Archive for the 'portrait' Category



08
Mar
13

Video: ‘Marcus Bunyan – what makes a great photograph?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Event date: Wednesday 5th December 2012

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I’m a bit disappointed with the video, but it was done for free for the CCP. It doesn’t show the 12 images that I used to illustrate the talk, you can see me pressing the buttons on the computer. Unfortunately, this ruins the structure of the speech. I am hoping to re-edit the video myself with the proper images in the future, rather than looking at me all the time. Marcus

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Dr Marcus Bunyan, writer of the Art Blart blog and image maker, examines one of his favourite photographs – Alexander Gardner’s photograph of one of the plotters to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, Lewis Paine, who was captured by the camera months before his execution in April 1865 – and asks what makes this a great photograph.

Many thankx to the Director of the CCP, Naomi Cass, for asking me to speak at the event.

Click on the picture to view the video or go to the Vimeo website.

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Other presenters:
Serena Bentley, Helen Frajman, Natalie King, Tin & Ed, Tom Mosby and John Warwicker.
View the other videos on the Centre for Contemporary Photography website.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan. 'What makes a great photograph?' at CCP, December 2012

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Marcus Bunyan
What makes a great photograph?
2012

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CCP video web page

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08
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Juergen Teller: Woo!’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

23rd January – 17th March 2013

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When the wall text introduction to an exhibition boldly states in the very first sentence, “Juergen Teller is one of the most important photographers of our time,” you know you’re in trouble. I think the word that springs to mind when I look at these photographs is vapid.

Blanched, empty photographs that have an inane void at their centre. I really don’t want to look at them any longer.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the ICA 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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JOU190312_21_22-WEB

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Juergen Teller
The Keys to the House No.39, Suffolk 2010
2010
© Juergen Teller

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Kate-Moss-No.12-Gloucestershire-2010-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Kate Moss, No.12, Gloucestershire, 2010
2010
© Juergen Teller

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Smiling-Ed-London-2005-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Smiling Ed, London 2005
2005
© Juergen Teller

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Teenager-Suffolk-2010-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Teenager, Suffolk 2010
2010
© Juergen Teller

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Sigmund-Freud's-Couch-(Malgosia)-London-2006-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Sigmund Freud’s Couch (Malgosia), London, 2006
2006
© Juergen Teller

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“The ICA is delighted to present a major solo exhibition of photography by Juergen Teller from 23 January to 17 March 2013. The exhibition marks the first survey presentation of Teller’s work in the UK in a decade and will include new and recent work.

Considered one of the most important photographers of his generation, Teller is one of a few artists who has been able to operate successfully both in the art world and at the centre of the commercial sphere. This exhibition will provide a seamless journey through his landmark fashion and commercial photography from the 90s, presenting classic images of celebrities such as Lily Cole, Kate Moss and Vivienne Westwood, as well as more recent landscapes and family portraits.

Teller entered the London photography scene throughh the music industry taking photographs for record ccovers. Photographing amongst others Björk, Cocteau Twins, PJ Harvey and Courtney Love, it was Teller’s photograph of Sinéaad O’Connor for her single Nothing Compares 2 You that marked an important moment in his career. In 1991 he photographed Nirvana back stage when they toured Germany. Teller’s photographs first appearred in fashion magazines in the late 80s, and included portraits of Kate Moss when she was just fifteen years old. It was also in the aarly 1990s that Teller shot behind the sccenes at Helmut Lang’s fashion shows capturing the models, clothes and atmosphere with a deceptively casual aesthetic. Teller’s images could be described as the antithesis of conventional fashion photography seen perhaps most markedly in his campaigns for Marc Jacobs.

Picture and Words introduces a series from a weekly column in the magazine of Die Zeit. For over a year the photographer presented a new image each week with an accompanying text. Like his images the texts are often controversial and provoked outcry amongst reaaders. The exhibition will feature many of the letters that the magazine received and some of which Teller included in his book. Irene im Wald and Keys to the House are Teller’s most reecent bodiess of work. These series reveal the photographer’s more personal world in his hometown in Germany and family home in Suffolk.

Teller’s provocative interventions in conventional celebrity portraiture are apparent in works such as a photograaph of Victoria Beckham for a Marc Jacobs ad in which we only see her bare, high-heeled legs flopping over the side of a shopping bag. Vivienne Westwood reclines nude on a floral settee in a startling triptych whilst Björk and her son swim in the Blue Lagoon in an intimate portrait. Subverting the conventional relationship of the artist and model, Teller himself often figures as the naked muse in his photographs, seen for example in the Louis XV series with Charlotte Rampling. Whatever the setting, all his subjects collaborate in a way that allows for the most surprising poses and emotional intensity. Driven by a desire to tell a story in every picture he takes, Teller has shaped his own distinct and instantly recognisable style which combines humour, self-mockery and an emotional honesty.

“Whether Juergen Teller’s photography is art, or whether he is an artist or photographer, or both, or none of the above, or anything cconnected with such thoughts, can only lead us astray. Teller’s work is about great images.” Gregor Muir, Executive Director ICA.

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teller-installation

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Installation photograph of the exhibition Juergen Teller: Woo! at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

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Pettitoe-Suffolk-2011-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Pettitoe, Suffolk, 2011
2011
© Juergen Teller

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NÜR080805_5_18-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Vater und Sohn, Bubenreuth 2005
2005
© Juergen Teller

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No.12-of-the-series-'Irene-im-Wald'-2012-WEB

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Juergen Teller
No.12 of the series ‘Irene im Wald’, 2012
2012
© Juergen Teller

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The-Keys-to-the-House-No.39-Suffolk-2010-WEB

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Juergen Teller
The Keys to the House No.39, Suffolk 2010
2010
© Juergen Teller

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Cerith-Suffolk-2011-WEB

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Juergen Teller
Cerith, Suffolk 2011 (The Keys to the House No.28, Suffolk 2011)
2011
© Juergen Teller

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Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
The Mall, SW1Y 5AH
London, United Kingdom
T: +44 20 7930 3647

Opening hours:
Tue – Sun: 11.00 am – 11.00 pm
Closed Mondays

ICA website

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05
Mar
13

Review: ‘Jeff Wall Photographs’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGVA, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2012 – 17th March 2013

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“My work is a reconstruction and reconstruction is a philosophical activity. If I can create a drama that has philosophical meaning, that’s fine, or sometimes, it is not from meaning but a reconstruction of a feeling. It is best to capture in a photograph a feeling, an emotion, a look, a memory, a perception or a relationship.”

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Jeff Wall

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Stressed at the seams

The excruciating “conversation” between Jeff Wall and Thomas Demand in The Great Hall at the National Gallery of Victoria on November 28th 2012 seemed to run on interminably, yielding a couple of tiny gems but also a lot of leaden debate. I had higher hopes of the solo exhibition by Jeff Wall at NGV Australia. In some ways I was not disappointed, in other ways Wall’s calculating fields of existence certainly didn’t move my soul with any great conviction.

Initially, I was impressed perhaps even a little overwhelmed by the spacious hang, the placement of the mainly large, light box illuminated photographs and non light box photographs dotted amongst the galleries emphasising the inter-relationship between the images. The work in the exhibition includes large set-piece constructions, outdoor photographs of found environments, small, intimate conceptual works full of angles and colour and more recent ink jet print work. These “installations that happen to have photos in them” (Wall’s description) reflect the gigantism prevalent in much contemporary photography. In these large mise-en-scène you cannot fail to be impressed by the control the artist displays in the formal nature of their construction, the still-life tableaux representing the artist’s intention in a rather cold and remote way. As can be seen from the structural analysis of Polishing (1988) by Dr James McArdle and J.S.B. below, Wall is very clever in how he structures his shape-shifting photographs, how he seduces the eye into believing that everything is plausible within the formalist pictorial plane. But as McArdle observes,

“[His] formalism remains empty of connection to the subject, Wall denying any narrative representation… His distancing of the subject, his leaning on typecast (such as in the chicken plucking image) can be summed up in his method: staging, directing, controlling that sucks the real life out of the imagery and re-inflates it with bombast.”1

From his early, prissy double self-portrait to his laughing at, not with, the menial labourers in Dressing poultry (2007, below), the set-piece work does seem full of bombast (possessing a pompous and grandiloquent language; an obsolete material used for padding), but perhaps bombast is related to that standard postmodern language, irony. It certainly is a language where Wall denies any inherent narrative, where there is a “dis-identification of the figures in the pictures which becomes part of the aesthetic of the picture.”2 Wall says he is just depicting the figures, that they just become an effect of depiction (or representation, in other words). In this way Wall conditions our awareness of [this particular] space due only in part to their scale (McArdle). This grandiloquence, coupled with the luminance of the light box which creates the luminescence of the image, dazzles the eye but on closer inspection is a perhaps a psychological hall of mirrors. The shattering of this constructed illusion can be seen in the “seaminess” of the photographs. The media image of A view from an apartment (2004-05, below) gives it away: all trace of the join that is present in most of Wall’s large transparencies has been removed, when compared to my detail photograph of the image in the actual exhibition. The join gives lie, line, to the truth that here are photographs that we can believe in. The illusion becomes stressed at the seams but again, perhaps this join is just a trope that Wall has developed to compliment his visual language. Certainly, there is no reason why such large transparencies could not be printed in one piece and at a million dollars a pop he could surely talk to the manufacturer.

Scholars have noted that the phrase ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ has become a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, or hollow ostentatiousness and this is the case here. These photographs are like the Emperor’s new clothes, so caught up are we in the brilliance of their display we fail to notice that there is not much going on in terms of the actual “life” of the image (other than subsuming the life of up to 70 digital images to make one still, cold image). Wall’s photographs as performance, his theatre of disruption where the artist seeks to upset the veneer of the ordinary to blur the boundaries between what is probable or improbable, are undone by their existential isolation. I felt little empathy for any of the people in Wall’s tableaux vivants or for their imagined, non-narrative realities as Wall would have it. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to or, to be kinder, perhaps this is the strategy.

There was one exception: Untangling (1994, below) which is a cracker of an image. All the psychological and existential meaning comes pouring out here: an underground cave (Jung’s cave archetype, symbol of the unconscious), the male sitters profound mood of introspection, the skein of tangled rope which may represent the source of the Gordian Knot, used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) – although I prefer the analogy of the Ouroboros, the snake devouring its own tail which often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, which emphasises the relationship between a person’s mind and their experience of reality, how the psyche shapes the environment in which they act, and the untangling of consciousness.

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While his work was cutting edge in the late 1980s – 1990s, containing something in the work that brought him to notice, today it evidences a cultural and visual aesthetic that already seems completely outdated (the Pet Shop Boys on a bad hair day). Through staring at a constructed atemporal reality – like a man dreaming, caught in a no-time – Wall has created a form of look but don’t touch voyeurism, a slightly bombastic narcissism based on the photographers’ own power. But perhaps this is the point. Perhaps the qualities that I have criticized in the artist’s work are the very qualities the he is pursuing. Wall might want a don’t touch voyeurism for example – possibly deny it even exists or give it another name – so that the work interrogates some aspect of alienation without ever naming it. This can be seen in his construction of the photograph Polishing where he represents a mundane act in a cheap hotel room, raising the performance up to the altar of high art while hiding its anomalous philosophical and physical distortions.

I think Wall is a clever person wanting to be contradictory and clever.

To some people the qualities evidenced in Wall’s photographs can be seen to be quite admirable: today we shouldn’t (always) have to seek resolution or meaning. But when Wall says in the quote at the top of this posting that his work is a “reconstruction of a feeling” then I wonder where this feeling has gone, or whether it existed in the first place, for reconstruction is a very strange word to use with regard to feelings.

While the artist can control the uniqueness of a particular image seen from the point of view of production, intention and encounter3 what he cannot control is the interpretation of his images by the viewer. With this in mind (very apt) this is what I don’t get from these images: they lack for me is the quality of being lyrical, an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way. The stress seams present in his photographs, be they physical (the actual print) or psychological (photographs like Doorpusher or A view from an apartment) don’t allow me emotional access to the work. Aiming for an investigation into the existential nature of being and the philosophical reconstruction of a feeling, Wall ends up stressed at the seams (even un/seamed, un/scene, un/seen) and leaves me spatially and emotionally unmoved.

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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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment
2004-05
Transparency in light box 1/2
167.0 x 244.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05 (detail)

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment (detail)
2004-05
Photograph: Marcus Bunyan

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Polishing' 1998

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Polishing
1998
Transparency in light box, 1/2
162.0 x 207.0 cm State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia Purchased with assistance from the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1999
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image Dr James McArdle

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image J.S.B.

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Structural analysis of Jeff Wall’s Polishing (1998)

“There is a perceptual discomfort in viewing this image on the wall that is not apparent in the desk-top experience of it. I’m referring to a weird skewing of the perspective of the room. Wall has tilted the monorail of his 8×10 camera down toward the corner of the room, making the left hand wall of the bathroom lean uncomfortably, more than does the patched join of the wall panels to the right. He has then shifted the lens left, thus positioning the one vertical (right behind the figure) to the right of centre. The bathroom door, draped with a towel, looks as if it is hanging off its hinges, at variance with the top of the entrance door which remains horizontal. Conventionally, an architectural photographer would square everything and Wall does that in Doorpusher which though shot from an extremely oblique angle employs a radical drop-front to correct the verticals.”

Dr James McArdle

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“”Firstly, the floor is not straight in the image. You can see how in my edit, I have rotated the image a little to make the floor straight: (you can see how much by the break in the picture rail see red arrow). JW being tricky and skilled. Now the amount of lean in wall could almost be achieved just by a camera pointing down. No weird camera movements – this is almost familiar. But the door leans more than the wall! Next, note the degree of convergence in blue lines compared to green lines. Therefore the blue angle is emphasized – somehow. Note different hang of towel in magenta compared to blue – therefore edited ~ somehow!

The grid is good because as an initial observation it shows how much distortion we are viewing. But it makes it difficult to see that the floor is not level. When the floor is straightened the lean on the left wall is not as much as it seemed. Wait! Things do splay out when the camera is pointed down – so maybe there is no Photoshop in this at all? But there is – the angles have been emphasised a bit (I believe digitally) and there are puns in the angle of the towel (sloping at a different angle) and the buttons on the couch (not sloping out at all).

Lets play with this a bit more. So just tilt the camera to slope the floor and emphasise the lean by using the tilt to straighten the verticals on one side - and now make this a bit stronger in Photoshop. And by judicious use of the furniture placement the slope of the floor can be partly hidden. I can imagine Jeff Wall saying to a crowd that there is no Photoshop in this – it’s just camera placement (including a tilt in the whole camera) and without duplicating the scene I can’t be sure – but I think he has stressed in Photoshop some things that are already there. Digital enhancement.

Finally we can say that the formal qualities of this image are a play upon what has been initially offered by the camera. Initially: The walls are sloping! So is it just optics, or camera angle or Photoshop? It’s all three but not as much Photoshop as initially thought. The floor is not straight, the camera angle has been changed and there has been some digital emphasis.”

J.S.B. (author of The Well Tempered View Camera)

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Many thankx to Dr James McArdle for the initial gridded image from the posting “Perspective blow up,” on his Camera/Eye blog (January 21st, 2013) where he argues that the skewing is all done with tilting and shifting of an 8 x 10 image view camera to the analysis by J.S.B in which he argues that the skewing is partially done through the architecture (the set), the camera and some Photoshop tweeking.

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Double Self-Portrait' 1979

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Double Self-Portrait
1979
Transparency in light box AP
172.0 x 229.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Untangling' 1994, printed 2006

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Untangling
1994, printed 2006
Transparency in light box, AP
189.0 x 223.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased NGV Foundation and with the assistance of NGV Contemporary, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Dressing poultry' 2007

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Dressing poultry
2007
Transparency in light box, 1/2
201.5 x 252.0 cm
Cranford Collection, London
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver' 1992

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver
1992
Transparency in light box, AP
119.0 x 164.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)
1993
Transparency in light box, unique state
229.0 x 377.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with the assistance from the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation and from the National Art Collections Fund, 1995
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue' 1999-2000

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue
1999-2000
Transparency in light box, AP
174.0 x 250.5 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Knife throw' 2008

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Knife throw
2008
Colour photograph, AP
184.0 x 256.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'The Destroyed Room' 1978

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
The Destroyed Room
1978
Transparency in light box, AP
159.0 x 234.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver' 1999

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver
1999
Transparency in light box, AP
72.0 x 89.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Diagonal Composition' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Diagonal Composition
1993
Transparency in light box, AP
40.0 x 46.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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1. McArdle, James. Email to the author 22-01-2013

2. Wall, Jeff and Crombie, Isobel. “Jeff Wall Photographs: Knife Throw,” video on ArtDaily.org [Online] Cited 03-03-2013

3. Howarth, Sophie. “Introduction,” in Singular Images: essays on Remarkable Photographs. New York: Aperture, 2006, p.7.

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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26
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘Carine Thevenau: Return To Huldra’s Wood’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th February – 9th March 2013

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Sometimes I just want to surround myself with objects that are beautiful, that give me pleasure in the act of looking. I just want to look at a photograph that is beautiful, just because it is that. This exhibition is one such case. In the small, darkened gallery at Edmund Pearce in Melbourne these photographs radiate beauty. Despite a too regular hang and photographs of bouquets of flowers that don’t really move the work forward, the overall feeling of the ensemble is one of serenity and contained ecstasy. As was said of Catherine Opie’s work recently these lyrical visions evoke formal classicism, [are] beautifully elegant compositions that immerse and seduce the eye.1

The exhibition is rather let down by one of the worst sentences in a media release that I have not had the pleasure of reading in a long time: “Carine’s pictures sway from using over exposed lighting techniques, hinting at the sublime, to implementing a dimly lit chiaroscuro effect whereby an undeniable darkness is evident, all the while remaining beautiful.”

Who writes this stuff? The sentence makes no sense at all.

Carine’s pictures “sway” (?????) … overexposure techniques hint at the sublime (!!!!!!), a dimly lit chiaroscuro effect (what?), an undeniable darkness (!?!?!??!!) – and guess what, using light and dark lets the image “remain beautiful” = the massacre of the English language!!

Dr Marcus Bunyan
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Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery 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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Carine Thevenau
Ulda. The Arctic Fairy
2013
Archival Pigment Print
80 x 60 cm
Edition of 10 + 2 AP

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SL3-WEB

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Carine Thevenau
Deep Inside Lillomarka
2013
Archival Pigment Print
80 x 60 cm
Edition of 10 + 2 AP

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Edward S. Curtis. 'Lucille, Dakota Sioux' 1907

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Edward S. Curtis
Lucille, Dakota Sioux
1907

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Carine Thevenau. 'Tryst East of Morskogen' 2013

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Carine Thevenau
Tryst East of Morskogen
2013
Archival Pigment Print
80 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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Return To Huldra’s Wood is a visual exploration into Scandinavian Folklore. A Huldra is a mythical character who lives deep in the forests of Sweden and Finland. Also known as Pine tree Mary or Skogsfu (in Norway) this secret woodland dweller lures her prey into the darkness of night and underneath the heavy branches she is known to do unspeakable things. The Huldra appears in many fairy tales written by Peter Christen Asbjornsen. The origins of the tales stem from Christianity, whereby old stories of Eve forgetting to wash all her children prior to a visit from God forced her to hide the dirty ones. As a result God decreed these children to be hidden and forbidden from contact with the rest of mankind. These children are said to have been named Huldrer. The Huldra represents a deep fear of the wild, of sexuality and of otherness.

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Huldra’s Wood

When early springtime’s night winds sing
around the steaming cattle byre,
and smoke curls high through wicker slats
above the dancing Great Hall fire;
Old women pull the children near,
with knowing looks well understood;
Tonight only a fool would stray
within the groves of Huldra’s Wood.

As daylight leaves the greening fields
and sunset paints the pale sky gold,
As far horizons fade to blue
and nightingales sing shrill and cold;
The adder in his hide curls safe
from those who seek his serpent’s blood,
he sleeps within the old stone cairn
that marks the edge of Huldra’s Wood.

Above us rides the scar-faced Moon
amongst the stars in wanton haste,
whilst in the trees the tawny owls
cry shuddering across the waste
that separates our steading from
the Elfhane Host in cap and hood;
they frolic now, unbidden, deep
within the groves of Huldra’s Wood.

-  Alan Hodgson

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Recently a speaker at the International Design Conference, AGIdeas and previously nominated by industry leader, Capture Magazine, for the Emerging Editorial Photographer of the Year Award, Carine Thevenau’s photographic work has appeared in such publications as Rollingstone, iD Magazine, Vogue, Smith Journal and is a Senior Photographer at Frankie Magazine.

Carine’s pictures sway from using over exposed lighting techniques, hinting at the sublime, to implementing a dimly lit chiaroscuro effect whereby an undeniable darkness is evident, all the while remaining beautiful.”

Press release from the Edmund Pearce website

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Carine Thevenau
Skogsra (Forest Spirit)
2013
Archival Pigment Print
80 x 60 cm
Edition of 10 + 2 AP

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Carine Thevenau
Huldra of The Norse
2013
Archival Pigment Print
80 x 60 cm
Edition of 10 + 2 AP

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Carine Thevenau
Witness in Bymarka
2013
Archival Pigment Print
80 x 60 cm
Edition of 10 + 2 AP

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Carine Thevenau
Pine Tree Mary
2013
Archival Pigment Print
100 x 75 cm
Edition of 5 + 2 AP

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

Carine Thevenau website

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23
Feb
13

Review: ‘Confounding: Contemporary Photography’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2012 – 3rd March 2013

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Thinking contemporary photography

At its birth in the 19th century, photography was seen as the ultimate tool for the representation and classification of the visual world.1 Photography recorded reality; a photograph was seen as a visual and literal truth of something that existed in the world. It re-presented the world to the viewer, telling something of the world, reflecting the world. A photograph provided a freeze frame – the snap of the shutter – of one point in time and space. People were astounded that their likeness and that of the world around them could be captured for all to see.

Technological advancements in the early twentieth century, such as faster exposure times and more portable cameras, transformed the potential of the medium to not only show things that escaped the eye but new ways of seeing them as well.2 The photograph began to reveal the personal dimensions of reality. It began to explore the intangible spaces that define our physical and spiritual relationship with reality. “Photographers and artists attempted to depict via photographic means that which is not so easily photographed: dreams, ghosts, god, thought, time” (Jeffrey Fraenkel The Unphotographable Fraenkel Gallery Books 2013). With the advent of modernism, they sought to capture fragments, details and blurred boundaries of personal experience.3 The indexical link photograph and referent, between the camera, the object being photographed and the photograph itself was being stretched to breaking point.

Think of it like this. Think of a photograph of an apple that a camera has taken. There is a link between the photograph and its referent, the photograph of the apple and the object itself (in reality, in the lived world). As a viewer of the photograph of the apple we are secondary witness to the fact that, at some point in time, someone took a photograph of this apple in real life. We bear witness to the eyewitness. Now what if I rip up the photograph of the apple and reassemble it in a different order? Is this still not an apple, only my subjective interpretation of how I see an apple existing in the world? Is it no less valid than the “real” photograph of the apple? What kinds of visual “truth” can exist in images?

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?

Thomas Demand’s Public Housing (2003, below) plays with the real and the fictional, presenting the viewer with an idealised vision of a public housing complex illustrated on a Singapore $10 note. Demand makes large models out of paper and cardboard in his studio and then photographs the result before destroying the basis of his performance, the model, leaving only the photograph as evidence of their existence, an existence that emanated from the imagination of the artist. This particular Demand is unusual in that it depicts the totality of an outdoor structure, for the artist usually focuses on details of buildings, plants and environments in mid to close up view. The flattened perspective, limited colour palette and absence of detail adds to the utopian nature of the work (almost like a photographic Jeffrey Smart), aping the aesthetic and social ideals of Le Courbusier. As John Meades notes, “From early in its history, photography was adopted by architects as a means of idealising their buildings. As beautiful and heroic, as tokens of their ingenuity and mankind’s progress, etc. This debased tradition continues to thrive. At its core lies the imperative to show the building out of context, as a monument, separate from streetscape, from awkward neighbours, from untidiness.”4

In Roger Ballen’s photograph Terminus (2004, below), one the more moody works in the exhibition, a heavy wooden board with a deflated leather bladder on top presses down on a human face. Although it is not a human face (it confounds!), it is the painted face of a mannequin which the viewer can only acknowledge after a jolt of recognition. There is a feeling of entombment, a palpable feeling of claustrophobia, as the meta/physical “weight” of the bladder (like the weight of a heavy meteorite) presses down on the half obscured, thin lipped, black eyed face. Similarly confounding are the two photographs by Eliza Hutchison called The ancestors (2004, below). Shot from the waist up, these photographs remind you of those old black and white Photo Booth snapshots that you used to get for passports (there are still two of those machines outside the Elizabeth Street entrance to Flinders Street railway station, standing there like forlorn sentinels of a by gone age), complete with nondescript curtain that you used to pull behind you. There is something “not quite right” about the people in the photographs but you can’t put your finger on it until the text panel, a little gleefully, informs you that the portraits had been shot upside down. Now you realise what is out of kilter: more cheek and jowl rather than cheek by jowl.

The exhibition makes a powerful point as Robert Nelson in his review of the exhibition in The Age newspaper observes: photography doesn’t necessarily have to be confounding to be art, to become enduring, it just has to have a decent idea behind it.

“I would say that being confounding is not a necessary property of art photography; and even when it’s present, it isn’t in itself a sufficient ingredient to guarantee enduringly valuable art. Photography doesn’t have to confound in order to be art, but it does have to have an idea in it. The idea is always the issue, whether it works by confounding us or not.”5

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The idea has always been the issue. Collectively, it is the ideas contained within the images in this exhibition that unsettle the relationship between the photograph and the world in the mind of the viewer, not their confounding. I don’t find any of these images contain much emotion (except possibly the Ballen) but the images are transformational because they fire up our imagination. Images speak not just of the world, but to the world; they challenge our beliefs, our politics and our daily practices. The camera’s single viewpoint, our single viewpoint, our field of existence has changed. People find themselves somehow, somewhere, not in a lived reality but in an imagined one.

Much is staged, scaled and variations in perspective are paramount. This affects the relationship between the viewer and the viewed for we can no longer take anything at face value. In a media saturated world full of images we begin to question every image that we see: has it been digitally manipulated, does it, did it actually exist in the world? These days “truth” in photography is an elusive notion and that might not be such a bad thing as people question the nature of images that surround them, their authenticity and their aura. In a media saturated world, in a world no longer of our making, seeing is no longer believing.

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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Thomas Demand German born 1964 'Public housing' 2003

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Thomas Demand German born 1964
Public housing
2003
type C photograph
100.1 x 157.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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Peter Peryer born New Zealand 1941 'Home' 1991

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Peter Peryer born New Zealand 1941
Home
1991
gelatin silver photograph
35.6 x 53.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Peter Peryer

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Loretta Lux 1969 Dresden, Saxony, Germany 'The drummer' 2004

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Loretta Lux 1969 Dresden, Saxony, Germany
The drummer
2004
Cibachrome photograph
45.0 x 37.7 cm (image) 56.0 x 49.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Foundation, 2006
© Loretta Lux/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

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“On 5 October, the National Gallery of Victoria will present Confounding: Contemporary Photography, an exploration of the uncanny worlds created by human imagination, dreams and memories.

Drawn from the NGV’s collection, the fourteen works on display transform the strange, uncomfortable and awkward into plausible realities. Visitors will discover the gaze of unnerving children in the hyper-real work of Loretta Lux; be jolted upon realising the hidden reality of Wang Qingsong’s monumental tableaux; and wonder at the strange beauty in the carefully constructed cardboard world of Thomas Demand.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, NGV, said: “Like the recollection of a dream, the photographs displayed in Confounding seem to make sense, but do not sit comfortably in the world. There are subtle, slightly sinister elements within the images that suggest a mystifying alternative reality… Through a selection of works by Australian and international artists, including two new acquisitions by Thomas Demand and Roger Ballen, Confounding explores the unexpected with images that bridge the divide between real and fictional.”

Confounding will present works by contemporary photographers including Roger Ballen, Pat Brassington, Thomas Demand, Eliza Hutchison, Rosemary Laing, Loretta Lux, Patricia Piccinini, Peter Peryer, Wang Qingsong and Ronnie van Hout.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Roger Ballen. 'Terminus' 2004

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Roger Ballen American 1950-, worked in South Africa 1982-
Terminus
2004
Carbon print
45.2 x 44.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Bill Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gift’s Program, 2012
© courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Protein lattice - subset blue, portrait' 1997

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Patricia Piccinini born Sierra Leone 1965, lived in Italy 1968-72, arrived Australia 1972
Protein lattice – subset blue, portrait
1997
from the Protein lattice series 1997
type C photograph
80.5 x 80.3 cm irreg. (image); 90.0 x 126.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member, 1998
© Patricia Piccinini

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Ronnie van Hout born New Zealand 1962 'Mephitis' 1995

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Ronnie van Hout born New Zealand 1962
Mephitis
1995
Gelatin silver photograph
47.2 x 32.6 cm (image), 50.5 x 40.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9 cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.3 x 73.0 cm (image),105.3 x 83.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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1. Anon. “Flatlands: photography and everyday space,” press release from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website posted on Art Blart [Online] Cited 19/02/2013

2. Ibid.,

3. Ibid.,

4. Meades, Jonathan. “Architects are the last people who should shape our cities,” on The Guardian website, Tuesday 18 September 2012 [Online] Cited 19/02/2013

5. “First, do all confounded photographic images qualify as art? Or does a photograph have to be founding in a special way? And second, can a photograph be art without being confounding?

Bundling these questions together, I would say that being confounding is not a necessary property of art photography; and even when it’s present, it isn’t in itself a sufficient ingredient to guarantee enduringly valuable art. Photography doesn’t have to confound in order to be art, but it does have to have an idea in it. The idea is always the issue, whether it works by confounding us or not.”

Nelson, Robert. “Getting the picture can be confounding,” in The Age newspaper, Wednesday January 2nd, 2013, p.11.

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20
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 1st December 2012 – 5th March 2013

 

“We were insiders, all three of us: Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, and me. We each photographed from the inside what we most intimately knew.

Cole was born Ernest Levi Tsoloane Kole in 1940, to a working-class Black family in a Black township outside the city of Pretoria. Growing into that society he came to know, with a depth of understanding that only belonging could bring, both its richness and the hardship and humiliation imposed by apartheid. As a boy he photographed people in the township for a shilling a time. By the age of eighteen he had begun to work as a photojournalist, and within a few years he was deeply committed to his essay on what it meant to be Black under apartheid. At age twenty-six, to escape the Security Police and to publish his seminal book, House of Bondage, he went into bitter and destructive exile. Cancer killed him in 1990. Apartheid destroyed him.

Billy Monk’s photographs have the frank and warm intimacy that comes to someone who was completely trusted by his subjects. They are of a tiny splinter of another way of being: a place in apartheid South Africa of neither Black nor White but of somewhere not quite in between. Not quite, because while Blacks would not have gained participatory entrance to the Catacombs nightclub, people “of colour” did, and mixed there freely with Whites. It was a question of bending the law – within limits. Here you were judged not by your conformity with the pathological rigidities of Calvinism gone mad, but by your immersion in the conviviality of brandy and Coke. We will never know what might have become of the eye of Billy Monk, for in 1982 he died at age forty-five in a brawl while on his way to the first exhibition of his work. He has left us what the photographer Paul Graham might describe as a sliver of possibility.

My series In Boksburg tells of what it meant to be White in a middle-class South African community during the years of apartheid. It was a place of quiet respectability such as might be found in innumerable towns around the world. Except that Blacks were not of it. They were the largest component of its population; they served it, traded with it, received charity from it, and were ruled, rewarded, and punished by its precepts. Some, on occasion, were its privileged guests. But all who went there did so by permit or invitation, never by right. White and Black: locked into a system of manic control and profound immorality. Simply to draw breath was to be complicit. Heroism or emigration seemed to offer the only escape.

That’s how it was and is no longer.”

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David Goldblatt

 

 

It is the work of Billy Monk that is most impressive in this posting. Photographed in the rowdy Cape Town nightclub The Catacombs in the 1960s, Monk’s photographs of the racially mixed clientele portray them in extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. While his protagonists take centre stage within his photographs there is a wonderful spatial openness to Monk’s 35mm flash images photographed with a slightly wide angle 35mm lens. Monk does not fill the pictorial frame; he allows his images to breathe. Witness (and that is what he did) the moment of stasis before kiss of The Catacombs, 30 September 1967 (below), the intensity of the man’s passionate embrace, gaze, the sublime distance between bottle at right and bottle top, the image replete with blank, contextless wall behind. There is passion and hilarity here coupled with a feeling of infinite sadness – the squashed faces of The Catacombs, 31 July 1967, the convivial happiness of the couple in The Catacombs, 5 February 1968 (he with his stained trouser leg) counterbalanced by the desolate looking man behind them and the mute expression on the trapped go-go dancers face in The Balalaika, December 1969 as the man reaches his hand through the bars towards her.

Observe the masterpiece that is The Catacombs, 21 November 1967 (below). The cheap Formica bench top and empty Coca-Cola bottle with straw, a half smoked cigarette pointing out of the photograph at bottom right. If the cigarette wasn’t there the image would fall away in that corner: it HAS to be there, an Monk’s eye knew it. The women, standing, singing? holding two bottles of liquor in her out thrust arms, her eyes and hair mimicking the patterns of the painted Medusa behind her. And the young man dressed in jacket and time, one arm outstretched and resting on the bench, the other resting curled up next to his mouth and cheek. It’s his look that gets you – she, declamatory; he, lost in melancholic reverie, with the troubles of the world on his shoulders totally oblivious to her performance. The emotional distance between the two, as the distance between his resting hand and the empty Coke bottle, is enormous, insurmountable. Such a profound and troubling image of a society in hedonistic denial. His look is the look of loneliness, anguish and despair.

These photographs that are the eye of Billy Monk, these slivers of possibility, should not be regarded as a “what if he had lived” sliver, but the silver possibility of what he did see when he was alive. They are a celebration of his informed eye and a recognition of his undoubted talent. I am moved by their pathos and humanity.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Read the text sections of the exhibition (2.8Mb pdf)

 

 

Ernest Cole. 'A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen' 1960–1966

 

Ernest Cole
A student who said he was going to fetch his textbook is pulled in. To prove he was still in school he showed his fountain pen and ink-stained fingers. But that was not enough; in long pants he looked older than sixteen
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 cm x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'After processing they wait at railroad station for transportation to mine. Identity tag on wrist shows shipment of labor to which man is assigned' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
After processing they wait at railroad station for transportation to mine. Identity tag on wrist shows shipment of labor to which man is assigned
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Africans throng Johannesburg station platform during late afternoon rush' 1960–1966

 

Ernest Cole
Africans throng Johannesburg station platform during late afternoon rush
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Every African must show his pass before being allowed to go about his business. Sometimes check broadens into search of a man's person and belongings' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Every African must show his pass before being allowed to go about his business. Sometimes check broadens into search of a man’s person and belongings
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 12 5/8 in. (22 x 32 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Untitled [White Washroom]' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Untitled [White Washroom]
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 11/16 in. (32 x 22 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

Ernest Cole. 'Newspapers are her carpet, fruit crates her chairs and table' 1960-1966

 

Ernest Cole
Newspapers are her carpet, fruit crates her chairs and table
1960-1966
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 11/16 in. (32 x 22 cm)
Courtesy of the Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
© The Ernest Cole Family Trust

 

 

“From December 1, 2012, through March 5, 2013, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents South Africa in Apartheid and After: David Goldblatt, Ernest Cole, Billy Monk, featuring work by three photographers that illuminates a rich and diverse photographic tradition as well as a vital, difficult, and contested period in the history of South Africa. The exhibition continues the museum’s longstanding commitment to documentary photography, showcasing the greatest breadth of each artist’s work ever shown in San Francisco, and in the U.S. for Cole and Monk. Organized by Sandra S. Phillips, SFMOMA’s senior curator of photography, South Africa in Apartheid and After brings together more than 120 photographs.

“South Africa is proving to be a very fertile and active area for contemporary photography, to which David Goldblatt’s contributions and longstanding concerns have contributed significantly,” notes Phillips. “With this show we hope to show some of this rich and varied activity.”

The internationally recognized artist David Goldblatt (b. 1930) has created an immense and powerful body of work depicting his native South Africa for a half century. The exhibition features photographs from Goldblatt’s early project In Boksburg (1982), which portrays a suburban white community near Johannesburg shaped by what the artist calls “white dreams and white proprieties.” Losing its distinctiveness in the accelerated growth of development, Boksburg could almost be mistaken for American suburbia in Goldblatt’s pictures, made in 1979 and 1980. In them, the quaintness of small-town life in South Africa is startlingly set against the increasing entrenchment of racial inequality in the country under apartheid.

Offering multiple perspectives on South Africa during this period, the work of Ernest Cole and Billy Monk are presented in the exhibition at Goldblatt’s suggestion. Adding an important dimension to Goldblatt’s Boksburg project is the work of Cole (1940-1990), a black South African photographer who documented the other side of the racial divide until he was forced to leave his country in 1966. The following year, his project was published in the United States as the book, House of Bondage, and immediately banned in South Africa; this major critique of apartheid has hardly been seen in his own country. In 2006, Goldblatt received the Hasselblad Award and became aware of Cole’s original, uncropped prints. Goldblatt was instrumental in helping bring Cole’s work to international prominence, assisting in organizing a retrospective tour of the work, and championing an accompanying book project, Ernest Cole Photographer (2010). Selected works from the publication are included in the SFMOMA exhibition, featuring pictures that are eloquent, tragic, and deeply humane without a trace of sensationalism. Billy Monk (1937-1982) was a gregarious self-taught photographer who worked as a bouncer in the rowdy Cape Town nightclub The Catacombs in the 1960s. His work, recovered and reprinted posthumously by South African photographer Jac de Villiers, exists as a raw and beautiful record of the port city’s racially mixed population. These three groups of pictures are complemented by a selection of Goldblatt’s post-apartheid photographs, including large color triptychs of beautiful and sober yet hopeful records of an imperfect, still evolving democracy.

The work of all three photographers are also featured in the ongoing exhibition Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at the International Center of Photography, New York (September 14, 2012-January 6, 2013), and Goldblatt and Cole are included in Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s at Barbican Art Gallery, London (September 13, 2012-January 13, 2013).

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 30 September 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 30 September 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
10 1/16 x 14 15/16 in. (25.56 x 37.94 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 31 July 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 31 July 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print; 11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 5 February 1968' 1968

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 5 February 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 1968' 1968

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 1968
1968, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Balalaika, December 1969' 1969

 

Billy Monk
The Balalaika, December 1969
1969, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
16 x 11 in. (40.64 x 27.94 cm)
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

Billy Monk. 'The Catacombs, 21 November 1967' 1967

 

Billy Monk
The Catacombs, 21 November 1967
1967, printed 2011
Gelatin silver print
15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Estate of Billy Monk

 

 

David Goldblatt

Born in Randfontein, South Africa, Goldblatt first started photographing his native country in 1948, the same year the National Party came to power and instituted the policy of apartheid. Since then, he has devoted himself to documenting the South African people, landscape, and cities. Goldblatt photographed exclusively in black and white until the late 1990s. Following the end of apartheid and South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, he looked for new expressive possibilities for his work and turned to color and digital photography. This transition only took place after developments in scanning and printing technology allowed Goldblatt to achieve the same sense of depth in his color work as in his black and white photographs.

In 1989 Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg with “the object of teaching visual literacy and photographic skills to young people, with particular emphasis on those disadvantaged by apartheid,” he has said. In 1998 he was the first South African to be given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. That year, the retrospective David Goldblatt, Fifty-one Years began its international tour, traveling to New York, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Oxford, Brussels, Munich, and Johannesburg. He was also one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. In addition to numerous other solo and group exhibitions, Goldblatt was featured recently in solo shows at the New Museum (2009), the Jewish Museum (2010) in New York – which also traveled to the South African Jewish Museum – and the Victoria and Albert Museum (2011).

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Ernest Cole

Cole left school at 16 as the Bantu education for black South Africans during apartheid prepared them only for menial jobs. Essentially self taught, Cole worked early on as a layout and darkroom assistant for Drum Magazine, a publication loosely inspired by Life magazine and directed toward the native African population. Cole was relatively mobile due to his racial reclassification as “coloured,” the designation for mixed race, that likely stemmed from his ability to speak Afrikaans, the langauge of Afrikaners. However, Cole was closely surveilled and had to photograph covertly, so he always worked at the risk of being arrested and jailed. He believed passionately in his mission to tell the world in photographs what it was like and what it meant to be black under apartheid, and identified intimately with his own people in photographs. With imaginative daring, courage, and compassion, he portrayed the full range of experience of black people as they negotiated their lives through apartheid.

In 1966, Cole decided to leave South Africa with a dream of making a book; House of Bondage was eventually published in the U.S. in 1967. The book, and Cole himself, were immediately banned in South Africa, and Cole passed away after more than 23 years of painful exile, never returning to his home country and leaving no known negatives and few prints of his monumental work. Tio fotografer, an association of Swedish photographers with whom Cole worked from 1970 to 1975 while living in Stockholm, received a collection of his prints, and these were later donated to the Hasselblad Foundation in Sweden.When David Goldblatt received the Hasselblad award in 2006, he viewed the works and then collaborated with the foundation to bring Cole’s work to light. Many of the prints were shown publicly for the first time in the traveling 2010 retrospective Ernest Cole Photographer, which offered new insights to the complex interaction between Cole’s unflinching revelations of apartheid at work and the power, yet subtlety and even elegance, of his photographic perspective. Ernest Cole Photographer has only been seen in South Africa and Sweden. Approximately one-third of Cole’s photographs on view in the SFMOMA exhibition have never been shown before.

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Billy Monk

Using a Pentax camera with 35mm lens, Monk photographed the nightclub revellers of The Catacombs and sold the prints to his subjects. His close friendships with many of the people in the pictures allowed him to photograph them with extraordinary intimacy in all their states of joy and sadness. His pictures of nightlife seem carefree and far away from the scars and segregation of apartheid that fractured this society in the daylight.

In 1969, Monk stopped taking photographs at the club. A decade later his contact sheets and negatives were discovered in a studio by photographer Jac de Villiers, who recognized the significance of his work and arranged the first exhibition of Monk’s work in 1982 at the Market Gallery in Johannesburg. Monk could not attend the opening, and two weeks later, en route to seeing the exhibition, he was tragically shot dead in a fight. From 2010 to 2011, De Villiers revisited Monk’s contact sheets and curated an exhibition at the  Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town, including works that had never been shown before, accompanied by a publication.”

Press release from the SFMOMA website

 

David Goldblatt. 'At a meeting of Voortrekkers in the suburb of Witfield' 1979-1980

 

David Goldblatt
At a meeting of Voortrekkers in the suburb of Witfield
1979-1980
Gelatin silver print
14 9/16 x 14 9/16 in. (37 x 37 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
© David Goldblatt

 

David Goldblatt. 'Eyesight testing at the Vosloorus Eye Clinic of the Boksburg Lions Club' 1980

 

David Goldblatt
Eyesight testing at the Vosloorus Eye Clinic of the Boksburg Lions Club
1980
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 x 19 11/16 in. (50 x 50 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery, South Africa
© David Goldblatt

 

David Goldblatt. 'Saturday afternoon in Sunward Park' 1979

 

David Goldblatt
Saturday afternoon in Sunward Park
1979
Gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. (17.5 x 17.5 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase through a gift of Mark McCain and the Accessions Committee Fund
© David Goldblatt

 

 

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17
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 25th September, 2012 – 24th February, 2013

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It is a pleasure to able to post more of the tough, no nonsense photographs of Ray. K. Metzker. Atlantic City (1966, below) is an absolute beauty – from the shards of light raining down at exaggerated speed on the right hand wall, to the colour of the body, the colouration of the sole of the uplifted foot matching that of the bathers, the out flung arm, the single ray of light hitting the top of the head, to the march into endless darkness at left of image. Imagine actually seeing that image and then capturing it on film…

My personal favourite in the posting are the two photographs by Aaron Siskind. His monumental series, Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation, are photographs of divers leaping through the air captured from below to emphasise the abstract quality of their twisting shapes by isolating them against the sky:

“Highly formal, yet concerned with their subject as well as the idea they communicate, ‘The Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation’ photographs depict the dark shapes of divers suspended mid-leap against a blank white sky. Shot with a hand-held twin-lens reflex camera at the edge of Lake Michigan in Chicago, the balance and conflict suggested by the series’ title is evident in the divers’ sublime contortions.” (Anon. “Aaron Siskind,” on the Museum of Contemporary Photography website 17/02/2013)

Such a simple idea, so well executed, the photographs become a single frame of Muybridge’s motion studies where the audience can imagine the rest of the sequence without seeing. Balance and conflict are in equilibrium and the pleasure and terror of jumping from the top board at the local swimming pool is caught in stasis, crystallised in a sublime field of existence under the gaze of the viewer.

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty 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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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
New Mexico
negative 1972; print 1987
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 27.9 cm (7 x 11 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2011.21.37
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Valencia
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14.3 x 22.9 cm (5 5/8 x 9 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2009.71.20
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
City Whispers: Los Angeles
negative 1981; print 2006
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.8 x 41.4 cm (10 9/16 x 16 5/16 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.25
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
City Whispers, Philadelphia
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.5 x 24 cm (9 5/8 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Atlantic City
negative, 1966; print, 2003
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.3 x 20.3 cm (8 x 8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2011.21.48
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Couplets: Atlantic City
negative 1969; print 1984
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 15.6 cm (9 x 6 1/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2009.6.41
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Double Frame: Philadelphia
negative 1965; print 1972
Gelatin silver print
21.6 x 9.8 cm (8 1/2 x 3 7/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2011.21.58
© Ray K. Metzker

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“Metzker’s work is part of a revered tradition that emerged from the experimental approach of Chicago’s Institute of Design (ID), where he received his graduate degree in 1959. Inspired by instructors Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, Metzker fashioned an entirely personal synthesis of formal elegance, technical precision, and optical innovation. His composite works hold an important status in the history of creative photography: at the time of their making, they were unprecedented in ambition and perceptual complexity.

Metzker’s devotion to photographic seeing as a process of discovery is also deeply humanistic in its illumination of isolation and vulnerability. This exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of Metzker’s five-decade career, while also providing examples of work by instructors and fellow students at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where Metzker studied from 1956 to 1959. Learn more about Metzker’s diverse forays into photography as well as the ID and its profound influence.

Ray K. Metzker (American, born 1931) is one of the most dedicated and influential American photographers of the last half century. His photographs strike a distinctive balance between formal brilliance, optical innovation, and a deep human regard for the objective world. The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design, on view at the Getty Center September 25, 2012 – February 24, 2013, offers a comprehensive overview of Metzker’s five-decade career, while also providing examples of work by instructors and fellow students at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where Metzker studied from 1956 to 1959.

Organized in collaboration with Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the exhibition is curated by Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs, and Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition features nearly 200 photographs, including approximately 80 from the holdings of The Nelson-Atkins Museum.

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Ray K. Metzker

Dynamically composed, Metzker’s luminous black-and-white photographs feature subjects ranging from urban cityscapes to nature, all demonstrating the inventive potential of the photographic process. While a student at the ID, Metzker was mentored by renowned photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. His curiosity led to experiments with high contrast, selective focus, and multiple images.

Metzker’s thesis project for the ID, a study of Chicago’s business district, or Loop, displayed many of these techniques. One image, a multiple exposure of commuters ascending a sun-bathed staircase, prefigures the novel Composites that he began to make in 1964. Whether documenting everyday life in an urban environment or exploring the natural landscapes, Metzker’s photographs often incorporate elements of abstraction. A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Metzker taught at the Philadelphia College of Art for many years. His frequent focus on Philadelphia and other cityscapes has yielded iconic images of automobiles, commuters, streets, sidewalks, and architectural facades.

“Metzker’s love of the photographic process has produced a rich body of work that suggests a vulnerability underlying the human condition,” explains Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “With highlights and shadows pushed to extremes and multiple frames combined in innovative ways, his photographs create a graceful choreography of human interaction against urban settings.”

Metzker titles and groups his images based on their location or technique. The exhibition features Metzker’s most significant bodies of work, including Chicago (1956-59), Europe (1960-61), Early Philadelphia (1961-64), Double Frames and Couplets (1964-69), Composites (1964-84), Sand Creatures (1968-77), Pictus Interruptus (1971-80), City Whispers (1980-83), Landscapes (1985-96), and Late Philadelphia (1996-2009).

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From the New Bauhaus to the Institute of Design

Revered for an energetic atmosphere of experimentation, the ID opened in the fall of 1937 under the name of the New Bauhaus. With the avant-garde artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy at the helm, the school was modeled after the German Bauhaus (1919-1933), which integrated principles of craft and technology into the study of art, architecture, and design. Photography quickly became an integral component of the curriculum.

Moholy-Nagy’s death in 1946 marked a pivotal moment in the school’s history. That year also saw the introduction of a new four-year photography program and the arrival of Harry Callahan, who was instrumental in hiring Aaron Siskind in 1951. The two became a formidable teaching duo and together created a graduate program that encouraged prolonged investigation of a single idea.

Callahan and Siskind served as Ray Metzker’s mentors during his graduate studies at the ID from 1956-59. Other key photography instructors at the ID included György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Henry Holmes Smith, Arthur Siegel, Edmund Teske, Art Sinsabaugh, and Frederick Sommer. A selection from Metzker’s thesis project, along with those of fellow students Kenneth Josephson, Joseph Sterling, Joseph Jachna, and Charles Swedlund, was included in a 1961 issue of Aperture magazine devoted to the IDs graduate program in photography. Now a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology, the ID continues to educate students with the same innovative teaching philosophy that was a hallmark of the original Bauhaus.

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Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind

In 1946, the year of Moholy-Nagy’s death, the ID introduced a new four-year photography program and welcomed instructor Harry Callahan. Callahan was instrumental in hiring Aaron Siskind in 1951, and together they became a formidable teaching duo. Their work will be featured in two galleries within the exhibition, with a focus on photographs they created while at the ID.

Harry Callahan’s work benefitted greatly from the attitude of experimentation that was a hallmark of the ID, and his time at the school marked a particularly productive period in his own career. Architectural details, views of nature and intimate photographs of his wife, Eleanor and daughter, Barbara became subjects that defined his career. A central tenet of his teaching was to return to previously explored subjects, an approach that he himself practiced, as did Metzker.

Influenced by the Abstract Expressionist painters he befriended in the 1940s, Aaron Siskind’s work features abstracted textures and patterns excerpted from the real world. Often calligraphic in form, the urban facades, graffiti, stains, and debris he photographed capitalize on the flatness of the picture plane. In Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation, his studies of male divers against a blank sky experiments with the figure-ground relationship.

“Callahan and Siskind had vastly different visual styles and interests in subject matter” said Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “However, both emphasized the expressive possibilities of the medium rather than the mechanics of producing a photograph. It was this shared interest in constantly challenging their students that came to define their influential presence at the ID.”

Also featured in the exhibition is work by a number of founding ID photography instructors and those who taught in the years Metzker attended the school, including György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Henry Holmes Smith, Arthur Siegel, Edmund Teske, Art Sinsabaugh, and Frederick Sommer. Another gallery is dedicated to the work of ID students Kenneth Josephson, Joseph Sterling, Joseph Jachna, and Charles Swedlund, all of whom, together with Metzker, were featured in a 1961 issue of Aperture magazine that extolled the virtues of the ID’s photography program.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Joseph Sterling American, 1936-2010
Untitled
1961
Gelatin silver print
19.1 x 19.1 cm (7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark
Cards, Inc., 2005.27.4395
Courtesy Stephen Daiter Gallery
© Deborah Sterling

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Arthur Siegel American, 1913-1978
State Street
1949
Dye transfer print
21.9 x 26.4 cm (8 5/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark
Cards, Inc., 2005.27.2201
© Estate of Arthur Siegel

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Harry Callahan American, 1912-1999
Eleanor, Chicago
1952
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10.2 x 12.7 cm (4 x 5 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Harry Callahan

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Aaron Siskind American, 1903-1991
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 25
1957
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.9 x 26.4 cm (11 x 10 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

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Aaron Siskind American, 1903-1991
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 94
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image : 27.9 x 26.1 cm (11 x 10 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

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Charles Swedlund American, born 1935
Buffalo, NY
about 1970
Gelatin silver print
18.7 x 15.9 cm (7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by an anonymous donor in memory of James N. Wood
© Charles Swedlund

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Aaron Siskind American, 1903-1991
Jerome, Arizona 21
1949
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, 84.XM.1012.122
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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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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