturday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
The museum is closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day

The Rubin Museum of Art website

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11
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2014 – 15th March 2015

The Eyal Ofer Galleries

Artists: Jules Andrieu, Pierre Antony-Thouret, Nobuyoshi Araki, George Barnard, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Luc Delahaye, Ken Domon, Roger Fenton, Ernst Friedrich, Jim Goldberg, Toshio Fukada, Kenji Ishiguro, Kikuji Kawada, An-My Lê, Jerzy Lewczyński, Emeric Lhuisset, Agata Madejska, Diana Matar, Eiichi Matsumoto, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Don McCullin, Susan Meiselas, Kenzo Nakajima, Simon Norfolk, João Penalva, Richard Peter, Walid Raad, Jo Ratcliffe, Sophie Ristelhueber, Julian Rosefeldt, Hrair Sarkissian, Michael Schmidt, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Indre Šerpytyte, Stephen Shore, Harry Shunk and János Kender, Taryn Simon, Shomei Tomatsu, Hiromi Tsuchida, Marc Vaux, Paul Virilio, Nick Waplington, Jane and Louise Wilson, and Sasaki Yuichiro.

Curators: Simon Baker, Curator Photography and International Art, Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, and Professor David Alan Mellor, University of Sussex

 

 

Another fascinating exhibition. The concept, that of vanishing time, a vanquishing of time – inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five and the Japanese photographer Kikuji Kawada’s 1965 photobook The Map – is simply inspired. Although the images are not war photography per se, they are about the lasting psychological effects of war imaged on a variable time scale.

While the images allow increasing passages of time between events and the photographs that reflect on them – “made moments after the events they depict, then those made days after, then months, years and so on” – there settles in the pit of the stomach some unremitting melancholy, some unholy dread as to the brutal facticity and inhumanness of war. The work which “pictures” the memory of the events that took place, like a visual ode of remembrance, are made all the more powerful for their transcendence –  of time, of death and the immediate detritus of war.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Tate Modern for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“From the seconds after a bomb is detonated to a former scene of battle years after a war has ended, this moving exhibition focuses on the passing of time, tracing a diverse and poignant journey through over 150 years of conflict around the world, since the invention of photography.

In an innovative move, the works are ordered according to how long after the event they were created from moments, days and weeks to decades later. Photographs taken seven months after the fire bombing of Dresden are shown alongside those taken seven months after the end of the First Gulf War. Images made in Vietnam 25 years after the fall of Saigon are shown alongside those made in Nakasaki 25 years after the atomic bomb. The result is the chance to make never-before-made connections while viewing the legacy of war as artists and photographers have captured it in retrospect…

The exhibition is staged to coincide with the 2014 centenary and concludes with new and recent projects by British, German, Polish and Syrian photographers which reflect on the First World War a century after it began.”

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

“The original idea for the Tate Modern exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography came from a coincidence between two books that have captivated and inspired me for many years: Kurt Vonnegut‘s classic 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five and the Japanese photographer Kikuji Kawada’s 1965 photobook The Map. Both look back to hugely significant and controversial incidents from the Second World War from similar distances.

Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in Dresden when what he called ‘possibly the world’s most beautiful city’ was destroyed by incendiary bombs, and struggled to write his war book for almost 25 years. Kawada was a young photographer working in post-war Hiroshima when he began to take the strange photographs of the scarred, stained ceiling of the A-bomb Dome – the only building to survive the explosion – that he would eventually publish on August 6 1965, 20 years to the day since the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.

It may seem odd that these great works of art and literature took so long to emerge from the aftermath of the events they concern. But many of the most complex and considered accounts of conflict have taken their time. To Vonnegut’s painfully slow response to the war, for example, we might add Joseph Heller’s brilliantly satirical Catch-22, published in 1961, and, even more significantly, JG Ballard’s memorial masterpiece Empire of the Sun, which did not see the light of day until 1984.

And today, in 2014, 100 years since the start of the First World War, it seems more important than ever not only to understand the nature and long-term effects of conflict, but also the process of looking back at the past…

CONTINUE READING THIS EXCELLENT ARTICLE BY CURATOR SIMON BAKER: “War photography: what happens after the conflict?” on The Telegraph website, 7th November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

 

“… taking its cue from Vonnegut, ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ is arranged differently, following instead the increasing passages of time between events and the photographs that reflect on them. There are groups of works made moments after the events they depict, then those made days after, then months, years and so on – 10, 20, 50, right up to 100 years later.”

.
Simon Baker

 

 

Roger Fenton. 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855

 

Roger Fenton
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855

 

Shomei Tomatsu 'Atomic Bomb Damage - Wristwatch Stopped at 11-02, August 9. 1945' (1961)

 

Shomei Tomatsu
Atomic Bomb Damage – Wristwatch Stopped at 11.02, August 9, 1945, Nagasaki, 1961
1961
Gelatin silver print on paper
253 x 251 mm
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo

 

Shomei Tomatsu. 'Steel Helmet with Skull Bone Fused by Atomic Bomb, Nagasaki, 1963'

 

Shomei Tomatsu
Steel Helmet with Skull Bone Fused by Atomic Bomb, Nagasaki, 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print on paper
226 x 303 mm
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo

 

Shomei Tomatsu. 'Melted bottle' Nagasaki, 1961

 

Shomei Tomatsu
Melted bottle
Nagasaki, 1961
from the series Nagasaki 11:02
Silver Gelatin print
20 x 21 cm
© Shomei Tomatsu

 

An-My Lê. 'Untitled, Hanoi' (1994-98)

 

An-My Lê
Untitled, Hanoi
1994-98
Gelatin silver print on paper
508 x 609 mm
Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy, New York

 

Jane Wilson (born 1967) Louise Wilson (born 1967) 'Urville' 2006

 

Jane Wilson (born 1967)
Louise Wilson (born 1967)
Urville
2006
Gelatin silver print, mounted onto aluminium
1800 x 1800 mm
Tate
Purchased 2011

 

Jane Wilson and Louise Wilson 'Azeville' 2006

 

Jane Wilson (born 1967)
Louise Wilson (born 1967)
Azeville
2006
Gelatin silver print, mounted onto aluminium
1800 x 2900 mm
Tate
Purchased 2011

 

Jo Ractliffe. 'As Terras do fim do Mundo' Nd

 

Jo Ractliffe
As Terras do fim do Mundo (The Lands of the End of the World)
2009-2010
Courtesy Mark McCain collection

 

 

“At first glance, Jo Ractliffe’s black-and-white shots of sun-baked African landscapes look random and bland: rocks, dirt, scrubby trees; some handwritten signs but no people. Only when reading the titles – “Mass Grave at Cassinga,” “Minefield Near Mupa” – do you learn where the people are, or once were, and the pictures snap into expressive focus.

Ms. Ractliffe, who lives in Johannesburg, took the photographs in 2009 and 2010 in Angola on visits to now-deserted places that were important to that country’s protracted civil war and to the intertwined struggle of neighboring Namibia to gain independence from South Africa’s apartheid rule. South Africa played an active role in both conflicts, giving military support to insurgents who resisted Angola’s leftist government, and hunting down Namibian rebels who sought safety within Angola’s borders.

It’s through this historical lens that Ms. Ractliffe views landscape: as morally neutral terrain rendered uninhabitable by terrible facts from the past – the grave of hundreds of Namibia refugees, most of them children, killed in an air raid; the unknown numbers of landmines buried in Angola’s soil. Some are now decades old but can still detonate, so the killing goes on.”

Text from The New York Times website

 

Kikuji Kawada. 'Hinomaru, Japanese National Flag' from the series 'The Map' 1965

 

Kikuji Kawada
Hinomaru, Japanese National Flag from the series The Map
1965
Gelatin silver print
279 x 355 mm
© Kikuji Kawada, courtesy the artist and Photo Gallery International, Tokyo

 

Kikuji Kawada. 'Lucky Strike' 1962

 

Kikuji Kawada
Lucky Strike
1962
From the series The Map
© Kikuji Kawada, courtesy the artist and Photo Gallery International, Tokyo

 

Kikuji Kawada. 'The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River'

 

Kikuji Kawada
The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River from the series The Map
Hiroshima 1960-65
Gelatin silver print
© Kikuji Kawada

 

 

Points of memory: Kikuji Kawada

My first published photo book, The Map, took me five years to complete, beginning in 1960. In late 1961 a solo show with work from the series was held at Fuji Photo Salon in Tokyo, organised in three parts.

The first featured a ruined castle that was blown up intentionally by the Japanese army during the Second World War. The second comprised photographs taken a decade after the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima. They showed the stains and flaking ceilings of the Atomic Bomb Dome, the only structure left standing at the heart of the detonation zone. The third part concerned Tokyo during the period of economic recovery: images of advertising, scrap iron, the trampled national flag and emblems of the American Forces such as Lucky Strike and Coca-Cola, all twisted together, their order shuffled again and again. Some appeared as a montage to be presented as a metaphor. I dare not say the meaning of it.

These works led me to attempt to create this photographic book, using the notion of the map as a clue to the future and to question the whereabouts of my spirit. Discarded memorial photographs, a farewell note, kamikaze pilots – the illusions of various maps that emerge are to me like a discussion with the devil. The stains are situated as a key image of the series by drawing a future stratum and sealing the history, the nationality, the fear and anxiety of destruction and prosperity. It was almost a metaphor for the growth and the fall.

On the back of the black cover box are written rhyming words that are almost impossible to read. The front cover shows that the words are about to burn out. Inside, the pages are laid out as hinged double fold-out spreads. The repetition of the act of opening and closing makes the images appear and disappear. I wanted to have a book design as a new object and something that goes beyond the contents. With the rich and chaotic nature of monochrome, it might be that I tried to find my early style within the illusion of reality by abstracting the phenomenon. As an observer, I would like to keep forcing myself into the future, never losing the sense of danger which emerges in the conflicts of daily life. I wish to harmonise my old distorted maps with the heartbeat of this exhibition at Tate Modern, twisting across the bridges of the centuries through conflicting space and time.

Kikuji Kawada is a photographer based in Tokyo.

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Richard Peter. 'Dresden After Allied Raids Germany' 1945

 

Richard Peter
Dresden After Allied Raids Germany
1945
© SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek / Richard Peter, sen.

 

Toshio Fukada. 'The Mushroom Cloud - Less than twenty minutes after the explosion (4)' 1945

 

Toshio Fukada 
The Mushroom Cloud – Less than twenty minutes after the explosion (4)
1945
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© The estate of Toshio Fukada, courtesy Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

 

Jerzy Lewczyński. 'Wolf's Lair / Adolf Hitler's War Headquarters' 1960

 

Jerzy Lewczyński
Wolf’s Lair / Adolf Hitler’s War Headquarters
1960
© Jerzy Lewczyński

 

Don McCullin. 'Shell Shocked US Marine, Vietnam, The Battle of Hue' 1968

 

Don McCullin
Shell Shocked US Marine, Vietnam, The Battle of Hue
1968, printed 2013
© Don McCullin

 

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg. 'Kurchatov - Architecture of a Nuclear Test Site Kazakhstan. Opytnoe Pole' 2012

 

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg
Kurchatov – Architecture of a Nuclear Test Site Kazakhstan. Opytnoe Pole
2012
Courtesy of the artist’s studio
© Ursula Schultz-Domburg

 

 

Conflict, Time, Photography brings together photographers who have looked back at moments of conflict, from the seconds after a bomb is detonated to 100 years after a war has ended. Staged to coincide with the centenary of the First World War, this major group exhibition offers an alternative to familiar notions of war reportage and photojournalism, instead focusing on the passing of time and the unique ways that artists have used the camera to reflect on past events.

Conflicts from around the world and across the modern era are depicted, revealing the impact of war days, weeks, months and years after the fact. The works are ordered according to how long after the event they were created: images taken weeks after the end of the American Civil War are hung alongside those taken weeks after the atomic bombs fell on Japan in 1945. Photographs from Nicaragua taken 25 years after the revolution are grouped with those taken in Vietnam 25 years after the fall of Saigon. The exhibition concludes with new and recent projects by British, German, Polish and Syrian photographers which reflect on the First World War a century after it began.

The broad range of work reflects the many different ways in which conflict impacts on people’s lives. The immediate trauma of war can be seen in the eyes of Don McCullin’s Shell-shocked US Marine 1968, while the destruction of buildings and landscapes is documented by Pierre Antony-Thouret’s Reims After the War (published in 1927) and Simon Norfolk’s Afghanistan: Chronotopia 2001-2002. Other photographers explore the human cost of conflict, from Stephen Shore’s account of displaced Jewish survivors of the Second World War in the Ukraine, to Taryn Simon’s meticulously researched portraits of those descended from victims of the Srebrenica massacre.

Different conflicts also reappear from multiple points in time throughout the exhibition, whether as rarely-seen historical images or recent photographic installations. The Second World War for example is addressed in Jerzy Lewczyński’s 1960 photographs of the Wolf’s Lair / Adolf Hitler’s War Headquarters, Shomei Tomatsu’s images of objects found in Nagasaki, Kikuji Kawada’s epic project The Map made in Hiroshima in the 1960s, Michael Schmidt’s Berlin streetscapes from 1980, and Nick Waplington’s 1993 close-ups of cell walls from a Prisoner of War camp in Wales.

As part of Conflict, Time, Photography, a special room within the exhibition has been guest-curated by the Archive of Modern Conflict. Drawing on their unique and fascinating private collection, the Archive presents a range of photographs, documents and other material to provide an alternative view of war and memory.

Conflict, Time, Photography is curated at Tate Modern by Simon Baker, Curator of Photography and International Art, with Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, and Professor David Mellor, University of Sussex. It is organised by Tate Modern in association with the Museum Folkwang, Essen and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, where it will tour in spring and summer 2015 respectively. The exhibition is also accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks, events and film screenings at Tate Modern.”

Press release from the Tate Modern website

 

Simon Norfolk. 'Bullet-scarred apartment building' 2003

 

Simon Norfolk

Bullet-scarred apartment building and shops in the Karte Char district of Kabul. This area saw fighting between Hikmetyar and Rabbani and then between Rabbani and the Hazaras
2003
© Simon Norfolk

 

Susan Meiselas. 'Managua, July 2004' from the series 'Reframing History'

 

Susan Meiselas
Managua, July 2004
from the series Reframing History

 

“Cuesto del Plomo,” hillside outside Managua, a well-known site of many assasinations carried out by the National Guard. People searched here daily for missing persons. July 1978, from the series, “Reframing History,” Managua, July 2004

In July 2004, for the 25th anniversary of the overthrow of Somoza, Susan returned to Nicaragua with nineteen mural-sized images of her photographs from 1978-1979, collaborating with local communities to create sites for collective memory. The project, “Reframing History,” placed murals on public walls and in open spaces in the towns, at the sites where the photographs were originally made.

 

 

Nick Waplington. 'Untitled' from the series 'We Live as We Dream, Alone' 1993

 

Nick Waplington
Untitled from the series We Live as We Dream, Alone
1993

 

Nick Waplington. 'Untitled' from the series 'We Live as We Dream, Alone' 1993

 

Nick Waplington
Untitled from the series We Live as We Dream, Alone
1993

 

 

Nick Waplington’s deeply moving and once controversial photographs of the cells of Barry Island prison, where Nazi SS Officers were held prisoner before the Nuremburg trials, were taken in 1993, almost 50 years after the prisoners had embellished the cell walls with Germanic slogans and drawings of pin-up girls and Bavarian landscapes will be displayed. The half-century that elapsed between the photographs and the creation of their subject is grim testament to the enduring legacy of conflict…

“In 1992 I was commissioned to make work by the Neue galerie in Graz, Austria and the theme was war or “krieg” as it is in German. Graz is on the border with Yugoslavia and there was war in Yugoslavia at the time. I think they were hoping that I would make something to do with the war that was taking place between Croatia and Serbia and Bosnia. I did go to the war; you went to Zagreb and got a UN pass and went in to the warzone. It was very interesting to be taken into the warzone but ultimately I got back to England and I decided – to the annoyance of the gallery – that I was thinking about Austria instead. At the time, the president of Austria, Kurt Waldheim, had been exposed as a member of the SS and had been informing Yugoslavia during the war [World War Two] and the Austrians were very unconcerned about this. I thought I’d much prefer to make work that had the Austrians confronting their Nazi past rather than about the current conflict. I knew about the prison in Barry Island in South Wales where the SS were held before they were sent to Nuremburg for the trial and I started taking a series of photographs in the prison. It was lucky that I did because it was demolished the following year by the MOD. It’s gone now. When I got there, I saw the prisoners had been drawing on the walls. They’re mossy and crumbling but you can see Germanic lettering and Bavarian landscapes and women with 1940s haircuts. They are evocative and powerful given the emotive history. ”

Extract from Elliot Watson. “Nick Waplington: Conflict, Rim, Photography,” on the Hunger TV website, 26th November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

Sophie Ristelhueber. 'Fait #25' 1992

 

Sophie Ristelhueber (born 1949)
Fait #25
1992
71 photographs, gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminium
Object, each: 1000 x 1240 x 50 mm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2013

 

Sophie Ristelhueber. 'Fait #44' 1992

 

Sophie Ristelhueber (born 1949)
Fait #44
1992
71 photographs, gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminium
Object, each: 1000 x 1240 x 50 mm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2013

 

Sophie Ristelhueber. 'Fait #46' 1992

 

Sophie Ristelhueber (born 1949)
Fait #46
1992
71 photographs, gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminium
Object, each: 1000 x 1240 x 50 mm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2013

 

Luc Delahaye. 'US Bombing on Taliban Positions' 2001

 

Luc Delahaye
US Bombing on Taliban Positions
2001
C-print
238.6 x 112.2 cm
Courtesy Luc Delahaye and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Bruxelles

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Vebranden-Molen, West-Vlaanderen' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews
Vebranden-Molen, West-Vlaanderen
2013
Soldat Ahmed ben Mohammed el Yadjizy
Soldat Ali ben Ahmed ben Frej ben Khelil
Soldat Hassen ben Ali ben Guerra el Amolani
Soldat Mohammed Ould Mohammed ben Ahmed
17:00 / 15.12.1914
From the series Shot at Dawn
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews
Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
2013
Eleven British soldiers were executed here between 1915-18
From the series Shot at Dawn
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

 

Seeing what can’t be seen

“This is a challenge still faced by photographers today. Two years ago, the British documentary photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews set about creating a series of her own responding to the World War One. Called Shot at Dawn, it expresses her shock upon discovering that during the conflict around a thousand British, French and Belgian troops were condemned for cowardice or desertion before being executed the following morning by firing squads consisting of comrades from their own battalions. “I never knew this happened,” she tells me. “Until quite recently, no one really talked about it, because the subject was so contentious and taboo.”

Researching her series, Dewe Mathews worked closely with academics to locate the forgotten places along the western front where these unfortunate combatants had been shot. She then travelled to each spot and set up her camera there at dawn, recording whatever could be seen a century after the executions had taken place.

The results are eerie and elegiac – otherwise unremarkable, empty landscapes infused with a powerful sense of mourning, outrage and loss.”

Extract from Alastair Sooke. “Beyond boots and guns: A new look at the horrors of war,” on BBC Culture website, 11 November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

.
For more information please see the excellent article by Sean O’Hagan. “Chloe Dewe Mathews’s Shot at Dawn: a moving photographic memorial” on the Guardian website [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Six Farm, Loker, West-Vlaanderen' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews
Six Farm, Loker, West-Vlaanderen
2013
Private Joseph Byers
Private Andrew Evans
Time unknown / 6.2.1915
Private George E. Collins
07:30 / 15.2.1915
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

Stephen Shore. 'Tzylia Bederman, Bucha, Ukraine, July 18, 2012'

 

Stephen Shore
Tzylia Bederman, Bucha, Ukraine, July 18, 2012
2012
Courtesy of Stephen Shore

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret. 'Plate I' 1927 from 'Reims after the war'

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret
Plate I
1927
from Reims after the war. The mutilated cathedral. The devastated city.
Private collection, London

 

 

The limits of realism

“So how can photographers respond to conflict if not by employing strategies commonly found in photojournalism about war? One alternative approach is to focus less on documenting the heat of battle and more on remembrance – something that feels relevant this year, which marks the centenary of the start of the World War One.

Some of the most moving evocations of the Great War were captured by commercial photographers who arrived in northeast France in the wake of the conflict, when people began travelling to the region in order to see for themselves the extent of the devastation of local villages, towns, and cities. There was enormous appetite for images recording the destruction, available in the form of cheap guidebooks and postcards.

“This is one of the first episodes of mass tourism in the history of the world,” explains [curator Simon] Baker. “There were 300 million postcards sent from the western front, for instance by people visiting the places where their relatives had died. And the photographers had to make these incredible compromises: making photographs of places that weren’t there anymore.”

In the case of Craonne, which was entirely obliterated by artillery, the village had to be rebuilt on a nearby site, while the ruins of the original settlement were abandoned to nature. As a result, the only way for photographers to identify Craonne was by providing a caption.

“The idea of photographing absence became really important,” says Baker. “War is about destruction, removing things, disappearance. A really interesting photographic language about disappearance in conflict emerged and it is extremely powerful. How does one record something that is gone?””

Extract from Alastair Sooke. “Beyond boots and guns: A new look at the horrors of war,” on BBC Culture website, 11 November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret. 'Plate XXXVIII' 1927

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret
Plate XXXVIII
1927
from Reims after the war. The mutilated cathedral. The devastated city.
Private collection, London

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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08
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th December 2014 – 22th February 2015

 

Definition

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A Bohemian is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

 

This is a fantastic exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, one of the best I have seen so far in Melbourne this year. I have seen it three times and each time it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

  • Visually and intellectually stimulating, with a plethora of artefacts, texts and photographs
  • Excellent curatorship, with the exhibition logically structured in order to cohesively display the history, characters and stories, and strands of creativity and rebellious spirit that make up Melbourne’s cultural life
  • A great hang, with disparate elements and mediums all informing each other, pithy quotes, unique film footage, video, music
  • Not too big, just the right size to indulge your senses and brain power

.
One downside was that the exhibition needed a book or exhibition catalogue to flesh out the themes. Hopefully this will eventuate down the track. Also, it would have been nice to see more of what I would call ‘vernacular bohemianism’ – not just the famous people in each era, but the people that lived the life out on the streets, that supported the subcultures that sprung up from the 1950s onwards, but in a small exhibition it is understandable that there was not enough space.

Another perspective is that, in ordering such a diverse group of people who don’t want to be classified, who lived on the edge of society – you remove their cultural and historical ability to be transgressive, to cross moral and social taboos. By naming them as “bohemian” you seek to classify and order their existence and bring them within a frame of reference that is about control, power and visibility. This disciplinary power, Michel Foucault maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects and the exhibition taxonomy is just that… a form of surveillance of the subject as well as a form of ordering it. Under this phenomena of power, dissonance/dissidence is neutralised and human beings are made subjects: through ‘the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.’ (Hirst, 1992, “Foucault and Architecture,” in AA Files, No. 26, Autumn, pp. 52-60)

As John Tagg notes in his book The Burden of Representation (and this is what this exhibition does, it ‘represents’ a particular construction of identity as seen from the viewpoint of the establishment, the institution), “when Foucault examines power he is not just examining a negative force operating through a series of prohibitions … We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms – as exclusion, censorship, concealment, eradication. In fact, power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth.” (Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988, p. 87)

Ultimatley, that is what this exhibition does, it produces a reality that many of these bohemians would not have bought into, for they lived outside the fold. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth that, through their naming, seek to classify and negate the transgressive and subversive nature of many of these people and groups. These people lived in opposition to the tenants and morals of everyday society and that is why we still love them – for their creativity, their individuality, their thoughts and above all their panache, stepping outside the orthodoxies and regi/mentality of everyday life. Against the system, for life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the State Library of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The mania of young artists to
wish to live outside of their time,
with other ideas and other customs,
isolate them from the world,
render them strange and bizarre,
puts them outside the law, banished
from society. These are today’s
bohemians.”

.
Félix Pyat (French, 1810-1889)

 

 

Artist, rebel, hippie, hipster?

Revealing Melbourne’s enduring counter-cultures, Bohemian Melbourne celebrates a who’s who of creative free spirits through their art and the bohemian legacy that has shaped the character of this city. The exhibition shines a light on Melbourne’s cultural bohemians from 1860 to today, tracing individuals who have pushed against convention in their lives and art, from Marcus Clarke, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora to Barry Humphries, Vali Myers and Nick Cave.

Venture into history’s backstreets and smoky salons to discover the stories of the daring poets, artists, visionaries, rebels and rock stars who changed Melbourne forever. (Text from the website)

 

Marcus Clarke: “A Punk in the Age of Steam”

Marcus Clarke, writer, journalist and later a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, is generally celebrated as the father of Bohemian Melbourne – although he was more its wild child. After a privileged start in a wealthy English family, which allowed him to cultivate the life of a young dandy and to indulge his passion for the writings of Honoré de Balzac and others, a 16-year-old Clarke suddenly found himself in colonial Melbourne in 1863, thanks to a turn in the family fortune.

Determined to maintain a semblance of the life to which he had become accustomed, Clarke was soon to be found strolling the streets of Melbourne as a flâneur, an observer of the city spectacle. A short-lived post as a bank clerk was followed by a stint on the land as a jackaroo, but by the age of 21 he was back in Melbourne and working as a journalist for the Argus newspaper.

Clarke’s bohemian ways soon attracted other young journalists and writers, and they began to congregate at various Melbourne watering holes, in particular the Cafe de Paris establishing the Yorick Club, the early members of which included fellow writers Henry Rendall, George Gordon McCrae and Adam Lindsay Gordon. The Yorick had a human skull for a mascot and rules that parodied the gentleman’s clubs of establishment Melbourne. Its members gathered in rooms adjoining the office of Melbourne Punch to smoke clay pipes, drink from pewter mugs, recite poetry and generally engage in horseplay. Bohemian society had found a Melbourne home and a creative community was born. (Wall text from exhibition)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Bohemian culture in marvellous Melbourne

Marvellous Melbourne, which arose out of the egalitarianism of the gold rushes, gave birth to a strong bohemian culture. Marcus Clarke, the London-born journalist, writer, librarian and professional bohemian, joined the Athenaeum Club and founded in 1868 the Yorrick Club, Australia’s first bohemian club, which became a magnet for men of letters.

He was a dressed-up dandy, a flâneur and a heavy drinker, but had a touch of genius with his novel, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874/75), one of the classics of Australian colonial literature. He was dead by the age of 35, with suicide rumoured but rejected by his actress wife, Marian Dunn, the mother of his six children. Clarke in his behaviour and creative achievement became a model for other Australian bohemians to follow.

Extract from Professor Sasha Grishin. “Celebrating Melbourne bohemians at the State Library of Victoria,” on The Conversation website, 16 January 2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' (detail) 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke (detail)
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

“In 1863, when the young Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne, he could have slipped easily into what passed for mannered society in the booming gold-rush city. His uncle was a County Court judge, his cousin a politician, and Clarke himself was granted honorary membership of the elite Melbourne Club. But he chose to turn his back on the bunyip aristocracy. “I am a bohemian,” declared the man who would go on to write the first great Australian novel. “I live, I walk, I eat, drink and philosophise.”

All of which sounds perfectly normal – except, perhaps, for the philosophising – but in reality, Marcus Clarke’s life was far from average. He became a celebrated satirist of Marvellous Melbourne, by turns outraging and titillating 19th-century sensibilities in Australia’s modern metropolis. He befriended fellow intellectuals and bon vivants to form underground literary clubs that didn’t so much turn their backs on as raise an insulting finger to colonial mores. He was a poet and a playwright, a journalist and a novelist, a jackaroo, a wastrel and, above all, quite the tremendous wit.

Clarke’s most enduring gift is his writing, particularly the classic convict novel For The Term Of His Natural Life. But a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria pays tribute to his other major legacy – that of Australia’s first bona fide bohemian.

“Clarke was an iconoclast, dangerous to know and a dandy about town,” explains historian Dr Tony Moore, author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians

“Most people think of him as a venerable old Victorian gentleman, but I characterise him as a punk in the age of steam.” [Marcus: I don’t know why a venerable old Victorian gentleman – he was dead at 35]

Moore, who is a Monash University academic and passionate chronicler of unconventional Australians, was an adviser to the exhibition and worked alongside curator Clare Williamson to create this retrospective of radicals. Melbourne’s roaming free spirits have been corralled together for the first time using material – some of it never previously displayed in public – drawn from State Library archives and borrowed from public and private collections. Viewed en masse, they comprise a rogues’ gallery of some of the country’s most indelible cultural icons…

His [Clarke’s] image adorns the exhibition posters, a larger-than-life bohemian in breeches and knee-high boots with a cabbage-tree hat perched jauntily above his broad, handsome face. Melbourne’s original radical would be thrilled to see that his notoriety lives on, more than a century after his death.”

Extract from Kendall Hill. “Bohemian Melbourne: Exhibition” on the Qantas Travel Insider website [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

installation-k-WEB

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Members of the Ishmael Club' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Members of the Ishmael Club
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) 'Fifteen of the Founders' 1944

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975)
Fifteen of the Founders
1944
Oil on canvas and gauze mounted on panel
Collection of the Montsalvat Trust

 

 

Montsalvat is the result of Justus Jörgensen’s vision for a collective experience of art and life. Jörgensen had trained in architecture and then in painting with earlier bohemian Max Meldrum. His studio in Queen Street, the Mitre Tavern and the Latin and Chung Wah restaurants were sites for lively discussions in which Jörgensen put forward his philosophies of art, the revival of medieval craftsmanship and communal living. This vision began to take shape in 1934 when he and his wife, Lily, brought land at Eltham; with the assistance of friends and followers, he built Montsalvat, an artists’ colony of studios, workshops and the communal Great Hall.

While Justus Jörgensen rarely exhibited, his great love was painting. This multi-panelled work comprises portraits by Jörgensen of 15 significant figures from the early years of Montsalvat. They are, from top to bottom, left to right:

Ian Robertson – student of Jorgensen who also ran an antiques shop
Leo Brierley – businessman and backer of Mervyn Skipper’s Pandemonium journal
Helen (Nell) Lempriere – niece of Dame Nellie Melba, painter, sculptor, and an earl student of Jorgensen
Norman Porter – friend and student of Jorgensen and lecturer in philosophy
Mervyn Skipper – author, journalist and Melbourne editor of the Bulletin
Helen Skipper – Mervyn’s first daughter, Jorgensen’s partner for many years, and mother of Sebastian and Sigmund Jorgensen
Justus Jorgensen – founder and architect of Montsalvat, painter, assistant to artist Max Meldrum and teacher.
Sonia Skipper – second daughter of Mervyn Skipper, and painter and teacher
Arthur Munday – law student, sculptor and stonemason trained by Jorgensen
William (Bill) Cook – teacher, philosophy and president of the Victorian Rationalist Society
Norman Radcliffe – student and friend of Jorgensen, and philosopher
Ray Grant – student of Jorgensen and philosopher
Edward Goll – internationally renowned pianist and teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Arthur (George) Chalmers – pharmacist, student of Jorgensen, stonemason and carver, who also planted the first vineyard at Montsalvat

(Label texts)

 

Montsalvat is an artist colony in Eltham, Victoria, Australia, established by Justus Jörgensen in 1934. It is home to over a dozen buildings, houses and halls set amongst richly established gardens on 48,562 m2 (12 acres) of land. The colony of Montsalvat has a detailed history that reflects the life of Jörgensen and his friends and family; there is also a legend behind its name, while its buildings and gardens are steeped in the art and culture of Melbourne and its surroundings.

Visitors can pay a small fee to walk throughout the colony’s historical gardens, artists’ houses/workshops and explore the surrounding buildings. All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive network of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. (Wikipedia)

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) Ella Grainger (1889-1979) 'Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger' c. 1934

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Ella Grainger (1889-1979)
Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger
c. 1934
Cotton bath towels, plastic, leather and metal
Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

 

“In 1932 or 1933 my wife and I took up again this idea of clothing made of towelling and when in Australia in 1934 and 1935 we were amazed by the beauty of the bath towels on sale in Australia – some imported from England, Czechoslovakia and America, but most of them (and among them the most beautiful ones) manufactured in Australia. Here was a chance to show what could be done with the beauty born of machinery – a beauty as rich and subtle, in its own way, as anything made by hand or loom.”

Percy Grainger, c. 1955-56

 

Unknown photographer
Percy Grainger at White Plains, New York
1936
Exhibition graphic from silver gelatine photograph
Grainger Museum collection, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015, including at left Albert Tucker, Self-portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 (see below)

 

Albert Tucker. 'Self-portrait with Joy Hester' 1939

 

Albert Tucker
Self-portrait with Joy Hester
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

An Interview with Albert Tucker conducted by Justin Obrien in 1997.
Albert expands on his many insights,during the time he spent with John and Sunday Reed and other artists at Heide during the1940’s. An intimate insight into a unique man.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' (detail) 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café (detail)
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

 

These clips features home movie footage taken by Gertie Anschel (c.1953-1954) with audio commentary by film director Philippe Mora.

Part 1 of 3 features scenes of Melbourne, The Mirka Café and Joy Hester and Gray Smith’s property. Philippe reflects on his childhood and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene. 

 

 

Part 2 of 3 features the property of Roger de Stoop, artist friends and Arthur Boyd at work on his 1956 Melbourne Olympic statue. Philippe reflects on his childhood identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Part 3 of 3 features the Moras, the art gang at a balcony party and late American actor Melvyn Douglas. Philippe reflects on his childhood, parents and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Making Your Own Fun in the 50s

On the surface at least, Melbourne in the 1950s was a rather dour affair. For some non-conformists, such as Vali Myers and Barry Humphries, it was a place to escape rather than a place to be. For others, however, it was a site for creating underground cultures that were largely invisible to the mainstream.

This was no more so than in the case of gay and lesbian, or ‘camp’, culture, as it was known at the time. Homosexuality was illegal in Victoria until 1960, and in the 1950s it was sensationalised in the tabloid press as a subject for mockery if not horror. As a result, homosexual men and women developed alternative bohemian cultures and communities, with their own covert venues, house parties, secret languages and dress codes.

The gala costume arts balls that raised money for mainstream theatre and other arts charities were grand exceptions to the gnerally underground clubs and private parties. They offered rare moments in which camp culture could be expressed in public without fear for reprisal. Theatres and dance companies provided employment for many, and bars, such as the one nicknamed the Snake Pit at the Hotel Australia, and restaurants such as Val’s Coffee Lounge, provided opportunities for the camp community to meet and to mix with others who were outside the establishment.

 

Norman Ikin. 'Vali Myers' c. 1949

 

Norman Ikin
Vali Myers
c. 1949
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Mark Strizic. 'Barry Humphries in Melbourne' 1969

 

Mark Strizic (1928-2012)
Barry Humphries in Melbourne
1969
Exhibition print from flexible-base negative
State Library of Victoria
Courtesy of the Estate of the artist

 

 

A never seen on broadcast TV programme with Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage made in 1975. Barry Humphries was promoting his film ‘Barry McKenzie holds his own’. Films clips were provided officially by EMI. The interviewer trying to hold things together is Mark Caldwell. The programme was made in black and white.

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with, in the distance, Henry Talbot Portraits of actor Frank Thring 1963, with Thring’s jewellery box and contents in the foreground.

 

It has been said of Frank Thring that he could make most stages or foyers seem small. His larger-than-life personality was almost matched by his frame, often decked out in imposing black and with flamboyant jewellery. Son of Frank Thring snr, founder of Efftee Films and 3XY Radio, Thring jnr earned fame as an actor in London’s West End and in Hollywood films such as Ben Hur, often playing sinister or decadent characters. In the 1950s, he would recite poems laden with innuendo and hold court at the ‘head table’ at Val’s Coffee Lounge. To be welcome at his table was a sign one was part of the ‘in’ crowd. (Label text)

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Arts Ball, Palais de Danse - John Anderson as Sun God' c. 1963-64

 

Unknown photographer
Arts Ball, Palais de Danse – John Anderson as Sun God
c. 1963-64
Gelatin silver photograph
Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

John Anderson was first-prize winner at a number of arts balls in the 1960s. His costume shown here reflects the creativity and effort that many put into their outfits. Costumes and headdresses were sometimes so large that Anderson and others regularly hired furniture vans to take them to the ball. One year the van that was transporting Anderson broke down and he completed the journey strapped upright on the back of a ute. His Sun  God costume wowed new audiences when he was invited to take part in a pageant on ice base on the theme of The Kind and I – with Anderson as the King – at the Southland shopping centre ice rink around 1970. (Label text)

But you will go to the ball, you will sweetie!

 

Richard Walsh (editor) 'The Review', Vol. 22, No. 22 Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co., March 1972

 

Richard Walsh (editor)
The Review, Vol. 22, No. 22
Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co.,
March 1972
State Library of Victoria

 

Before editing the irreverent Melbourne weekly The Review (Nation Review from July 1972, Richard Walsh edited counter-cultural Oz magazine with Richard Neville and Martin Sharp. Contributors to Nation Review included Max Harris, Bob Ellis, Phillip Adams, Michael Leunig and Germaine Greer. Greer had been part of the Drift in Melbourne, a loose association of artists, students and graduates. Enrolling in a Masters degree at Sydney University, in 1962 she becomes a leading light in the Sydney libertarian Push, an intellectual bohemia of larrikin anarchists. Gaining her PhD at Cambridge University, Greer then published her groundbreaking book The Female Eunuch. (Label text)

 

Ashley Mackevicius. 'Nick Cave' 1973

 

Ashley Mackevicius
Nick Cave
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Soapbox Circus - The Fabulous Spagoni Family' c. 1977

 

Ponch Hawkes
Soapbox Circus – The Fabulous Spagoni Family
c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park' 1979

 

Ponch Hawkes
Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with artist Ponch Hawkes work at right

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Mirka Mora in her studio' 1978

 

Rennie Ellis
Mirka Mora in her studio
1978
Colour transparency
State Library Victoria
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003) 'Passions' 1981-82

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003)
Passions
1981-82
Pen, black ink, sepia, burnt sienna and watercolour
Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust

 

Vali Myers discovered a love of drawing at an early age. Over the years it became her primary mode of artistic expression in place of contemporary dance. She dedicated her life to her art and would spend up to two years creating each of her intricately drawn artworks. Passions contains many elements that symbolically represent aspects of Vali Myers’ art and life. These include a fox (referencing her pet Foxy), ravens (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven being one of her favourite poems, a gypsy-like figure playing a violin and, at the centre of it all, a woman with flaming red hair. (Label text)

 

Liz Ham. 'Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building' 1997

 

Liz Ham
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building
1997
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Australian artist Vali Myers moved to Paris from Australia at age 19 where she lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Satre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. She moved to New York, tattooed Patti Smith’s knee, befriended Salvador Dali and met Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

Vali was a great influence on lots of famous people Tennesse Williams, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Jean Genet and Kate Bush.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

 

Australian artist Howard Arkley interviewed by ABC television shortly before his untimely death in 1999.

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999) 'The Ritual' 1986

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999)
The Ritual
1986
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
State Library of Victoria

 

Howard Arkley is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant 20th-century artists. He is unique in embracing not only urban culture but also life in suburbia, a space generally shunned or scorned by bohemians, with exception of that other flaneur of suburbia, Barry Humphries. Like many bohemians before him, Arkley lived on the edge and experimented with mind-altering substances, and, like a good proportion of them, his life was tragically cut short as a result. Despite its large scale, comic-book style and pop colours, The Ritual is as much a cool and judgment-free study in composition and the human form as it is in the rituals or ‘habits’ associated with drug use. (Label text)

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

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State Library of Victoria website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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