Archive for the 'photojournalism' Category

09
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 19th September – 20th December 2015

 

 

Following on from the magnificent Francesca Woodman, here we have an artist from a previous period who investigates aspects of alienation, despair, loss and hope. These are of the era:

Post-McCarthyism but still caught in that cataclysm / Henri Cartier-Bresson / Irving Penn / Ansel Adams / Saturday Evening Post / Allen Ginsberg / Beat Generation / emerging counterculture of the 1960s.

It is an Americana (the despairing history, geography and culture of the United States) with an elusive meaning and a aesthetic that seems to be tight … but one that can’t stand to be scratched.

While some of the images are memorable (such as Vengeful Sister, Chicago, 1956) there is not much living, lying underneath. Nothing that reveals itself to me over time, that makes me return to the image again and again, for insight and, possibly, refreshment. A little hope and much sadness.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Philadelphia 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.

 

 

“City streets were Heath’s first studio: Philadelphia; Chicago; New York, where he came to prominence; and later Toronto. Isolation is a prevailing theme: Subjects gaze cryptically into the camera, their expressions unreadable. Often they stare beyond the frame, lost in thought. Crowds of individuals populate a single location, but don’t interact; disconnected, in their own worlds.

The dispossessed and alienated are Heath’s subjects, and he wrote his autobiography with their images: children with ragged clothes and dirty faces, stone-faced or crying, hardly ever smiling. A sweet-faced girl with tangled hair and huge light eyes stares out from the cover of Heath’s masterwork A Dialogue with Solitude, as if to say, “Here I am,” and nothing more…

Heath, who had to find his way alone, photographed passengers looking out of car windows and riding in elevated trains, going who knows where? Many photos are of just one person, and even the group shots set one occupant apart. Faces are expressionless, but their eyes are full of sorrow, uncertainty, loneliness, fear. We recognize that look: the one we all have when our public mask falls away and our faces betray the thoughts that wake us in the middle of the night.”

.
Pamela J.  Forsythe. “Alone together” on the Broad Street Review website October 18, 2015

 

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Kansas City, Missouri, March 1967'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Kansas City, Missouri, March 1967
1967 (negative); 1968 (print)
Gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 10 1/2 inches (18.1 x 26.7 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Berkeley, California, 1964'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Berkeley, California, 1964
1964
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 6 13/16 inches (11.7 x 17.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Erin Freed, New York City, 1963'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Erin Freed, New York City, 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 x 8 3/4 inches (18.6 x 22.2 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Carl Dean Kipper, Korea, 1953-54'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Carl Dean Kipper, Korea, 1953-54
1953-54
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches (17.1 x 24.8 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Philadelphia, 1952'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Philadelphia, 1952
1952
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

“Experience Dave Heath’s bittersweet vision of modern life in his powerful photographs of loss and hope.

From a crowd gathered in Central Park to solitary figures lost in thought, Dave Heath’s images conjure feelings of alienation and a desire for human connection. Multitude, Solitude highlights the photographer’s black-and-white pictures of the 1950s and 1960s, an intense period of self-discovery and innovation for the artist. During these pivotal years, Heath developed groundbreaking approaches to narrative and image sequence, producing exquisite individual prints, handmade book maquettes, his poetic masterwork, A Dialogue with Solitude, and multimedia slide presentations. His sensitive explorations of loss, pain, love, and hope reveal Heath to be one of the most original photographers of those decades.

This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of Heath’s deeply personal early work. Abandoned by both his parents by the age of four, Heath lived in Philadelphia foster homes and in an orphanage until the age of sixteen. The turmoil of his childhood profoundly shaped Heath and his artistic vision. Just before his sixteenth birthday, he encountered a poignant photo-essay about foster care in Life magazine, and became intrigued by photography’s potential to transcend simple reportage. Almost entirely self-taught, Heath channeled his feelings of abandonment into a body of work that underscores the importance and difficulties of human contact and interaction. Multitude, Solitude reaffirms Heath’s status as a key figure in twentieth-century photography and highlights his deeply empathetic sensibility.

About the artist

Born in Philadelphia in 1931, Dave Heath became interested in photography as a teenager. In the following years he trained himself in the craft, taking courses in commercial art, working in a photo-processing lab, and studying paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While stationed in Korea with the US Army, he photographed his fellow soldiers, creating images that are at once candid and subdued. In 1957 Heath moved to New York City and established himself as a major artistic talent.Heath taught at the Dayton Art Institute, Ohio, and Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, before moving in 1970 to Toronto, where he headed the photography program at Ryerson University for many years. His work is in the collections of leading museums, including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Heath’s major monograph, A Dialogue with Solitude, was published in 1965 and reprinted in 2000. His work has been included in important historical studies and surveys, such as Robert M. Doty’s Photography in America (1974); John Szarkowski’s Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 (1978); James Borcoman’s Magicians of Light: Photographs from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada (1993); and Keith F. Davis’s An American Century: From Dry-Plate to Digital (1999).”

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 9/16 inches (16.2 x 24.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957' (detail)

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957 (detail)
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 9/16 inches (16.2 x 24.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Vengeful Sister, Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Vengeful Sister, Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 3/16 x 8 15/16 inches (18.3 x 22.7 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) '7 Arts Coffee Gallery, New York City, 1959'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
7 Arts Coffee Gallery, New York City, 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print
7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'New York City, 1958-59'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
New York City, 1958-59
1958-59
Gelatin silver print
7 x 8 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) '5th Avenue at 43rd Street, New York City, 1958'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
5th Avenue at 43rd Street, New York City, 1958
1958
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Santa Barbara, California, 1964'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Santa Barbara, California, 1964
1964
Gelatin silver print
5 x 7 9/16 inches (12.7 x 19.2 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Rochester, New York, 1958'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Rochester, New York, 1958
1958
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 x 9 13/16 inches (16.7 x 24.9 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Washington Square, New York City, 1959-1960'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Washington Square, New York City, 1959-1960
1959-1960
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

Forever the outsider

Heath left Philadelphia to serve in the Korean War, where he photographed fellow soldiers and his impressions of war. Soon after his return, he departed for Chicago, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant. He began to assemble handmade books, grouping photos into themed essays and putting text to the images, establishing the template he would use in A Dialogue with Solitude.

Relocating to New York in 1957, Heath studied with photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, refining his photo essay technique and adopting Smith’s practice of making fine art prints of his work. He took photos with available light, in the street and at favorite haunts like Washington Square Park and Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, mounting the Dialogue exhibition in 1963. In that same year, he won his first Guggenheim.

Accepting life on its own terms

When Dialogue went to print in 1965, Heath employed the same editorial control he had with earlier creations, selecting, sizing, and laying out every photo, dictating typeface and size, and selecting text from famous authors, such as William Butler Yeats, Hermann Hesse, and T.S. Eliot. Only in the preface did he use his own words:

“Pressed from all sides by the rapid pace of technological progress and increased authoritarian control, many people are caught up in an anguish of alienation. Adrift and without sense of purpose, they are compelled to engage in a dialogue with the inmost depths of their being in a search for renewal.” He concludes, “What I have endeavored to convey in my work is not a sense of futility… but an acceptance… that the pleasures and joys of life are fleeting and rare.”

The final sections convey a few of those pleasurable moments: In two photos entitled Chicago (1956), a small boy stands, head thrown back in exultation, and two boys mug for the camera. In Fifth Avenue, New York City (1960), a father snuggles his baby to his face, looking over the child’s head protectively, and in Barbara Freed and Her Son Sean, New York City (1959), a toddler heads toward a pair of outstretched female hands. Heath selected the final excerpt from Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”:

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death?

.
Pamela J.  Forsythe. “Alone together” on the Broad Street Review website October 18, 2015

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Greenwich Village, New York City, 1957'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Greenwich Village, New York City, 1957
1957
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 9 9/16 inches (32.1 x 24.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'New York City, 1962'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
New York City, 1962
1962
Gelatin silver print, 10 13/16 x 7 7/16 inches (27.5 x 18.9 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print, 12 9/16 x 8 9/16 inches (31.9 x 21.7 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Washington Square, New York City, 1960'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Washington Square, New York City, 1960
1960
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 5/8 inches (32.1 x 21.9 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Washington Square, New York City, 1958'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Washington Square, New York City, 1958
1958
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches (32.1 x 21.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Howard Crawford, c. 1953-54'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Howard Crawford, c. 1953-54
c. 1953-54
Gelatin silver print
13 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm

Philadelphia Museum of Art website

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24
Nov
15

Exhibition: ‘Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 10th September – 28th November 2015

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum in association with Fundación MAPFRE.

Curator: Matthew Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator Department of Photography of the Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

Without reminding myself every so often, you actually forget just what a master of photography Josef Koudelka is.

Looking at the installation photographs below, without knowing the names of the individual images, is instructive. Notice how graphically strong his organisation of the picture plane is. Usually one or two, three at the most, strong vertical or horizontal elements – dark on dark, light on dark; man and hovercraft; figures on pavement; women, tree and building; assemblages of objects and light.

I believe all of his work links back to his sense of the theatre of memory, whether it be the landscapes and sceneries of the outdoors taken in Prague, and on trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy or the psychological interior of the mind of his theatre characters as he portrays them through photography. From the mystery and exoticism of the Gypsies series, to the recording of history, time and conflict of the Invasion photographs (witness the Hand and wristwatch). From the metaphysical symbols of isolation (lost animals, lonely figures, scattered objects and displaced Gypsies) in Exiles, which is the core of the Koudelka vital experience, to the destruction of ancient archaeological sites and depictions of places that have been mined, swept away or marked by the scars of industrialisation, devastated by wars and altered by time in his panoramic format photographs.

These theatres of the divine, theatres of the mind are ‘Theatres of Memory’ in which the 16th century Italian philosopher Guilio Camillo asks the question: How is the motion of the memory connected with the motion of history? How is the personal political?

Koudleka’s probing of this question is present in every one of his images. Through his inquiry “he maintains a total unity through the photographer’s vision.” The artist forms mental and physical images of the things he wants to remember, that he wants us to remember, using theatrical spaces… and his subjective thoughts bind us, closely, to collective memories.

“History… is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

Marcus

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

 

 

“FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE presents the most complete retrospective exhibit up to this day dedicated to the Czech photographer of French nationality Josef Koudelka (n. 1938), member for the past forty years of Magnum Photos agency.

Engineer by profession, Koudelka became committed to the photographic medium in the middle of the sixties and became one of the most influential authors of his generation. Halfway between the artistic and documentary, Josef Koudelka is now a living legend. He has received prestigious awards in recognition of his work, among others, the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), the Grand prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the International Award in Photography of the Hasselblad Foundation (1992).

This exhibition goes through his entire trajectory that covers more than five decades of work. The extense selection with more than 150 works reflects his first experimental projects produced at the end of the fifties and during the sixties, as well as his historic series Gypsies, Invasion and Exiles and reaching the great panoramic landscapes produced in the last years. In addition the exhibition includes important documental material, the majority unpublished -layouts, pamphlets, magazines of the period among others-, that allows us to delve into the work as well as the creative process of this author.

The title of the exhibition is Uncertain Nationality, which describes the sense of not belonging to a place, a sense of disorientation so present in his work since his exile from Czechoslovakia after the invasion of Prague, and his permanent interest in territories in conflict.”

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

 

Entrance view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Entrance view of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation views of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Introduction

In the mid-1950s, when a new youth culture characterised by an open mindset was beginning to emerge in Czechoslovakia following the death of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and after two decades of brutal repression, Josef Koudelka (born in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and nationalised French) left his village in Moravia and moved to the capital, Prague. An aeronautical engineer by training, Koudelka became very actively involved in photography in the mid-1960s, contributing to the creative renaissance that took place in his native country.

Koudelka not only immortalised these years with his camera but also embodied them. He spent lengthy periods in gypsy encampments in Slovakia, he compulsively photographed actors during play rehearsals, and he mingled with demonstrators and soldiers in August 1968 in order to capture the invasion of Prague by the Soviet troops. When Koudelka went into exile shortly afterwardshe acquired the official status of “nationality doubtful”, becoming a stateless person as he was unable to produce documentation proving that he was born in Czechoslovakia. He refused to be intimidated by this situation, however, and continued to travel and take photographs, allowing gypsy communities and traditional and religious festivals to decide his destinations.

Koudelka settled in Paris in the 1980s and after the fall of Communism returned to Prague in 1990 where he now has a second home. Nonetheless, he continues to be a traveller, committed over the past twenty-five years to the creation of panoramic photographs that depict landscapes around the world which have been altered and often devastated by the hand of man.

This exhibition encompasses Josef Koudelka’s entire career, spanning more than five decades of work. The comprehensive selection of images on display includes his first experimental projects of the 1950s and 1960s and his historic series Gypsies, Invasion and Exiles, concluding with the great panoramic landscapes of recent years. In addition, visitors will see important documentary material, most of it previously unpublished and including layouts, leaflets and magazines of the period which contribute to a deeper understanding of this artist’s work and creative process.

 

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Theatre section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Early years + theatre

Early years and Experiments

Josef Koudelka was immersed in the ambiance of liberalization that occurred in Czechoslovakia after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 who had subjected the country to a brutal repression for two decades. Koudelka began to photograph professionally in 1958 and create a series of landscapes and sceneries of the outdoors taken in Prague, and on trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy. Right away, the camera accompanied him on all of his trips, which would herald his impulse to work as an independent photographer and nomad for more than forty years.

Koudelka dates his first serious photographic activity to 1958. Between that date and 1962 he produced a body of work which encompassed landscapes and outdoor views taken in Prague and during trips to Slovakia, Poland and Italy. Travel and its associated discoveries were a permanent stimulus to his creativity as a photographer. During these early years Koudelka assiduously studied the possibilities of giving form to the photographic image before and after the actual shot was taken. Initially, he inclined to manipulation subsequent to exposure, such as cropping and the use of experimental techniques in the dark room.

The Theatre

In the 1960s Koudelka worked free-lance for the most important Czech theatrical companies, Divadloza Branou (Theatre behind the Door) and Divadlona Zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade). As such, he evolved a new way of photographing that involved the repetition and prior visualisation of the image. Working rapidly and close to the actors on the stage while they were rehearsing, Koudelka constantly moved around them until he had the desired image in his mind. The harsh, exaggerated theatrical lighting proved difficult to photograph, obliging him to force the development of his films with low exposures. Ultimately, a detail that interested him in an image might only occupy a small part of the negative and thus required significant blowing-up and laborious manipulation during the developing process in order to obtain a legible copy. Koudelka’s images of theatrical performances were used for promotional purposes and often appeared on the front cover and in the pages of the magazine Divadlo (Theatre).

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE Josef Koudelka website

 

Josef Koudelka. 'An Hour of Love by Josef Topol, Divadlo za branou [Theater behind the Door], Prague' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
An Hour of Lov
e by Josef Topol, Divadlo za branou [Theater behind the Door], Prague
1968
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Theatre on the Balustrade, King Ubu (by playwright Alfred Jarry), Prague' 1964

 

Josef Koudelka
Theatre on the Balustrade, King Ubu (by playwright Alfred Jarry), Prague
1964
© Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Alfred Jarry's Uburoi, Divadlo na zábradlí, Prague' 1964

 

Josef Koudelka
Alfred Jarry’s Uburoi, Divadlo na zábradlí, Prague
1964
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia' 1960

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia
1960
Gelatin silver, early print
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Gypsies section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Gypsies

In 1961 Koudelka started to take photographs in villages and gypsy encampments. He initially continued with his habitual employment as an engineer but this photographic endeavour soon became a project that would define his artistic career and give rise to the series Gypsies. He returned again and again to around eighty different places in Slovakia and the Czech regions of Moravia and Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), principally between 1963 and 1970, taking thousands of photographs from which he selected various hundreds and finally a few dozen that he most preferred, entitling them with the name of the place where they were taken. The varied compositions – interiors, individual and group portraits, and landscapes – allow the subjects space to be themselves while maintaining a total unity through the photographer’s vision. These works also constitute views onto a world which seemed very exotic at that time, even for other Czechs and Slovaks, but which was nonetheless quite self-sufficient and as universally accessible as ancient myths.

The first exhibition of this series, held in the lobby of the Divadloza Branou (Theatre behind the Door) in Prague in March 1967, only included twenty-seven photographs. The twenty-two prints that have survived from that event are included in the present exhibition, mounted on their original panels and displayed as a group, as they were almost fifty years ago.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Bohemia' 1966

 

Josef Koudelka
Bohemia
1966
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Moravia (Strážnice)' 1966

 

Josef Koudelka
Moravia (Strážnice)
1966
Gelatin silver, print 1967
Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia' 1963

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia
1963
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of the artist
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Romania' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Romania
1968
Gelatin silver, print 1980s
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Robin and Sandy Stuart
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Slovakia' 1963

 

Josef Koudelka
Slovakia
1963
Gelatin silver, print 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago, Amanda TaubVeazie Endowment and Photography Gala Fund
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Invasion section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Invasion section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Invasion

In August 1968, shortly after returning to Czechoslovakia after a trip to Rumania where he had gone to photograph gypsy encampments, Koudelka woke up early one morning to discover that the Warsaw Pact forces led by the Soviet Union had invaded Prague. He immediately loaded his Exakta Varex camera with East German film and went out onto the street, tirelessly photograph the devastating occupation between 21 and 27 August. Koudelka climbed on tanks, encountered soldiers armed with machine guns (as did the demonstrators alongside him), and photographed the innumerable slogans and posters which appeared every day on the city’s walls and were then removed by the invading forces every evening. Koudelka penetrated into the heart of the resistance. A new era was dawning and his photographs became a powerful reminder of how that change first began.

His images became a document of the conflict and symbol of the spirit of the resistance movement. The rolls of film that he used to photograph the Prague struggle ended up in Western Europe illegally and the Koudelka images appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. Koudelka spent that winter editing his photographs, selecting just a handful from among thousands of images. Finally, the negatives were smuggled out to the United States and with the help of the Magnum Photos agency were distributed to magazines and newspapers around the world on the occasion of the first anniversary of the invasion in 1969. Prior to 1984, when they were publicly exhibited for the first time in London with Koudelka’s name attached to them, these images were published anonymously and only attributed to “P.P”, standing for “Prague Photographer”, in order to avoid possible reprisals against Koudelka and his family.

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Czech citizen on sidewalk, wearing jacket with target)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Czech citizen on sidewalk, wearing jacket with target)
1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Czech citizen on tank)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Czech citizen on tank)
1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of a private collector
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Hand and wristwatch' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Hand and wristwatch
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver, print 1990
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'At the Czechoslovak Radio building, Vinohradská Avenue' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
At the Czechoslovak Radio building, Vinohradská Avenue
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. '(Two Czech citizens with flag)' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
(Two Czech citizens with flag)
1968
Invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. Near the Radio Headquarters. Prague, Czechoslovakia, August 1968
Gelatin silver print, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Exiles section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Exiles

In 1970 Koudelka left Czechoslovakia for Great Britain, where he lived until he moved to France in 1980, obtaining French citizenship in 1987. During his years of exile he worked tirelessly, travelling during the spring and summer in order to photograph traditional festivals and gypsy events in various countries in Western Europe, principally the UK, Ireland, Italy and Spain, then retiring to his darkroom in the winter. During this period of his life Koudelka made numerous friends on his travels and through his association with Magnum Photos. He remained totally independent, however, refusing to rent an apartment or accept commissions in order to retain control of his artistic output and to be in complete charge of his agenda. His enigmatic photographs of these years evoke his own feelings of isolation through images of animals running free, lone figures, abandoned objects and displaced gypsies, although his work presents these feelings of solitude and distance in very broad terms.

Josef Koudelka left Czechoslovakia in 1970 and petitioned to exile to the United Kingdom. While he was in exile, he continued to work throughout Europe on those routes marked by Gypsy religious festivals and folklore that are held annually. The alienation that he felt for not belonging to a nation is reflected in his Exiles work that shows symbols of isolation (lost animals, lonely figures, scattered objects and displaced Gypsies) which is the core of the Koudelka vital experience. Unclear nationality refers to the legal status that appears in the author’s travel documents each time he returned to the United Kingdom, his home base during the first decade of exile, since he did not have a Czechoslovakian passport and could not prove his birthplace.

The subjects in the series Exiles are not limited to a specific group or period, and while they are based on Koudelka’s own everyday experiences during his stateless period, they are more metaphysical than physical. Here autobiography and reportage maintain a relationship of productive tension.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France' 1976

 

Josef Koudelka
Still Life (Newspaper), France
1976
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Parc de Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France' 1987

 

Josef Koudelka
Parc de Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine, France
1987
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Czechoslovakia' 1968

 

Josef Koudelka
Czechoslovakia
1968
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Ireland' 1972

 

Josef Koudelka
Ireland
1972
Gelatin silver, early print
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition 'Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality' at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

Installation view of the Panoramas section of the exhibition Josef Koudelka: Uncertain Nationality at Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid

 

 

Panoramas

Since 1986 Koudelka has been taking photographs with panoramic cameras. His first project, commissioned by the Mission Photographique Transmanche, depicted the landscape of northern France affected by the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Since then he has used the broad panoramic format to depict places that have been mined, swept away or marked by the scars of industrialisation, devastated by wars and altered by time. The artist’s most recent panoramic photographs show important remains of past civilisations discovered on archaeological sites in twenty countries, particularly those bordering the Mediterranean.

Since 1986, Koudelka was using a panoramic camera. He uses this expanded format to show territories devastated by conflicts or altered with the passage of time. These images are the core of his impressive foldout publications such as Black Triangle or Chaos that shows scenery on the edge of ruins.

In 2007 Koudelka was invited along with eleven other photographers to take part in a project to explore the complex situation in Israel and Palestine. Despite his initial doubts, he accepted on the condition that he should be allowed to work as he wished and that he could focus on the wall in the West Bank and the area surrounding it on both sides. Having “grown up in Czechoslovakia, behind a wall”, Koudelka immediately pinpointed this barrier, with its physical, environmental and metaphorical connotations, as the subject that most interested him. This extensive system of concrete walls and barbed-wire fences allowed him to take full advantage of the broad panoramic format that he had been using since the 1980s, while the subject also gave him the opportunity to focus on the region’s landscape.

More recently, Josef Koudelka used this format to document the border of the West Bank and the territories that surround it such as the Negev desert or the Golan Heights. This work, Wall, urges the spectator to see the desolation of vast scenery dominated by walls, barbed-wire fences, access roads and borders. In the exhibition, there is a selection of copies from this work together with the book published in 2014. The panoramics are impressive objects that are between 1.2 and 1.8 m long. In these panoramics we perceive a scenery created by the man that tells his story, as well as the transformations that he has suffered due to human pillage, meaning: through his photographs we see man as creator and destroyer of the world.

Between 1991 and 2015, Josef Koudelka visited twenty countries bordering the Mediterranean, stopping at over two hundred Greek and Roman archaeological sites to create his series Archaeology. This was an unprecedented exploration which has not yet been completed – Koudelka keeps visiting archaeological sites in Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and other Mediterranean countries – searching not for the documents of the sites, but for the most perfect images of their existence.

 

Josef Koudelka. 'France (Nord Pas-de-Calais)' From the series 'Chaos', 1989

 

Josef Koudelka
France (Nord Pas-de-Calais)
From the series Chaos, 1989
Inkjet, print 2013
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Lebanon (Beirut)' From the series 'Chaos', 1991

 

Josef Koudelka
Lebanon (Beirut)
From the series Chaos, 1991
Gelatin silver, print 1999
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Jordan (Amman)' from the series 'Archaeology', 2012

 

Josef Koudelka
Jordan (Amman)
from the series Archaeology, 2012
Inkjet print, 2013
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

Josef Koudelka. 'Israel-Palestine (Al 'Eizariya [Bethany])' From the series 'Wall', 2010

 

Josef Koudelka
Israel-Palestine (Al ‘Eizariya [Bethany])
From the series Wall, 2010
Inkjet, print 2014
© Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid, Spain
T: +34 915 81 61 00

Opening hours:
Sunday 11.00 am – 7.00 pm
Monday 2.00 – 8.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm

Fundación MAPFRE website

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15
Oct
15

Text / exhibition: ‘David Bowie is’ at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 16th July – 1st November 2015

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces

 

 

This text was written for a special LGBTQI themed edition of the peer reviewed journal Fashion, Style and Popular Culture. At short notice, the co-editor asked me to write, and I quote, “a queer focussed review of the Bowie exhibition at ACMI.” When I delivered the piece below, it was rejected as not being academic enough. Apparently they wanted a deconstruction of the exhibition, its layout, construction, themes, lighting, and good and bad points. No mention of LGBTQI issues mind you. What the kind of review they wanted has to do with a LGBTQI themed issue, I have absolutely no idea. If they had known anything about my writing, they would have known they would not get academic speak, but something a little more interesting. Their loss, our gain.

The text focuses on Bowie’s impact on me at the time, as a gay man. Bowie is tight. Singing my all time favourite track of his, Young Americans, Bowie is a vocalist like no other. What a voice. Team that with charisma, soul, style, and all the moves … hands on hips, guitar slung backwards, padded shoulders to die for, cheekbones that you could cut with a knife and a presence that is just luminous. No wonder I loved him as an adolescent, he was my Hero. As someone commented on the YouTube live performance of the song (below), “ain’t there 1 goddam song that can make me breakdown + cry*”

This is a flawed but mesmerising exhibition. Allow three to fours hours at least. If you are a Bowie fan it’s a 100% must see; and if you are an aficionado of contemporary culture, you will be amazed at the sources Bowie draws from to create his art, his personas. It did no harm, either, that Bowie had access to some of the most creative designers in the world for his costumes and sets, but he was the inventive force. What a man, what an artist, not just a man who feel to earth, but a man who changed the world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to ACMI for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the text Reflections on David: In a galaxy all of his own (kb pdf)

 

 

Bowie performing on Dick Cavett Show (4 of December 1974)

 

 

Reflections on David: In a galaxy all of his own

.
The year was 1975. In London, six years after that seminal event of early gay liberation, the Stonewall Riots, six years after the landing on the moon, and six years after the release of David Bowie’s single, Space Oddity, I came out as a gay man age 17. At the time I felt a bit of a space oddity myself, troubled by my hidden identity and the double life I was leading. My first act of rebellion was to walk into a newsagent at Notting Hill Gate underground station, pick up a copy of Gay Times, fling the money at the store attendant and run from the place as red as a beetroot. I was so embarrassed.

Things quickly changed. I had been listening to Bowie’s music since my early days in boarding school – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane – and now, after outing myself, I rocked up to the Royal College of Music with silver hair, wearing the most outrageous satin pink and white bomber jacket, with rings on every finger. I walked down St. Albans high street on a Saturday morning through the market in fake white fur coat and eye shadow. It’s only now, forty years later, that I realise I was channelling my inner Bowie.

This was the era of Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in England, where we had to gather in people’s lounge rooms to meet other gay men, or once a month at a disco in country Hertfordshire. Or we went to the Pan Club in Luton where drag queens peered imperiously down at us through a grill before they allowed us through the door. The best thing was going to Scandals or Adams night clubs in London, where we danced on illuminated glass dance floors (like in Saturday Night Fever) and wore our army uniforms. We could be whoever we wanted to be. And this was all influenced by the multiple persona of Bowie.

Like an intelligent bower bird, Bowie constructed his different personae through bricolage, building them from cultural signifiers such as German Expressionism, Marlene Dietrich, Sonia Delaunay, Metropolis, Hollywood, Japanese film, JG Ballard and Clockwork Orange, to name just a few. My gay friends and I did much the same. Like Bowie, for us it wasn’t so much about sexuality but about androgyny and the public play of gender (although the two are obviously interlinked). We adored David, a self-educated lad from a poor working class family, initially a Mod, who created his own universe of creatures and characters. Glam yes, but so much more than just putting on a costume like Kiss, David lived and breathed his worlds and we, his fans, believed in him. Not so much gender bender as cultural gender blender.

Critical to this time in my life was the period that followed Ziggy: Young Americans and the Thin White Duke. I got heavily into soul music, going to a basement nightclub behind Bang on Tottenham Court Road, where they played reggae, Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra… and David Bowie. I used to pretend to be one of the back up singers on the song Young Americans: “Young American, young American, she wants the young American.” Bowie is tight. Singing my all time favourite track of his, Young Americans, Bowie is a vocalist like no other. What a voice. Team that with charisma, soul, style, and all the moves … hands on hips, guitar slung backwards, padded shoulders to die for, cheekbones that you could cut with a knife and a presence that is just luminous. No wonder I loved him as an adolescent, he was my Hero. As someone commented on the YouTube live performance of the song, “ain’t there 1 goddam song that can make me breakdown + cry*”. From talking to other gay men, I know that the Young Americans album was also critical for them – all cinched waist, high cheekbones, eye shadow, padded shoulders, flaming hair and soul music.

Australian disc jockey Stephen Allkins observed the same phenomena in Sydney. In a recent interview with me he commented, “My first introduction to the world of David Bowie was in 1975 when I was a 14 year old gay boy hanging out with my gay cousin, coming out unknowingly together. Young Americans was so damn funky and classy and totally different to anything that was happening in the white music world at the time. I couldn’t quite get my head around the way Bowie had gone from Ziggy and Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and funk in one swoop, but I loved it. It’s hard to put into words how, as everyone else was glamming up, Bowie starting wearing suits and playing with the hottest funk band on the planet. No one else at that time moved or evolved with such speed and ease and he made me believe every look and note. He didn’t copy or just follow a trend to get noticed, he created and influenced several generations of people with his music and visual ideas. I say ideas because what he created visually was more than mere fashion, it became art. Looking back on all he’s done now, all that he did was art – musically, visually and sensually.”

Which leads me on to David Bowie is, an exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne. This is a fascinating but flawed exploration of the life of one of the world’s great artists. To see his early life, influences, and upbringing, and to have access to his personal archives – especially the wonderful sketches and storyboards showing his creative process – is invaluable. One of the strongest elements of the performance is how the exhibition links his art to the many cultural signifiers he used to construct it: from collage to construction. The costumes are magnificent including the additional Australian content, like the Pierrot costume from Ashes to Ashes. To see artefacts such as the original handwritten stanzas of Ziggy Stardust and Fame is as close as many of us will get to the source of greatness.

Much less successful was the thematic layout of the exhibition. Sections on film stars, 1930s, and Berlin cabaret (to name but a few), in non-chronological order, made it difficult to comprehend the development of each character and their place in the flow of time and space. While this assemblage of ideas might mimic how Bowie actually constructed his characters, quickly moving from one to another, and then reviving the same character many years later (for example, Space Oddity‘s Major Tom of 1969 and then creating a sequel in Ashes to Ashes in 1980), the imitative representation, or mimesis, of Bowie’s process in the layout of the exhibition simply did not work. Knowing how important Young Americans was to my own gay history, I searched for about 15 minutes with a guide from the exhibition looking for references to Young Americans and the influence of soul music on Bowie. We eventually found just two Thin White Duke suits tucked away right at the end of the show. In the bowels of the dark, subterranean bunker that is ACMI too many artefacts were crammed into too small a location. The artefacts, the ideas and the art have little room to breathe.

Having said that, this is still a mesmerising exhibition. Allow three to fours hours at least. If you are a Bowie fan it’s a 100% must see; and if you are an aficionado of contemporary culture, you will be amazed at the sources Bowie draws from to create his art, his personas. It did no harm, either, that Bowie had access to some of the most creative designers in the world for his costumes and sets, but he was the inventive force. What a man, what an artist, not just a man who feel to earth, but a man who changed the world. He was REAL, his personae were REAL, his art was REAL. He was an astronaut of inner space and when he looked down the barrel of the lens he spoke to young rebels in an authentic voice. He was our hero and no one else’s. As the singer Sylvester would later say: “You make me feel mighty real.” Chimerical, pansexual David, we love you!

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan
October 2015

Word count: 1,390

 

Roy Ainsworth. 'David Bowie in The Kon-rads' 1963

 

Roy Ainsworth
Publicity photograph for The Kon-rads
1963
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

David or ‘Davie’ Jones, as he was then known, became heavily involved in London’s burgeoning music scene at a young age. Before leaving school at the age of 16, he had already joined the band The Kon-rads, playing saxophone and singing vocals. Demonstrating the experimental energy that has driven his solo career, Bowie spent the 1960s trying out different musical, artistic and sartorial styles and performing with several different bands. In 1965 he changed his stage name to David Bowie. The exhibition features several objects from Bowie’s early career including sketches of set, costume and poster designs created for his first bands and footage of early performances.

 

Freddie Burretti (designer) 'Quilted two‐piece suit' 1972

 

Freddie Burretti (designer)
Quilted two‐piece suit
1972
Designed by Freddie Burretti for the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

On 6 July 1972 David Bowie performed Starman, the first single from his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, on BBC One’s Top of the Pops. This pivotal performance was crucial in making Bowie a music star and is acclaimed as a watershed moment which changed rock music and youth culture forever. Appearing on national television with flame-orange hair, make-up, multi-coloured clothing and red patent boots, Ziggy’s otherworldly look and sexual ambiguity created a seismic shift in pop culture. The exhibition features the original suit and boots created by Freddie Burretti and designed in collaboration with Bowie, who took inspiration from the costumes worn by the ‘droogs’ street gang in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1971).

 

Ziggy Stardust | David Bowie

 

Kansai Yamamoto. 'Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Masayoshi Sukita (photographer)
Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour
1973
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive

 

 

Bowie first saw the work of Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto at the exhibition Kansai in London in 1971. He could not afford the original designs so copied the look instead, recruiting friends such as Natasha Korniloff and Freddie Burretti to create cheaper versions of Yamamoto’s signature bodysuits and platform boots. After the success of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie approached Yamamoto and commissioned a set of even more flamboyant stage costumes for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973. These outfits, inspired by the style of Japanese samurai and kabuki actors, are outrageous, sculptural and eye-catching. The exhibition features several Kansai Yamamoto costumes including the black and white striped bodysuit and a white cloak with Japanese kanji lettering spelling out ‘David Bowie’. A flamboyant suit from Yamamoto’s 1971 exhibition which he gifted to the V&A at the time is also on display.

 

'Red platform boots for the 1973 'Aladdin Sane' tour' 1973

 

Red platform boots for the 1973 ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
1973
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer) 'Metallic bodysuit' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Metallic bodysuit
1973
Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Brian Duffy. 'Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane' 1973

 

Brian Duffy
Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane
1973
© Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

 

 

“The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) today launched the critically acclaimed exhibition celebrating one of the most influential artists in music, film and video, fashion and performance. David Bowie is comes to ACMI from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for a strictly limited season from 16 July 2015 as part of the Victorian Government’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.

Seen by over 1 million people worldwide at sell-out shows in London, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Paris, and Berlin, David Bowie is was conceived by the prestigious V&A in London, where it premiered in March 2013 before quickly becoming V&A’s fastest selling show. This once-in-a-lifetime experience, now in its only Australasian season, is set to take Melbourne by storm.

Drawing upon unprecedented access to objects from the David Bowie Archive, the exhibition charts the extraordinary career of the boy from London who became an iconic artist and cultural innovator. David Bowie is features over 50 legendary costumes, original stage set designs, handwritten lyric sheets, album artwork, rare film, video and photographs, and interviews with key collaborators. Special displays explore the artistic chameleon’s continuing influences as a musician, stage performer, writer and actor.

ACMI Director and CEO, Katrina Sedgwick, says the groundbreaking exhibition is testament to Bowie’s profound and everlasting impact as a true pioneer in music, fashion and culture. “We are thrilled to be hosting the Australian incarnation of David Bowie is… It is an exhibition that not only illuminates the extraordinary breadth of Bowie’s creative genius and his enormous impact over the decades – but it is also a beautifully curated and staged experience that will delight the many thousands of people who will see it in the coming weeks and months.”

The V&A’s curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, from the Museum’s Department of Theatre and Performance, selected more than 300 objects and films for the show. Of the exhibition they said; “We are absolutely delighted to see David Bowie is travel to ACMI. Bowie himself has a long-standing relationship with Australia, including creating the music videos for Let’s Dance and China Girl there. We hope that the exhibition meets the expectations of his extensive Australian fan base.”

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps musical greatness. The creative aspiration of the young David Robert Jones are showcased by early photographs and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The Delta Lemons in the 1960s. Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey granted him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist. His cinematic influences abound with his elaborate storyboards and set design for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974) inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927).

Excerpts and props from Bowie’s on-screen performance in films including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986), Basquiat (1996) and The Prestige (2006) show how Bowie has continually explored different notions of character and drawn together the numerous cultural influences that feed into his work. On display is the original multi-coloured suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972. An interactive audio-visual display presents some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995). Immersive, large-scale projections show recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973).

Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film are explored throughout the exhibition. On display are more than 50 stage costumes including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973), and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997). An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy.

More personal items such as never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics are also featured in the exhibition as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas. ACMI is the exclusive Australasian venue for a strictly limited season of David Bowie is. The ACMI season includes a curated program of talks and special events, late night programs, film screenings and live performances.”

Press release from ACMI

 

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Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Freddie Burretti (1972)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat designed in collaboration with David Bowie for the Earthling album cover

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

David Bowie and Freddie Burretti (designer)
Bodysuit with graphic print (replica)
‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour and album cover
1972

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Kansai Yamamoto striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
Photographer: Mark Gambino

 

 

Exhibition overview

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), it shows how he was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology and youth culture in Britain during the aftermath of the Second World War. Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name ‘David Bowie’ in 1965 and went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his future career. On display are early photographs and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The Delta Lemons in the 1960s.

This opening section concludes with a focus on Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom, who would be revisited by Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie’s breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.

The exhibition moves on to examine Bowie’s creative processes from song writing, recording and producing to his collaborations on costume designs, stage sets and album artwork. Showing how Bowie works within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section reveals the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theatre and avant-garde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki performance. This section traces the influence of these movements on Bowie’s own work, including the evolution of the lavishly produced Diamond Dogs tour (1974), the design of which was inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The tour combined exuberant choreography and a colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theatre to new heights. On display are previously unseen storyboards for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show.

In addition, this section chronicles Bowie’s innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalised stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation; Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy’s daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signaling a challenge of social conventions and inspiring people to shape their own identities. On display is the original multi-coloured suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, as well as outfits designed for stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. Costumes from The 1980 Floor Show (1973), album cover sleeves for The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971), alongside fan material, highlight Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.

Excerpts from Bowie’s on-screen performances in films including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986), Basquiat (1996) and The Prestige (2006) show how Bowie has continually explored different notions of character and drawn together the numerous cultural influences that feed into his work. Footage and photography of recording sessions for Outside (1995) and ‘Hours…’ (1999) as well as handwritten lyrics and word collages inspired by William Burroughs’ ‘cut up’ method of writing that have never previously been publicly displayed, reveal Bowie’s working processes from writing to recording.

This expansive retrospective also celebrates David Bowie as a pioneering performer concentrating on key performances throughout his career. An interactive audio-visual display presents some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995). Immersive, large-scale projections show recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973).

An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the stylish Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy. Finally, David Bowie is features a display of striking performance and fashion photography taken by photographers including Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands. These professional portraits are juxtaposed with a collage of visual projections illustrating Bowie’s immense creative influence and ubiquitous presence in music, fashion and contemporary visual and virtual culture.

 

Freddie Burretti (designer) 'Ice-blue suit' 1972

 

Freddie Burretti (designer)
Ice-blue suit
1972
Designed for the ‘Life on Mars?’ video
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Music video by David Bowie performing Life On Mars? Taken from the album Heroes

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer) 'Asymmetric knitted bodysuit' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Asymmetric knitted bodysuit
1973
Designed for the ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Masayoshi Sukita. 'David Bowie' 1973

 

Masayoshi Sukita
David Bowie
1973
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive

 

Photograph by Terry O'Neill with colour by David Bowie. 'David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974' 1974

 

Photograph by Terry O’Neill with colour by David Bowie
David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974
1974
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Terry O'Neill. 'Promotional photograph of David Bowie for 'Diamond Dogs'' 1974

 

Terry O’Neill
Promotional photograph of David Bowie for ‘Diamond Dogs’
1974
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

David Bowie – BBC Live – Diamond Dogs & John, I’m Only Dancing (January 1975)

 

David Bowie. 'Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth' 1975-6

 

David Bowie
Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth
1975-6
Film stills by David James
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive, Film stills
© STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd., Image
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

'Cut up lyrics for 'Blackout' from "Heroes"' 1977

 

Cut up lyrics for ‘Blackout’ from “Heroes”
1977
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

'Print after a self‐portrait by David Bowie' 1978

 

Print after a self‐portrait by David Bowie
1978
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Brian Duffy. 'David Bowie during the filming of the 'Ashes to Ashes' video' 1980

 

Brian Duffy
David Bowie during the filming of the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video
1980
© Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

 

'Original storyboards by David Bowie for the 'Ashes to Ashes' video' 1980

 

Original storyboards by David Bowie for the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video
1980
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes

 

 

Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

Opening hours:
Open daily, 10am – 5pm (Closed Christmas Day)

ACMI website

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04
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Victorian London in Photographs 1839 to 1901’ at the London Metropolitan Archives

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 29th October 2015

 

This is a fascinating exhibition about the history of London portrayed through Victorian era photographs.

The best photographs in the posting are by John Thomson. The composition of these images is exemplary with their eloquent use of light and low depth of field. The seemingly nonchalant but obviously staged positioning of the figures is coupled with superb rendition of light in photographs such as Old Furniture, London Nomades and Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster (all 1877, below).

The details are intriguing, such as shooting contre-jour or into the light in Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster with one of the soldiers and the two street lads in the distance staring directly at the camera. This seems to be a technique of Thomson’s, for there is always one person in his intimate group photographs staring straight at the camera, which in this era is unusual in itself. The women on the steps of the Romany caravan stares straight at the camera, one of the two children framed in the doorway behind slightly blurred, telling us the length of the exposure.

Then we have the actual characters themselves. With his tall hat and what seems to be scars around his mouth, the man centre stage in The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles’s (1877, below) reminds me of that nasty character Bill Sikes out of Charles Dicken’s immortal Oliver Twist (1837-39). And the poverty stricken from the bottom of the barrel… the destitute women and baby in The “Crawlers” – Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant (1877, below). “The abject misery into which they are plunged is not always self sought and merited; but is, as often, the result of unfortunate circumstances and accident.” It must have been so tough in that era to survive every day in London. See Matthew Beaumont. Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015.

Marcus

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

 

 

Henry Flather. 'Building the Metropolitan Railway' 1862

 

Henry Flather
Building the Metropolitan Railway
1862
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph by Henry Flather shows workers at Baker Street as they construct London’s first Tube line.

 

Philip Henry Delamotte. 'Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great' 1854

 

Philip Henry Delamotte
Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great, The Crystal Palace
1854
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

Philip Henry Delamotte was commissioned to record the disassembly of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1852, and its reconstruction and expansion at Sydenham, a project finished in 1854. This image, entitled Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great, is part of an incredible set of photographs which record a large scale project in fascinating detail.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel' 1897

 

Anonymous photographer
Opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel
1897
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This image shows the opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel. The tunnel was finally opened by the then Prince of Wales (Edward VII) in 1897, having been originally proposed in the 1880’s. It was constructed using a ‘tunnel shield’ to create the tunnel and remove debris. A major engineering project of the period, the tunnel was created to improve commerce and trade in the East End by providing a Thames crossing for a mixture of foot, cycle, horse-drawn and vehicular traffic.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'St Paul's Cathedral' c. 1855

 

Anonymous photographer
St Paul’s Cathedral
c. 1855
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph was taken from Southwark Bridge by an anonymous photographer. The foreground shows London’s lost wharf buildings, including Iron Wharf and Bull Wharf.

 

George Washington Wilson and Charles Wilson (photographers) Marion & Co (publishers) 'Piccadilly, London' 1890

 

George Washington Wilson and Charles Wilson (photographers)
Marion & Co
(publishers)
Piccadilly, London
1890
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

The name derives from ‘picadil’, a fashionable stiff collar of the early seventeenth century. The Aberdeen photographers George Washington Wilson and his son Charles specialised in high quality topographical views. This image is believed to be the work of the Wilsons, many of which were published by the firm of Marion & Co. The distinctive viewpoint is several feet above the carriageway. The photographers and their large format camera were driven round London in a covered wagon hired from Pickfords removals firm. This method allowed them to take candid photographs of streets and people.

 

 

Life in Victorian London Exposed

The arrival of photography in London in 1839 would change the way people saw their city, and each other, forever. Quite suddenly it was possible to see life captured ‘in the flesh’, rather than as an artist’s sketch or painting. The new medium was embraced as a means of recording the progress of grand engineering projects and revealing the shocking poverty that haunted the capital’s poorer districts.

The collections at London Metropolitan Archives contain an extraordinary range of photographs from Queen Victoria’s reign, recording the city and its people in stunning detail. Whether in carefully posed studio portraits or images of people gathered in the street, it seems that almost everyone wanted to be recorded on camera. This exhibition delves into these collections to present some of most striking images of the era; from the first known photograph of London to the opening of Blackwall Tunnel at the end of the century, taking in the Crystal Palace, the first Tube line and the harsh realities of life on the city’s streets. This free exhibition runs from Tuesday 5th May to Thursday 8th October at London Metropolitan Archives.

Images on display will include photographs from these astonishing Victorian collections:

Street Life in London

The industrial and social developments of the nineteenth century and their effect on the city and by extension the poor in Britain were subjects of interest and detailed study in the Victorian period. Street Life in London by Adolphe Smith and John Thomson was an early use of photography as a medium to expose the lives of London’s poor and dispossessed in the late 1870’s. [More images from the book can be found on the LSE Digital Library website]

Preserving the Disappearing City

In March 1875 a letter appeared in The Times calling attention to the immanent demolitions affecting The Oxford Arms, a lovely but ramshackle seventeenth century coaching inn near to the Old Bailey. A response came a few days later, in the same column, announcing that a photographic record would be made. The group of historians and photographers responsible for this initiative called themselves Society for Photographing Relics of Old London. Between 1875 and 1886 they published 120 beautifully composed photographs of buildings. These images of a City swept away by the new Victorian world provide a surprising and beautiful record of a long forgotten London.

The Crystal Palace

Constructed for The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, the Crystal Palace remains an enduring and enticing ‘lost’ icon of Victorian London. The building was re-erected in Sydenham in 1852 and photographer Philip Henry Delamotte was engaged to record the full process, creating 160 images which begin with the first girder going into the ground and end with Victoria and Albert’s appearance at the opening ceremony. The many fabulous highlights include Roman and Egyptian courts, a cast of the Sphinx, the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Park and an incredible recreation of the Colossi of Aboo Simbel.

 

H. L. Lawrence. 'Portrait of a woman' Nd

 

H. L. Lawrence
Portrait of a woman
Nd
Cabinet card
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

Replacing the smaller carte de visite in the 1870’s, cabinet cards were a popular way to share and collect images of friends and acquaintances.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of a boy, The Ragged School' c. 1860

 

Anonymous photographer
Portrait of a boy, The Ragged School
c. 1860
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph is taken from a case book of the Ragged School Union which provides biographical information and images of a group of boys who were prepared for emigration to Canada.

 

John Thomson (publisher). 'Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant' 1877

 

John Thomson
The “Crawlers” – Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Some of these crawlers are not, however, so devoid of energy as we might at first be led to infer. A few days’ good lodging and good food might operate a marvellous transformation. The abject misery into which they are plunged is not always self sought and merited; but is, as often, the result of unfortunate circumstances and accident. The crawler, for instance, whose portrait is now before the reader, is the widow of a tailor who died some ten years ago. She had been living with her son-in-law, a marble stone-polisher by trade, who is now in difficulties through ill-health. It appears, however, that, at best, “he never cared much for his work,” and innumerable quarrels ensued between him, his wife, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, a youth of fifteen. At last, after many years of wrangling, the mother, finding that her presence aggravated her daughter’s troubles, left this uncomfortable home, and with her young son descended penniless into the street. From that day she fell lower and lower, and now takes her seat among the crawlers of the district.”

 

“The industrial and social developments of the 19th century and their effect on the city and by extension the poor in Britain were subjects of interest and detailed study in the Victorian period. Street Life in London by Adolphe Smith and John Thomson is a good example of this and in particular, its use of early photographic processes.

Adolphe Smith was an experienced journalist connected to social reform movements. While John Thomson was a photographer who had spent considerable time in the Far East, especially China, and central to his work was the photography of streets and individuals at work. Produced in 12 monthly issues, starting in February 1877, each issue had three stories accompanied by a photograph. Most of the text was written by Smith, although two are attributed to Thomson – London Nomades and Street Floods in Lambeth. The images were staged as tableau rather than being spontaneous street scenes and the relatively new process – Woodburytype – was used to reproduce the images consistently in large numbers for the publication.”

Text from the London Metropolitan Archives Facebook page

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of actor William Terriss' late 19th century

 

Anonymous photographer
Theatre magazine (producer)
Portrait of actor William Terriss
late 19th century
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This is a typical example of the portraits of performers produced by the Theatre magazine between 1878 and 1897. Known for heroic roles such as Robin Hood, Terriss was murdered outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1897.

 

Henry Dixon. 'The Oxford Arms Coaching Inn' 1875

 

Henry Dixon
The Oxford Arms Coaching Inn
1875
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

Shot by Henry Dixon as part of the ‘Society for Photographing Relics of Old London’ project to record heritage on the verge of destruction as Victorian London re-invented itself. Amongst the subjects recorded were the galleried coaching inns which had existed in some form since the time of Chaucer and which were swept away by the coming of the railways. Most ended their days as slum dwellings before being demolished. Only one, the George, now survives.

 

John Thomson. 'Old Furniture' 1877

 

John Thomson
Old Furniture
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“At the corner of Church Lane, Holborn, there was a second-hand furniture dealer, whose business was a cross between that of a shop and a street stall. The dealer was never satisfied unless the weather allowed him to disgorge nearly the whole of his stock into the middle of the street, a method which alone secured the approval and custom of his neighbours. As a matter of fact, the inhabitants of Church Lane were nearly all what I may term “street folks” – living, buying, selling, transacting all their business in the open street. It was a celebrated resort for tramps and costers of every description, men and women who hawk during the day and evening the flowers, fruits and vegetables they buy in the morning at Covent Garden. When, however, the question of improving this district was first broached, Church Lane stood condemned as an unwholesome over-crowded, throughfare, and the houses on either side are now almost entirely destroyed, and the inhabitants have been compelled to migrate to other more distant and less convenient parts of the metropolis.”

 

John Thomson. 'Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster' 1877

 

John Thomson
Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Recruiting in London is almost exclusively circumscribed to the district stretching between the St. George’s Barracks, Trafalgar Square, and Westminster Abbey. Throughout London it is known that all information concerning service in the army can be obtained in this quarter, and intending recruits troop down to this neighbourhood in shoals, converging, as the culminating point of their peregrinations, towards the celebrated public-house at the corner of King Street and Bridge Street. It is under the inappropriate and pacific sign-board of the ‘Mitre and Dove’ that veteran men of war meet and cajole young aspirants to military honours. Here may be seen every day representatives of our picked regiments. […]

“The most prominent figure in the accompanying photograph, standing with his back to the Abbey, and nearest to the kerb stone, is that of Sergeant Ison, who is always looked upon with more than ordinary curiosity as the representative of the 6th Dragoon Guards, or Carbineers – a regiment which of late has been chiefly distinguished for having included in its ranks no less a person than Sir Roger Tichborne himself! To the Carbineer’s right we have the representatives of two heavy regiments, Sergeant Titswell, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, and Sergeant Badcock, of the 2nd Dragoons, or Scots Greys; the latter is leaning against the corner of the public-house. Close to him may be recognized the features of Sergeant Bilton, of the Royal Engineers, while Sergeant Minett, of the 14th Hussars, turns his head towards Sergeant McGilney, of the 6th Dragoons, or Enniskillen, whose stalwart frame occupies the foreground. This group would not, however, have been complete without giving a glimpse at Mr. Cox, the policeman, to whose discretion and pacific interference may be attributed the order which is generally preserved even under the most trying circumstances at the ‘Mitre and Dove.'”

 

John Thomson. 'The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles's' 1877

 

John Thomson
The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles’s
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

A street market in the notorious St Giles in the Fields area, noted as one of the worst slums in Britain during the Victorian period, 1877. This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in ‘Street Life in London’, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Awaiting the moment when the costermonger is able to procure a barrow of his own he must pay eighteen pence per week for the cost of hiring. Then he must beware of the police, who have a knack of confiscating these barrows, on the pretext that they obstruct the thoroughfare and of placing them in what is termed the Green Yard, where no less than a shilling per day is charged for the room the barrow is supposed to occupy. At the same time, its owner will probably be fined from half a crown to ten shillings so that altogether it is much safer to secure a good place in a crowded street market. In this respect, Joseph Carney, the costermonger, whose portrait is before the reader, has been most fortunate. He stands regularly in the street market that stretches between Seven Dials and what is called Five Dials, making his pitch by a well-known newsagent’s, whose shop serves as a landmark. Like the majority of his class, he does not always sell fish, but only when the wind is propitious and it can be bought cheaply. On the day when the photograph was taken, he had succeeded in buying a barrel of five hundred fresh herrings for twenty five shillings. Out of these he selected about two hundred of the largest fish, which he sold at a penny each, while he disposed of the smaller herrings at a halfpenny.

“Trade was brisk at that moment, though the fish is sometimes much cheaper. Indeed, I have seen fresh herrings sold at five a penny; and this is all the more fortunate, as notwithstanding the small cost, they are, with the exception of good salmon, about the most nutritious fish in the market.”

 

John Thomson. 'London Nomades' 1877

 

John Thomson
London Nomades
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“The class of Nomades with which I propose to deal makes some show of industry. These people attend fairs, markets, and hawk cheap ornaments or useful wares from door to door. At certain seasons this class ‘works’ regular wards, or sections of the city and suburbs. At other seasons its members migrate to the provinces, to engage in harvesting, hop-picking, or to attend fairs, where they figure as owners of ‘Puff and Darts’, ‘Spin ’em rounds’, and other games. […]

“The accompanying photograph, taken on a piece of vacant land at Battersea, represents a friendly group gathered around the caravan of William Hampton, a man who enjoys the reputation among his fellows, of being ‘a fair-spoken, honest gentleman’. Nor has subsequent intercourse with the gentleman in question led me to suppose that his character has been unduly overrated. […]

“He honestly owned his restless love of a roving life, and his inability to settle in any fixed spot. He also held that the progress of education was one of the most dangerous symptoms of the times, and spoke in a tone of deep regret of the manner in which decent children were forced now-a-days to go to school. ‘Edication, sir! Why what do I want with edication? Edication to them what has it makes them wusser. They knows tricks what don’t b’long to the nat’ral gent. That’s my ‘pinion. They knows a sight too much, they do! No offence, sir. There’s good gents and kind ‘arted scholards, no doubt. But when a man is bad, and God knows most of us aint wery good, it makes him wuss. Any chaps of my acquaintance what knows how to write and count proper aint much to be trusted at a bargain.’ […]

“The dealer in hawkers’ wares in Kent Street, tells me that when in the country the wanderers ‘live wonderful hard, almost starve, unless food comes cheap. Their women carrying about baskets of cheap and tempting things, get along of the servants at gentry’s houses, and come in for wonderful scraps. But most of them, when they get flush of money, have a regular go, and drink for weeks; then after that they are all for saving… They have suffered severely lately from colds, small pox, and other diseases, but in spite of bad times, they still continue buying cheap, selling dear, and gambling fiercely.’ […]

“Declining an invitation to ‘come and see them at dominoes in a public over the way’, I hastened to note down as fast as possible the information received word for word in the original language in which it was delivered, believing that this unvarnished story would at least be more characteristic and true to life.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'Trafalgar Square' c. 1867

 

Unknown photographer
Trafalgar Square
c. 1867
© City of London : London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

The first proposal for a square on the site of the former King’s Mews was drawn up by John Nash. It was part of King George IV’s extravagant vision for the west end curtailed by his death in 1830. Trafalgar Square was completed between 1840 and 1845 by Sir Charles Barry. There had been proposals to erect a monument to Horatio Nelson since his death at Trafalgar in 1805 but it was 1838 before a committee was formed to raise funds and consider proposals. William Railton’s design was chosen from dozens of entrants and his impressive Devonshire granite column with its statue of Nelson by E. H. Baily was erected in 1839-43. It was already attracting photographers before the scaffolding was dismantled. The four lions at the base of the column were originally to be in stone rather than bronze but it was 1857 before a commission was given to the artist Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873). This photograph shows two of the lions when newly positioned some ten years later.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Construction of Tower Bridge' 1892

 

Unknown photographer
Construction of Tower Bridge
1892
© City of London : London Metropolitan Archives

 

London Bridge was the only crossing over the river Thames in London until the eighteenth century, after which a number of bridges and tunnels were constructed. Perhaps the most famous of these is Tower Bridge. There were a number of designs for different types of bridges but the City of London Corporation decided on a bascule (French for see-saw) design. This remarkable anonymous photograph was taken two years before the bridge opened.

 

 

London Metropolitan Archives
40 Northampton Road,
London EC1R 0HB
Tel: 0207 332 3820

Opening hours:
Monday 9.30am – 4.45pm (closed bank holidays)
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9.30am – 7.30pm*
Friday closed

*Please note: on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays all computers, microfilm readers, photocopiers and printers will be turned off by 7.25pm and original documents must be returned to staff by 7.25pm so that the building can close at 7.30pm.

London Metropolitan Archives website

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16
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘When we share more than ever’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 19th June – 20th September 2015

A project for the Triennial of Photography Hamburg 2015

Curators: Dr des. Esther Ruelfs and Teresa Gruber

Invited artists: Laia Abril, Ai Weiwei, Regula Bochsler, Natalie Bookchin, Heman Chong, Aurélien Froment, David Horvitz, Trevor Paglen, Doug Rickard, Taryn Simon, Jens Sundheim, Penelope Umbrico | From the Photography and New Media Collection of the MKG: Fratelli Alinari, Hanns-Jörg Anders, Nobuyoshi Araki, Francis Bedford, Félix Bonfils, Adolphe Braun, Natascha A. Brunswick, Atelier d’Ora / Benda, Minya Diez-Dührkoop, Rudolf Dührkoop, Harold E. Edgerton, Tsuneo Enari, Andreas Feininger, Lotte Genzsch, Johann Hamann, Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister, Thomas Höpker, Lotte Jacobi, Gertrude Käsebier, Kaku Kurita, Atelier Manassé, Hansi Müller-Schorp, Eardweard Muybridge, Arnold Newman, Terry Richardson, Max Scheler, Hildi Schmidt-Heins, Hiromi Tsuchida, Carl Strüwe, Léon Vidal, and more

 

 

A fascinating exhibition about the processes of archiving and transferring images and the associated interaction, combining historic and contemporary images to illuminate various chapters: “Sharing a Portrait,” “Sharing a Group,” “Sharing Memories,” “Sharing a Product,” “Sharing Lust,” “Sharing Evidence,” “Sharing Knowledge,” “Sharing the World,” “Sharing a Collection,” and “Sharing Photographs”.

“The chapters juxtapose historical and contemporary works in order to illuminate how the use and function of photographic images have changed and which aspects have remained the same despite the digital revolution. The exhibition begins with photography used in the service of people: to record a life, create a sense of community, or share memories. The following chapters deal with applied contexts, such as advertising photographs, erotic photography, photojournalism, scientific photography, and travel photos.”

“Conceived in archive format, the exhibition explores the archive’s possible forms and uses. The featured works from the collection were selected from the MKG’s holdings of some 75,000 photographs to show how different photographic practices have been assimilated over the years. The springboard for our reflections was the question of how the digital era of picture sharing has changed the function of a museum collection of photography, seeing as today digital image collections are just a mouse click away on online archives such as Google Images.”

But it could have been so much more, especially with 75,000 photographs to choose from. Looking at the plan for the exhibition and viewing the checklist would suggest that the small amount of work in each of the ten chapters leaves little room for any of the themes to be investigated in depth. Any one of these chapters would have made an excellent exhibition in its own right. What an opportunity missed for a series of major exhibitions that examined each important theme.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Text in the posting is from the booklet When We Share More Than Ever:

Editors: Sabine Schulze, Esther Ruelfs, Teresa Gruber
Text editors: Esther Ruelfs, Teresa Gruber
Authors: Teresa Gruber (TG), Beate Pittnauer (BP), Esther Ruelfs (ER), Sven Schumacher (SS), Annika Sellmann (AS), Taryn Simon, Johan Simonsen (JS), Emma Stenger (ES) Grafikdesign Graphic design exhibition and booklet: Studio Mahr
Translation German-English: Jennifer Taylor

 

 

Sharing memories

Creating mementoes is one of the central functions of photography. In David Horvitz’s case, it is the mobile phone camera that gives two people a feeling of togetherness. The bond is created through an action. On two different continents, both people stand at the seaside at the same time, recording and sending images of the sunrise and sunset with their iPhones.

Photography connects us with the subject or the person depicted – even beyond the bounds of the time. The photo is an imprint; it transmits to us something that was once really there. Like a fingerprint or a footprint, it remains closely related to what it captures. This special quality of photography predestined it from the start to be a medium of memory. The daguerreotype of a little girl presented in the exhibition is framed by a braid of the child’s hair. The idea of carrying part of a loved one with us and thus generating a special feeling of closeness is reflected in the practice of making friendship or mourning jewelry out of hair – and in the way we treasure portrait photographs as keepsakes of those we love.

Emotional relationships can also be expressed by a certain photographic motif or by the body language of the sitters. The arms of the sisters in the photo by Gertrude Käsebier are closely intertwined, as are the hands of the couple in the daguerreotype by Carl Ferdinand Stelzner. The relationship between photographer and subject may also be the focus of the work. Natascha Brunswick as well as Rudolf Dührkoop and Käsebier use the camera, for example, to capture and hold onto intimate moments with their own families. ER

 

David Horvitz. 'The Distance of a Day' 2013

 

David Horvitz
The Distance of a Day
2013
Digital video on two iPhones, 12 min.
Courtesy Chert, Berlin
© David Horvitz

 

 

David Horvitz

With artworks in the form of books, photographs, installations, and actions, David Horvitz often explores varying conceptions of time and space, as well as interpersonal relationships and the dissemination of images via the internet. His work The Distance of a Day brings together all of these topics. With reference to the linguistic origin of the word “journey,” which defined the distance a traveler could cover in a day, Horvitz looks for two places located at opposite ends of the globe that are exactly one day apart. While his mother watches the sun set on a beach in his native California, the artist observes the sun rising over a Maldives island. Both document their simultaneous impressions with an iPhone, a device that today serves both for temporal and spatial orientation and which, as a communication medium, enables us to overcome the limits of space and time. Because it is a conceptual part of the performance, the iPhone is also used in the exhibition as a playback device. TG

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner. 'Unknown couple' 1830-1880

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner
Unknown couple
1830-1880
Framed daguerrotype
15.2 x 17.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner. 'Unknown couple' 1830-1880 (detail)

 

Carl Ferdinand Stelzner
Unknown couple (detail)
1830-1880
Framed daguerrotype
15.2 x 17.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Sharing a portrait

“Maxime carried portraits of actresses in every pocket. He even had one in his cigarette case. From time to time he cleared them all out and moved the ladies into an album (…) which already contained the portraits of Renee’s friends.”

This scene from Émile Zola’s The Kill testifies to the fad that started in the 1860s for mass-produced photographic calling cards, or “cartes de visite.” Contemporaries spoke of “cartomania” – long before anyone could imagine an artist like Ai Weiwei, who has posted 7,142 photographs on his Instagram profile since 2014. With the “invasion of the new calling card pictures,” photo-graphy left the private sphere of the middle-class family and fostered new social relationships. The demand for images of celebrities from politics, art, and literature grew as well.

“Galleries of contemporaries” and artist portraits like those produced by Lotte Jacobi and Arnold Newman responded to an avid interest in the physical and physiognomic appearance of well-known people. The photographers tried to capture not only the person’s likeness but also his character, whether inclose-ups that zero in on individual facial expressions or in staged portraits in which the surroundings give clues to the sitter’s personality.

What has changed since then is above all how we handle such images. The photographs that Minya Diez-Dührkoop took of the upper-class daughter Renate Scholz trace her growth and development in pleasingly composed studio portraits. In today’s Internet communities and on smartphones by contrast we encounter the portrait as a profile picture. This signature image, changeable at any time, may be a selfie or selected from a steadily growing pool of snapshots shared among friends. ER

 

Ai Weiwei. '16 June, 2014'

 

Ai Weiwei
16 June, 2014
Photo posted on Instagram, (https://instagram.com/aiww/)
Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio
© Ai Weiwei

 

Ai Weiwei 'March 9, 2015'

 

Ai Weiwei
March 9, 2015
Photo posted on Instagram, (https://instagram.com/aiww/)
Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio
© Ai Weiwei

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop. 'Portraits of Renate Scholz' 1920-1939

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop
Portraits of Renate Scholz
1920-1939
Silver gelatine prints, various formats
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop. 'Portraits of Renate Scholz' 1920-1939 (detail)

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop
Portrait of Renate Scholz
1920-1939
Silver gelatine prints, various formats
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop. 'Portraits of Renate Scholz' 1920-1939 (detail)

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop
Portrait of Renate Scholz
1920-1939
Silver gelatine prints, various formats
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Ai Weiwei. 'January 30, 2015'

 

Ai Weiwei
January 30, 2015
Photo posted on Instagram, (https://instagram.com/aiww/)
Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio
© Ai Weiwei

 

 

Sharing a group

The photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) notes in his serialized book The Pencil of Nature, published in six parts between 1844 and 1846: “Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than single figures would require, since the camera depicts them all at once, however numerous they may be.” For groups such as the middle-class family, colleagues in a profession or company, or leisure-time clubs – all of which took on renewed importance in the 19th century – the new technology provided an affordable way to preserve their feeling of community for posterity. The professional photographer was able to stage for the camera a picture designed to convey the self-image of the group. The Hamburg-based photographer Johann Hamann and the Studio Scholz were active around the turn of the 19th century, when the demand for professional group and family portraits reached a high point.

The classic commissioned group portrait still persists today in the form of class photos. These document each individual’s curriculum vitae while serving both as nostalgic souvenirs and as a basis for building a relationship network that can be maintained via websites such as stayfriends.com. On the Internet and especially on Facebook, new types of groups are being generated whose members share specific interests or traits. The artist Natalie Bookchin delves into the phenomenon of the virtual group in her work Mass Ornament, for which she collected amateur videos from YouTube showing people dancing alone and arranged them into an ensemble. She thus examines the possibilities offered by the World Wide Web to bring together crowds of people who are in reality each alone in front of their own screen. TG

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009 (detail)

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament (detail)
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

Natalie Bookchin. 'Mass Ornament' 2009 (detail)

 

Natalie Bookchin
Mass Ornament (detail)
2009
Video, 7 Min.
Video at: http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html
Courtesy of the artist © Natalie Bookchin

 

 

Natalie Bookchin

Natalie Bookchin borrowed the title for her video from the prominent sociologist and film theorist Siegfried Kracauer. In his 1927 essay The Mass Ornament, Kracauer described the American dance troupe known as the Tiller Girls as the embodiment of capitalist production conditions after the First World War. He equated the automatonlike movements of the anonymous, interchangeable dancers with the assembly-line work in the factories. Bookchin’s work can likewise be understood as social commentary. She collects video clips of people dancing in front of webcams set up in their homes, which are posted on YouTube for all the world to see. The montage of such clips into a group choreography with almost synchronous dance moves paints a picture of individuals who share favorite songs, idols, and yearnings.

Instead of using today’s pop songs as soundtrack, Bookchin revives the movie music from Busby Berkeley’s Gold Diggers and Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (both from 1935). She thus generates an alienating effect while also reflecting on both the positive and negative connotations of movement in a group and of mass media. TG

 

Johann Hamann. 'The Women’s Department Forms an Artful Pyramid' 1903

 

Johann Hamann
The Women’s Department Forms an Artful Pyramid
1903
Albumen print
8.6 x 11.4 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Johann Hamann

The Hamburg photographer Johann Hamann opened his first daylight studio in 1889 in Hamburg’s Gängeviertel but is better known for his work outside the studio. By using a magnesium powder flash, he succeeded in portraying individuals and especially groups in a natural environment even in poor lighting conditions. Butchers, cobblers, and gymnasts posed with their props and wearing their specific “uniforms” before his camera. From 1899 to 1906, Hamann produced a complete set of photos of ship captains working for the Hamburg-based shipping line HAPAG, on behalf of which he also photographed the emigration halls on Veddel Island in the Elbe River. His group photographs provide insights into the working life and club activities in the Hanseatic city around the turn of the century, and are often characterized by situational humor. TG

 

 

Sharing knowledge

A droplet whirling off a rotating oil can, the impact of a falling drop of milk, or a bullet in flight are phenomena whose speed makes them imperceptible to the naked eye. With the help of a telescope or microscope, we can look into the distance and observe things that are too far away, or enlarge things that are too small to see, and with the aid of photography these things can then be captured in images that can be shared.

The objects of artist Trevor Paglen’s interest are military spy satellites, which he locates based on information on amateur websites and then captures using elaborate special cameras. His work draws on the aesthetics of scientific photography, inquiring into our faith in the objectivity of such images – a credibility that runs through the entire history of photography.

With the positivist mood pervading the 19th century, photography was associated much more closely with science than with art. Surveying and recording were central functions assigned to the new medium. The photographic work of Eadweard J. Muybrigde, Harold E. Edgerton, and Impulsphysik GmbH Hamburg-Rissen is associated with this applied context.

Already during the 19th century, however, the confidence invested in photography as a medium for capturing reality was being challenged by the exploration of borderline areas verging on the irrational and by metaphysical speculations. Myth and science overlapped here, especially when it came to recording invisible phenomena such as ultraviolet light, heat rays, and X-rays. These trends are evident in Carl Strüwe’s photomicrographs, which in his proclaimed “New Order” combine the aesthetics of scientific photography with esoteric notions of the archetype. ER

 

Doug Rickard. '95zLs' 2012

 

Doug Rickard
95zLs
2012
From the series N.A., 2011-2014
Archival Pigment Print
Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Doug Rickard

 

Unknown photographer. 'Full Moon' 1850-1900

 

Unknown photographer
Griffith & Griffith (publisher)
Full Moon
1850-1900
Albumen print on cardboard
8.8 x 17.8 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Unknown photographer. 'Full Moon' 1850-1900 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Griffith & Griffith (publisher)
Full Moon (detail)
1850-1900
Albumen print on cardboard
8.8 x 17.8 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

One year after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, a photographic image was already made of the moon. The first stereographic photographs were presented by the chemist and amateur astronomer Warren de la Rue in 1858. Stereo images, which enjoyed great popularity in the latter half of the 19th century, consist of two photographs, which display a scene from slightly different perspectives, thus imitating the viewing angle of the human eyes and generating a spatial impression of the subject when viewed through a stereoscope.

Because the moon is too far from the earth to be able to photograph it from two different angles at once, a stereo photograph is only possible by taking into account optical libration, or the apparent “oscillation” of the moon. Due to the earth’s elliptical orbit, the half of the moon visible from earth is not always exactly the same. For a stereo photograph like the one the publisher Griffith & Griffith offered – certainly not as a scientific document – the shots that were combined were taken at an interval of several months.TG

 

Trevor Paglen. 'MISTY 2/DECOY near Altair (Decoy Stealth Satellite; USA 144db)' 2010

 

Trevor Paglen
MISTY 2/DECOY near Altair (Decoy Stealth Satellite; USA 144db)
2010
C-Print
101.6 x 127 cm
Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

“More pictures are being taken and digitized than ever before, innumerable snapshots pile up on hard disks and in clouds, are shared via the Internet and commented on. But portals such as Facebook and Flickr as well as professional databases only supersede older forms of archiving, transferring material, and interaction. For the Triennial of Photography Hamburg 2015, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is examining these new collections and forms of usage. The MKG sees the future-oriented motto of the Triennial, “The Day Will Come,” as an opportunity to reflect on the sharing of images, under the title: When We Share More Than Ever. The exhibition shows how today’s rampant exchange of digital photos links in with the history of the analogue medium. In fact, photography has been a means of capturing, storing, and communicating visual impressions ever since its early days in the 19th century. In ten chapters, selected contexts are examined in which collecting and sharing images has played – and still plays – a role. More than 200 historical works from the MKG’s collection are set in counterpoint against twelve contemporary artistic projects. The present-day artists reflect in their works on the ways digital photography is used as well as on the mechanisms and implications of new media. They focus on the Internet as a new picture archive, with collections of images such as Apple Maps or photos on eBay, and on images such as those exchanged via mobile phones. Important aspects are the digital image collection as a research resource and inspiration for contemporary art, and the relevance of the classic analogue collection in relation to today’s often-invoked image overkill.

The exhibition is conceived as a kind of archive in order to explore the archive’s possible forms and uses. The featured works from the collection were selected from the MKG’s holdings of some 75,000 photographs to show how different photographic practices have been assimilated over the years. Rather than being a collection of only art photography, the MKG archive reflects the everyday uses of the medium. It gathers together various photographic applications, whether the scientific photos taken at an institute for impulse physics, the fashion spread created by Terry Richardson for Sisley, or Max Scheler’s report on Liverpool’s club scene for Stern magazine.

The chapters “Sharing a Portrait,” “Sharing a Group,” “Sharing Memories,” “Sharing a Product,” “Sharing Lust,” “Sharing Evidence,” “Sharing Knowledge,” “Sharing the World,” “Sharing a Collection,” and “Sharing Photographs” juxtapose historical and contemporary works in order to illuminate how the use and function of photographic images have changed and which aspects have remained the same despite the digital revolution. The exhibition begins with photography used in the service of people: to record a life, create a sense of community, or share memories. The following chapters deal with applied contexts, such as advertising photographs, erotic photography, photojournalism, scientific photography, and travel photos.

We share memories: While in the old days a manageable number of photographs found their way into albums, which were then taken out and perused on special family occasions, on today’s sharing platforms thousands of images are constantly being shared and “liked” around the clock. The works on view include pictures of Renate Scholz, whose affluent parents had the studio photographer Minya Diez-Dührkoop record each stage of her growth and development for fifteen years in annual portrait sessions. Studio portraits have been replaced today by snapshots, while the family photo album is complemented by the Internet portal Instagram. Ai Weiwei began in 2006 to post his diary photos in a text/image blog, which was taken offline by the Chinese authorities in 2009. Since 2014 he has been publishing daily picture messages on Instagram which are readable across language barriers.

We share the world: Starting in 1860, the Fratelli Alinari produced photographs that brought the art treasures of Italy to living rooms everywhere. As an armchair traveler, the 19th-century burgher could feel like a conqueror of far-off lands. Today, the same kind of cultural appropriation takes place instead on computer screens. Regula Bochsler and Jens Sundheim explore landscapes and cities via webcams and Apple Maps. And instead of traveling like a photojournalist to real-world hotbeds of social ferment, Doug Rickard journeys to the dark reaches of the YouTube universe. He shows us ostensibly private scenes not meant for public consumption – drug abuse, racial and sexual violence. The low-resolution, heavily pixelated stills excerpted from mobile phone videos suggest authenticity and turn us into silent witnesses and voyeurs.

We share knowledge: From its earliest days, photography has been indispensable for storing and sharing the results of scientific research and military expeditions. Trevor Paglen uses powerful precision astronomical telescopes to make “invisible” things visible, for example the American “Misty 2” stealth satellites used for reconnaissance, or a dummy put in place by the military intelligence service. In order to locate these satellites, Paglen actively participates in various networks set up by amateur satellite observers.

We share image collections: Before the invention of Google Image Search, analogue photo collections provided an opportunity to compare images. Museum archive cabinets can be seen as a precursor to today’s digital image databases. The Internet is increasingly taking on the function of a picture library, opening up new possibilities for classification and research. Artists like Taryn Simon investigate image collections to ascertain their ordering systems and their implications. Who controls what images we get to see and which ones vanish in the depths of the archives? Part of this chapter is the project “Sharing Blogs“.

The exhibition is dedicated to the broader question of how the function of a museum collection of photography has changed in the digital era, when vast digital image archives are only a mouse click away thanks to Google Image Search. The exhibits are arranged on a horizontal axis, in keeping with modern notions of how a database is set up. Everything is thus presented on a “neutral” plane, and the visitors are tasked with placing the images in context with the help of a “search aid” in the form of a booklet.”

Press release from Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Sharing the World

Google Earth and the 3D Flyover feature of the Apple Maps software make the world accessible to all of us through images. The idea of a comprehensive photographic world archive that would be available to the general public began to spread soon after the invention of photography. In parallel with the expansion of the railway network in the mid-19th century, photographic societies were founded in France and the United Kingdom with plans to make, archive, and preserve pictures of cities, cultural heritage, and landscapes. Governments organized expeditions to photograph their dominions, and photographers and companies began specializing in producing picturesque scenes echoing the tradition of painted landscapes and engraved vedutes, developing a successful business model with international sales channels. Views of popular tourist attractions – for example famous buildings in Italy – were offered as an early form of souvenir. At the same time, such pictures allowed the Biedermeier burgher back home in his living room to become an armchair traveler without taking on the exertions and expense of visiting far-off places – just as the Internet surfer is able to do today.

Artistic works such as those by Regula Bochsler confront representations of reality on the World Wide Web that are ostensibly democratic and yet are in fact controlled by corporations. Bochsler has culled subjective images from the liquefied, constantly updated parallel universe and given them a lasting material form. TG

 

Jens Sundheim From the series '100100 Views of Mount Fuji' 2008-2010

 

Jens Sundheim
From the series 100100 Views of Mount Fuji
2008-2010
Digital C-type prints
100 x 130 cm
© Jens Sundheim

 

Regula Bochsler. 'Downtown # 1' 2013

 

Regula Bochsler
Downtown # 1
2013
From the series The Rendering Eye, 2013
Inkjet print
80 x 100 cm
© Regula Bochsler
Images based on Apple Maps

 

 

Regula Bochsler

For her project The Rendering Eye, the historian Regula Bochsler has been traveling through a virtual parallel universe since 2013 using the 3D flyover feature in Apple Maps. Unlike Google Streetview, Apple Maps gives the viewer a volumetric impression of cities and landscapes. In order to create these views, the mapped zones are scanned from an airplane using several cameras aligned at different angles. With the help of vector graphics as well as actual maps and satellite images, the software then automatically merges the countless overlapping photographs into a realistic view. The program was developed for the purpose of steering military rockets by the Swedish defense company Saab, which sold it to Apple in 2011 for around 240 million dollars. Under the pressure of competition from Google, Apple released its app before some major development bugs could be fixed. In her surreal-looking, carefully composed views of American cities, Bochsler preserves for posterity the image errors ( so-called “glitches”) in the program, which are gradually being corrected and disappearing, as well as the still-visible areas where photographs taken at different times are patched together. The result is an apocalyptic vision of a world of technoid artificiality and absolute control. TG

 

Unknown photographer. 'Wissower Klinken, Photochrom Zürich' 1890

 

Unknown photographer
Wissower Klinken, Photochrom Zürich
1890
Photochromic print
16.5 x 22.2 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Trevor Paglen. 'Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center #2 Groom Lake, NV/ Distance ~ 26 Miles' 2008

 

Trevor Paglen
Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center #2 Groom Lake, NV/ Distance ~ 26 Miles
2008
C-Print
101.6 x 127 cm
Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

Sharing evidence

Catastrophes and events are documented today by eyewitnesses at close range and communicated over the Internet. Mobile phone cameras even enable images to be transmitted directly: people involved in the incidents can share their perspective with a wide audience, the poor quality of the pixelated images often being perceived as a guarantee of their authenticity and credibility. The artist Doug Rickard also relies on this effect when he provides inside glimpses of marginal areas of American society on YouTube, assembling them to create picture stories that can be compared to classic photo reportage. By the early 1900s, photographic images were already established as evidence and information material that could be printed in newspapers. During World War II, the suitability of the medium as a means for objective documentation was then fundamentally called into question as photos were exploited for political propaganda purposes. Nevertheless, photojournalism experienced a heyday in the 1960s and 70s, before serious competition in the form of television posed a threat to print media and many magazines discontinued publication. Photographers such as Thomas Hoepker and Max Scheler supplied personal picture essays to Stern magazine in Hamburg that gave readers a look at different countries and told of the destinies of various individuals. With today’s citizen journalism, the evidential value of the photographic image seems to have once again regained its importance. TG

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders. 'Riots in Northern Ireland' 1969

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders
Riots in Northern Ireland
1969
Silver gelatine print
25.8 x 38.8 cm
© Hanns-Jörg Anders – Red. STERN

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders. 'We want peace, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' May 1969

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders
We want peace, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
May 1969
Silver gelatine print
25.8 x 38.8 cm
© Hanns-Jörg Anders – Red. STERN

 

 

Sharing lust

In 1859, Charles Baudelaire derided the “thousands of greedy eyes” indulging in the shameless enjoyment of “obscene” photographs. He was referring in particular to stereoscopic images, which convey a realistic corporeal impression of piquant subjects when seen through a special optical device. In parallel with the spread of the photographic medium, the sales of erotic and pornographic pictures grew into a lucrative business. European production centers for such material were located around 1900 in the cities of Paris, Vienna, and Budapest. Illegal pictures could be had from vendors operating near train stations or through discreet mail-order. Two daguerreotypes in the Photography and New Media Collection bear witness to the early days of this pictorial tradition.

Starting in the 1910s, the new vogue for magazines and pin-ups coming out of the USA served to democratize and popularize erotic imagery. Studio Manassé in Vienna, for example, supplied numerous magazines with such photographs. While erotic imagery was increasingly co-opted by advertising, a new industry arose: the pornographic film, which increasingly competed with print media. Today, the spread of pornographic imagery on the Internet has taken on immense proportions, while digital technology has led to a boom in the sharing of amateur photos and films, as well as their commercialization. Laia Abril shows by-products of this online marketing of private sex in her video work Tediousphilia. TG

 

William H. Rau. 'An Intruder' 1897

 

William H. Rau
An Intruder
1897
Albumen print on cardboard
8.8 x 17.8 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Nobuyoshi Araki From the series 'Kimbaku' 1983

 

Nobuyoshi Araki
From the series Kimbaku
1983
Silver gelatine print
26 x 33.4 cm
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

Fragmented through artfully knotted ropes, the nude bodies of young women in Nobuyoshi Araki’s photographs are turned into objects of voyeuristic curiosity. Critical opinions in the literature are divided, with some emphasizing the pictorial character of the images and others accusing the photographer of a sexist point of view catering to the exotic tastes of the European public. Araki’s photographs have thus set off a discussion on where to draw the line between pornography and art.

Araki’s photos were exhibited in the West for the first time in 1992. The show featured views of Tokyo, still lifes, and female nudes that dealt with love, loss, and sexuality – all intertwined into a very personal narration. From that point forward, the perception of Araki’s images became very selective, and at the latest with Tokyo Lucky Hole (1997) the obscene aspect came to the fore. In the 1980s, the photographer explored the escalating sex and entertainment boom in Tokyo. Araki himself insists on varied applications for his photographs. He displays them in a wide range of exhibition venues, from soup kitchens to museums, and publishes his images in art books as well as in porn magazines, S&M periodicals, and popular calendars. The images in the collection of the MKG were acquired in the mid-1980s, at a time when Araki was still unknown in Europe. The choices made already anticipate the selective perception of his work in the 1990s. ER

 

Laia Abril. 'Tediousphilia' 2014

 

Laia Abril
Tediousphilia
2014
Video, c. 4 min.
© Laia Abril/INSTITUTE

 

 

Laia Abril

Laia Abril’s series Tediousphilia shows young couples who set up a webcam in their bedroom in order to earn money by giving customers an intimate peek at their ostensibly private sex lives. This online peepshow concept is a phenomenon of the commercialization of private sex on the internet. Abril is interested in the moments before the sexual act, taking a look behind the scenes, as it were, where the couples succumb to the lethargy of waiting while the camera is already rolling. The title is thus composed of the word tedious and the Greek term philia, indicating a preference or inclination, referring to the embracing of boredom before the impending performance. These “pre-intimate” moments seem almost more real and personal than what we imagine the pseudoprivate performances must be like. The images of the waiting lovers illuminate the voyeuristic relationship between audience and performer, between private and public, focusing, as in other works by Abril, on themes such as sexuality, intimacy, and the media representation of human bodies. ES

 

 

Sharing products

Since the 1920s, consumer products have been advertised primarily through photographic images. Fueled by the rapidly developing field of advertising and by advances in printing techniques, advertising photos began to proliferate in newspapers and magazines and on billboards. Advertisers increasingly relied on the suggestive power of the photographic images rather than on text or drawings as before.

Johannes Grubenbecher had his students take pictures of objects of daily use as a way of preparing them for work in the advertising field. The arrangement of object shots demonstrates the form and materiality of the items and reflect the image language of the 1920s, which focused on functionality and faithfulness to materials. By contrast, the commercial photographs by Hildi Schmidt-Heins and Arthur Benda from the 1930s stylize the objects as consumer fetishes. Benda has draped a silk nightgown as though it had just slipped off a woman’s shoulders and onto the floor in order to whet the observer’s desires, which he should then transfer onto the goods.

Today, nothing has changed in the fetishization of merchandise through professional product photography. New, however, are the non-professional snapshots on consumer-to-consumer platforms such as eBay. Household items that are no longer needed are photographed by the owners themselves for sale to others. Penelope Umbrico uses this imagery in her work. She has collected photographs of tube televisions – an outdated techique – and presents them as a comment on the changes in our use of images brought about by inexpensive and ubiquitous digital photography, making pictures easy to upload to the appropriate platforms. ER

 

Hildi Schmidt-Heins. 'Gartmann Schokolade' 1937

 

Hildi Schmidt-Heins
Gartmann Schokolade
1937
Tempera on silver gelatine print
17.3 x 23 cm
© Archiv Schmidt Heins

 

 

The sandwich boards created by Hildi Schmidt-Heins for the Stuhr Coffee Roastery and the Gartmann Chocolate Factory appeared as still images on Hamburg’s movie screens in 1937. She used open packaging so that potential customers could see the food product inside and also recognize it easily in the store. Her few commissions for advertisements came from her photography lecturer Johannes Grubenbecher during her studies at the Hansa Academy for Visual Arts. Schmidt-Heins focused in her studies on typeface design, attending the class conducted by the graphic designer Hugo Meier-Thur. Her silver gelatin prints with tempera lettering present a method of visual communication that fuses typography with product photography. Later, the photographer dedicated herself to the documentation of workspaces, taking pictures of workshops. AS

 

Penelope Umbrico. 'Signals Still' 2011

 

Penelope Umbrico
Signals Still
2011
C-Prints
23 x 30 cm
Courtesy Mark Moore Gallery, USA, and XPO Gallery, Paris
© Penelope Umbrico

 

 

In her tableau Signals Still, Penelope Umbrico presents a collection of six sets of eleven photographs each of illuminated, imageless screens. The product photos were taken by the owners of the devices in order to provide proof of their working order to potential buyers. Umbrico scours consumer-to-consumer marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist for such images and groups them into individual types. By transforming the intangible pixel images into C-prints on Kodak paper, Umbrico then distances them from their original function as digital communication media. The artist appropriates the found material and imposes on it a shift in meaning. Minimal deviations in the angle of the shot and variations in the forms and colors of the monochromatic snowy light surfaces combine to form a collective template. The promise of modern technology – progress and mass availability – is juxtaposed with its somber flipside of obsolescence and superfluity. Umbrico’s use of contemporary digital media unites the tired flicker of the television screens into a chorus singing the requiem of an era. AS

 

 

Sharing collections

“According to which criteria should a collection be organized? Perhaps by individual lectures, by masters, chronologically, topographically, or by material?” asked the curator Wilhelm Weimar in 1917. His query was prompted by the production of a slide cabinet holding 7,600 slides. His solution was to furnish each image carrier with a numerical code, so that they could be cross-referenced with a card catalogue in which the objects were filed under various keywords. His search aid was an early form of database.

Like this slide collection, the photographic reproductions created by Léon Vidal and Adolphe Braun to record and disseminate art treasures can also be understood as precursors to digital databases. Today, search engines such as Google Images are available to anyone with an Internet connection, presenting with their infinite number of comparison pictures a plethora of new possibilities for ordering and research, and supplanting the function of the photographic collection as image database. Photographs are no longer bound as physical media to a single storage location but have become immaterial and thus available anytime, anywhere. Images that once slumbered in archives, organized by strict criteria for ease of retrieval, become in Aurélien Froment’s film weightless ephemera. A magician moves them through space with a sweep of his hand, just as the modern user swipes his pictures across the digital interface.

Taryn Simon is also interested in such image ordering systems and how the images in them are accessed. By entering identical search terms in various national image search engines in her Image Atlas and then examining the standardized search results, she inquires into what the new archives remember and what they forget. ER

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG
Nd
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG Nd

 

Glass diapositives for slide lectures from the archive of the MKG (detail)
Nd
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

In the late 1890s, photography’s triumphant advance also had an impact on the everyday work of the MKG. Under Justus Brinckmann, the museum’s first director, the objects in the collection were regularly recorded for the files with the help of a camera. The self-taught photographer Wilhelm Weimar, initially employed by the museum as a draftsman, thus managed in the course of fifteen years to produce some 1,700 shots of pieces in the collection. The prints were mounted on cardboard and filed according to functional groups. In case of theft or suspected counterfeiting, the object photos also served Brinckmann as evidence hat could be sent by post within a network of museums.

Art history as an academic discipline worked from the outset with photographic reproductions, which made it possible to compare far-flung works and to bring them together in a shared historical context. In his essay Le Musée imaginaire, author André Malraux even makes the claim that the history of art has been tantamount since the 19th century to the “history of the photographable.” The over 7,000 slides the museum has preserved of its own holdings and other objects, together with architectural images and exhibition photographs, were assembled for use in slide presentations, compellingly illustrating this idea of a museum without walls which can be rearranged at will according to prevailing contemporary thinking. AS

 

Aurélien Froment. 'Théâtre de poche' 2007

 

Aurélien Froment
Théâtre de poche
2007
with Stéphane Corréas
HD video with sound, c. 12 min.
Courtesy of the artist and Marcelle Alix, Paris
© Aurélien Mole

 

 

Aurélien Froment

The work Théâtre de Poche (2007) showcases in a seemingly infinite black space a contemporary form of magic with images. A magician in a trance-like state pushes photographs across an invisible surface like an iPhone user swiping through information on his touch screen. His sweeping motions pass through thin air, like those of a player at a Wii station. Froment thus connects these gestures, obviously influenced by contemporary electronic user interfaces, with a centuriesold magic technique. The images, consisting of family photos, playing cards, found film stills, reproductions of non-European art, and arts and crafts items, are rearranged in new juxtapositions. They are resorted, lined up, and rethought, recalling Aby Warburg’s panels for his Mnemosyne Atlas. The artist is interested here in the discrepancy between sign and meaning, exploring how it shifts when the images are placed in new contexts and new, weightless archives. ER

 

 

Sharing photographs

At the end of the 19th century, more and more amateur and professional photographers came together in the major cities of Europe to form groups. They shared the conviction that photography should be seen as an independent artistic medium, and they sought a forum in which to present their works. Magazines such as Camera Work, which was distributed internationally, as well as joint exhibitions, encouraged lively exchanges about stylistic developments and technical procedures while serving to expand and strengthen the network. The Pictorialists saw their pictures not as a mere medium for communicating information or as illustrations: they instead shared the photographs themselves as pictures in their own right, with a focus on their composition and the details of their execution.

The Hofmeister brothers put their artworks into circulation as photo postcards. The artist Heman Chong picks up on this popular tradition of collecting and sharing images by reproducing his numerous photographs as cards, taking recourse to the “old” medium of the postcard to highlight the fact that photographs are today mainly immaterial images shared via the Internet.

Platforms like Instagram and Flickr define themselves as global “photo communities” with millions of users and thousands of uploads per second. Image data is archived there, groups founded, albums curated, and an interactive space created through keywording with tags and comment functions. For the exhibition When We Share More Than Ever, examples of such virtual galleries are presented with commentary on the blog http://sharingmorethanever.tumblr.com/. TG

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister
Postcards
1910s and 1920s
Silver gelatine prints
14.8 x 10.6 cm
3 Intaglio prints
14 x 8.9 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister. 'Postcards' 1910s and 1920s

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister
Postcards
1910s and 1920s
Silver gelatine prints
14.8 x 10.6 cm
3 Intaglio prints
14 x 8.9 cm
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Theodor und Oscar Hofmeister

Theodor and Oscar Hofmeister, one a merchant and the other a judicial employee, discovered their passion for photography in the 1890s. Upon viewing international photography exhibitions at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, they became acquainted with the Viennese Pictorialists and were inspired to adopt similarly picturesque imagery coupled with advanced technical implementation. Starting in 1895, they began to exhibit their work and were soon recognized internationally as specialists in the multicolor gum bichromate printing process. Some of their large-format one-off images are found in the collection of the MKG.

A good idea of the brothers’ prodigious productivity and clever marketing is however supplied by their landscape scenes, which Munich publisher Hermann A. Wiechmann reproduced using the rotogravure process. He published these scenes taken on rambles through the countryside, meant to reflect the “characteristic effect” of various parts of the country and hence the “German soul,” in over twenty “homeland books,” combining them with poems by German authors, as well as in portfolios and as “Hofmeister picture postcards.” The Hofmeister brothers themselves amassed an extensive collection of postcards of their own making – addressed in some cases to family members – as well as copies of postcards by other photographers. TG

 

Heman Chong. 'God Bless Diana' 2000-2004

 

Heman Chong
God Bless Diana
2000-2004
Installation with postcards
© Heman Chong

 

Heman Chong. 'God Bless Diana' 2000-2004 (detail)

 

Heman Chong
God Bless Diana (detail)
2000-2004
Installation with postcards
© Heman Chong

 

 

Heman Chong

In his conceptual works, the artist, writer, and curator Heman Chong often deals with social practices and different kinds of archives. The installation God Bless Diana presents 550 postcards as if in a museum shop display. The artist is alluding here to the contemporary flood of commercial and private photographs, inviting the viewer to respond and make his own selections. Chong offers viewers scenes evoking ephemeral traces and grotesque situations he has filtered out of the daily big-city jungle in Beijing, London, New York, and Singapore and captured on analogue 35mm film. In contrast to the data in an Internet image archive, the postcards are actual material objects: for one euro, as symbolic antipode to the exorbitant art market prices, the exhibition visitor can purchase his favorites among these works, take them home with him, and use them to curate his own “show” or as the bearer of a written message, thus sharing them with friends. TG

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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03
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ustExhibition dates: 17th January 2015 – 13th September 2015

Robert and Jane Burke Gallery (Gallery 335)

 

 

It’s been a really tough time writing the Art Blart recently, as my beloved Apple Pro tower that has served me so well over the years has died and gone to god. I have been making do with a small laptop, but tomorrow I pick up my new 27 inch iMac with Retina screen, to pair with my Eizo Flexscan monitor. I can’t wait!

I have so much admiration for the work of this man. The light, the sensitivity to the social documentary narrative just emanates from these images. You don’t need to say much, it’s all there in front of you. Just look at the proud profile of that old woman, Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas (1950, below), and you are instantly transported back to the slave fields and southern plantations of the 19th century. No words are necessary. The bony hands, gaunt cheeks and determined stare speak of a life hard lived.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“Gordon Parks (1912-2006), one of the most celebrated African-American photographers of all time, is the subject of a new exhibition of groundbreaking photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott (January 17 – September 13, 2015) traces Parks’ return to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas and then to other Midwestern cities, to track down and photograph each of his childhood classmates. On view in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, the exhibition’s 42 photographs were from a series originally meant to accompany a Life magazine photo essay – but for reasons unknown, the story was never published. The images depict the realities of life under segregation in 1950 – presenting a rarely seen view of everyday lives of African-American citizens in the years before the Civil Rights movement began in earnest. One of the most personal and captivating of all Parks’ projects, the images, now owned by The Gordon Parks Foundation, represent a rare and little-known group within Parks’ oeuvre. This exhibition, on view in the Robert and Jane Burke Gallery, is accompanied by a publication by Karen Haas, the MFA’s Lane Curator of Photographs, in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, which includes an introduction by Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book includes previously unpublished photographs as well as archival materials such as contact sheets and a portion of the 1927 yearbook from the segregated school Parks attended as a child.

“These personal and often touching photos offer a glimpse into the life of Gordon Parks and the prejudice that confronted African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “We’re grateful to The Gordon Parks Foundation for giving us the opportunity to display these moving works.”
Fort Scott, Kansas was an emotional touchstone for Gordon Parks and a place that he was drawn to over and over again as an adult, even though it held haunting memories of racism and discrimination. Parks was born in Fort Scott in 1912 to a poor tenant farmer family and left home as a teenager after his mother died and he found himself – the youngest of 15 children – suddenly having to make his own way in the world. By 1948, Parks was the first African-American photographer hired full time by Life magazine. One of the rare African-American photojournalists in the field, Parks was frequently given magazine assignments involving social issues that his fellow white photographers were not asked to cover. For an assignment on the impact of school segregation, Parks returned to Fort Scott to revisit early memories of his birthplace – many involving racial discrimination – and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom went to the same all-black elementary school that Parks had attended.  He was able to track down all but two members of the Plaza School Class of 1927, although only one was still living in Fort Scott at the time. As he met with fellow classmates, his story quickly shifted its focus to the Great Migration north by African Americans. Over the course of several days Parks visited with his childhood friends – by this time residing in Kansas City; Saint Louis; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Chicago – joining them in their parlors and on their front porches while they recounted their life stories to him. Organized around each of these cities and families, the exhibition features previously unpublished photographs as well as a seven-page draft of Parks’ text for the article.

“With the Back to Fort Scott story, Parks showed – really for the first time – a willingness to mine his own childhood for memories both happy and painful, something he would continue to do in a series of memoirs over the course of his long career” said Haas. “The experience also seems to have inspired him to write The Learning Tree in 1963, his best-selling novel about growing up poor and black in Kansas, that he transformed a few years later into a groundbreaking Hollywood movie – the first by an African American writer-director.”

Parks began his research in Fort Scott, where he found classmate Luella Russell. In addition to photographing Luella with her husband and 16-year-old daughter, Parks took photos of his own family and life around town – finding friends and acquaintances at the local theater, railway station and pool hall. Parks also visited the local baseball field at Othick Park, where he recorded a group of white spectators seated at one end of the bleachers watching a game, while two African-American girls in summer dresses stand at the other end, in an area loosely designated for the town’s black residents. Parks’ image of the girls at the ballpark, where black and white baseball teams sometimes competed against each other, subtly refers to the separation of the races that marked much of everyday life in Fort Scott.

Fort Scott had not changed dramatically since Parks’ youth. Parks attended the all-black Plaza School through the ninth grade  in 1927, and as he wrote in his draft for Life magazine: “Twenty-four years before I had walked proudly to the center of the stage and received a diploma. There were twelve of us (six girls and six boys) that night. Our emotions were intermingled with sadness and gaiety. None of us understood why the first years of our education were separated from those of the whites, nor did we bother to ask. The situation existed when we were born. We waded in normal at the tender age of six and swam out maladjusted… nine years later.”

After Fort Scott, Parks discovered three of his classmates in Kansas City and St. Louis – cities that were easily reached by rail and were often the first stops made by African Americans leaving smaller towns. Many left towns like Fort Scott in the hope of finding jobs and better futures for their children in these larger, more industrial cities. When Parks tracked down his classmates, he recorded their jobs and wages – the sort of detail that Life typically included in such pieces, allowing its readers to measure their own lives against a story’s subjects. In Kansas City, classmate Peter Thomason was working as a postal transportation clerk (a position, Parks noted, with a minimum salary of $3,700 a year), while in St. Louis, Parks recorded that classmate Norman Earl Collins was doing quite well, making $1.22 an hour at Union Electric of Missouri. Parks’ sympathetic images of Earl and his daughter, Doris Jean, may have been a conscious effort on Parks’ part to offset contemporary stereotypes of black families as less stable and strong than their white counterparts.

By 1950, Chicago was the de facto capital of African-American life in the US, with more black inhabitants than any other city in America – including three of Parks’ classmates. Parks discovered them residing only a mile or two apart from one another on the city’s South Side. Untitled, Chicago, Illinois (1950), depicts Parks’ classmate Fred Wells and his wife Mary in front of their apartment building in the Washington Park neighborhood. A number of the photographs in the exhibition repeat the simple compositional device seen here – featuring a classmate and his or her family, framed by the front door of their home. These images highlighted the families’ similarities to, rather than differences from Life‘s readers, who would have found such strong representations of black families at once surprising and reassuring.

In Detroit, Parks traced classmate Pauline Terry to the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. In Fort Scott, Pauline had married Bert Collins, who had run a restaurant during much of the 1930s. By 1950, they were settled in Detroit and had five children. Unlike Parks’ other classmates who had migrated north in search of opportunity, Pauline (yearbook ambition: “To be young forever; to be a Mrs.”) now had a large family and no longer worked outside the home. In the course of her conversation with Parks, she emphasized the importance of religion in their lives. Parks’ powerful portrait of the couple walking to Sunday services at the Macedonia Baptist Church, Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (1950) reinforces the seriousness of their faith.  The cigar-smoking Bert wears a sharp suit and straw boater and carries a well-worn Bible.

Once completed, Parks’ Fort Scott photo essay never appeared in Life. The reason for that remains a mystery, although the US entry into the Korean War that summer had a major impact on the content of its pages for some time. The magazine’s editors did try to resuscitate the story early in April of 1951 only to have it passed over by the news of President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur. In the end, all that survives, as far as written documentation of the Fort Scott assignment, are Parks’ project notes from his individual visits with his classmates in May and June of 1950; several telegrams sent by Life staffers regarding his friends’ whereabouts before his arrival; fact-checking when the piece was again slated to run in April 1951; and an annotated seven-page draft. Because the photos were never published, and most have never before been on view, the exhibition presents a unique opportunity to explore a body of work that is almost completely unknown to the public.

“The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to collaborate with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on this exhibition and publication highlighting a series of very personal, early works by the artist” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., the Foundation’s executive director. “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott allows us a focused look at a single Life magazine story and reveals a fascinating tale of Gordon Parks’ segregated beginnings in rural Kansas and the migration stories of his classmates, many of whom, like him, left in search of better lives for themselves and their families.””

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Columbus, Ohio' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Columbus, Ohio
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“The lives of the classmates – six girls and five boys who graduated from the segregated Plaza School in 1927, in what was then a town of 10,000 people – present a miniature snapshot of African-American aspiration and struggle in the years before Brown v. Board of Education or the civil rights movement.

Parks found Emma Jane Wells in Kansas City, Mo., where she sold clothes door-to-door to supplement her husband’s salary at a paper-bag factory. Peter Thomason lived a few blocks away, working for the post office, one of the best jobs available to black men at the time. But others from the class led much more precarious lives. Parks tracked down Mazel Morgan on the South Side of Chicago, in a transient hotel with her husband, who Parks said robbed him at gunpoint after a photo session. Morgan’s middle-school yearbook description had been ebullient (“Tee hee, tee ho, tee hi, ha hum/Jolly, good-natured, full of fun”), but in 1950 she told Parks, “I’ve felt dead so long that I don’t figure suicide is worthwhile anymore.”

The most promising of the classmates, Donald Beatty, lived in an integrated neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where he had a highly desirable job as a supervisor at a state agency and where Parks’s pictures show him – very much in the vernacular of Life magazine’s Eisenhower-era domestic scenes – happy and secure with his wife and toddler son and a brand-new Buick. But notes made by a Life fact-checker just a year later, when the magazine planned once again to run Parks’s article, recorded a tragedy, blithely and with no explanation: “Aside from the death of their son, nothing much has happened to them.”

Lorraine Madway, curator of Wichita State University’s special collections, said of the Fort Scott story: “There are those moments in an archive when you know you’ve found the gold, and this is one of them. It’s a wonderful example of micro-history. It’s not only that there is so much material written at a specific time in people’s lives, but then there are Parks’s reflections on it later.” …

Besides fact-checking notes, Parks’s own notes and a typewritten draft for what might have been his introduction to the photo spread, there is almost no other documentation surrounding the project, for which Parks shot about 30 rolls of 35-millimeter and medium-format film. And so the question of why it was not published might never be answered. In an essay for the show’s catalog, Ms. Haas speculates that it might have been doomed by its very newsworthiness, as national challenges to school segregation began gathering speed and Life waited – in the end too long – for just the right moment…

Parks carried his own psychic wounds from those years, which profoundly shaped his writing and approach to photography. But his feelings were always bittersweet. Though he lived for many years in New York City, he chose to be buried in his hometown, whose African-American population has declined even more markedly than its overall population. In a 1968 poem about his childhood, he wrote that he would miss “this Kansas land that I was leaving,” one of “wide prairies filled with green and cornstalk,” of the “winding sound of crickets rubbing dampness from wings” and “silver September rain.”

Then he added: “Yes, all this I would miss – /along with the fear, hatred and violence/We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.””

Extract from Randy Kennedy. “‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation,” on The New York Times website, December 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 29/08/2015.
Gordon Parks. 'Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 4.45 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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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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