Archive for the 'portrait' Category



01
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter: New York Reflections’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 24th October 2011 – 4th March 2012

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“I must admit that I am not a member of the ugly school. I have a great regard for certain notions of beauty even though to some it is an old fashioned idea. Some photographers think that by taking pictures of human misery, they are addressing a serious problem. I do not think that misery is more profound than happiness.”

Saul Leiter

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“Leiter’s sensibility… placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternate way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.”

Martin Harrison. Saul Leiter Early Color

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The first of two postings on the underrated, underexposed American photographer Saul Leiter. These photographs are a delightful surprise! Some, like Through Boards (1957, below) are as illuminating as any Rothko going around. His art is not of the documentary gaze but of a brief glimpse, glanz, refulgence of desire  ∞  snatched from the nonlinearity of time  ∞  cleft in(to) its fabric. What wonderfully composed reflections they are. I absolutely adore them.

The media release states, “… but where his color photography is concerned, he cannot be compared with any other photographer. In the 1940s and 1950s, Leiter was virtually the only non-commercial photographer working in color.” Galleries must beware such bombastic claims: other photographers working in colour in the 1940s-50s include Paul OuterbridgeLászló Moholy-NagyNickolas MurayJack Smith, Eliot Porter and William Eggleston to name but a few (also see the posting on the exhibition Beyond COLOR: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970).

The second posting will be from a major retrospective of his work at The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen.
Perhaps this photographer is finally getting the accolades he so rightly deserves.

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

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Saul Leiter
Taxi
1957
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Through Boards
1957
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Haircut
1956
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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“From 24 October 2011 to 4 March 2012 the JHM is presenting a retrospective exhibition of the work of the American photographer and painter Saul Leiter (born in 1923). Following a long period of obscurity, Leiter’s work has recently been rediscovered in the United States and Europe. This is the first exhibition of his work in the Netherlands.

Saul Leiter is celebrated particularly for his painterly color photographs of the street life in New York, which he produced between 1948 and 1960. Amid the hectic life of the city he captured tranquil moments of everyday beauty. He was able to transform mundane objects – a red umbrella in a snowstorm, a foot resting on a bench in the metro, or a human figure seen through the condensation on a pane of glass – into what has been described as ‘urban visual poetry’. His photographs are frequently layered, near-abstract compositions of reflections and shadows, which recall paintings by abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, with whom Leiter felt a strong affinity.

Saul Leiter is seen as belonging to the New York School of Photographers, a group of innovative artists, most of them Jewish, who achieved fame in New York in the period 1936-1963, primarily with their images of the street and their documentary photography. His black-and-white work displays a lyricism, dreaminess and surrealism that might prompt comparison with photographers such as Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein and Louis Faurer, but where his color photography is concerned, he cannot be compared with any other photographer. In the 1940s and 1950s, Leiter was virtually the only non-commercial photographer working in color.

Born in Pittsburgh, Leiter was destined to become a rabbi like his father. But his growing interest in art led him to abandon his religious studies. Instead, he went to New York and dedicated himself to painting. His friendship there with the abstract expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography, and the work of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, inspired Leiter to take up photography. His friendship with the photographer W. Eugene Smith was another inspiring influence.

The exhibition Saul Leiter: New York Reflections was prepared by the JHM in collaboration with the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York. Besides over 60 color and 40 black-and-white examples of his street photography, a small selection of fashion photographs, paintings, and painted photographs will be shown. Visitors will also be able to watch a recent documentary about Leiter by the British film maker Tomas Leach. This autumn, the publisher Steidl will be publishing the third edition of Early Color, the first book of Leiter’s photographs, compiled in 2006 by Martin Harrison of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.”

Press release from the Jewish Historical Museum website

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Saul Leiter
Foot on El
1954
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Paris
1959
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Reflection
1958
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Taxi
1956
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Walk with Soames
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Jewish Historical Museum
Nieuwe Amstelstraat
1
1011 PL Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 5 310 310

Opening hours:
daily from 11.00 – 17.00

Jewish Historical Museum website

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26
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘Harry Callahan at 100′ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates:  2nd October 2011 – 4th March 2012

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For me, the early photographs of his wife Eleanor and Eleanor with their child Barbara and the most poignant, intimate and beautiful of Callahan’s work while the later modernist Cape Cod photographs presage the spirit and aesthetics of the New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape of 1975. Mario Cutajar observes

“These pictures of strangely vacant, light haunted intersections of sky, land, and ocean are confrontations with the limits of both the ego and photography itself as the ego’s instrument. They are oriented toward death rather than life, intimating in a cold, unsentimental way passage to another world or, perhaps, the engulfing oblivion at the horizon.”

1960s work is redolent of the stronger photographs of Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand.

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

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Harry Callahan
Detroit
1943
gelatin silver print
overall (sheet, trimmed to image): 8.3 x 11 cm (3 1/4 x 4 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Harry Callahan
Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago
1953
gelatin silver print
overall (image): 19.5 x 24.45 cm (7 11/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Promised Gift of Susan and Peter MacGill
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Harry Callahan
Cape Cod
1972
gelatin silver print
overall (image): 23.7 x 23.9 cm (9 5/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Joyce and Robert Menschel
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Harry Callahan
Ansley Park, Atlanta
1992
gelatin silver print
overall (image): 15.72 x 15.72 cm (6 3/16 x 6 3/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Susan and Peter MacGill
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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“The year 2012 marks the centenary of the birth of Harry Callahan (1912-1999), whose highly experimental, visually daring, and elegant photographs made him one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century.

On view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art from October 2, 2011, through March 4, 2012, Harry Callahan at 100 explores all facets of his work in some 100 photographs, from its genesis in the early 1940s Detroit to its flowering in Chicago in the late 1940s and 1950s, and finally to its maturation in Providence and Atlanta from the 1960s through the 1990s. In 1996, the Gallery organized the exhibition Harry Callahan, which traveled to Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago, and included numerous works on loan from the artist.

“Using the rich holdings of the Gallery’s own collection of Callahan’s work, as well as a large collection of photographs on long-term loan from the artist’s widow, the exhibition will reveal the remarkable consistency of his vision and will demonstrate how his strong, inventive formal language repeatedly enriched his art,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.

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The Exhibition

Organized thematically and chronologically, Harry Callahan at 100 examines Callahan’s work in relation to the places where he lived and to his family, unveiling his unparalleled devotion to both his subjects and the medium of photography.

In his earliest photographs made in and around Detroit, Callahan explored the limits of the camera, constructing photographs of multiple exposures in both black-and-white and color. In works such as Twig in Snow (c. 1942) and Store Front and Reflections (c. 1943), he sought to capture simultaneously the simplicity and complexity of nature and the theater of urban life.

Callahan continued his aesthetic and technical experiments through photographs of his wife, Eleanor. His nudes play with dramatic contrasts of light and dark: his layered multiple exposures reveal Eleanor’s body against landscapes and frosted glass windows (Eleanor, Chicago, 1948). His photographs of his wife and their daughter, Barbara, in the lake, the city, and the woods (Eleanor and Barbara, Lake Michigan, c. 1953) exploit the spontaneity and intimacy of snapshots – yet, paradoxically, were made with a large, cumbersome 8- x 10-inch view camera.

Callahan’s twin interests in the city and the land expanded during his years in Chicago and Providence, where he created both spare and evocative photographs of the natural landscape and complex compositions of urban architecture and pedestrians. He began to document anonymous women on the streets of Chicago, first in close shots of squinting eyes, open mouths, and downcast faces seen in Chicago (1950), then in full-figure shots from a low angle that feature the women against backgrounds of skyscrapers and flagpoles, as in Chicago (1961).

In the 1970s Callahan returned to color photography, continuing to push the boundaries of the medium, seen in the well-known Providence (1977). Taken in Atlanta and during travels abroad, his late photographs emphasized vibrant colors, long shadows, and the complex humanity of urban life, seen in Morocco (1981) and Atlanta (1985).

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Harry Callahan (1912-1999)

Born in Detroit in 1912, Callahan began to photograph in 1938. Although he received no formal training in the medium, his exceptional talent was immediately recognized. In 1946 László Moholy-Nagy hired him to teach at the Institute of Design in Chicago. There and at the Rhode Island School of Design (he moved to Providence in 1961) he taught generations of younger photographers, inspiring them both with the creativity of his vision and his steadfast commitment to the medium. In a career that spanned nearly six decades, he repeatedly explored a few select themes – his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara, nature, and the urban environment. Yet each time he returned to a familiar subject, he reinvented it, endowing each photograph with both a personal and symbolic significance.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

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Harry Callahan
Eleanor, New York
1945
gelatin silver print
overall (image): 21.2 x 16.83 cm (8 3/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Harry Callahan
Eleanor, Chicago
1948
gelatin silver print
overall (image): 11.59 x 8.5 cm (4 9/16 x 3 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Joyce and Robert Menschel Fund
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Harry Callahan
Eleanor, Chicago
c. 1947
gelatin silver print
overall (sheet, trimmed to image): 11.91 x 8.6 cm (4 11/16 x 3 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Promised Gift of Susan and Peter MacGill
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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Harry Callahan
Chicago
1961
gelatin silver print overall (image): 40.6 x 27.1 cm (16 x 10 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

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National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m

National Gallery of Art website

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23
Feb
12

Review: ‘Looking at Looking’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2011 – 4th March 2012

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“The paradox is the more we seek to fix our vision of the world and to control it the less sure we are as to who we are and what our place is in the world.”

Marcus Bunyan 2011

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This is a delightful, intimate exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria that examines how looking through a camera directs and structures the way we see the world. The exhibition mines the same ground as one of my top exhibitions from last year, In camera and in public that was presented at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy.

Numerous artists use photography to examine the ways in which gender, race and sexuality have been ‘looked at’ in visual culture, including the politics of looking in relation to Indigenous cultures and identities. In I split your gaze (1997) by Brook Andrew, the artist has split the face of an Aboriginal man down the middle, and reassembled the face ear to ear. No longer can we look on the man as a whole because our gaze is split. Andrew is said to have “reclaimed” the image from colonial scientific, anthropological documentation but this presupposes some holistic whole existed a priori to white intervention. The split photograph does alter perception but to what extent it promotes a different reading, a postcolonial gaze that is understood as such by the viewer, is debatable.

Chi Peng poses more interesting gender reversals and masquerades. In Consubstantiality (2004, below) misaligned pairs of people, of androgynous face and hard to distinguish gender, are “reflected” in a pseudo mirror. Consubstantiality references the Christian principle describing the intertwined relationship of the Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) as being of one essence, one being.

“Chi Peng uses digital technologies to manipulate photographic surfaces and often uses his own body and identity as a homosexual man living in China as a means of creating new ways of looking at himself and at the construction of identity… With powdered faces and bodies, the naked ‘reflections’ press the palms of their hands together across a pane of glass. At first glance, it is as though the photographer is intruding on a private scene, a moment of self-scrutiny in a mirror. However the hands do not quite align and the gazes diverge…”1

This self-reflexivity and its relation to the Lacan’s mirror stage in the development of male and female identity – in which the mirror can be looked at and looks back in return – lends these ethereal images real beauty and presence as they explore the psychology of identity and gender reversal.

“Photographers Ashley Gilbertson and John Imming, and collaborative artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green have all used cameras to document war, and their works off three distinct views.The common link appears to be an engagement with ideas of the observer and the observed and questioning who is looking at whom, and why?”2 Attempting an apolitical view of the war in Iraq, Gilbertson was embedded with different US military outfits on numerous visits to the country between 2002-08, reliant on them for his safety. Many of his “objective” photographs deal with representations of surveillance and covert looking from ‘within the ranks’. But not from within enemy ranks. The very fact of his embedding, his lying down within a disciplinary system of control and power, to shoot from one point of view, politicises his gaze.

Brown and Green’s painterly photograph features a tightly choreographed scene, “a market within a military camp in which traders were invited to sell their wares. The scene is indicative, however, of the ‘strained atmosphere’ prevalent when different cultures interact in military situations – seemingly harmonious but concealing the ‘control that was exerted in the selection of traders’.”3 This traditional tableau vivant sees the traders become actors on a stage, their gaze directed towards the female officer at the centre of the group holding a piece of clothing which is blocked from our view. We the viewer are excluded from the circle of gazes; we become other, looking at the looking of the traders. Their gaze and our gaze are at cross-purpose; we wish to become a player on the stage but are denied access and can only observe the spectacle from a distance. Excluded, the viewer feels disempowered, the photographic mise en scène leaving me unmoved.

John Imming’s photographs use found images from the Vietnam war, the first war in which photographers had unrestricted access and were given absolute freedom to record what they saw. Vietnam was a stage for intense exploration, photographers bombarding the public with images of extreme violence. Imming rephotographs images from the television screen using a Leica camera, abstracting them into darkly hued creatures, the borders miming the shape of early television screens. “The images become abstracted and our gaze is ‘reduced’ into blurred shapes of contrasting tones … His photographs force us to slow down the memories of the somewhat ephemeral television imagery and look deeply at what is being portrayed, and how.”4 These photographs fail in that task for they are very surface photographs. The photographs do not have the structure to support such a vision nor the support of beauty to prick the consciousness of the gaze. They are ugly images because war is ugly and abstracting them in order to ask the viewer to look deeply and have an incredible insight into the condition ‘war’ and how it is portrayed simply did not work for me.

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The two standout works in the exhibition are Thomas Struth’s luminous photograph Pergamon Museum IV, Berlin (2001, below) and Bill Henson’s seminal (perhaps even ubiquitous) series Untitled 1980/82 (1980-82, see above) – these photographs seem to be everywhere at the moment, perhaps a change is as good as a rest!

Struth’s magnificent large colour photograph is an investigation into the theatre of seeing. In the photograph Struth directs his cast and choreographs the visitors, the arrangement of the spectators re-assembling the open-ended narrative of the 2nd century Telephos frieze behind. “Similarities between the poses of the audience members and the poses of the carve relief figures gradually emerge, suggesting an unconscious dialogue between the viewers and the objects they regard. The result of Struth’s directorial mode of working is the creation of a type of theatre based on intersecting viewpoints, raising questions about the gaze of the spectator and the process of looking at works of art and each other.”5

Beholders observe beholders and the subjects of vision become historical, according to art historian Wold-Dieter Heilmeyer.

The suffused light that falls from the skylight leaves no shadow.
A man who casts no shadow has no soul.
The shadow according to Jung is the seat of creativity.
Here there is no depth of field, the sculptures and the figures feel like they are almost on one plane.
None of the viewers looks at the camera, they avoid its probing gaze, passively becoming the feminine aspect – like the central raised figure, robbed of head and arms, being gazed upon from all sides. We, the viewer, are looking at the spectacle of the viewers looking at the frieze. Looking at looking the observer becomes the observed (surveillance camera where are you?)
Consider the freeze frame of the models as they posed for the sculptor all those years ago; the freeze frame of the sculptures themselves; the freeze frame of the spectators posing for the camera; the freeze frame of the photograph itself; and then consider the freeze frame of time and space as we stand before the photograph looking at it. Then notice the women in the photograph videotaping the scene, another excoriating layer that tears at the fabric of time and looking, that causes lacrimation for our absent soul. What a photograph!

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The Henson photographs are presented in a wonderfully musical installation, mimicking the movement of the crowds portrayed. I republish below my comments on this series from the review of the In camera and in public exhibition.

“A selection of photographs from the Crowd Series (1980 – 82) by Bill Henson. Snapped in secret these black and white journalistic surveillance photographs (‘taken’ in an around Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne) have a brooding intensity and melancholic beauty. Henson uses a flattened perspective that is opposed to the principles of linear perspective in these photographs. Known as The Art of Describing6 and much used in Dutch still life painting of the 17th century to give equal weight to objects within the image plane, here Henson uses the technique to emphasise the mass and jostle of the crowd with their “waiting, solemn and compliant” people.

“When exhibiting the full series, Henson arranges the works into small groupings that create an overall effect of aberrant movement and fragmentation. From within these bustling clusters of images, individual faces emerge like spectres of humanity that will once again dissolve into the crowd … all apparently adrift in the flow of urban life. The people in these images have an anonymity that allows them to represent universal human experiences of alienation, mortality and fatigue.”7

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Henson states, “The great beauty in the subject comes, for me, from the haunted space, that unbridgeable gap – which separates the profound intimacy and solitude of our interior world from the ‘other’… The business of how a child’s small hand appearing between two adults at a street crossing can suggest both a vulnerability, great tenderness, and yet also contain within it all of the power that beauty commands, is endlessly fascinating to me.”8 His observation is astute but for me it is the un/awareness of the people in these photographs that are their beauty, their insertion into the crowd but their isolation from the crowd and from themselves. As Maggie Finch observes, it is “that feeling of being both alone and private in a crowd, thus free but also exposed.”9

In the sociologist Erving Goffman’s terms the photographs can be seen as examples of what he calls “civil inattention”10 which is a carefully monitored demonstration of what might be called polite estrangement, the “facework” as we glance at people in the crowd, holding the gaze of the other only briefly, then looking ahead as each passes the other.

“Civil inattention is the most basic type of facework commitment involved in encounters with strangers in circumstances of modernity. It involves not just the use of the face itself, but the subtle employment of bodily posture and positioning which gives off the message “you may trust me to be without hostile intent” – in the street, public buildings, trains or buses, or at ceremonial gatherings, parties, or other assemblies. Civil inattention is TRUST as ‘background noise’ – not as a random collection of sounds, but as carefully restrained and controlled social rhythms. It is characteristic of what Goffman calls “unfocused interaction.””11

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This is what I believe Henson’s photographs are about. Not so much the tenderness of the child’s hand but a fear of engagement with the ‘other’. As such they can be seen as image precursors to the absence/presence of contemporary communication and music technologies. How many times do people talk on their mobile phone or listen to iPods in crowds, on trams and trains, physically present but absenting themselves from interaction with other people. Here but not here; here and there. The body is immersed in absent presence, present and not present, conscious and not conscious, aware and yet not aware of the narratives of a ‘recipro/city failure’. A failure to engage with the light of place, the time of exposure and an attentiveness to the city.

As Susan Stewart insightfully observes,

“To walk in the city is to experience the disjuncture of partial vision/partial consciousness … The walkers of the city travel at different speeds, their steps like handwriting of a personal mobility. In the milling of the crowd is the choking of class relations, the interruption of speed, and the machine.”12″

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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Bill Henson
Australian 1955-
Untitled 1980/82
1980-82
from the Untitled 1980/82 series 1980-82
gelatin silver photograph
43.0 x 38.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Anonymous gift, 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Bill Henson
Australian 1955-
Untitled 1980/82
1980-82
from the Untitled 1980/82 series 1980-82
gelatin silver photograph
43.0 x 38.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Anonymous gift, 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Bill Henson
Australian 1955-
Untitled 1980/82
1980-82
from the Untitled 1980/82 series 1980-82
gelatin silver photograph
29.2 x 47.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Anonymous gift, 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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“On 30 September the National Gallery of Victoria will present Looking at Looking: The Photographic Gaze, a unique exhibition exploring how photography can construct particular ways of looking. Looking at Looking will feature works by 10 Australian and international photographers including 20 photographs from Bill Henson’s Untitled 1980-82 series.

Drawn entirely from the NGV Collection, this exhibition will bring together a fascinating selection of photographs inviting the viewer to consider the diverse nature of the photographic gaze and explore the complex relationships between the subject, the photographer and the audience. The displayed photographs will include observations of people in crowds, surveillance images from war zones and photographs that explore different ways of looking at gender, race and identity.

Maggie Finch, Assistant Curator, Photography, NGV said: “The act of photographing people involves a process of observation and scrutiny.  At times, photographers remain detached and anonymous while at other times they are complicit, directing their subjects and encouraging specific actions.”

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV, said: “In the NGV’s 150th year this exhibition allows visitors to explore the dynamic relationship between the observer and the observed. This is a rare opportunity to view these photographs in a truly unique context.”

Looking at Looking will consider the anonymous photographer, one who is able to look without being looked at in return and consequently see more than otherwise possible. This idea is explored in Bill Henson’s series Untitled 1980-82, where the artist photographed people on city streets. Hung in a dense display, these photographs provide a psychological study of the nature of people when in a crowd.

Looking at Looking will feature works by Brook Andrew, Chi Peng, Anne Ferran, Ashley Gilbertson, Charles Green and Lyndell Brown, Bill Henson, John Immig, Thomas Struth and David Thomas.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

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Thomas Struth
German 1954-
Pergamon Museum IV, Berlin
2001
type C photograph
144.1 x 219.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased with the assistance of The Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2008
© 2011 Thomas Struth

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David Thomas
born Northern Ireland 1951, arrived Australia 1958
Amid history 2 (Large version)
2006
enamel paint on type C photograph on aluminium and plastic
100.0 x 145.0 cm National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2007 © the artist

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Ashley Gilbertson
Australian 1978-
A member of the Mahdi Army RPG team
2004
from the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series 2004
digital type C print
66.5 x 99.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Ashley Gilbertson / VII Network

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John Immig
Dutch/Australian 1940-
No title (T.V. images)
1975-76
from the Vietnam series 1975-76
gelatin silver photograph
20.2 x 25.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board, 1977 © John Immig

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Chi Peng
Chinese 1981-
Consubstantiality
2004
type C photograph
87.5 x 116.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the NGV Foundation, 2004 © Chi Peng, courtesy of Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

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Charles Green
Australian 1953-
Lyndell Brown
Australian 1961-
Afghan traders with soldiers, market, Taran Kowt Base Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan
2007 printed 2009
from The approaching storm series 2009
inkjet print
155.0 x 107.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2009
© Courtesy of the Artists and Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

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1. Finch, Maggie. Looking at Looking: The Photographic Gaze. Catalogue. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2011, p.10.

2. Ibid., p.16.

3. Ibid., p.21.

4. Ibid., p.24.

5. Ibid., p.7.

6. See Alpers, Svetlana. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. University Of Chicago Press, 1984.

7. AnonBILL HENSON: early work from the MGA collection. Education Resource. A Monash Gallery of Art Travelling Exhibition [Online] Cited 14/10/2011. www.unisa.edu.au/samstagmuseum/exhibitions/2011/docs/HENSON_edukit.PDF

8. Henson, Bill quoted in the exhibition catalogue. First published as a pdf for the exhibition In camera and in public Curated by Naomi Cass. Centre for Contemporary Photography, 16 September – 23 October 2011.

9. Stephens, Andrew. “Who’s watching you?” in The Saturday Age. 23rd September 2011 [Online] Cited 14/10/2011.
www.theage.com.au/entertainment/whos-watching-you-20110923-1kot7.html

10. See  Goffman, E. Behaviour in Public Places. New York: Free Press, 1963.

11. Giddens, Anthony. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991, pp.82-83.

12. Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, p.2. Prologue.

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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16
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘The Prints of Martin Lewis: From the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly’ at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT

Exhibition dates: 2nd October 2011  – 26th February 2012

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One of the great pleasures of presenting this blog is introducing myself and my readers to forgotten artists. Here we have a dazzling Australian artist who died largely forgotten, especially, it seems, in his native country. He does not deserve this fate!

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How many works does the National Gallery of Australia hold in its collection?

6

Count them … 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

(and none displayed online)

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AGNSW 5, NGV 0

(and none displayed online)

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Tell me, is there something wrong with this picture?

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Many thankx to the Bruce Museum for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version.

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Martin Lewis (1881-1962) was born in Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia on June 7, 1881. He was the second of eight children and had a passion for drawing. At the age of 15, he left home and traveled in New South Wales, Australia, and in New Zealand, working as a pothole digger and a merchant seaman. He returned to Sydney and settled into a Bohemian community outside Sydney. Two of his drawings were published in the radical Sydney newspaper, The Bulletin. He studied with Julian Ashton at the Art Society’s School in Sydney. Ashton, a famous painter, was also one of the first Australian artists to take up printmaking.

In 1900, Lewis left Australia for the United States. His first job was in San Francisco, painting stage decorations for William McKinley’s presidential campaign of 1900. By 1909, Lewis was living in New York, where he found work in commercial illustration. His earliest known etching is dated 1915. However, the level of skill in this piece suggests he had been working in the medium for some time previously. It was during this period that he helped Edward Hopper learn the basics of etching. In 1920, after the break up of a romance, Lewis traveled to Japan, where for two years he drew and painted and studied Japanese art. The influence of Japanese prints is very evident in Lewis’s prints after that period. In 1925, he returned to etching and produced most of his well-known works between 1925 and 1935 Lewis’s first solo exhibition in 1929 was successful enough for him to give up commercial work and concentrate entirely on printmaking. Lewis is most famous for his black and white prints, mostly of night scenes of non tourist, real life street scenes of New York City. During the Depression, however, he was forced to leave the city for four years between 1932 and 1936 and move to Connecticut. When Lewis was able to return to the New York City in 1936, there was no longer a market interested in his work. He died largely forgotten.”

Wikipedia entry for the artist

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Glow of the City
1929 
Drypoint, 11 ¼ x 14 ¼ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Late Traveler
1949 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 11 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Fifth Ave Bridge
1928
Drypoint , 9 7/8 x 12 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Grandpa Takes a Walk
1935 
Drypoint and sand ground, 8 7/8 x 11 ¾ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Quarter of Nine, Saturday’s Children
1929 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 12 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Shadow Dance
1930 
Drypoint and sandpaper ground, 9 ½ x 10 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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“The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, presents the new exhibition The Prints of Martin Lewis: From the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly from October 2, 2011, through February 19, 2012. Recognized as one of the premier American printmakers of the first half of the 20th-century, Martin Lewis (1881-1962) left an indelible mark on the landscape of the art world. Although not as publicly well known as some of his contemporaries such as Edward Hopper, Lewis was a highly skilled printer who was greatly involved in the artistic scene of New York City during the 1920s and ’30s. This exhibition features more than thirty etchings and several canceled plates by the artist from the private collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly of West Redding, Connecticut.

The exhibition The Prints of Martin Lewis: From the Collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly provides a brief biographical account of Lewis and showcases some of the artist’s best technical prints. Lewis was an acknowledged master of the intaglio techniques of printmaking, experimenting with multiple processes including etching, aquatint, engraving, mezzotint, and dry point.

In 1915 he produced his first documented etching, Smoke Pillar, Weehawken. Images like this one documented the scenes of everyday life as they played out in the thriving metropolis around New York City. Lewis portrayed all aspects of city life including dockworkers, skyscrapers, tugboats, and pedestrians – mostly the ladies. He produced magnificent prints that captured the energy, bustle, and occasional solitude of New York. With his move to Connecticut in 1932, Lewis investigated another topic through his printmaking: country life. This firmly entrenched Lewis as a prominent American scene artist, as his prints captured the intersection between the urban and rural environments and shed light on the slowly emerging suburban culture.”

Press release from the Bruce Museum website

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Windy Day
1932 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 12 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Politics
1936 
Drypoint and sand ground, 9 ¾ x 10 5/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Little Penthouse
1931 
Drypoint, 9 7/8 x 6 ¾ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Bay Windows
1929 
Drypoint and sandpaper ground, 11 ¾ x 7 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Chance Meeting
1940-41 
Drypoint, 10 ½ x 7 ½ in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Relics (Speakeasy Corner)
1928 
Drypoint, 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Martin Lewis (Australian, 1881-1962)
Snow on the “El”
1931 
Drypoint and sand ground, 14 x 9 in.
Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. Kelly
© Estate of Martin Lewis

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Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT
T: 203.869.0376

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

Bruce Museum website

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14
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the present – A Different History of Photography’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 22nd October 2011 – 19th February 2012

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

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Eduard Spelterini
Über den Wolken
Brunner & Co. A.G., Zurich
1928

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Albert Steiner
Schnee, Winter, Sonne
Rotapfel-Verlag, Zurich-Erlenbach/Leipzig
1930

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“Albert Steiner was one of the finest Swiss photographers of the twentieth century. Like Ansel Adams, he favored imposing natural phenomena, landscapes with what might be called good bone structure, (in his case the Alps, in Adams’s comparable work, the American West), and he printed his vision of them in black-and-white, revealing nature in all its majesty. His impressive scenic work has fundamentally shaped the world’s perception of Switzerland as an alpine country of timeless beauty. It spans the period from before World War I – an era of pictorially inspired images that look like oil paintings – to the straightforward and elegantly modern photography of the 1930s. Unlike many other photographers of the same generation active in the same area, Steiner saw photography as a completely appropriate means of creating works of art, and considered himself an artist.”

Text from Amazon. Albert Steiner The Photographic Work. Steidl November 21, 2008

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Jakob Tuggener
Fabrik
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich
1943

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“The Swiss Foundation for Photography (Fotostiftung Schweiz) is marking its fortieth anniversary by presenting a fresh view of Swiss photography – a tour d’horizon covering a range of illuminating photobooks in which not only the great themes of photography are reflected but also the development of photographic styles and modes of expression. Since the late 1920s the book has repeatedly proved itself to be an ideal platform for the presentation of photographic works. Books have not only contributed to the dissemination and transmission of photography but also facilitated the integration of the individual image into a meaningful context.

In the history of photography the photobook plays a major role not only in publicising photographs, but also as an independent means of expression. The significance of many photographers’ works only emerges when presented in book form, in the coherent sequence or series of images. Content, design and printing quality combine to produce an intricate architectural whole.

This jubilee exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Fotostiftung Schweiz focuses on a selection of photobooks that have influenced photography in Switzerland since the late 1920s. At that time, technical advances made the reproduction of top quality photographic images possible and promptly gave rise to a first boom in illustrated books that placed greater emphasis on the photographs than on the texts. Since then, Swiss photobooks have continued to develop in various directions and have repeatedly attracted considerable attention at international level as well.

With the help of seven thematic areas – homeland, portraiture, mountain photography, the world of work, aerial photography, contemporary history, travel – this exhibition aims at a kind of typology of the Swiss photobook which draws attention to the potential interplay between book and photograph, while also revealing the extent to which modes of expression have altered over the course of time. Concise excerpts from these books exhibited on the walls highlight the basic principle of each photobook – a photograph positioned on a double page still remains an integral part of a larger sequence. The concept, design and reception of photobooks are examined more closely in display cases. A large wall installation is devoted to photobook covers. The photobook is also presented as an object in film form: “reading” illustrated photography books is not just an intellectual but also a sensual act.”

Press release from the Fotostiftung Schweiz website

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Eduard Spelterini
Über den Wolken (cover)
Brunner & Co. A.G., Zurich
1928

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“Swiss balloonist Eduard Spelterini (1852-1931) lived an extraordinary life. Born the son of an innkeeper and beer brewer in a remote village in the Toggenburg area of Switzerland, Spelterini achieved international fame when he became the first aeronaut to fly over the Swiss Alps in 1898. Over the next two decades, Spelterini navigated his balloon through the skies of Europe, Africa, and Asia, and over such sites as the Great Pyramid of Giza and the gold mines of South Africa. Spelterini remains an important figure today because of his achievements in aerial photography. Seeking images to illustrate his lectures, he began taking a camera along with him on his expeditions in 1893, and his breathtaking photographs quickly became the talk of Europe.

Known as the “King of the Air,” the Swiss balloonist Eduard Spelterini enchanted the imaginations of European royalty, military generals, wealthy patrons, and the public alike with his mastery of the most whimsical mode of travel ever invented – the gas balloon. During the course of his storied aviation career, Spelterini flew his balloons over the Swiss Alps, across the Egyptian pyramids, and past the ziggurats of the Middle East, taking breathtaking photographs of landscapes and cities from the sky.
On Spelterini’s first ballooning ventures, he ferried aristocrats between Vienna, Bucharest, Athens, and other European capitals, on flights that became so famous that they were soon jam-packed with an international press corps looking for the next sensational story. Later in his life, Spelterini was the first aeronaut to succeed in the hazardous passage over the Swiss Alps, a trip then thought impossible. Eventually, he decided to bring his camera on every voyage in order to document the full panorama of international vistas he encountered.”
Text from Amazon
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Eduard Spelterini and the Spectacle of Images: The Colored Slides of the Pioneer Balloonist. Verlag Scheidegger and Spiess; Bilingual edition August 15, 2010, presents a selection of around eighty of Spelterini’s never-before-published colored slides, offering readers an altogether new look at the spectacular work of this pioneer of photography and aviation.

Eduard Spelterini – Photographs of a Pioneer Balloonist. Verlag Scheidegger and Spiess; Bilingual edition December 30, 2007 is the first book after 80 years to present these images of his journeys, reproduced directly from the artist’s original glass negatives. Contextualized by essays that explore both Spelterini’s life and his photographic work, the photographs featured in this volume capture the heady mix of danger and discovery that defined the early years of international air travel when balloons ruled the skies.

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Walter Mittelholzer
Alpenflug (cover)
Orell Füssli, Zurich/Leipzig
1928

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Jakob Tuggener
Fabrik (cover)
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich
1943

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“Jakob Tuggener’s Fabrik, published in Zurich in 1943, is a milestone in the history of the photography book. Its 72 images, in the expressionist aesthetic of a silent movie, impart a skeptical view of technological progress: at the time the Swiss military industry was producing weapons for World War II. Tuggener, who was born in 1904, had an uncompromisingly critical view of the military-industrial complex that did not suit his era. His images of rural life and high-society parties had been easy to sell, but Fabrik found no publisher. And when the book did come out, it was not a commercial success. Copies were sold at a loss and some are believed to have been pulped. Now this seminal work, which has since become a sought-after classic, is being reissued with a contemporary afterword. In his lifetime, Tuggener’s work appeared – at Robert Frank’s suggestion – in Edward Steichen’s Post-War European Photography and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, ‘The Family of Man’, in whose catalogue it remains in print. Tuggener’s death in 1988 left an immense catalogue of his life’s work, much of which has yet to be shown: more than 60 maquettes, thousands of photographs, drawings, watercolors, oil paintings and silent films.”

Book description on Amazon. The book has been republished by Steidl in January, 2012. The classics never go out of fashion!

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Andri Pol
Grüezi
Kontrast Verlag, Zurich
2006

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Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
T: +41 52 234 10 30

Opening hours:
Daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Closed on Mondays

Fotostiftung Schweiz website

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12
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works’ at the National Media Museum, Bradford

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2011 – 19th February 2012

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Many thankx to the National Media Museum, Bradford for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All pictures are copyright © Daniel Meadows except for the June Street, Salford which is copyright © Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr.

Daniel Meadows: Edited Photographs from the 70s and 80s authored by Val Williams

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Daniel Meadows
25th wedding anniversary party. Farnborough Park, Kent. August 1985
from Suburbia, 1984-1987

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Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr
Untitled
from June Street, Salford, February-April 1973
© Daniel Meadows and Martin Parr

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Daniel Meadows
Brighton, Sussex. May 1974
from the Free Photographic Omnibus, 1973-1974

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Daniel Meadows
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
Left: identified as James O’Connor. Right: David Balderstone
November 1974
from the Free Photographic Omnibus, 1973-1974

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Daniel Meadows
The Free Photographic Omnibus
1974
from the Free Photographic Omnibus, 1973-1974

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Daniel Meadows
Untitled
from Butlin’s Filey, Yorkshire, July-August 1972

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“The National Media Museum presents the first retrospective of the career of Daniel Meadows – photographer, documentarian, digital storyteller and unofficial co-founder of a uniquely British photography movement. Daniel Meadows was one of a group of photographers who spearheaded the independent photography movement in the early 1970s, breaking with tradition and infusing the medium with new energies and ways of seeing. His practice is complex, passionate and sometimes deeply autobiographical.

Between 1971 and 1987, he produced an astonishing record of urban society in Britain, working in a uniquely collaborative way through his interviews with – and writing about – his subjects. Meadows is a documentarist and an exceptional storyteller. He reveals historic and culturally significant aspects of people’s lives, dating from the 1970s to the present day. This exhibition displays photographic works alongside oral testimonies by some of the people featured in the photographs and Digital Stories.

Meadows’ practice developed at Manchester Polythechnic, where he trained alongside fellow photographers Martin Parr, Brian Griffin, Charlie Meecham and Peter Fraser. Together they spearheaded a new documentary movement intent on establishing an independent method for making and disseminating photographs, outside the existing conventions of commercial practitioners and photojournalists. Meadows’ resulting work displays complexity and passion, and confers a personal and sometimes deeply autobiographical imprint. During his career he has produced an astonishing record of urban British society, working in a uniquely collaborative way, through photography, digital stories and recorded interviews, to capture extraordinary aspects of everyday life.

His career began in 1972, when he opened a photographic studio in a former barber’s shop in the Moss Side area of Manchester. The Shop on Greame Street features residents from the district who posed for a portrait which they then received free of charge. None has been previously exhibited, and a selection will be on public display for the first time from October.

Two further early projects are also included in the exhibition, both undertaken in partnership with Martin Parr. June Street, 1973, is an intimate portrayal of working class households in an area of Salford, which have since been demolished. Butlin’s by the Sea, 1972, presents a fascinating record of the holiday camp in Filey, North Yorkshire, just after the heyday of this style of British resort.

In 1973, Meadows, aged 21, also bought a 25-year-old Leyland PD1 double-decker bus for £360.20. He removed the seats to make space for a darkroom and living quarters and named it the Free Photographic Omnibus. He spent 14 months taking his Greame Street studio philosophy of free portraits on tour around England. Original photographs from the journey appear in the retrospective, along with a selection from a follow-up project in which Meadows sought out his Photobus subjects more than 20 years later to re-photograph them for National Portraits: Now and Then, 1995 – 2000.

Other notable works displayed include Decline in the Cotton Industry, 1975 – 1978, Welfare State International, 1976 – 1983, and Nattering in Paradise, 1984 – 1987. The gallery will also screen a selection of Meadows’ Digital Storytelling films. Condensing personal stories into two-minute features of approximately 250 heartfelt words and 12 images, he created “multimedia sonnets from the people”, leading American commentator J.D Lasica to call him “one of the icons of the Digital Storytelling movement.”

This exhibition and the accompanying publication is the product of research by Professor Val Williams as part of an ongoing study into British photography of 1970s and 1980s at the University of the Arts London. It is preceded by the research project, The New British Photography, 1968-1981, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Together Val Williams and Daniel Meadows have brought to light the photographer’s incredible archive of prints and negatives, along with ephemera and audio recordings. They have unearthed unpublished and sometimes forgotten treasures which add to a remarkable document – a dramatic, moving and empathetic evocation of a recognisable, yet increasingly alien era.”

Press release from the National Media Museum website

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Daniel Meadows
Foster mother and children
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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Daniel Meadows
Portrait of Angela Loretta Lindsey, aged 8, with her brother Mark Emanuel Lindsey
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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Daniel Meadows
Hell’s Angels
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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Daniel Meadows
Untitled
1972
from the free photographic studio on Greame Street, Moss Side, Manchester, February-April 1972

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National Media Museum
Bradford,
West Yorkshire,
BD1 1NQ

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 18.00

National Media Museum website

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09
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 18th November 2011 – 12th February 2012

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“The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is very important. For instance, if you look at the traditional construction of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of the understanding of our bodies, our pleasures ….

It is very interesting to note, for instance, that for centuries people generally, as well as doctors, psychiatrists, and even liberation movements, have always spoken about desire, and never about pleasure. “We have to liberate our desire,” they say. No! We have to create new pleasure. And then maybe desire will follow.” (My bold)

Michel Foucault 1

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Minor White
Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
from The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.7 x 9.2 cm)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum Bequest of Minor White, MWA 48-136
© Trustees of Princeton University

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(top)
Minor White
Images 9 and 10 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948
9.3 x 11.8 cm; 11.2 x 9.1 cm

(bottom)
Minor White
Images 27 and 28 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948. 5.3 x 11.6 cm; 10.6 x 8.9 cm

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(left)
Minor White

Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
from The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.7 x 9.2 cm)

(right)
George Platt Lynes

Untitled
nd

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I had the great privilege of visiting The Minor White Archive at Princeton University while I was researching for my PhD. While there I studied the work cards and classic prints of the great photographer, paying particular attention to his photography of the male. What was a great surprise and delight to me were the presence of photographs of explicit sexual acts, men photographed with erections – images that have, to my knowledge, never been published. I don’t think that many people would even know that Minor White took such photographs. Although these images would have never been for public consumption it is still very unusual to find a classical photographer with such a public profile taking photographs of erect penises, especially in the 1940s!

Disturbed by having been in battle in the Second World War and seeing some of his best male friends killed, White’s early photographs of men (in their uniforms) depict the suffering and anguish that the mental and physical stress of war can cause. He was even more upset than most because he was battling his own inner sexual demons at the same time, his shame and disgust at being a homosexual and attracted to men, a difficulty compounded by his religious upbringing. In his photographs White both denied his attraction to men and expressed it. His photographs of the male body are suffused with both sexual mystery and a celebration of his sexuality despite his bouts of guilt. After the war he started to use the normal everyday bodies of his friends to form sequences of photographs, sometimes using the body as a metaphor for the landscape and vice versa. In the above photograph (Tom Murphy, left), based on a religious theme, we see a dismembered hairy body front on, the hands clutching and caressing the body, the lower hand hovering near the exposed genitalia, the upper hand cupping the breast. We see the agony and ecstasy of a homoerotic desire cloaked in a religious theme.

The image comes from the The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors (1948), four pages of which can be seen above. While at The Minor White Archive I looked at the only complete, undamaged book in existence. What an experience!

The book has a powerful and intense presence. It was beautifully sequenced as you would expect from Minor White and features photographs of Tom Murphy. There is a series of his hands over the back of a chair in different positions: hanging, curled, splayed, held slightly upwards, and these are paired with photographs of bare feet and turned up jeans, bare feet and rocks, and three other photographs of Tom Murphy. In an excellent paper Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White (nd), author Kevin Moore observes that the hand-bound volume with images paired on facing pages – “mirrors” to both one another and the artist – is a personal account as well as a meditation on the sins of the flesh.

“Temptation (which was never published or exhibited) begins with a sort of prologue, comprising a single full-length nude of Tom Murphy, White’s student and the model most commonly associated with his work. The pose is similar to those found in the beefcake pictures White was producing at this time: Murphy adopts a classical contrapposto stance and is entirely nude, his pale, wiry body positioned against a dark backdrop. A piece of driftwood at the model’s feet proposes a theme of innocence – man in his natural state. The sequence then moves to pairings of images describing man in his civilized state, featuring several loving close-ups of Murphy’s gesturing hands, a shot of his bare feet, and a single shoulder-length portrait, in which he wears a buttoned shirt and looks intently off to the side. Next, there is an interlude suggesting growing dissolution: an image of Murphy’s feet and a petrified stone is paired with a shot of Murphy in full dress slouched on a mass of rocks and staring vacantly off into the distance. The next pairing [images 9 and 10 above] accelerates the descent into temptation. Here, the pose in a second picture of Murphy’s feet suggests agitation, while a three-quarterlength portrait of Murphy, crouched in the bushes and looking back over his shoulder, is as emblematic an image of cruising as White ever produced. The photographs that follow descend further into lust and self-recrimination, conveyed through photographs in which Murphy’s naked body alternates between expressions of pain and pleasure. The sequence ends with a series of beatific nudes [images 27 and 28 above], which express redemption through nonsexual treatments of the body and in the body’s juxtaposition with natural forms – a return to nature.

White may have thought at first that the sequence format would help him transcend the limits of personal biography, that he could use the breadth and fluidity of the sequence to emphasize a universal narrative while exercising control over the potentially explosive and revealing content of individual images. This proved to be overly optimistic, at least in his earliest uses of the form. White’s colleagues, for example, immediately understood Temptation for what it really was: an agonized portrayal of White’s love for his male student.”

Moore goes on to conclude that White obsfucated his sexuality, displacing gay ‘cruising’ “by a universalized mystical searching – sexual longing setting in motion a heroic search” using photography as his medium, and that his photographs became a dreamscape, perhaps even a dream(e)scape: “in which meanings are obscured, not clarified; signs are effaced, not illuminated; beauty is closeted, not set out for all to see. White was attracted to the ambiguity of the dream because it offered cover and protection but also freedom to maneuver. The dream supported the irrational, maintained a sense of mystery, and beautified frustration.”

I have to disagree with Kevin Moore. Anyone who has seen The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors in the flesh (so to speak) can feel the absolute presence of these images, their reality, the connection between image and viewer. Maybe White was a Romantic but he was realistically romantic; his images are not dreamscapes, they offer multiple readings and contexts, insights into the human condition. Even though there was anguish and guilt present about his sexuality, channelled through his photography, anyone bold enough to take photographs of erections in 1940 has some ticker. It takes a clear eye and a courageous heart to do this, knowing what was at stake in this era of sexual repression. Beauty is not closeted here, unless I am looking at different images from Kevin Moore. In fact the magic of the photography of Minor White is his ability to modulate space, to modulate bodies so that they are beautiful, ambiguous and mystical whatever their context. Not everything in this world has to be in your face. Like a Glen Gould playing the Goldberg Variations revelation of beauty takes time, concentration and meditation.

Also, an overriding feeling when viewing the images was one of loneliness, sadness and anguish, for the bodies seemed to be observed and not partaken of, to be unavailable both physically and in a strange way, photographically. For a photographer who prided himself on revealing the spirit within, through photography, these are paradoxical photographs, visually accessible and mysteriously (un)revealing, photographs of a strange and wonderful ambivalence. Two great words: obsfucation, ambivalence. Clouded with mixed feelings and emotions, not necessarily anything to do with sexuality. Not everything has to be about sexuality. It is the difference between imbibing Freud or Jung – personally I prefer the more holistic, more inclusive, more spiritual Jung.

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And so to the image of George Platt Lynes that I have paired with the nude of Tom Murphy.

Platt Lynes was another artist who struggled with is sexuality, but seemingly not to such an extent as Minor White did. GPL worked as a fashion photographer and had his own studio in New York where he photographed dancers, artists and celebrities among others. He undertook a series of mythological photographs on classical themes (which are amazing in composition and feature Surrealist motifs). Privately he photographed male nudes but was reluctant to show them in public for fear of the harm that they could do to his reputation and business with the fashion magazines. Generally his earlier male nude photographs concentrate on the idealised youthful body or ephebe.

As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tended to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older men shot in close up (see photograph below for example) were possibly influenced by a number of things – his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I believe, a certain sadness but much inner strength in his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

When undertaking research into GPL’s photographs at The Kinsey Institute as part of my PhD I noted that most of the photographs had annotations in code on the back of them giving details of age, sexual proclivities of models and what they are prepared to do and where they were found. This information gives a vital social context to GPL’s nude photographs of men and positions them within the moral and ethical framework of the era in which they were made. The strong image (below) is always quoted as an example of GPL’s more direct way of photographing the male nude in the last years of his life. The male is solid, imposing, lit from above, heavy set, powerful, massive. The eyes are almost totally in shadow. Later photos have more chiaroscuro than earlier work, more use of contrasting light (especially down lit or uplit figures) but are they more direct? Yes. The men look straight into camera.

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George Platt Lynes
Untitled (Frontal Male Nude)
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This monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off. Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution. The photograph above is very ‘in your face’ for the conservative time from which it emerges, remembering it was the era of witch hunts against communists and subversives (including homosexuals). Conversely, this photograph is quite restrained compared to the most striking series of GPL’s photographs that I saw at The Kinsey Institute which involves an exploration the male anal area (a photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled ‘George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute’). This explicit series features other photographs of the same model – in particular one that depicts the male with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart. After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine Der Kries under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf, and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious.

I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders did influence his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.

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The differences between the White and GPL nudes is instructive. White: introspective, haunted, religious with an unrequited sense of longing – hands clutching self, inward pointing; GPL: more closely cropped, more open, one hand firmly grasping but the other hand open, receptive, presented to the viewer above the available phallic organ. It reminds me for some unknown reason, some quirk of my brain association, of the shell of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1486) inverted. There is difference between the two artists – one struggling with his sexuality, being realistically romantic, the other physically doing something about it – posting his photographs to one of the first gay magazines in the world. But both were taking photographs of intimate sexual acts that could never have been published in their lifetimes – that are still are hidden from view today. When, oh when, will someone have the courage to publish this work?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)
Walt Whitman (1818-1892)
1891
10.3 x 12.2cm
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute

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Charles Demuth
Dancing Sailors
1917
Watercolor and pencil on paper
20.3 x 25.4cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Mr and Mrs William H Marlatt Fund

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George Wesley Bellows (American, 1882-1925)
Riverfront No.1
1915
Oil on canvas
115.3 x 160.3 cm
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio: Howald Fund Purchase

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Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943)
Eight Bells Folly: Memorial to Hart Crane
1933
Oil on canvas
Gift of Ione and Hudson D. Walker
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

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“Harold Hart Crane (July 21, 1899 – April 27, 1932) was an American poet. Finding both inspiration and provocation in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Crane wrote modernist poetry that is difficult, highly stylized, and very ambitious in its scope. In his most ambitious work, The Bridge, Crane sought to write an epic poem in the vein of The Waste Land that expressed something more sincere and optimistic than the ironic despair that Crane found in Eliot’s poetry. In the years following his suicide at the age of 32, Crane has come to be seen as one of the most influential poets of his generation…

Crane visited Mexico in 1931-32 on a Guggenheim Fellowship and his drinking continued as he suffered from bouts of alternating depression and elation … While on board the steamship SS Orizaba enroute to New York, he was beaten after making sexual advances to a male crew member, seeming to confirm his own idea that one could not be happy as a homosexual. Just before noon on April 27, 1932, Hart Crane jumped overboard into the Gulf of Mexico. Although he had been drinking heavily and left no suicide note, witnesses believed his intentions to be suicidal, as several reported that he exclaimed “Goodbye, everybody!” before throwing himself overboard. (The legend among poets is: He walked to the fantail, took off his coat quietly, and jumped.) His body was never recovered.” (Wikipedia)

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Peter Hujar (1937-1987)
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
1975
Gelatin Silver print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
© Estate of Peter Hujar

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Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Unfinished Painting
1989
Acrylic on canvas
100.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of Katia Perlstein, Brussels, Belgium
© Keith Haring Foundation

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David Wojnarowicz
A Fire In My Belly (Film In Progress) (film still)
1986-87
Super 8mm film
black and white & color (transferred to video)
Courtesy of The Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York and The Fales Library and Special Collection

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“One day before World AIDS Day, the renown painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992 at the age of 37 from AIDS-related complications, has had one of his most important works, A Fire In My Belly, pulled from The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery’s HIDE/ SEEK exhibit because of pressure from conservative politicians and the Catholic League.” See a four minute extract from this unfinished film on THE END OF BEING BLOG.

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HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, the first major museum exhibition to explore how gender and sexual identity have shaped the creation of American portraiture, organized by and presented at the National Portrait Gallery last fall, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from November 18, 2011, through February 12, 2012. With the cooperation of the National Portrait Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum has reconstituted the exhibition in concert with the Tacoma Art Museum, where it will be on view from March 17 through June 10, 2012.

HIDE/SEEK includes approximately a hundred works in a wide range of media created over the course of one hundred years that reflect a variety of sexual identities and the stories of several generations. Highlighting the influence of gay and lesbian artists, many of whom developed new visual strategies to code and disguise their subjects’ sexual identities as well as their own, HIDE/ SEEK considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern Americans, how artists have explored the definition of sexuality and gender, how major themes in modern art – especially abstraction – have been influenced by marginalization, and how art has reflected society’s changing attitudes.

Announcing the Brooklyn presentation, Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman states, “From the moment I first learned about this extraordinary exhibition in its planning stages, presenting it in Brooklyn has been a priority. It is an important chronicle of a neglected dimension of American art and a brilliant complement and counterpoint to ‘Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties’, a touring exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum, also on view this fall.”

In addition to its commentary on a marginalized cultural history, HIDE/ SEEK offers an unprecedented survey of more than a century of American art. Beginning with late nineteenth-century portraits by Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent, it includes works from the first half of the 1900s by such masters as Romaine Brooks, George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe; the exhibition continues through the postwar period with works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, and Andy Warhol, and concludes with major works by late twentieth-century artists such as Keith Haring, Glenn Ligon, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Catherine Opie.

The Brooklyn presentation will feature nearly all of the works included in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition. Among them are rarely seen paintings by Charles Demuth, whose better-known industrialized landscapes are on view in the Brooklyn Museum exhibition Youth and Beauty; a poignant portrait of New Yorker writer Janet Flanner wearing two masks, taken by photographer Bernice Abbott; Andrew Wyeth’s painting of a young neighbor standing nude in a wheat field, much like Botticelli’s Venus emerging from her shell; Robert Mapplethorpe’s photograph riffing on the classic family portrait, in which a leather-clad Brian Ridley is seated on a wingback chair shackled to his whip-wielding partner, Lyle Heeter; and Cass Bird’s photographic portrait of a friend staring out from under a cap emblazoned with the words “I look Just Like My Daddy.” The exhibition will also include David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly, an unfinished film the artist created between 1986 and 1987.”

Press release from the Brooklyn Museum website

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Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991)
Janet Flanner (1892 – 1978)
1927
Photographic print
23 x 17.3 cm
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C
C Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd., Inc.

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Thomas Eakins (American, 1844 -1916)
Salutat
1898
Oil on canvas
127.0 x 101.6 cm
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Gift of anonymous donor

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Walker Evans (1903 – 1975)
Lincoln Kirstein (1907 – 1996)
1930
Gelatin silver print
16.1cm x 11.4cm
The Metropolitan Msuem of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Marsden Hartley
Painting No. 47, Berlin
1915
Oil on canvas
39 7/16 x 32 in. (100.1 x 81.3 cm)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972

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George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Marsden Hartley
1942
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 19.1 cm
Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME, Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection
© Estate of George Platt Lynes

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Beauford Delaney (American, 1901-1979)
James Baldwin
1963
Pastel on paper
64.8 x 49.8 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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Cass Bird
I Look Just Like My Daddy
2003
C-type print
72.6 x 101.6 cm
Collection of the artist, New York
© Cass Bird

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1. Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, p.31.

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Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
T: (718) 638-5000

Opening hours:
Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
first Saturday of each month, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

Brooklyn Museum website

HIDE/SEEK exhibition website

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01
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2011 – 5th February 2012

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Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Glaister studio (Australia 1855-1870)
Untitled (portrait of a man and three girls)
1855-1870
ambrotype, colour dyes
6.5 x 9 cm sight; 9.3 x 11.9 cm case
Purchased 1989

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Destiny Deacon (Kuku / Erub, Australia 1957- )
Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Artists
1998
colour bubble jet print from Polaroid photograph
57.9 x 71 cm
Purchased 1998
© Destiny Deacon. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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Ilse Bing (United States of America, Germany 1899-1998)
Self portrait with Leica
1931 printed 1941
gelatin silver photograph
26.7 x 31.2 cm
Alistair McAlpine Photography Fund 2005
© Ilse Bing Estate. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Robert Rooney (Australia 1937- )
Portrait of Maria Kozic and Philip Brophy II
1981
Cibachrome photograph 20.1 x 30 cm image/sheet
Purchased 1996
© Robert Rooney

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Loretta Lux (Germany 1969-)
The waiting girl
2006
Ilfochrome photograph
38 × 53 cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2007
© Loretta Lux/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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“Spanning over a century, What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography is an exhibition of 45 photographs from the Art Gallery of NSW collection. The exhibition focuses on crucial points in the history of photographic depictions of the human face ranging from studio portraiture in the late 19th century to contemporary practices today.

Works by Australian photographers, such as Paul Foelsche, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Carol Jerrems, Destiny Deacon, Patrina Hicks, Darren Sylvester and others, are placed in an international context, represented by Man Ray, Edward Weston, Iwao Yamawaki, Nan Goldin, Ben Cauchi and Loretta Lux, amongst others.

All portraits reveal something of the sitter, the photographer and also of us as viewers, but none reveal a whole and complete being. This is part of the enduring fascination with the photographic portrait which purports to be an exact likeness but operates more accurately as a metaphor for the self and how that self might exist in the world at a particular point in time.

Judy Annear, senior curator photographs, Art Gallery of NSW

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Using photography to depict the face and figure was initially a time-consuming and expensive business. However, the drive to document all things in the world, and rapid technological advances, meant that by the 1880s most people, willing or not and regardless of the photographer’s or their own desires, were documented in some way.

Spurious 19th century ideas to do with what a face could represent exploded in the early 20th century when identity came to be seen as a psychological rather than social phenomenon. Theatricality and performing for the camera, which had existed in photography since its inception, also became much more evident in this period.

In the post-WWII era representations of the face and the body quickly acquired a political and socially aware edge. More recently the face has tended to stand less as an expression of personal experience and more a statement that may signify a set of ideas, whether about the individual, the group or the society at large. Many of these highly constructed images acknowledge and play upon the problematics of the photographic portrait.”

Text from the AGNSW website

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Darren Sylvester (Australia 1974-)
They return to you in song
2001
Lambda print
100.0 x 100.0cm image/sheet
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2002
© Darren Sylvester

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Hans Hasenpflug (Australia, Germany 1907-1977)
Untitled (head of a woman)
1940-1941
gelatin silver photograph
28.8 x 24.3cm image
Gift of Mr Christopher Hamilton, the artist’s son 1984

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Edward Weston (USA 1886-1956)
Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico
1924, printed later
gelatin silver photograph
20.7 × 17.8 cm
Gift of Patsy W. Asch 2000
© Centre for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

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Max Dupain (Australia 1911-1992)
Untitled (self portrait)
1930s
Gelatin silver photograph
19.3 x 14 cm
Art Gallery of NSW Collection

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Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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28
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Stanley Greene – Black Passport’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates:  16th December 2011  – 5th February 2012

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Many thankx to FOAM for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs: Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

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“Foam presents Black Passport, a project by and about the American conflict photographer Stanley Greene (New York, 1949). Black Passport shows photos of conflicts and disasters combined with photos of Greene’s  private life. The result is a revealing portrait of a photographer who is addicted to the adrenaline rush of being on the move, but at the same time realises the sacrifices he makes in his personal life. Stanley Greene has photographed in regions such as Chechnya, Iraq, Rwanda and Sudan and is one of the founders of the international photo agency NOOR.

Every day, newspapers and magazines are filled with photos of war, oppression and violence. The photographer that enables us to watch what is happening in the rest of the world from the safety of our own homes, however, usually remains invisible. This is not the case in Black Passport, the biography of war photographer Stanley Greene, which appeared in book form in 2009 and will be exhibited in Foam starting on 16 December. Photos of conflict and disaster regions such as Rwanda, Sudan, Chechnya and Iraq are alternated with photos from the private life of Stanley Greene: photos of Paris and many women. Slide shows will also be presented, interspersed with texts from the book. Greene’s voice resounds through the exhibition space – he is disconcertingly frank:  ‘I think you can only keep positive for eight years. If you stay at it longer than that, you turn. And not into a beautiful butterfly.’

Just as Stanley Greene, visitors to the exhibition are poised between the safety of Western life and the horrors of foreign wars. And it is precisely this juxtaposition that causes these photos to stir us more than the stream of bad-news images that inundate us daily. In addition, Black Passport is a fascinating story about what it is like to be a war photographer. Why does someone choose to be continually confronted with death and misery? Is it an escape from everyday reality and a craving for adventure?

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Short Biography

Stanley Greene has photographed in the former Soviet Union, Central America, Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in publications including Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Stern and Paris Match. He has won various World Press Awards and in 2004 the W. Eugene Smith Award. Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 was published in 2004 and his book Black Passport in 2009. Greene is one of the founders of the Amsterdam-based international photo agency NOOR.”

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All photographs: Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

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Foam
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
T: + 31 20 5516500

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 am – 6 pm
Thu/Fri 10 am – 9 pm

Foam website

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25
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Diane Arbus’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 18th October 18 2011 – 5th February 2012

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“There are and have been and will be an infinite number of things on earth. Individuals all different, all wanting different things, all knowing different things, all loving different things, all looking different. Everything that has been on earth has been different from any other thing. That is what I love: the differentness, the uniqueness of all things and the importance of life… I see something that seems wonderful; I see the divineness in ordinary things.”

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Diane Arbus. Paper on Plato, senior English seminar, Fieldston School, November 28, 1939

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“I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present because we tend while living here and now to perceive only what is random and barren and formless about it. While we regret that the present is not like the past and despair of its ever becoming the future, its innumerable inscrutable habits lie in wait for their meaning. I want to gather them, like somebody’s grandmother putting up preserves, because they will have been so beautiful.

There are the Ceremonies of Celebration (the Pageants, the Festivals, the Feasts, the Conventions) and the Ceremonies of Competition (Contests, Games, Sports), the Ceremonies of Buying and Selling, of Gambling, of the Law and the Show; the Ceremonies of Fame in which the Winners Win and the Lucky are Chosen or Family Ceremonies or Gatherings (the Schools, the Clubs, the Meetings). Then they are Ceremonial Places (The Beauty Parlor, The Funeral Parlor or, simply The Parlor) and Ceremonial Costumes (what waitresses wear, or Wrestlers), Ceremonies of the Rich, like the Dog Show, and of the Middle Class, like the Bridge Game. Or, for example: the Dancing Lesson, the Graduation, the Testimonial Dinner, the Séance, the Gymnasium and the Picnic, and perhaps the Waiting Room, the Factory, the Masquerade, the Rehearsal, the Initiation, the Hotel Lobby and the Birthday Party. The etcetera.

I will write whatever is necessary for the further description and elucidation of these Rites and I will go wherever I can to find them.

These are our symptoms and our monuments. I want simply to save them, for what is ceremonious and curious and commonplace will be legendary.”

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Diane Arbus. “American Rites, Manners and Customs,” Plan for a Photographic Project, Guggenheim proposal

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A fabulous posting, with memorable thoughts and photographs! These archetypal images have become deeply embedded in the collective conscience where conscience is pre-eminently the organ of sentiments and representations. The snap, snap, snap of the shutter evinces the flaws of human nature, reveals the presence of a quality or feeling to which we can all relate. As Arbus states, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. This is why these photographs always capture our attention because we become, we inhabit, we are the subject. They are the flaw in us all. They are legend.

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

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Diane Arbus
Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962
1962
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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Diane Arbus
Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967
1967
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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On Photographs

“They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you.”

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Diane Arbus in response to request for a brief statement about photographs, March 15, 1971

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Diane Arbus (New York, 1923–1971) revolutionized the art she practiced. Her bold subject matter and photographic approach produced a body of work that is often shocking in its purity, in its steadfast celebration of things as they are. Her gift for rendering strange those things we consider most familiar, and for uncovering the familiar within the exotic, enlarges our understanding of ourselves.

Arbus found most of her subjects in New York City, a place that she explored as both a known geography and as a foreign land, photographing people she discovered during the 1950s and 1960s. She was committed to photography as a medium that tangles with the facts. Her contemporary anthropology – portraits of couples, children, carnival performers, nudists, middle-class families, transvestites, zealots, eccentrics, and celebrities – stands as an allegory of the human experience, an exploration of the relationship between appearance and identity, illusion and belief, theater and reality.

In this first major retrospective in France, Jeu de Paume presents a selection of two hundred photographs that affords an opportunity to explore the origins, scope, and aspirations of a wholly original force in photography. It includes all of the artist’s iconic photographs as well as many that have never been publicly exhibited. Even the earliest examples of her work demonstrate Arbus’s distinctive sensibility through the expression on a face, someone’s posture, the character of the light, and the personal implications of objects in a room or landscape. These elements, animated by the singular relationship between the photographer and her subject, conspire to implicate the viewer with the force of a personal encounter.

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Biography

Diane Arbus was born in New York City on March 14, 1923, and attended the Ethical Culture and Fieldston Schools. At the age of eighteen she married Allan Arbus. Although she first started taking pictures in the early 1940s and studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch in 1954, it was not until 1955-57, while enrolled in courses taught by Lisette Model, that she began to seriously pursue the work for which she has come to be known.

Her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960 under the title The Vertical Journey. From that point on she continued to work intermittently as a free-lance photographer for Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Show, The London Sunday Times, and a number of other magazines, doing portraits on assignment as well as photographic essays, for several of which she wrote accompanying articles.

During the 1950s, like most of her contemporaries, she had been using a 35mm camera, but in 1962 she began working with a 6×6 Rolleiflex. She once said, in accounting for the shift, that she had grown impatient with the grain and wanted to be able to decipher in her pictures the actual texture of things. The 6×6 format contributed to the refinement of a deceptively simple, formal, classical style that has since been recognized as one of the distinctive features of her work.

She received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 for projects on “American Rites, Manners and Customs” and spent several summers during that period traveling across the United States, photographing contests, festivals, public and private gatherings, people in the costumes of their professions or avocations, the hotel lobbies, dressing rooms and living rooms she had described as part of “the considerable ceremonies of our present.” “These are our symptoms and our monuments,” she wrote in her original application. “I want simply to save them, for what is ceremonious and curious and commonplace will be legendary.” 

The photographs she produced in those years attracted a great deal of attention when a selected group of them were exhibited, along with the work of two other photographers, in the 1967 “New Documents” show at the Museum of Modern Art. Nonetheless, although several institutions subsequently purchased examples of her work for their permanent collections, her photographs appeared in only two other major exhibitions during her lifetime, both of them group shows.

In the late 1960s she taught photography courses at Parsons School of Design, the Rhode Island School of Design and Cooper Union and in 1971 gave a master class at Westbeth, the artists cooperative in New York City where she then lived. During the same period she initiated the concept and did the basic research for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1973 exhibition on news photography, “From the Picture Press.”

She made a portfolio of ten photographs in 1970, printed, signed and annotated by her, which was to be the first of a series of limited editions of her work. She committed suicide on July 26, 1971 at the age of forty-eight. The following year the ten photographs in her portfolio became the first work of an American photographer to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale.

In the course of a career that may be said to have lasted little more than fifteen years, she produced a body of work whose style and content have secured her a place as one of the most significant and influential photographers of our time. The major retrospective mounted by the Museum of Modern Art in 1972 was attended by more than a quarter of a million people in New York before it began its tour of the United States and Canada. The Aperture monograph Diane Arbus, published in conjunction with the show has sold over 300,000 copies. Beginning in 2003, Diane Arbus Revelations, an international retrospective organized by The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art travelled to museums throughout the United States and Europe between 2003 and 2006. Major exhibitions devoted exclusively to her work have toured much of the world including, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

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Diane Arbus
Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C. 1967
1967
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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Diane Arbus
Untitled (6) 1970-71
1970-71
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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On Freaks

“There’s a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they’ll go through a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”

“If you’ve ever talked to somebody with two heads you know they know something you don’t.”

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The Gap between Attention and Affect

“You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw. It’s just extraordinary that we should have been given these peculiarities. And, not content with what we were given, we create a whole other set. Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you. And that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect. I mean if you scrutinize reality closely enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic.”

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Other Thoughts

“The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.”

“Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It’s what I’ve never seen before that I recognize.”

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

“For me the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. I do have a feeling for the print but I don’t have a holy feeling for it. I really think what it is, is what it’s about. I mean it has to be of something. And what it’s of it always more remarkable than what it is.”

“I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.”

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Diane Arbus
A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966
1966
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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Diane Arbus
Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963
1963
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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Diane Arbus
Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963
1963
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

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Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
T: 01 47 03 12 50

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Tuesday: 12:00 – 21:00
Wednesday – Friday: 12:00 – 19:00
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Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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