Archive for the 'street photography' Category

22
Aug
14

Review: ‘The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975′ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th June – 31st August 2014

Artists: Micky Allan, Virginia Coventry, Gerrit Fokkema, John Gollings, Tim Handfield, Ian North, Robert Rooney, Wes Stacey

 

This is another stimulating exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art, a gallery that consistently puts on some of the best photography exhibitions in Melbourne each year. Kudos to them.

Each of the eight artists in this exhibition present mainly conceptually based work. Each body of work is individually strong but in the context of the exhibition they come together seamlessly to form a kind of giant jigsaw puzzle of images, a series of impressions of Australia and the road: work that responds to the experience of automotive travel in Australia, announcing “the road-trip as the quintessential Australian journey, highlighting the challenges to life and culture that accompanied suburban expansion and the ways that Australians embraced the road during the 1970s and ‘80s.”

It is a pleasure to finally see Ian North’s colour series Canberra suite (1980-81, below). Having seen but a few images online, to see the whole body of work in the flesh was illuminating. While lacking the formal rigour and structure of some of the other work in the exhibition, I enjoyed the natural simplicity of the photographs, their planned naïveté, which perfectly captures the suburbs of Canberra at that time. I also delighted in the intimacy of the small silver gelatin prints of Micky Allan’s Mock-up for ‘My trip’ 1976 (1976, below) with their pithy aphorisms such as “Need help?” when the car is bogged.

Another great series is Wes Stacey’s spunky The road (1974-75, below) – small automated chemist shop prints with their 1970s colours and rounded corners all housed in cheap plastic sleeves pinned to board. This series is beautifully resolved which today allows for a sensually self-indulgent nostalgia to form for the time in which they were taken. The cars, the colours, the travel, people and places so evocatively captured on an Instamatic camera form a captivating narrative of “the sense of movement and adventure that underpins a road trip in a relatively cheap and expedient way.” Another strong series of photographs are by Tim Handfield who I have always thought is an excellent photographer with a good eye. As can be seen by the four images in this posting, Handfield is a master at handling form, structure and colour in the image field. In these photographs he almost seems to compress the space inside the photograph so that they have a vaguely threatening presence.

Finally, there is the wonderful Surfers Paradise Boulevard (1973, below) by John Gollings. The artist’s riff on the American artist Ed Ruscha’s book Every building on the Sunset Strip (1966) – which presented composite black and white panoramas of each side of Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip – Gollings vision is in glorious Ektacolour film which highlights the sensuality of what can, at that time, be seen as a sleepy surf coast town. The shock comes on seeing the main strip of the town and envisioning in your mind what a monster it has become today… how human beings almost always despoil the very thing that is beautiful and valuable in a spiritual sense (such as my favourite place in Australia, Byron Bay). This fragmented, Hockney-esque view of the vernacular forms of cultural expression perfectly captures the insouciance of a town that doesn’t yet know what’s going to hit ‘em – through an ideal representation of contemporary urban space and the automotive experience of it.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of 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. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

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Installation view of Ian North’s series Canberra suite 1980-81 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

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Installation views of Wesley Stacey’s series The road 1974-75 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

This exhibition brings together a range of photographic projects that responded to the experience of automotive travel in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s. The work in this exhibition shows that there was a strong relationship between photography and the road in Australian culture at this time. Photography helped to make sense of the particular experience of movement made possible by faster cars and better roads; at the same time, it helped to demonstrate the challenges to life and culture that accompanied suburban expansion and the rise of the road in Australia.

The road is one of the great subjects in Australian visual culture. In many of our greatest films, books and works of art, the road is a place where personal identity is negotiated, where the national story unfolds, and where culture, technology and nature come together at times in extraordinary ways. MGA’s latest exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 brings together a range of photographic projects that explore the road as experienced by many Australians in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Presenting the work of eight prominent Australian artists, The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 announces the road-trip as the quintessential Australian journey, highlighting the challenges to life and culture that accompanied suburban expansion and the ways that Australians embraced the road during the 1970s and ‘80s. Using a range of strategies – from Instamatic cameras and chemist-shop printing, to expansive composite panoramas and photographic grids that replicate the experience of the modern city – these photographers helped to make sense of the particular experience of movement and landscape made possible by faster cars and better roads, in a way only photography could.

The exhibition features some of the most significant photographic projects produced by Australian photographers during this period. Wes Stacey’s mythic series of over 300 photographs The road presents an epic travelogue of road trips made by the artist in his Kombi Van during 1973 and 1974. The exhibition also features John Gollings’s monumental, ten-metre long streetscapes of Surfers Paradise Boulevard from 1973, as well as Robert Rooney’s iconic Holden park, featuring the artist’s Holden car parked in 20 different locations across Melbourne. The road also features work by two of Australia’s most important feminist photographers, Micky Allan and Virginia Coventry, who both challenged many of the gendered assumptions about the road, automotive travel and Australian life during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

As MGA Curator Stephen Zagala notes, “The road has often provided Australian photographers with a means to an end, whether a landscape or a picturesque community in some distant part of the country. But as this important exhibition shows, during the 1970s, the road took on a whole new meaning for Australian photographers. It provided a space for innovation and experimentation, and also a photographic reconsideration of Australian life.”

Gallery Director Shaune Lakin states, “The history of MGA – with its genesis in the late 1970s – is intricately linked to The road, one of our most important exhibitions of the year. Relatively cheap and accessible petrol, increased private car ownership, and a vastly improved network of roads encouraged the suburban expansion of Melbourne, and MGA is one of the many legacies of this expansion. We are proud to present this exhibition, which provides an as-yet untold account of Australian photography and has such a close historical association with our gallery.”

Press release from the MGA website

 

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Installation views of Micky Allan’s Mock-up for ‘My trip’ 1976 (1976) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Micky ALLAN
b. 1944, Australia

Micky Allan’s My trip is a conceptual art project based on a road trip that she made through country Victoria in 1976. Allan’s conceptual premise was to photograph everyone who spoke to her and then invite these people to use her camera to photograph whatever they chose. Allan also recorded the conversations that transpired in these encounters, and subsequently compiled all these elements as a photographic essay that was printed and distributed as a broadsheet. Like many road trip narratives, Allan’s My trip conceptualises travel as a trajectory of chance encounters that illuminate social differences.

Micky Allan completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne in 1967 and a Diploma of Painting at the National Gallery School in 1968. Allan began taking photographs in 1974 after joining the loosely formed feminist collective at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. In this context Allan was part of a vibrant community of feminist artists that included Sue Ford, Ruth Maddison, Ponch Hawkes and Virginia Coventry, who taught her how to take and print photographs. Allan is well-known for reclaiming the antiquated practice of hand-colouring monotone photographs, as a way of investing the photo-mechanical process with subjective qualities. She has often used the theme of travel to embed her practice in a personal journey of discovery.

 

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Installation views of Virginia Coventry’s series Service road 1976-78 (detail) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

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Virginia Coventry
born Australia 1942
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5 (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

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Virginia Coventry
born Australia 1942
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5 (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

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Virginia Coventry
born Australia 1942
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5 (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

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Virginia Coventry
born Australia 1942
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5 (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

Virginia COVENTRY
b. Melb 1942

Virginia Coventry’s Service road continued the artist’s interest in reflecting social and emotional experiences that differed from dominant, particularly masculine positions and experiences. The series presents two rows of reverse-angle photographs of houses and empty blocks that line a service road near the recently-completed Princes Freeway at Moe, Victoria. The weatherboard houses and the scene no doubt reflect the experience of many Australians living in postwar suburban developments who commuted between home and work, in this case the thousands of men who worked at the nearby Yallourn and Morewell power stations. Coventry photographed these homes and empty blocks as if viewed from a car passing by. Coventry has also included a number of views of the road, seen from inside the homes. The dark interiors take on a particular psychological and emotional countenance, one that contrasts starkly with the brightly lit outside. In this way, the series illuminates the experience of many women for whom the service road was a place of loneliness and dislocation.

Virginia Coventry studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology during the early 1960s, before undertaking postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. While painting and drawing have remained a constant part of Coventry’s practice, she started taking photographs during the mid-1960s and developed a significant reputation during the 1970s for her photographs and installations. Her photographic work often comprised sequences of images combined with text and other fragments, and examined the relationship of landscape, place and power – particularly in relation to the experience of women. Her photographs were included in a number of key exhibitions of the period, including Three women photographers at George Paton Gallery, the Sydney Biennales of 1976 and 1979, Ten viewpoints (Australian Centre for Photography, 1976), and Self portrait/self image (Victorian College of the Arts, 1980).

 

Gerrit FOKKEMA
b. 1954, Papua New Guinea; Australia since 1958.

During the 1970s Gerrit Fokkema used the spacious streetscapes of Canberra to compose surreal photographs of contemporary urban life. In Exit Canberra and Ligertwood Street, the infrastructure of new suburbs has become overgrown with grass while waiting to be populated. The road itself doesn’t appear in these photographs, but its presence is alluded to with street signs and a lamp post. In this way, Fokkema suggests that these places exist at the ‘end of the road’ or on a ‘road to nowhere’. The optimistic skies that feature in these photographs seem to mock the aspirations of Canberra’s town planners.

Gerrit Fokkema studied photography at Canberra Technical College (1974-77) while working as a press photographer. In 1980 he moved to Sydney to work for the Sydney Morning Herald, and in 1986 he left the paper to pursue a freelance commercial career. Throughout his professional life Fokkema has maintained a personal photographic practice and exhibited his work on numerous occasions. He held his first solo exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography in 1975, where he exhibited regularly throughout the late 1970s. His photographs are executed in a social-documentary mode, with a particular interest in urban landscapes and situated portraits of ‘everyday’ Australians.

 

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (installation view)

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (detail)

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (detail)

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (detail)

 

Installation and detail views of John Gollings’ work Surfers Paradise Boulevard 1973 (details) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

John GOLLINGS
b. Melb 1944

John Gollings is best known for his architectural photography, and has over the last four decades photographed most of Australia’s and Asia’s most significant architectural projects. In 1973, Gollings travelled to Surfers Paradise to photograph its buildings, streetscape and signage. He had recently read influential architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott-Brown and Steven Izenour’s book Learning from Las Vegas (1972), which asked architects to pay closer attention to vernacular forms of cultural expression in favour of heroic or monumental architecture of the past. Gollings was also familiar with the work of the Californian artist Ed Ruscha, notably his book Every building on the Sunset Strip (1966), which presented composite panoramas of each side of Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip. For many urbanists at the time – including the authors of Learning from Las Vegas – Ruscha’s book realised an ideal representation of contemporary urban space and the automotive experience of it.

Gollings undertook a depiction of Surfers Paradise Boulevard that drew on Ruscha’s composite panorama of Sunset Strip. Sitting on the bonnet of a V8 Valiant station wagon, Gollings drove up and down Surfers Paradise Boulevard on a quiet Sunday morning, progressively photographing each side of the strip with his Nikon camera using Ektacolour film. The resulting composite panorama has become a remarkable historical record of an urban setting that has undergone radical transformation in the time since 1973.

 

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Installation view of Tim Handfield’s work Babinda 1981 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

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Installation view of Tim Handfield’s work Gordonvale 1981 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

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Tim Handfield
born Australia 1952
Promenade
1985
Silver dye bleach print
51.0 x 67.0 cm
collection of the artist
courtesy of the artist and M. 33 (Melbourne)

 

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Tim Handfield
born Australia 1952
Bayview Heights, Cairns
1980
Silver dye bleach print
51.0 x 67.0 cm
collection of the artist
Courtesy of the artist and M. 33 (Melbourne)

 

 

Tim HANDFIELD
b. Melb 1952

These photographs come from an extended series of pictures taken by Tim Handfield on the road. The series features images of the roadside landscape of places Handfield travelled through and visited along Australia’s eastern seaboard during the 1980s. The photographs relate to a broad body of often diaristic postwar literature, cinema and visual arts that considered the particular experience of the world made possible by the road (at least in the West). In this way, the pictures reflect the dominance of American culture at this time, when earlier assumptions about the road as a place of quest and opportunity were giving way to accounts of the road as a place of boredom, sameness and danger. The series is also about the particular experience of travel and landscape in Australia, at a time when the impending bicentennial of European settlement led many to reconsider the assumptions upon which Australian life was based.

Tim Handfield has been working at the forefront in Australia of new colour photographic processes since the mid-1970s. Spending extended periods of time in the United States during the early to mid-1970s, Handfield became interested in the work of American photographers such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, who found deadpan beauty in the banality of American suburban life. After returning to Australia, Handfield sought out non-dramatic urban sites, which he photographed in highly formal ways. These images were ideally served by the Cibachrome printing process, a dye destruction positive-to-positive photographic process noted for the purity of its colour, clarity of image and archival stability.

 

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Ian North
born New Zealand 1945; arrived Australia 1971
Canberra suite
1980-81
1 of 24 chromogenic prints, printed 1984
37.0 x 46.0 cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of David Symen & Co. Limited, 2001
Courtesy of the artist

 

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Ian North
born New Zealand 1945; arrived Australia 1971
Canberra suite
1980-81
1 of 24 chromogenic prints, printed 1984
37.0 x 46.0 cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of David Symen & Co. Limited, 2001
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Ian NORTH
b. 1945, New Zealand; Australia from 1971.

Ian North developed his Canberra suite while living in Canberra during 1980-84. The suite reflects North’s experience of the particular suburban interface that is so intrinsic to Walter Burley-Griffin’s vision of Canberra. Having grown up in New Zealand, making artwork about the sublime urban spaces of Wellington, North brought a particularly soulful sensibility to Australia’s suburban capital. Canberra suite also reflects North’s professional experience of the city. He moved to Canberra in 1980 as the first Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia. A key feature of NGA’s collection development at the time was the acquisition of work by contemporary American photographers, including prints by William Eggleston and Stephen Shore and books by Ed Ruscha. After work hours, North made a pastime of wandering the streets of Canberra and taking photographs in a similar vein. Like his American contemporaries, North embraced the roadside as an uncanny threshold between public and private space, systematically documenting the everyday in order to imbue it with a sense of mystery.

Ian North initially studied art history and spent most of his professional life working as a curator and an academic. Alongside his career as a curator, North developed a substantial artistic practice which flourished when he moved away from museum-based work. Working with photography and painting, North’s art practice focuses on the representation of the landscape.

 

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Installation views of Robert Rooney’s series Holden Park 1 & 2, May 1970 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Robert ROONEY
b. Melb 1937

Robert Rooney’s Holden Park 1 & 2, May 1970 is one of the key works of postwar Australian photography. The work comprises a grid of photographs depicting Rooney’s Holden car parked at 19 different sites around the artist’s East Hawthorn home, locations which Rooney chose at random from a street directory. Holden Park draws on a range of influences that include the photographic books of American conceptualist Ed Ruscha, the absurd topographies of the Swiss conceptualist Daniel Spoerri, and the American composer John Cage’s interest in chance as a creative principle. However, and while the work is very ‘literate’ in relation to these influences, Holden Park is very much a product of postwar Melbourne. Rooney has always maintained a strong interest in the suburban experience and the way that Melbourne has developed around this experience. While it would be disingenuous to say that Holden Park is a product of social history, it was certainly informed by and reflects the sensation of driving around Melbourne’s suburbs on a Sunday afternoon.

Robert Rooney is one of Australia’s best-known artists. Rooney studied art and design at Swinburne Technical College and quickly developed a significant reputation for his abstract painting and art criticism. Rooney gave up painting during the early 1970s and for over a decade focussed largely on photographic work. Using an Instamatic and later a 35 mm camera, Rooney photographed in great detail his suburban life, organising his pictures according to gridded frameworks that seemed to distil the rigour of European and American conceptualism and performance art, the humour of Pop Art, and the particular countenance of Australian suburban life during the 1970s. Examples include AM/PM of 1974, for which Rooney photographed his bed each morning and night for 107 days, and Garments 1972-73, for which he photographed the clothes he would wear each day for 107 days.

 

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Installation views of Wesley Stacey’s series The road 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

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Wesley Stacey
born Australia 1941
The road (details)
1974-75
304 chromogenic prints
9.0 x 12.7 cm (each)
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Wesley STACEY
b. 1941 Australia

Wesley Stacey’s The road is an epic travelogue that documents a series of specific road trips made by the artist in his Kombi Van during 1973 and 1974. This project grew out of Stacey’s interest in Instamatic cameras and automated colour printing, which became readily available during the early 1970s. Remote Australian landscapes are a persistent theme in Stacey’s photography, but these new technologies allowed him to document the sense of movement and adventure that underpins a road trip in a relatively cheap and expedient way. The road was initially exhibited as a series of sequential panels at the Australian Centre for Photography in 1975, and then re-configured as a series of photobooks containing 305 prints. A second version containing 280 photographs was printed for the National Gallery of Australia in 1984.

Wesley Stacey studied drawing and design at East Sydney Technical College (1960-62) before working as a graphic designer and photographer for the ABC in Sydney and the BBC in London through the 1960s. In the late 1960s he worked as a magazine photographer in Sydney and from 1969-75 worked as a freelance commercial photographer. In 1973 Stacey helped establish the Australian Centre for Photography and was a member of its inaugural board of management. In 1976 Stacey moved to the Bermagui area of the NSW South Coast, where he purchased land and established a rudimentary bush camp where he continues to live.

Text © Monash Gallery of Art 2014

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
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Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

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Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
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16
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 4th April – 24th August 2014

 

It takes guts and moral fortitude to continue photographing the city that you live in even as the state that controls that city and country conspires against you. It takes talent to produce memorable images of urban poverty, to record for posterity communities that would soon vanish forever under the weight of a malignant form of madness, of genocide.

Vishniac was the only one not concerned with ego. He went out there and got the job done where no one else did. He produced thoroughly modern images of an ancient culture on the verge of destruction. He knew the danger and yet he still took the photos. Courage and fortitude, and in the end the luck to escape the Holocaust himself.

You can’t look at these images without a sense of regret and sadness – at the stupidity of humanity, of the egos of men, and the waste of millions of lives. One name says it all: Ernst Kaufmann. Standing on a pile of rocks, wearing wooden clogs, this man with the wavy hair looks down into the camera and he will ever be thus – young, handsome, alive in the moment that the photograph was taken.

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

Marcus

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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. Lots more images can be found on the excellent Roman Vishniac Archive website.

 

 

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Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance, Berlin (detail)
1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered brings together four decades of work by an extraordinarily versatile and innovative photographer for the first time. Vishniac (1897-1990) created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. These celebrated photographs were taken on assignment for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world’s largest Jewish relief organization, from 1935-38, yet this exhibition follows the photographer’s long and accomplished career from the early 1920s through the 1950s. Roman Vishniac Rediscovered introduces a radically diverse body of work – much of it only recently discovered – and repositions Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern European Jewry within a broader tradition of 1930s social documentary photography.

More than any other photographer, Roman Vishniac’s images have profoundly influenced contemporary notions of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Vishniac created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of that world on the eve of its annihilation, yet only a small fraction of his work was published or printed during his lifetime. Known primarily for this poignant record, Vishniac was in fact a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. His body of work spans more than five decades, ranging from early engagements with European modernism in the 1920s to highly inventive color photomicroscopy in the 1950s and ’60s.

Born in 1897 to an affluent Russian-Jewish family, Vishniac was raised in Moscow, where he studied zoology and biology. He immigrated to Berlin in 1920 in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. As an amateur photographer he took to the streets, offering witty and wry visual commentary on his adopted city while experimenting with new approaches to framing and composition. As Vishniac documented the Nazi rise to power, foreboding signs of oppression soon became a focal point of his work. In 1935, he was commissioned by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) – the world’s largest Jewish relief organization – to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Vishniac’s four years of work on the project yielded the celebrated images that have largely defined his photographic legacy.

Arriving in New York on New Year’s Day 1941, Vishniac opened a portrait studio, working to make ends meet by documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life, while establishing himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, he returned to Europe and documented Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps, the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives, emigration and relief efforts, and the ruins of Berlin.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is a comprehensive reappraisal of Vishniac’s total photographic output, from his early years in Berlin through the postwar period in America. The exhibition is drawn from the Roman Vishniac archive at ICP and serves as an introduction to this vast assemblage comprising more than 30,000 objects, including recently discovered vintage prints, rare moving film footage, contact sheets, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from his recently digitized negatives.

 

Berlin Street Photography, 1920s-30s

Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920, shortly after the formation of the Weimar Republic. He and his wife Luta settled in the Wilmersdorf district, home to a large community of affluent Russian-Jewish expatriates. Berlin in the 1920s was the epitome of a modern city: cosmopolitan, loud, vibrant, diverse, and full of recent immigrants. Already an accomplished amateur photographer, Vishniac joined several of the city’s ubiquitous camera clubs. Armed with his Rolleiflex and Leica, he took to the streets, creating astute, often humorous observations of his adopted city.

Vishniac’s interest in photography had begun during his childhood in Russia; many Russian Jews owned photography shops and studios, and Vishniac’s family encouraged his pursuits. In Berlin, his perspective as an outsider contributed to his inventive and dynamic images of life in the city, and marked his transformation from amateur hobbyist to accomplished street photographer. His best, most intimate photographs were often taken in his own neighborhood, where he built a fully equipped photo-processing lab in his apartment.

Vishniac took full advantage of the city’s manifold resources, improving his technique and experimenting with modernist and avant-garde approaches to framing and composition – hallmarks of Weimar Berlin. This prodigious body of early work became increasingly influenced by European modernism as he captured the buzzing day-to-day life of the city: streetcar drivers, municipal workers and day laborers, marching students and children at play, bucolic park scenes and the intellectual café life of the bustling metropolis that was, in Vishniac’s words, “the world’s center of music, books, and science.”

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]' late 1920s - early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac
[Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]
late 1920s – early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'People behind bars, Berlin Zoo' Early 1930s (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
People behind bars, Berlin Zoo
Early 1930s (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

The oldest and most renowned zoo in Germany, the Zoologische Garten was a popular gathering place for Berlin’s middle- and upper-class Jewish community before World War II. Many affluent Jewish families, including the Vishniacs, were shareholders. Beginning in 1933, the zoo began to force out Jewish board members. In 1938, a sign reading “Juden unerwünscht” (Jews Unwanted) was displayed at the entrance to the zoo and in early 1939 Jews were denied entry entirely. In Vishniac’s photograph of the zoo’s famous polar bears, it appears that the visitors, and not the animals, are in a cage.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boys admiring a motorcycle, Brandenburg, outskirts of Berlin]' 1929 - early 1930s (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boys admiring a motorcycle, Brandenburg, outskirts of Berlin]
1929 – early 1930s (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Nazi Rise to Power in Germany, 1933-38

“I grew up in Berlin with a pervasive sense of danger and dread combined with a perceived obligation not to show fear. I was aware of personal danger and knew that whatever happened to me, my parents could offer no protection or help. That was everyday life.”

Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Vishniac’s development as a professional photographer coincided with the Nazi rise to power and the establishment of the Third Reich. Widespread antisemitism and the implementation of increasingly restrictive measures against Jews became daily realities. Vishniac documented the ominous changes he encountered, photographing campaign posters, swastika banners, phrenology shops, and marching Nazi soldiers. Following Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933, the government relentlessly pursued those artists and intellectuals not in line with the Reich’s values. Berlin’s cosmopolitan vivacity was soon drained of its intellectual and cultural capital. Once-vibrant neighborhoods became ruled by fear; anyone considered an opponent of the Nazi government could be sent to Dachau, a concentration camp established in 1933 outside Munich.

Many photographers suffered from the Nazi policies; the Schriftgesetz (Editorial Act) of November 1933 forced anyone working in publishing – photographers included – to provide proof of Aryan heritage. In 1934, the Deutsche Presse (German Press) published a list of authorized Aryan photographers whose work aligned with the Nazi party. Jews were forbidden to take photographs on the street. In spite of these restrictions, Vishniac tenaciously documented Berlin’s rapid acclimation to Nazi policy. To avoid suspicion, he often used his young daughter Mara as a prop, snapping seemingly innocuous pictures of her in front of advertising columns and shop windows festooned with Nazi propaganda.

These symbols of oppression formed the quotidian backdrop of Vishniac’s Germany, a fact to which the ubiquity of Nazi flags, banners, and posters in his later Berlin photographs testify. Capturing the spread of Nazi ideology on Berlin’s streets, Vishniac’s images embodied his own marginalization – and endangerment – as both a photographer and a Jew.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Recalcitrance, Berlin' 1926

 

Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance, Berlin
1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Vishniac's daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads "The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights," Wilmersdorf, Berlin]' 1933

 

Roman Vishniac
[Vishniac's daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads "The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights," Wilmersdorf, Berlin]
1933
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Street scene with a swastika flag on a storefront (at left), Berlin]' c. 1935-36 (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Street scene with a swastika flag on a storefront (at left), Berlin]
c. 1935-36 (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Vishniac often positioned himself in doorways or building foyers in his Berlin street photography, documenting daily life as a removed observer. This image reveals multiple layers of time in one shot: the car positioned alongside the horse-drawn wagon, bicyclists speeding by as pedestrians young and old navigate the cobblestones and pavement, against the backdrop of a rapidly modernizing metropolis. Only upon closer examination do our eyes move to a swastika flag blowing in the wind above the horses, a common site on most Berlin streets by 1935.

 

 

German-Jewish Relief and Community Organizations, Berlin, mid- to late 1930s

Prior to Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933, Jewish social service organizations in Germany primarily served Eastern European Jews, the majority of whom were less cosmopolitan, assimilated, and affluent than their German-born coreligionists. The Nazi regime recognized no such distinction, however, and their rise to power drastically affected almost every Jew living in Germany. As Germany’s Jewish population was gradually excluded from both social and economic life, many came to depend upon a Jewish social structure that was originally intended to look outward but quickly expanded to serve the growing needs of the community.

In 1933, German-Jewish groups unified into the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Central Organization of German Jews), an umbrella organization intended to ameliorate the effects of Nazi racial policy. Between 1933 and 1938, subsidiary and affiliate organizations created Jewish education and healthcare systems and instituted a welfare system for Jews facing impoverishment. Zionist and other youth organizations flourished under the exclusionary policies of the Nazis, helping would-be émigrés learn the agricultural and vocational skills needed to build new lives in Palestine and elsewhere. The Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Association) was established in response to restrictions placed on Jewish artists. Vishniac and his family were among its 70,000 members and regularly attended lectures and performances. Vishniac was also a member of T’munah, a Jewish photographic group founded in 1934 in response to the exclusionary policies of “Aryan” camera clubs.

As restrictions on photographers increased, Vishniac was commissioned to document the work of several Jewish community and social service organizations in Berlin. This fascinating body of work is largely unknown, but it helped establish his reputation in Jewish philanthropic circles, leading to major commissions from a wide range of Jewish relief and community organizations from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Drawer of freshly farmed eggs, Gut Winkel, a training farm for German-Jewish youth hoping to emigrate to Palestine, Spreenhagen in der Mark, Brandenburg, Germany]' c. 1938

 

Roman Vishniac
[Drawer of freshly farmed eggs, Gut Winkel, a training farm for German-Jewish youth hoping to emigrate to Palestine, Spreenhagen in der Mark, Brandenburg, Germany]
c. 1938
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Preparing food in a Jewish soup kitchen, Berlin]' mid- to late 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac
[Preparing food in a Jewish soup kitchen, Berlin]
mid- to late 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Jewish Life in Eastern Europe, ca. 1935-38

In 1935, Roman Vishniac was hired by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) to document impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Photographic images offered limitless, affordable reproducibility, and could be used in slide lectures, brochures, appeals, and annual reports throughout America and Western Europe. Vishniac’s images played a crucial role in communicating the AJDC’s message, and they would ultimately become the last extensive photographic record by a single photographer of Jewish communities that had existed for centuries.

The majority of Vishniac’s published photographs of Eastern Europe depict privation. Many others illustrate the philanthropic activities of the AJDC such as children’s camps, free loan societies, soup kitchens, schools, and health organizations. And while Vishniac is often associated with images of rural villages and small towns, or shtetlach, most of his photographs record urban poverty in major cities like Warsaw, Krakow, and Lodz. His work for the AJDC echoes the contemporaneous projects of American photographers like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, and Walker Evans. In the same years that the Farm Security Administration sent photographers to the American South and West to document those affected by drought, depression, and migration, Vishniac was sent east by the AJDC. Today, his work stands alongside the best social-documentary photographers of his era. His unpublished work imparts a much more complex and nuanced perspective on Eastern European Jewish life, and reveals a much more versatile – and modern – artist.

That Vishniac was commissioned to document the most impoverished Jews is significant, as is the fact that he often chose the most traditional and observant Jews as subjects, to amplify the contrast between Ostjuden, or Eastern Jews, and the more assimilated Western Jews who would be viewing the images. It was only after the Holocaust, when the communities he had so poignantly depicted were annihilated, that his body of work came to symbolize the vanished world of Eastern Jewry.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Eastern Europe]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Eastern Europe]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Eastern Europe]' (detail) c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Eastern Europe] (detail)
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stenciled flowers above her head, Warsaw]' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac
[Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stenciled flowers above her head, Warsaw]
c. 1935-37
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Werkdorp Nieuwesluis Agrarian Training Camp, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands, 1939

As the plight of German Jews became increasingly dire throughout the 1930s and many Jewish families attempted to send their children to safety in neutral countries, many young German Jews, including Vishniac’s children Wolf and Mara, joined a large number of Zionist organizations. With the British government maintaining strict immigration quotas, hundreds of young German Jews planning to go to Palestine and waiting to obtain visas were sent to the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, a Zionist agrarian youth training complex, or hachschara, in the Netherlands. Established in 1934 by the Foundation for Jewish Labor on land donated by the Dutch government, the Werkdorp taught young, urban Jews farming, animal husbandry, construction, and other unfamiliar skills they would need as pioneers in Palestine.

In 1939, Vishniac was sent by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) to document the Werkdorp’s activities. Vishniac photographed the capable young men and women as idealized, heroic Zionist pioneers, lifting heavy stones, constructing scaffolding, and tugging on rope. The images bear a striking resemblance to heavily circulated halutz (Zionist pioneer) photography made in Palestine in the 1930s, and demonstrate Vishniac’s versatility: here is an ambitious, accomplished series in a style that is radically different from his earlier work, and perfectly suited to his athletic, industrious subjects. Shot from a low vantage point, the Werkdorp images juxtapose clear skies and strong silhouettes to form vigorous, balanced compositions. Young, healthy bodies play off the clean, rhythmic geometry of the construction sites in a manner that is also reminiscent of the Russian Constructivist photographer Rodchenko, whose work would certainly have been familiar to Vishniac.

In March 1941, Nazi SS officers ordered the evacuation of the camp, and most of its inhabitants were sent to transit camps, including Westerbork. Out of 315 Werkdorp residents in May 1940, 175 were killed in concentration camps in the east.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Vishniac’s Werkdorp images did not include any caption information on the few existing prints of the work, and were thus difficult to identify. A small, 2¼-inch-square contact print of three young men wearing wooden clogs provided a vital clue that facilitated the attribution of this larger body of Werkdorp material, with the assistance of curators at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. This is the only known example of a professional photographer documenting this Dutch Zionist agrarian training camp.

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Willy Lefkowitz and Martin Grünpeter constructing a foundry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939 (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Willy Lefkowitz and Martin Grünpeter constructing a foundry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939 (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Willy Lefkowitz, left, was forcibly removed from the Werkdorp when it was closed by the Nazis in 1941. Lefkowitz, along with the majority of the Werkdorp’s remaining inhabitants, was sent to the Westerbork Transit Camp in northeastern Netherlands, a site where Dutch Jews and Roma were assembled during World War II prior to their deportation to Nazi extermination camps in the east. Of the 107,000 people who passed through Westerbork – among them Anne Frank and her family – only 5,200 survived, including Lefkowitz, who immigrated to the United States. He is believed to have died in Brooklyn in 2001. Martin Grünpeter, right, a German Jew born in 1914, survived World War II and immigrated to Palestine.

 

 

Travel, Refuge, and Internment in France: Paris, Nice, and Marseille, ca. 1939

From April to September 1939, Vishniac worked as a freelance photographer based in France while his family struggled to secure exit visas to the U.S. (his children had been sent to safety in Sweden). In the interwar years, France had welcomed Jews from across Europe. By 1939, as Jews fleeing Nazi rule brought the Jewish population in France to over 300,000, an increasingly conservative and nationalist government sought to limit immigration. Detention camps for Jews were established in southern France.

During this time, Vishniac was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT) to photograph and film an ORT vocational training school for Jewish refugees near Marseille. Vishniac’s parents had relocated to Nice in 1937, and while visiting them, he took playful, spontaneous photographs of Riviera beach life, a stark contrast to the intense and machine-focused ORT images that were to be his final photographic assignment for the AJDC until his return to Europe in 1947.

In late 1939, after entrusting a large selection of his negatives to his friend Walter Bierer in Paris, Vishniac was arrested and imprisoned at the Camp du Ruchard internment camp. Held for three months, he wrote desperate letters to family, friends, and the staff of the AJDC, describing the dismal conditions and pleading for assistance. Following his release, secured through the efforts of his wife, Vishniac waited in France while his family worked to obtain exit visas, with assistance from the AJDC. Vishniac reunited with Luta, Wolf, and Mara in Lisbon, and the family sailed for America on the S.S. Siboney in December 1940, arriving in America on New Year’s Day 1941.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Beachgoers in the afternoon, Nice, France]' c. 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Beachgoers in the afternoon, Nice, France]
c. 1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Students learning metalwork techniques, Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), Marseille]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Students learning metalwork techniques, Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), Marseille]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

YIVO Exhibitions in New York, January 1944 and January 1945

In 1944 and 1945, as World War II raged in Europe, Vishniac staged two large exhibitions at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, presenting his commissioned work from Eastern Europe to an American audience.

Founded in 1925 as the Yiddish Scientific Institute in Wilno, Poland, YIVO was created to preserve, research, and promote Eastern European Jewish culture and history during a period of rapid modernization and immigration. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the organization was reestablished in New York in 1940 as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, at 55 West 123rd Street, while a group of brave and dedicated archivists in Wilno worked to rescue precious material in defiance of Nazi orders.

Vishniac’s first exhibition at YIVO, Pictures of Jewish Life in Prewar Poland, opened in January 1944 and focused on urban Jewish life, with a large selection of images from Lublin, Warsaw, and Wilno. The second exhibition, Jewish Life in the Carpathians, opened in January 1945, and featured photographs of Jewish farming communities in the Carpathian Mountains, and yeshivas and religious life in Galicia.

The largely Yiddish-speaking audience in New York viewed images of their communities of origin just as those communities were being destroyed, a fate the viewers were virtually powerless to stop. As word of the destruction of Eastern European Jews spread across the Atlantic, Vishniac’s photographs – originally intended to call attention to the privation of living Eastern European Jews – began to be seen as “documents of a lost epoch,” as phrased in the exhibition text at YIVO. These exhibitions signaled the first major shift in the contextualization of Vishniac’s work: from documentary assignments to bolster relief efforts in the late 1930s to images capturing a world on the brink of annihilation.

The YIVO exhibition boards, labeled in both English and Yiddish utilizing an innovative, Bauhaus-inspired typography that originated in interwar Wilno, are now in the collection of ICP and are being displayed as a group for the first time since the original exhibitions.

Today, YIVO continues to advance the study of Eastern European Jewish cultural heritage, and houses an archive of more than 24 million artifacts.

 

“The Face of America at War”: New York, 1941-44

The recent discovery of Vishniac’s unsuccessful 1944 application for a Guggenheim Fellowship sheds new light on a group of more than 200 negatives from the early 1940s that had previously appeared to be unrelated. Printed and exhibited here for the first time, these images show the impact of war rationing on shoppers at the Washington Market, the war relief efforts of New York’s Chinese-American community, women’s entrance into the industrial workforce and the military, the carousing of off-duty soldiers in Central Park, and the impact of war on the lives of New Yorkers. Vishniac’s Guggenheim proposal described a “photographic series portraying the face of America at war,” and this diverse yet cohesive group of images was likely submitted as a sample portfolio with his application, the beginnings of a project never completed for want of funding. His extraordinary, extensive series on Chinatown, reminiscent of his photographs of urban Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, depicts a neighborhood that is both separated from and integrated into the fabric of the larger city, reflective of Vishniac’s own efforts to navigate yet another new, adopted home as an outsider. The images capture the “objectivity” of “un-posed” journalistic photography, in the words of one recommender, and have a great deal in common with fellow Jewish émigré Robert Frank’s Guggenheim-funded project, The Americans, made a decade later.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Sisters Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht, refugees assisted by the National Refugee Service (NRS) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), shortly after their arrival in the United States, Central Park, New York]' 1941

 

Roman Vishniac
[Sisters Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht, refugees assisted by the National Refugee Service (NRS) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), shortly after their arrival in the United States, Central Park, New York]
1941
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Customers waiting in line at a butcher's counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York]' 1941-44

 

Roman Vishniac
[Customers waiting in line at a butcher's counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York]
1941-44
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn]' 1949

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn]
1949
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Berlin in Ruins, 1947

In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe as an American citizen, hired by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and United Jewish Appeal (UJA) to document relief efforts in Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps. While on assignment, Vishniac visited Berlin, where he created a bleak and poignant record of the destroyed city that had been his home for twenty years. Focusing on West Berlin, he took intimate photographs of his former Wilmersdorf neighborhood, now reduced to ruins. The same locations that had thrummed with life in his street photography from the Weimar era are suffused with a haunting silence in his 1947 photographs. One photograph reveals the crumbling and mangled platform that had once been Vishniac’s living room. Other images capture the tentative steps of a city emerging from devastation: children walking hand-in-hand and playing amidst the ruins, flowers growing through the rubble, and hairdressers once more advertising their services. Together, these pictures, which have not been previously printed or exhibited, constitute a unique and highly personal contribution to the documentation of postwar life in Berlin.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boy standing on a mountain of rubble, Berlin]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boy standing on a mountain of rubble, Berlin]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'The streets are free of brown batallions!, Berlin' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
The streets are free of brown batallions!, Berlin
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Refugees and Displaced Persons’ Camps, Germany and France, 1947

In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied nations had initially expected the repatriation of displaced refugees to take six months. Most Jewish refugees, however, no longer had communities or family to which they could return, presenting a unique challenge. Following the 1945 Harrison Report, the Allies considered Jewish survivors a distinct group, to be housed in exclusively Jewish camps and aided in eventual emigration. By mid-1947, 250,000 Jews lived in Displaced Persons’ Camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Officially administered by the United Nations, the primary aid, support, and administration for the DP Camps came from Jewish charitable organizations, most notably the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). In France, Jewish organizations ran DP Camps privately, housing nearly 40,000 refugees. Despite difficult conditions and profound trauma, Jewish life soon flourished in the camps, as families reunited and formed anew.

Commissioned by the AJDC and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), Vishniac traveled to various DP Camps in 1947, documenting a broad range of relief programs, including food distribution centers, visa application lines, occupational training, and health services. Other images record children’s camps, religious and cultural events, and refugee reunions. Wired back to America, Vishniac’s images helped publicize the plight of homeless and stateless Jewish refugees, raising funds and increasing the pressure on Britain and the U.S. to open their doors to survivors.

Spurred by these cultural and educational programs and the emerging Zionist youth movement, survivors soon rallied against British restrictions on immigration to Palestine. Following the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, and the American Displaced Persons Act of 1948, most Jews left DP Camps for Israel or the United States. By 1952, almost all DP Camps had closed.

Maya Benton, Curator at the International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Holocaust survivors and American relief worker, probably Schlachtensee Displaced Persons' Camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Holocaust survivors and American relief worker, probably Schlachtensee Displaced Persons' Camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons' Camp, Picardy, France]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons' Camp, Picardy, France]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

 

 

Jewish Historical Museum
Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1
1011 PL Amsterdam

Opening hours:

Jewish Historical Museum website

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10
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Blow-Up: Antonioni’s Film Classic and Photography’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 17th August 2014

 

The act of looking and the gaze through the eye of a photographer’s camera are the central motifs of Blow-Up.

“Don McCullin created the iconographic photographs that in the film are blown up by Thomas to discover something about the alleged crime. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself.” (Press release)

Then, look at Don Mcullin’s photograph British Butcher, East London (c. 1965, below). The Union Jack hat, the knife being sharpened and the contrast of the image. Savage. Not home grown but “Home killed”. Pictorial reality constructed by the medium but not just by the medium – but also by the aesthetic choices and the imagination of the photographer.

Marcus

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

 

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Anonymous. 'Promotional image for "Blow-Up"' 1966

 

Anonymous
Promotional image for “Blow-Up”
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

 

“The cult film Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966) occupies a central position in the history of film as well as that of art and photography. No other film has shown and sounded out the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated way. Shot in London, this film, which tells the story of a fashion photographer who happens to photograph a murder in a park, has become a classic. Its relevance and the unabated fascination it evokes are partially due to the remarkable range of themes it deals with. While Antonioni’s description of the social and artistic environment of his protagonist in 1960’s London can be understood as a visual document of the Swinging Sixties, the eponymous photographic blow-ups meticulously examined by the photographer to find something out about an alleged crime prompted a theoretical discourse on the representation and ambiguity of pictures from the first showing of the film. Both themes, the historical outline as well as the media reflexions, concern the main focus of the film: photography.

For the first time the exhibition in the Albertina presents in several chapters the diverse and differentiated connections between film and photography, thus allowing a trenchant profile of the photographic trends of the 1960s.

Photography in Blow-Up

The photographic range of Blow-Up is highly diversified and ranges from fashion photography and social reportage to abstract photography. Film stills are shown next to works that can actually be seen in Blow-Up, as well as pictures that illuminate the cultural and artistic frame of the film production, London in the Swinging Sixties.

The meaning of photography for the film Blow-Up is most apparent when Antonioni uses it to characterise his main character Thomas. Played by David Hemmings, the protagonist is not only a fashion photographer, but is also working on an illustrated book with photographs of social reportage. In order to depict both the main figure and its two areas of work in an authentic way, Antonioni is guided by real photographers of the time; before starting to shoot the film he meticulously researched the work as well as environment of the British fashion (photography) scene.

In the course of his preparations Antonioni sent out questionnaires to fashion photographers and visited them in their studios. Thus the main character is modelled after various photographers like David Bailey, John Cowan and Don McCullin; some of them Antonioni asked to cooperate on his film. He also integrated their works, for example Don McCullin’s reportage photographs that the protagonist browses through in the film, or fashion photographs by John Cowan that in the film can be seen in the protagonist’s studio.

In addition Don McCullin created the iconographic photographs that in the film are blown up by Thomas to discover something about the alleged crime. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself.

Antonioni used the photographs seen in the film for media-theoretical reflections and thus set stills and moving pictures in a differentiated context. This complex connection between film and photography is made very clear by the film stills that were created for Blow-Up. These still photographs are based on an elaborate process whereby the photographer has certain scenes re-enacted for the photo camera thus transforming the film from moving images into something static. The manifold references of Blow-Up are once more condensed into photographs in the film stills, as the pictures reflect the real context of fashion photography in 1960’s London through the depiction of the photographer, of well-known fashion models and the use of clothes to match.

Artistic references

The photographic references in Blow-Up are also set in relation to other art forms. This contextualisation is essential for Antonioni’s understanding of photography. Antonioni was, unlike most other film directors, committed to the applied arts which he showed already in 1964 with his film Deserto Rosso, its abstract compositions based on Mark Rothko’s paintings. In Blow-Up an artistic reference of this nature becomes apparent in the character of the protagonist’s neighbour, an abstract painter named Bill, who is modelled on British artist Ian Stephenson. Also the oil paintings in the film were created by Ian Stephenson. They show abstract motifs that in the film are compared with the stylistically related ‘blow-ups’.

The Swinging Sixties

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blow-Up at the height of the Swinging Sixties, the social and artistic trends of which are rendered in the film. The agitation of youth culture so characteristic of this time í and not least of all initiated by the Beatles í is shown as well as its trendsetting figures. Thus a concert by the British band The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page, the subsequent founder of Led Zeppelin, served as a filming location. The scene of the infamous Pot-Party in the film was shot in the apartment of the art and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs, who shaped the fashion look of the Swinging Sixties.

British art of the 1960s was also essential for Antonioni as it anticipated many of those abstract tendencies that set the tone for Blow-Up. There was, for instance, the pop art artist Richard Hamilton who created blow-ups from ordinary postcards, thus reducing motifs to dots. Or Nigel Henderson, a member of the Independent Group, who had already produced photos in the 1950s, in which he pointed out their material qualities by creasing them and using special procedures for the negatives.

As much as Antonioni’s work is rooted in the 1960s, it is nevertheless a timeless classic that is still relevant for today’s art. This becomes apparent in the exhibition by means of selectively chosen contemporary works that refer to Blow-Up. Particularly the filmic outline on the representation of images and their ambiguity serves as the artistic basis for the creations of various contemporary photographers. Blow-Up has lost none of its relevance for art since its creation in 1966.”

Press release from the Albertina website

 

Don McCullin. 'Thomas' blow-ups from the Park' 1966

 

Don McCullin
Thomas’ blow-ups from the Park
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Don McCullin. 'Thomas' blow-ups from the Park' 1966

 

Don McCullin
Thomas’ blow-ups from the Park
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Patrick Hunt. 'David Bailey on the set of G.G. Passion' 1966

 

Patrick Hunt
David Bailey on the set of G.G. Passion
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner

 

Arthur Evans. 'Veruschka von Lehndorff with David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
Veruschka von Lehndorff with David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

David Bailey. 'Brian Epstein (Box of Pin-Ups)' 1965

 

David Bailey
Brian Epstein (Box of Pin-Ups)
1965
V & A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum
© David Bailey

 

Shezad Dawood. 'Make it big (Blow-Up)' 2002/3

 

Shezad Dawood
Make it big (Blow-Up)
2002/3
Film still
Courtesy of the artist and Paradise Row, London

 

Richard Hamilton. 'Swinging London III' 1972

 

Richard Hamilton
Swinging London III
1972
Kunstmuseum Winterthur
© Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, Jean-Pierre Kuhn purchase in 1997

 

 

Exhibition texts

Shot in London in 1966, Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece Blow-Up confronts its audience with the manifold genres of photography and their different social references with a precision like no other feature film. The director involved some of the most interesting photographers of the day in the production of the film. The photojournalist Don McCullin was on set as were the fashion photographers John Cowan and David Montgomery as well as the paparazzo Tazio Secchiaroli. They served as models for Antonioni’s protagonist, took photographs for Blow-Up, and, not least, made their work available to the filmmaker.

Set against the social and artistic backdrop of London’s Swinging Sixties, Blow-Up tells us about a fashion photographer by the name of Thomas (David Hemmings) who secretly photographs two lovers in a park. He later enlarges these pictures and believes that he has coincidentally documented a murder. The blow-ups reveal a man lurking in the trees with a gun and, as Thomas supposes, a corpse. Fashion shootings and Thomas’s work on a book with reportage photographs featuring homeless people in London provide two further strands of reference in the film.

Presenting these contexts in five thematic sections, the exhibition in the Albertina offers a pointed cross-section of tendencies in the photography of the 1960s. The show not only explores the photo-historical circumstances under which Blow-Up was made but also presents èrealê works of art Antonioni integrated into his film, as well as photographs he commissioned for the story. The visual translation of the film into stills constitutes another important field thematized in the exhibition. A selection of more recent works of art highlights the timelessness of Antonioni’s film.

Making film stills

Making film stills involves a complex production process in the course of which scenes of a film are specially reenacted in front of the still photographer’s camera. The difficulties the photographer is faced with result from the difference between film and photography as media. He has to transform the contents of a medium that renders movements and sequences of events in time into a photograph that freezes them in a single static moment.

Arthur Evans’s stills for Blow-Up go far beyond the genre’s traditional function of promoting a film. Evans created series of pictures which allow us to reconstruct certain sequences of movement and depict scenes not shown in the film. Hence his stills for Blow-Up are meta-pictures that shed light on the film from another perspective.

Voyeurism

The act of looking and the gaze through the eye of a photographer’s camera are the central motifs of Blow-Up, which becomes particularly evident in the famous scene in the park. This part of the film depicts the dynamics resulting from a camera focusing on persons and capturing them in a picture. Antonioni presents his protagonist as a paparazzo and voyeur secretly photographing people in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). Hidden behind shrubs, trees, and a fence, he watches a pair of lovers. The camera serves as an instrument for peeping through the keyhole, as it were. The dialogic dimension between photographer and model is revealed when the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) spots the photographer. She defends herself against Thomas’s invasive gaze, bites his hand, and runs away. The aesthetic of Thomas’s photographs shot in the park corresponds to the situation of their taking. The pictures are imbued with the instantaneousness and spontaneity deriving from the photographerés wish to wrest a single picture from a dynamic context in a fraction of a second.

It is no coincidence that the photographer Tazio Secchiaroli was present on set in the very hours this scene was shot. Secchiaroli was an Italian paparazzo who had been after the suspects in a still unresolved murder case, the Montesi scandal, with his camera. Made against the background of this political scandal, Federico Fellini’s film La dolce vita (1960) features pushy photo reporters modelled after Secchiaroli.

Blow-Ups

The blow-ups of Thomas’s photographs shot in the park are the most famous pictures featured in Antonioni’s film. The filmmaker entrusted the renowned photojournalist Don McCullin with taking them. Following Antonioni’s instructions, McCullin had to position himself in the same places as Thomas in the film to reproduce his perspectives. He also used the same Nikon F camera the protagonist works with in Blow-Up. In order to ensure that the process of taking the pictures we see in the film corresponds with the photographer’s results, McCullin advised the actor David Hemmings on how to proceed. The actor learned how to handle the 35-mm camera correctly and was instructed about the body language connected with using it.

Fashion photography

The metropolis of London was the center of a new kind of fashion photography in the 1960s – a renown inseparably bound up with three names to this day: David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Brian Duffy, also known as Black Trinity. Relying on 35-mm cameras, which had hitherto mainly been used for reportage photographs and ensured a supposedly spontaneous and dynamic pictorial language, these three photographers staged their models in unusual places outside their studios.

In preparing his film, Antonioni had meticulously researched the photographer’s living and working conditions by means of a several-page questionnaire in which he even inquired into their love relationships and eating habits. It was David Bailey who served as a model for the protagonist of Blow-Up. For his dynamic body language in the fashion shootings, for instance, Thomas took the cue from him. The style of clothes Thomas wears is indebted to that of the British fashion photographer John Cowan. Cowan made his studio available to Antonioni for the studio shots and acted as the filmmaker’s adviser. The photographs seen on the studio wall in Blow-Up are fashion photographs by Cowan which Antonioni chose for the film.

David Montgomery

David Montgomery is a US-American fashion photographer living in London. Before shooting his film, Antonioni visited him in his studio to watch him working with Veruschka, Jill Kennington, and Peggy Moffitt – the models he would subsequently cast for Blow-Up. David Montgomery has a cameo appearance in the beginning of the film: we see him taking pictures of the model Donyale Luna on Hoxton Market in London’s East End. When this scene was shot, he actually made the fashion photographs featuring Luna which he pretends to take in the film. Since Montgomery was no actor by his own account, he had to really take pictures in order to be able to play the scene in a convincing manner.

Arthur Evan’s fashion photographs

Arthur Evans, the still photographer, depicted the models appearing in Blow-Up in groups and in individual portraits. These pictures taken on set are very unusual for a still photographer, because they do not show scenes of the film, but are independently staged fashion photographs. The models’ costumes were designed by Jocelyn Rickards, the hats were made by James Wedge. Evans translated the linear patterns characteristic of both designers into graphic compositions in his photos.

Social reportage

Michelangelo Antonioni characterizes his film’s protagonist also as a social reportage photographer who, for a book project on London he is working on, secretly takes pictures in a homeless shelter. A scene of the film has Thomas showing his publisher a dummy of the volume. The portraits in it were made by the photojournalist Don McCullin; their originals are presented in the exhibition for the very first time.

The pictures were taken in London’s East End in the early 1960s, when the area was notorious for its residents’ poverty, miserable housing conditions, and racial unrest. The photographer provides a cross-section of its inhabitants whom he mainly characterizes through their occupation. The two-fold orientation of the film’s protagonist as fashion and reportage photographer is based on fact, as illustrated by both David Bailey and David Montgomery. The stylistic boundaries between the two genres blur in their works. The strategy of picturing models in urban surroundings with a 35-mm camera, for example, is clearly rooted in reportage photography.

Swinging London: Art and Life

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blow-Up in the heyday of London’s Swinging Sixties whose social and artistic trends are depicted in the film. He captured the youth culture and its agitation so characteristic of these years – which was not least triggered by the Beatles – as well as the protagonists of the scene. One location he chose was a concert of the Yardbirds, a British band counting Jimmy Page, who would found Led Zeppelin, among its players. The famous pot-party in Blow-Up was shot in the art and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs’ flat, who determined the fashion look of the Swinging Sixties to a remarkable degree.

The British art of the 1960s was also very important to Antonioni, as it already anticipated many of the abstract tendencies informing Blow-Up. The Pop artist Richard Hamilton, for example, used to enlarge everyday picture postcards, reducing their motifs to an abstract dot matrix. Nigel Henderson, a member of the Independent Group, had already emphasized the material qualities of his photos in the 1950s by folding his prints and employing negative techniques. Antonioni integrated works by British artists: for example a picture by Peter Sedgley, a representative of Op art, and oil paintings by Ian Stephenson into his film.

Ian Stephenson

Antonioni’s understanding of photography was informed by painting í an influence that becomes manifest in the character of the protagonist’s neighbor, in Blow-Up a painter named Bill. Antonioni compares the neighbor’s abstract paintings with the photographer’s blow-ups. When Thomas and his neighbor talk about the paintings, Bill maintains that he does not see much in them while painting them and only finds meaning in them later on. This form of reception tallies with Thomas’s attempt to determine the meaning of his similarly abstract enlargements.

The character of the painter is based on the British artist Ian Stephenson. Antonioni visited the artist in his studio before he started shooting Blow-Up. He watched the painter at work and selected the paintings he wanted to use in the film.

Blow-Up

The photographs central to Antonioniés film are the blow-ups of the pictures which the protagonist has taken in the park and which he examines meticulously. The enlargements reveal a man with a pistol lurking in the trees and a mass in the grass, which Thomas interprets as a lifeless body. To make the presumed corpse more visible Thomas enlarges the photograph again and again until it shows nothing but its grain and materiality, despite the photographs inherent relation to reality.

Antonioni uses the blow-ups to question the representation of reality by media and their specific modes of perception. He interlinks these considerations with the film. The final scene of Blow-Up shows Thomas coming upon a group of mimes playing an imaginary game of tennis. When the (invisible) ball lands behind the fence, Thomas joins in the mimes’ game, picks up the ball from the lawn and throws it back to the players. A camera pan traces the trajectory of the invisible ball. In evoking the ball without showing it, Antonioni confronts us with the most radical abstraction: the motif is not rendered as an abstract or blurry form like in the enlargements, but is altogether absent. The media-theoretical implications of Blow-Up are still the subject of conceptual photographs today. Like Antonioni, the Italian Ugo Mulas and the American Allan McCollum, for example, question photography’s relation to reality in their blow-ups.

Le montagne incantate

The nucleus for the blow-ups in the film is to be found in a series of artworks titled Le montagne incantate (The Enchanted Mountains), which Antonioni started working on in the mid-1950s. The filmmaker photographically enlarged his small-format abstract watercolors, making the material qualities of the paper and the application of the paint visible. Consequentially, Antonioni recommended the use of a magnifying glass – as used by the protagonist in Blow-Up – as the ideal instrument for viewing these pictures.

Text from the Albertina website

 

Brian Duffy. 'Jane Birkin' 1960s

 

Brian Duffy
Jane Birkin
1960s
© Brian Duffy Archive

 

Eric Swayne. 'Grace and Telma, Italian Vogue, 1966' 1966

 

Eric Swayne
Grace and Telma, Italian Vogue, 1966
1966
Courtesy Tom Swayne
© Eric Swayne

 

Terence Donovan. 'The Secrets of an Agent' 1961

 

Terence Donovan
The Secrets of an Agent
1961
© Terence Donovan Archive

 

Ian Stephenson. 'Still Life Abstraction D1' 1957

 

Ian Stephenson
Still Life Abstraction D1
1957
© Kate Stephenson, widow of Ian Stephenson

 

Jill Kennington. "Blow-Up" 1966

 

Jill Kennington
“Blow-Up”
1966
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Don McCullin. 'Down-and-out begging for help, Aldgate, 1963' 1963

 

Don McCullin
Down-and-out begging for help, Aldgate, 1963
1963
© Don McCullin, courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London

 

Don McCullin. 'British Butcher, East London' c. 1965

 

Don McCullin
British Butcher, East London
c. 1965
© Don McCullin Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London

 

Terry O'Neill. 'David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan' 1965

 

Terry O’Neill
David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan
1965
© Terry O’Neill – Courtesy Philippe Garner

 

Tazio Secchiaroli. 'David Hemmings and Veruschka von Lehndorff in "Blow-Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Tazio Secchiaroli
David Hemmings and Veruschka von Lehndorff in “Blow-Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Filmstill
Source: BFI stills
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

David Montgomery. 'Donyale Luna on the set of "Blow-Up"' 1966

 

David Montgomery
Donyale Luna on the set of “Blow-Up”
1966
© David Montgomery

 

 

Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am – 9 pm

Albertina website

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31
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect’ at Ubu Gallery, New York Part 2

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 30th September 2014

 

The second part of this posting about the work of architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. “Backside-views of buildings and fire escapes, rather than historicist ornamental facades, are presented in their “unselfconscious beauty” in opposition to traditional, pictorialist architectural photography.” You only have to look at the photographs of the city by Alfred Stieglitz or Berenice Abbott taken at around the same time to notice the difference – less romantic, more “modern” in their geometry and form.

If it weren’t for the shock of seeing 1920s cars at the bottom of some of the images (for example, Detroit, Rear Façade of a Hotel, 1924 below) you could almost believe that they had been made 40 years later, around the time of Bernd and Hilla Becher. These photographs are monumental, industrious but are tinged with humanity – the billboards, cars, people and advertising signs that hover at the bottom or in the deep shadows of the image. Then look at the tonality and atmosphere of the images, including the vibration of light in the two Dazzlescapes (New York, Madison Square and New York, Times Square, both 1923 below).

I don’t think I have ever seen a better collection of images of city architecture.

Marcus

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

 

 

“I’ve always been annoyed by rummaging through the past; the future interests me much more.”

.
Knud Lonberg-Holm

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' West elevation 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
West elevation
1922
Vintage photograph mounted on board
9 1/8 x 3 5/8 inches (23.2 x 9.2 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' West view axonometric 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
West view axonometric
1922
Vintage photograph mounted on board
8 7/8 x 4 5/8 inches (22.5 x 11.7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Equity Trust Building - Oblique View' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Equity Trust Building – Oblique View
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 41
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 1/4 inches (11.1 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Woolworth Building - Oblique View' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Woolworth Building – Oblique View
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 40
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches (10.8 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' Side elevation with Tribune sign visible 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
Side elevation with Tribune sign visible
1922
Vintage photograph mounted on board
9 1/8 x 4 7/8 inches (23.2 x 12.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' Preliminary side elevation 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
Preliminary side elevation
1922
Photograph mounted on board
9 x 4 5/8 inches (22.9 x 11.7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

“Throughout the 1920s, he traveled to other American cities like Chicago and New York City, where, with a 35-millimeter handheld Leica, he took worm’s-eye views and extreme close-ups of skyscrapers, the back sides of buildings, fire escapes, billboards, and dazzling “lightscapes,” ignoring – for the most part – the facades of the buildings. Some of these images would appear, uncredited, in Erich Mendelsohn’s 1926 publication Amerika: Bilderbuch eines Architekten, the first book on the “International Style” in American architecture. (Only in an expanded, later edition from 1928 is Lonberg-Holm credited for 17 of the images.)

Soon the photographs cropped up in design and architecture journals in Holland, Germany, and Russia. “They received acclaim for being progressive and dynamic presentations of technology, commerce, and urbanization,” says Adam Boxer, founder and owner of Ubu Gallery. “To expose Lonberg-Holm’s role as photographer means one can situate him in his deserved role – a pioneer of New Photography.” As a correspondent for the avant-garde, having his images and writings appear in radical European Modernist reviews – such as the Functionalist-Constructivist Swiss bulletin ABC Beitrage zum Bauen (Contributions on Building) and the Dutch i10 – were of crucial importance, since they circulated amongst members of the European vanguard. By the 1930s, however, Lonberg-Holm had given up architecture for marketing research, and his photographs, never signed or dated, no longer circulated. …

Lonberg-Holm also questioned how architecture was practiced and he pioneered the idea of the life cycle of a building. Decades before William McDonough discovered cradle-to-cradle thinking, Lonberg-Holm had been trying to put across the concept that all buildings, like all organisms, are subject to a life cycle, as predictable and as inevitable as the cycles in nature. “The building cycle involves research, design, construction, use, and elimination – and repeat,” wrote an editor in the January 1960 issue of Architectural Forum. “One of Lonberg-Holm’s chief contentions is that design that anticipates the cycle as a whole makes each succeeding step more rational and easier… Lonberg-Holm’s principle, ‘Anticipate remodeling in the initial design,’ carries a corollary, which might be put this way, in keeping with the very important principle of design articulation: ‘Design each “system” in the building – the structural system, the heating or the air-conditioning system, the wiring, the plumbing, etc. – to be self-contained for easy assembly, with interconnections to other systems held to a minimum and made easy to alter.'”

Extract from Paul Makovsky. “The Invisible Architect of Invisible Architecture,” on the Metropolis website [Online] Cited 18/07/2014

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 67
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches (10.8 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, Rear Areaway' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, Rear Areaway
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 91
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.4 x 8.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

During the 1920s, Lonberg-Holm traveled to American cities like Detroit, Chicago, and New York. With his 35-millimeter Leica camera, he took extreme close-ups of skyscrapers (such as this rear view Detroit Hotel, above), the back sides of buildings, fire escapes, billboards, and dazzling nighttime views.

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
variant cropping reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 21
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (11.1 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, Rear Façade of a Hotel' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, Rear Façade of a Hotel
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 89
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 3/8 inches (11.4 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Chicago, Skyscraper of the Second Period' c. prior to 1926

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Chicago, Skyscraper of the Second Period
c. prior to 1926
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 77 (right)
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (11.1 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

KLH_18_HR-WEB

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Chicago, 2 Skyscrapers
c. prior to 1926
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 75
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.4 x 8.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect

Lonberg-Holm was the first architect in my knowledge to talk about the ultimately invisible architecture. In 1929, when I first met him, he said the greatest architect in history would be the one who finally developed the capability to give humanity completely effective environmental control without any visible structure and machinery. Thus we have in our day an unsung Leonardo of the building industry, whose scientific foresight and design competence are largely responsible for the present world-around state of advancement of the building arts.

.
Buckminster Fuller, 1968

 

The historical documents in this collection represent a hitherto unexplored aspect of the influence of European modernist architects – specifically, those who emigrated to the United States early and voluntarily, before the rise of fascism necessitated the wholesale evacuation of the European avant-garde. The seemingly disparate archive of photographs, drawings, diagrams and correspondence can be grouped around a unifying theme: the realization of the avant-garde ambition of integration and control of architectural production through industrialization; and around a central figure: the architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. The documents bear witness to a complex history that is not easily tracked elsewhere. This is due, in part, to the fact that they bridge two continents, and in part because they unveil processes of reform, such as the scientific conversion of the institutions of architectural practice and the transformation of the project, that were aimed at the most mundane level of building, not at exceptional structures. Moreover, the documents show this professional and anonymous destiny together in line with inversely artistic and revolutionary origins. Thus, the archive documents a phenomenon of cultural disappearance, bringing missing substance to the link between the Americanism of the European avant-garde and the history of modern architecture in the United States.

A native of Denmark, which he leaves in 1923 for the United States, Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972) is the emblematic figure of this disappearance. Initially considered a “pioneer of modern architecture” by the anthropologists of the 1920s, and even held representative of “the space-time conception” by Henry Russell Hitchcock, his true contributions will be ever more unacknowledged as they become more fundamental. First of the modernist émigrés in the United States, he becomes the obliged correspondent for the European avant-garde, in particular for the De Stijl group and also the Berlin Constructivists, with whom he was closest. He was a contributor to both ABC and i10, a member of ASNOVA, a collaborator of Buckminster Fuller, and also the American delegate to CIAM with Richard Neutra. His experiments with photography in the early 1920s (diffused widely by J.J.P. Oud, Moholy-Nagy, Erich Mendelsohn, and others) were received with critical success in Europe and the USSR. This is due as much to the revolutionary use of extreme viewpoints from below and above, as to the renewal of the iconographic sources of modernism: the substitution of the imagery of the grain elevators and the “balancing of the masses,” for an aesthetic of structure and tension gleaned from the metallic skeletons of unfinished skyscrapers. In Lonberg-Holm, this aesthetic schism is accompanied by a renouncement of the project – a sort of Duchampian abandonment of the traditional identity of the architect, which intervenes at the moment he arrives in his work at a controlled resolution of the opposing influences of rationalism and neo-plasticism, for example in the McBride Residence project of 1926.

Lonberg-Holm’s institutional itinerary begins at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1924-1925, where he introduces a basic design course similar to that of the Soviet Vkhutemas. Moving to New York in 1929, he enters the organization of the F.W. Dodge publishing corporation, initially at the journal The Architectural Record, where he devises both content and format, and then as the head of the research department of Sweet’s Catalog Service, the indispensable architect’s handbook of building products. The reorganization of Sweet’s Catalog, perhaps Lonberg-Holm’s most tangible contribution to modern architectural production in America, gives substance to his doctrinaire activity of the 1930s, concerned with urban obsolescence, cycles of production, and information theory. In collaboration with Czech designer Ladislav Sutnar, Sweet’s Catalog becomes a complete oeuvre of industrial and plastic organization. Its critical and enduring importance in the process of architectural production makes it an implemented avant-garde project, at an appreciable scale, and testament to Lonberg-Holm’s heretofore-unacknowledged influence on the development of a truly modern American architecture.

Marc Dessauce, 2003

 

Marc Dessauce (1962-2004) was an architectural historian who lived and worked in NYC and Paris. His research, exhibitions, and writings focused on the foundations of both American and European avant-garde architecture in the twentieth century. Marc assembled this arhive between 1986 and 1995 when he was a PhD candidate at Columbia University in the department of Art History. His book The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in ’68, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 1999.

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'New York, Madison Square' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, Madison Square
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 31
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches (10.5 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'New York, Times Square' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, Times Square
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 6
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches (10.8 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Amerika: Bilderbuch eines Architekten

Seventeen of Lonberg-Holm’s photographs appeared uncredited in Erich Mendelsohn’s 1926 book, a very influential volume on modern American architecture. Only in a later, expanded edition was Lonberg-Holm given credit. El Lissitzky was so impressed with Amerika that he said the volume “thrills us like a dramatic film. Before our eyes move pictures that are absolutely unique. In order to understand some of the photographs you must lift the book over your head and rotate it.”

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Sweet's Display Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l’Habitation et de l'Ubranisme (Information 1, 2, 3)' Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Sweet’s Display
Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l’Habitation et de l’Ubranisme
(Information 1, 2, 3)
Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 7 1/4 inches (18.1 x 18.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Sweet's Display Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l'Habitation et de l'Ubranisme (Biblioteque SS)' Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Sweet’s Display
Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l’Habitation et de l’Ubranisme
(Biblioteque SS)
Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 7 1/8 inches (18.1 x 18.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

A diagram from Development Index

 

A diagram from Development Index illustrating the interrelations of cultural and social factors, which Lonberg-Holm and Larson considered necessary to the practice of design. The index was a screening system intended to manage incoming and outgoing streams of data.

Larson and Knud Lonberg-Holm later collaborated on the idea of a “Development Index” – a systems-thinking approach and research tool that studied the interaction of human activity, environmental relations, and communications with the idea to improve the built environment. It was an attempt to manage information flow and, in a pre-Internet sort of way, provide relevant data through a centralized system, using what was then state-of-the-art media such as microfilm, microfiche, and electronics.

 

Wendingen "Skyscraper as a solution of the Housing Problem" No. 3, 1923

 

Wendingen
“Skyscraper as a solution of the Housing Problem”
No. 3, 1923
Paperbound volume
12 7/8 x 13 inches (32.7 x 33 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Shelter' Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm April 1938

 

Shelter
Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm
April 1938
Magazine cover
11 x 9 inches (27.9 x 22.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Shelter now' Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm Vol. 2, No. 4, May 1932

 

Shelter now
Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm
Vol. 2, No. 4, May 1932
Magazine cover
12 x 9 inches (30.5 x 22.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

The cover of a catalog for 'Multi-Measure Metal Enclosures'

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm with Latislav Sutnar
Multi-Measure (MM) Metal Enclosures
c. 1942-1944
Cover of catalog
11 x 8 1/2 inches (27.9 x 21.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

The cover of a catalog for Multi-Measure Metal Enclosures, Inc., designed with Ladislav Sutnar between 1942 and 1944. Lonberg-Holm collaborated with architect C. Theodore Larson at F.W. Dodge Corporation’s Sweet’s Catalog division to develop a systematic approach to organizing the information needed by the building industry. When graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar later joined him, they radically altered the way business information was streamlined, designed, and packaged, becoming pioneers of “information design” along the way.

 

i10 "America, Reflections" (by Knud Lonberg-Holm) No. 15, October 20, 1928

 

i10
“America, Reflections” (by Knud Lonberg-Holm)
No. 15, October 20, 1928
Paperbound volume
11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Lonberg-Holm’s 1928 essay on America for i10 – focused on the country’s obsession with time and efficiency – shows that the fields of communications, the car industry, elevators, railways, and the movie industry were more important to him. He wrote: “Time-study is a profession. And a highly paid profession. What the [Saint] Peters church was for the European Renaissance, Henry Ford’s assembly line is for America of today. The most perfect expression for a civilization whose god is efficiency. Detroit is the Mecca of this civilization. And the pilgrims come from all over the world to meditate before this always-moving line.”

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of "Modern Architecture" at Fifth Avenue' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of “Modern Architecture” at Fifth Avenue
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (11.4 x 7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Automobile Plant Detroit' 1931

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Automobile Plant
Detroit, 1931
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (13.3 x 10.8 cm)
Titled on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Longberg-Holm' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Longberg-Holm
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (11.4 x 7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. '48th Street/St. Nicholas Church scaffolding' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
48th Street/St. Nicholas Church scaffolding
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (11.4 x 7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Antenna' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Antenna
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.4 x 8.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Note from Iwao Yamawaki to Knud Lonberg-Holm Dessau, July 9, 1931

 

Note from Iwao Yamawaki to Knud Lonberg-Holm
Dessau, July 9, 1931
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm Iwao Yamawaki (attributed) 'Knud & his wife Ethel outside of Bauhaus' 1931

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Iwao Yamawaki (attributed)

Knud & his wife Ethel outside of Bauhaus
1931
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (11.1 x 8.6 cm)
Dated & inscribed on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

This photo, attributed to the Japanese Bauhaus-trained photographer Iwao Yamawaki, shows Lonberg-Holm and his wife, Ethel (who later became an art director for J. Walter Thompson advertising agency), at the Bauhaus in 1931. A friend of Bauhaus instructors László Moholy-Nagy, Josef Albers, Hannes Meyer, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe, Lonberg-Holm taught the first foundational course based on the Bauhaus model at the University of Michigan in 1924.

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972)

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972), an overlooked but highly influential Modernist architect, photographer, and pioneer of information design
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

Ubu Gallery
416 East 59th Street
New York 10022
Tel: 212 753 4444

Opening hour:
Monday – Friday 11 am – 6 pm

Ubu Gallery website

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26
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect’ at Ubu Gallery, New York Part 1

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 30th September 2014

 

I am so excited by this monster two-part posting about the work of architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. Not only are his drawings and models incredible but his photographs of industry and skyscrapers, taken mainly between 1924-26, are a revelation. The textures and inky blackness of his Dazzlescapes and the New Photography images of skyscrapers (both in Part 2) mark these images as the greatest collection of photographs of skyscrapers that I have ever seen. More comment tomorrow but for now just look at the dark Gotham-esque photograph The New – The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars (1924, below). The streetcar reminds me of the armoured trains so popular during the inter-war years and during World War II. And what a title: The New – The Coming…

Marcus

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

 

 

“Lonberg-Holm was the first architect in my knowledge ever to talk about the ultimately invisible architecture. In 1929, when I first met him, he said the greatest architect in history would be the one who finally developed the capability to give humanity completely effective environmental control without any visible structure and machinery.”

.
Buckminster Fuller

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'The New - The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
The New – The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 73
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (8.3 x 10.8 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'View from the roof' Detroit, 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
View from the roof
Detroit, 1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
2 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches (7 x 11.4 cm) approx.
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 71 (top)
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 3/8 x 4 3/8 inches (8.6 x 11.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, A New Street' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, A New Street
1924
reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 71 (bottom)
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 3/8 x 4 3/8 inches (8.6 x 11.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

“Ubu Gallery is pleased to present Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect, a debut exhibition devoted to this overlooked, yet highly influential, 20th Century modernist. Never-before-seen photographs, architectural drawings, letters, graphic design, and ephemera from Lonberg-Holm’s remarkably diverse career will be on view through August 1, 2014. The exhibition, which consists of selections from the extensive archive assembled by architectural historian Marc Dessauce, will solidify the importance of this emblematic figure in early 20th Century cultural and architectural history. Metropolis Magazine, the national publication of architecture and design, will publish an article on Knud Lonberg-Holm to coincide with this groundbreaking exhibition.

Born in Denmark, Knud Lonberg-Holm (January 15, 1895 – January 2, 1972), was an architect, photographer, author, designer, researcher, and teacher. Lonberg-Holm’s early work in Denmark and Germany initially associated him with the Berlin Constructivist and Dutch De Stijl groups. An émigré to America in 1923, Lonberg-Holm was a fundamental correspondent with prominent European architects and their modernist counterparts in the U.S. The exhibition will feature a selection of letters to Lonberg-Holm from a pantheon of the European avant-garde including László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius, Theo Van Doesburg, Buckminster Fuller, Hannes Meyer, J.J.P. Oud, El Lissitzky, and Richard Neutra.

From 1924–1925, Lonberg-Holm was a colleague of Eliel Saarinen at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he taught a course in basic design modeled on the famed Bauhaus Vorkurs, the first-ever introduced in U.S. design schools. An agent of inter-continental communication, his reports on the state of American architecture appeared abroad. Lonberg-Holm’s 1928 article, Amerika: Reflections, featured buildings on the University of Michigan campus and appeared in the Dutch avant-garde publication i10, which employed Moholy-Nagy as its photo editor. The article not only contributed to international discourse on the building industry, but also touched on the “time-space convention,” a subject Lonberg-Holm would explore throughout his career. This publication, among others, will be on display.

Lonberg-Holm’s interest in American industry is best viewed in his collection of photographs taken between 1924-1926. These works document his pioneering views of industry and technology in burgeoning, jazz-age New York, Detroit, and Chicago; they would appear later, un-credited, in Erich Mendelsohn’s seminal 1926 publication Amerika, the first book on the ‘International Style’ in American architecture. Thirteen vintage photographs reproduced in Amerika will be on exhibit, as well as additional early photographs depicting technological advancements, such as cable cars and radio antennae, American culture in mass crowds and billboards, and the commercial architecture of skyscrapers and factories. Backside-views of buildings and fire escapes, rather than historicist ornamental facades, are presented in their “unselfconscious beauty” in opposition to traditional, pictorialist architectural photography. The content of the works coupled with progressive view points, like worm’s eye perspectives and extreme close-ups, align them squarely within the then emerging ‘New Photography.’ El Lissitzky wrote that the dynamic photos “grip us like a dramatic film.”1 Mendelsohn’s publication, featuring Lonberg-Holm’s dynamic photography, received immediate acclaim, domestically and abroad.

While still in Germany, Lonberg-Holm created a submission for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition of 1922. Although never officially submitted, the project was published widely in magazines and newspapers, alongside other prominent architects’ designs. From his office in the historically designed Donner Schloss in Altona, Germany, Lonberg-Holm envisioned a modern construction for Chicago that incorporated references to American mass culture, specifically the automobile. The West elevations on view show the Chicago Tribune sign, which includes circular signage reminiscent of headlights. The Side elevation exhibited clearly demonstrates how the printing plant function of the ground floors of the building, rendered in black, are visually distinct from the offices of the higher floors, rendered in white with black accents for visual continuity throughout the building. Lonberg- Holm’s proposed construction, whose outward visual design distinguished its internal functions, was reproduced in L’Architecture vivante, La Cite, Le Courbusier’s Almanach d’architecture in France and Walter Gropius’ Internationale Architektur in Munich; the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung displayed his building next to that of Mies van der Rohe and a full spread devoted to the skyscraper, featuring Lonberg-Holm’s Chicago design adjacent to plans by Walter Gropius, Saarinen and van der Rohe, appeared in H. Th. Wijdeveld’s November/December 1923 issue of the innovative publication Wendingen.

The drawings Lonberg-Holm created during this first decade as an émigré are striking for their early use of European modernist, particularly Neo-plastic, influences. He was close with the DeStijl movement in Holland, and corresponded with both Theo van Doesburg and J.J.P. Oud, with whom he would continue to work within CIAM, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Modern. Early renderings done by Lonberg-Holm in the U.S. demonstrate an affinity for DeStijl principles. His plans for the 1926 MacBride residence in Ann Arbor are dynamic and asymmetrical, with intersecting planes in simple primary colors. Surely the first American allusion to Gerrit Rietvel’s iconic 1924 Schröder House in Utrecht, Holland, the MacBride residence is one of the first ‘International Style’ modernist houses designed in the Western hemisphere.

Lonberg-Holm’s importance to and knowledge of European architectural trends resulted in an invitation by Jane Heap to participate in the 1927 landmark New York exhibition, Machine Age, which was heralded as “the first international exposition of architecture held in America.” This exhibition, held at the New York Scientific American Building, May 16-28, stressed the new mechanical world and its key player, the Engineer. Lonberg-Holm’s 1925 Detroit project, Radio Broadcasting Station, was featured. The New York’s review of the exhibition explicitly referenced Lonberg-Holm’s project, noting its “delicacy and exquisite technique of execution.”

Lonberg-Holm worked with the F.W. Dodge corporation for 30 years, first in the division responsible for The Architectural Record (1930-1932), and then as head of the research department of Sweet’s Catalog Service (1932-1960.) At The Architectural Record, Lonberg-Holm acted as research editor and wrote technical news, a precursor to his lifelong interest in data-driven analytics. During his New York based employment, Lonberg-Holm’s involvement with international architectural trends did not diminish. In addition to prolonged correspondence with the various directors of the Bauhaus, including Hannes Meyer, he and his wife Ethel would visit the Bauhaus at Dessau in 1931. In 1946, Lonberg-Holm was also ultimately a candidate to replace Moholy-Nagy as director of the Institute of Design in Chicago.

At the same time, Lonberg-Holm was involved in domestic architecture and building theory. Richard Neutra would reach out to Lonberg-Holm in 1928 for illustrations and photographs to include in his account of the modern architecture movement in the US; he would approach him again in 1932 to lecture on the West Coast. Lonberg-Holm and Neutra were the “American” representatives to CIAM. It was Lonberg-Holm who nominated Buckminster Fuller and Theodore Larson for membership into CIAM in 1932.

What little scholarship exists about Knud Lonberg-Holm briefly examines his nearly twenty-year relationship with the Czech pioneering graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar, with whom Lonberg-Holm worked at Sweet’s Catalog Service. From 1942 through 1960 at the research department of Sweet’s, the bible for all the building trades, Lonberg-Holm and Sutnar revolutionized the catalog by standardizing information techniques. They presented systemized communication through a simple, modern, and intelligible visual language that influenced all areas of architectural and graphic design. Together, Lonberg-Holm and Sutnar co-authored Catalog Design (1944), Designing Information (1947), and Catalog Design Progress (1950).

The vital roles and communication between city planning, architecture, and civil productivity where important to Lonberg-Holm and would be explored throughout his career. In A. Lawerence Kocher’s letter to Lonberg-Holm, the article “Architecture-or organized space” is referenced. This 1929 essay, published in Detroit, addressed the “building problem” in the US – the “an-organic structure of its cities” – and proposed “a new conception of city-planning based on a clearer understanding of the organic functions of a community.” Lonberg-Holm would be an important participant in the city planning survey of Detroit, one of CIAM’s analytical initiatives in 1932-1933. Field Patterns and Fields of Activity, a visual diagram further illustrating the interconnectivity of intelligence, welfare, production, and control in a community, graphically illustrates these early principles.

Collaboration was critical to Lonberg-Holm, who would work with Theodore Larson to improve information indexing and the production cycle. Field Patterns, as well as the visuals for Planning for Productivity (1940), were components of Lonberg-Holm’s collaboration with Theodore Larson. Lonberg-Holm sought to apply some of the theories set forth in Development Index. This collaborative project with Larson was published by the University of Michigan in 1953 and focused on the relationship between community, industry, and education, analytical theories that were proposed by Lonberg-Holm during the formation of the University’s Laboratory of Architectural Research. Lonberg-Holm’s 1949 visual diagram of the relationship between the university, the building industry, and the community, is on view, as well as the Sutnar-designed steps of Planning for Productivity. Lonberg-Holm had returned to the University as a guest lecturer and professor in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the suggestion of Lonberg-Holm, Theordore Larson was among the new faculty hired at the University in 1948, along with Walter Sanders and William Muschenheim, whom Lonberg-Holm had worked with in the Detroit survey.

In 1949, Lonberg-Holm was issued a Dymaxion License and became a trustee to the Fuller Institute/Research Foundation; among the trustees are his contemporaries George Nelson and Charles Eames. Initially meeting Buckminster Fuller in c. 1929, he and Fuller would correspond throughout Lonberg-Holm’s life. Lonberg-Holm was a member of the Structural Studies Associates (SSA), a short-lived group of architects in the 1930s surrounding Fuller and his briefly published architectural magazine Shelter. A number of Shelter issues are on view, many of which have contributions by Lonberg-Holm; the cover of the May 1932 issue was designed by Lonberg-Holm. Planning for Productivity and Development Index were later data-driven projects that furthered the SSA’s and Fuller’s principles – that the evolution of science and technology would influence social progress and could be beneficial to the community only through research, analysis and macroapplication.

Arriving to the US a decade before his European contemporaries, Lonberg-Holm occupied a unique position as a cultural bridge, communicating between the US and Europe in a period when the state of art and architecture was radically changing. He exposed his students and colleagues to European protagonists of avant-garde architecture theory while enthusiastically exploring American industry and building. Exclusively through collaboration, Lonberg-Holm worked to modernize both architecture and design. Integral to Lonberg-Holm’s principles was that technology alone could not suffice as the sole perpetuator of architecture – advancements in building and new designs needed to promote human culture in an ever-evolving manner where new information was continuously integrated into design theory. Throughout his career, Lonberg-Holm embodied the antithesis of the stereotype architect, egocentric and insulated from the community in which his designs were to exist. From his beginnings at The Architectural Record to his final project, Plan for Europe 2000: Role of the Mass Media in Information and Communication, Lonberg-Holm held to the belief that a collective approach, with applied research, could form a generative knowledge base that could be cultivated for altruistic means.”

Text from the Ubu Gallery website

1. Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present, London, Seeker & Warburg, 1982, p. 1.

 

'Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm' New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)

 

Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 10 inches (17.5 x 25.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm' New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)

 

Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 7/8 x 9 1/2 inches (20 x 24.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Le Corbusier at CIAM Conference' c. 1954-1964

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Le Corbusier at CIAM Conference
c. 1954-1964
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches (14.3 x 21.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Buckminster Fuller, Lonberg-Holm and other' Bayside, New York Nd

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Buckminster Fuller, Lonberg-Holm and other
Bayside, New York
Nd
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 x 4 1/4 inches (7.6 x 10.8 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of the Dymaxion Car' Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of the Dymaxion Car
Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches (19.4 x 24.8 cm)
Stamped on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

In July of 1933, the Dymaxion car was introduced in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it caused a great stir. Lonberg-Holm can be seen holding the car door open while the artist Diego Rivera (who was in attendance with his wife and artist Frida Kahlo) looks on, coat on his arm.
Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo' Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Radio Broadcasting Station' Photograph of Model Detroit, 1925

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Radio Broadcasting Station
Photograph of Model
Detroit, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 7/8 x 6 7/8 inches (12.4 x 17.5 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Radio Broadcasting Station' Photograph of Model Detroit, 1925

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Radio Broadcasting Station

Photograph of Model
Detroit, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 7 1/2 inches (13.7 x 19.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Chicago's new skyline North of Randolph Street All new since 1926 except Wrigley and Tribune buildings' May 1929

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Chicago’s new skyline
North of Randolph Street
All new since 1926 except Wrigley and Tribune buildings
May 1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
2 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches (5.7 x 11.4 cm)
Titled on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

Ubu Gallery
416 East 59th Street
New York 10022
Tel: 212 753 4444

Opening hour:
Monday – Friday 11 am – 6 pm

Ubu Gallery website

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25
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73′ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: Tuesday 22nd July – Saturday 26th July, 2014

Artists represented: Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes, Rennie Ellis
Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson

 

 

LAST DAY TOMORROW = MAKE SURE YOU DON’T MISS IT IF YOU ARE IN MELBOURNE!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

 

Curator Dr Marcus Bunyan talks about the exhibition Out of the closets, into the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73 at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne July 2014

 

Phillip Potter. 'Gay is Good' 1971, printed 2014

 

Phillip Potter
Gay is Good
1971, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Phillip Potter

 

Phillip Potter. 'Queens' 1971, printed 2014

 

Phillip Potter
Queens
1971, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Phillip Potter

 

John Storey. 'Homosexual Law Reform' 1971, printed 2014

 

John Storey
Homosexual Law Reform
1971, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Storey

 

Phillip Potter. 'I am a Lesbian and Beautiful' 1971, printed 2014

 

Phillip Potter
I am a Lesbian and Beautiful
1971, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Phillip Potter

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Gay Liberation march, Russell Street, Melbourne' Melbourne, 1973

 

Ponch Hawkes
Gay Liberation march, Russell Street, Melbourne
Melbourne, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Ponch Hawkes

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Gay Liberation march, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne' Melbourne, 1973

 

Ponch Hawkes
Gay Liberation march, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
Melbourne, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Ponch Hawkes

.
Photographer Rennie Ellis front and centre as always…

 

Rennie Ellis The Kiss, Gay Pride Week, Melbourne 1973

 

Rennie Ellis
The Kiss, Gay Pride Week, Melbourne 1973
1973, printed 2014
Silver gelatin photograph
© Rennie Ellis

.
Gays held a picnic in the Botannical Gardens, Melbourne during Gay Pride Week. They decided to play spin the bottle after forming a circle – the bottle can be seen at bottom left – and much kissing ensued. Lots of straights stopped to watch and laugh. Someone called the cops and the confrontation occurred that can be seen in the photograph below. Apparently, they were breaking some council by law about not playing games in the gardens, even though families were kicking footballs right next to them on the lawn.

 

Rennie Ellis Confrontation, Gay Pride Week Picnic, Botanical Gardens 1973

 

Rennie Ellis
Confrontation, Gay Pride Week Picnic, Botanical Gardens 1973
1973, printed 2014
Silver gelatin photograph
© Rennie Ellis

 

Barbara Creed. 'Julian Desaily and Peter McEwan in the back of a VW Combi van, Melbourne' Melbourne, c. 1971-73

 

Barbara Creed
Julian Desaily and Peter McEwan in the back of a VW Combi van, Melbourne
Melbourne, c. 1971-73
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Barbara Creed

 

Barbara Creed. 'Julian Desaily and Peter McEwan in the back of a VW Combi van, Melbourne' Melbourne, c. 1971-73

 

Barbara Creed
Julian Desaily and Peter McEwan in the back of a VW Combi van, Melbourne
Melbourne, c. 1971-73
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Barbara Creed

 

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

 

Barbara Creed
Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march
Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014
Still from a Super 8mm film
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Barbara Creed

 

Anonymous. 'Photographs from Gay Pride Week, Adelaide, 1973'

Anonymous. 'Photographs from Gay Pride Week, Adelaide, 1973'

Anonymous. 'Photographs from Gay Pride Week, Adelaide, 1973'

Anonymous. 'Photographs from Gay Pride Week, Adelaide, 1973'

 

Anonymous
Photographs from Gay Pride Week, Adelaide, 1973
Adelaide, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

John Englart. 'Sit down protest in Martin Place in protest at Council Officers preventing us handing out material' Sydney, 1973

 

John Englart
Sit down protest in Martin Place in protest at Council Officers preventing us handing out material
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

John Englart. 'Gay Pride Week poster, outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall' Sydney, 1973

 

John Englart
Gay Pride Week poster, outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

John Englart. 'Dancing with the Hare Krishnas in the Sydney Domain' Sydney, 1973

 

John Englart
Dancing with the Hare Krishnas in the Sydney Domain
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

Anonymous. 'Graffiti on Melbourne streets' 1971-73

Anonymous. 'Graffiti on Melbourne streets' 1971-73

Anonymous. 'Graffiti on Melbourne streets' 1971-73

 

Anonymous
Graffiti on Melbourne streets
1971-73

 

Phillip Potter. 'Portraits for CAMP Ink magazine' 1973

Phillip Potter. 'Portraits for CAMP Ink magazine' 1973

Phillip Potter. 'Portraits for CAMP Ink magazine' 1973

Phillip Potter. 'Portraits for CAMP Ink magazine' 1973

 

Phillip Potter
Portraits for CAMP Ink magazine
1973

.
Gay activist Lex Watson is the person in the bottom photograph. Lex sadly died very recently.

 

 

Installation photographs

Around the room, surrounded by colour and movement with elements of stillness

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Out of the closets, onto the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73' at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, July 2014

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Out of the closets, onto the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73' at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, July 2014

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Out of the closets, onto the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73' at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, July 2014

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Out of the closets, onto the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73' at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, July 2014

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Out of the closets, onto the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73' at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, July 2014

 

Title of the exhibition and opening images

 

Title of the exhibition with Barbara Creed's three 35mm black and white photographs

 

Title of the exhibition with Barbara Creed’s three 35mm black and white photographs

 

Phillip Potter and John Storey photographs of the first ever Gay Liberation protest in Sydney in 1971 to the right; then Ponch Hawkes four photographs followed by three photographs by Rennie Ellis

 

Phillip Potter and John Storey photographs of the first ever Gay Liberation protest in Sydney in 1971 to the right; then Ponch Hawkes four photographs followed by three photographs by Rennie Ellis

 

Phillip Potter and John Storey photographs of the first ever Gay Liberation protest in Sydney in 1971

 

Phillip Potter and John Storey photographs of the first ever Gay Liberation protest in Sydney in 1971.

From a series of photographs of the very first gay rights demonstration which attracts 70 people outside NSW Liberal Party headquarters in support of the pre-selection of Tom Hughes against a right wing challenge following his support for homosexual law reform.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Out of the closets, onto the streets: Gay Liberation photography 1971-73' at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne, July 2014

John Englart's five photographs of Sydney Gay Pride Week march 1973 in the centre with Rennie Ellis at right of these

 

John Englart’s five photographs of Sydney Gay Pride Week march 1973 in the centre with Rennie Ellis at right of these

 

Phillip Potter portraits for CAMP Ink magazine 1973 at left with Graffiti in Melbourne 1971-73 at right

 

Phillip Potter portraits for CAMP Ink magazine 1973 at left with Graffiti in Melbourne 1971-73 at right

 

Graffiti in Melbourne 1971-73

 

Graffiti in Melbourne 1971-73

 

Stills from a super 8mm Women's Liberation march by Barbara Creed, 1973, at left with Phillip Potter portraits for CAMP Ink magazine 1973 at right

 

Stills from a super 8mm Women’s Liberation march by Barbara Creed, 1973, at left with Phillip Potter portraits for CAMP Ink magazine 1973 at right

 

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

Barbara Creed. 'Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march' Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

 

Barbara Creed
Stills from a Super 8mm film of a Women’s Liberation march
Melbourne, 1973, printed 2014

 

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23
Jul
14

Catalogue essay: ‘Being (t)here: Gay liberation photography in Australia 1971-73′ from the exhibition ‘Out of the closets, onto the streets’

Exhibition dates: Tuesday 22nd July – Saturday 26th July, 2014

Artists represented: Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes, Rennie Ellis
Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson

 

This is my catalogue essay that accompanies the exhibition Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73 at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne. It’s a bit of a read (3,000 words) but stick with it. I hope you like the insights into the background of the images and the people in the exhibition.

Marcus

 

Many thankx to all the artists for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the Being (t)here catalogue essay (2.2Mb pdf)

 

 

Being (t)here: Gay liberation photography in Australia 1971-73

.
“For the colour and the soundtrack to be part of the politics, even a central part of the politics… meant something new by way of embodiment. Much of the political action was about being there, about putting one’s body on the line. A demonstration, sit-in or blockade is centrally about occupying space. A nonviolent movement tried to occupy space with bodies, not bullets.

It was a key feature of the new left that this embodied politics couldn’t stop in the streets: that is, the public arena as conventionally understood. ‘Being there’ politically also applied to households, classrooms, sexual relations, workplaces and the natural environment.”1

 

I came out as a gay man in 1975, six years after Stonewall and only a few short years after the photographs in this exhibition were taken. The first open acknowledgement of my nascent sexuality was to walk into a newsagent in Notting Hill Gate, London, head down, red as a beetroot and pick up a copy of Gay Times. I literally flung the money at the person behind the counter and ran out. I was so embarrassed. I was seventeen.

From the gay rag I found the name of the local convenor of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and went to meet him at his home. John was the very first openly gay man that I had ever met. We became lifelong friends. He used to hold coffee evenings a couple of times a week in his flat so that the local gay men had somewhere safe and secure to meet – to chat and laugh, to talk about love and life. Once a month there was a pub that we all went to in the country for a bit of a dance night, but that was it unless you went up to London to a nightclub.

None of us were very active politically, although we kept an eye on the papers and we all understood the discrimination and persecution we faced. But by the very act of being openly gay, as most of us were, we were making a political statement. I was openly gay at college in London and stopped “passing” as something I was not (a straight man) by coming out to my family and friends. I placed my being – there, there and there, in different contexts, so that my family, friends and the community could not ignore my sexuality. I never lived in fear but there was a great deal of self-loathing going on behind the scenes. In those days you were always thought of as “abnormal” and defective if you were a poofter. And there was the guilt of that association. As James Nichols observes, “To be gay or lesbian meant belonging to a genealogy of suffering, to have a dramatic, if not a tragic, destiny. Despite the many battles and certain victories that ensued, the homosexual remained a victim in the collective consciousness; a hidden man.”2  William Leonard continues the theme: “If concealment is a psychic wounding that divides each gay man against himself, it is also a collective division that precludes the forms of public association and political affiliation on which gay liberation depends. As gay men confront their own internalised feelings of self-recrimination, if not disgust, they begin to rattle the closet door and seek out, in public, others of their own kind.”3 And rattle the closet door I did. I flaunted my hi-vis identity for all to see. If the liberation movement meant putting your body on the line – not so much by consciously protesting on the streets but by being visible in whatever setting as a gay man – then I certainly did that.

 

Photography documented this Gay Liberation thing, the emergence in public and private of gay people. It not only documented this visibility but also represented it in very aesthetic and artistic ways that up until now have not really been recognised as such. This is where the photographs in this exhibition make their presence known. As gay people found their voice in the early 1970s artists, often at the very beginning of their careers, were there to capture meetings in lounge rooms, consciousness raising groups and street protests. The photographer as artist was not just a witness to these events but actively participated in these actions, which they envisioned in a subjective way. Unlike earlier images of protest marches where there is an observational distance between the photographer/event which allowed for the depiction of environment and numbers (for example in the 8 hour day marches, see figures 1-4) – from the mid-1960s onwards there is a seismic shift in how photographs represent social change and observed history. Now the photographer marches with the inmates and becomes an intimate participant in the proceedings (see figures 5-6).

In this revolutionary era, the artist evidences an empathy with the events being photographed, an up close and personal point of view. Whatever meeting or protest they were there to record was important to them, be it anti-Vietnam war, anti-Apartheid, pro abortion, nuclear disarmament, Gay Liberation, Women’s Liberation, Aboriginal rights, anti-fascist marches and student protests from around the world. And it didn’t matter whether the photographers were gay, straight or whatever. People appropriated public and private space as a form of collective activism, using social movement cultures to re-make the world. The ways of imagining life and transformation, of imaging life and transformation were enabled by the photographer actively participating in these events. The photographer’s “second sight” did not consist in “seeing” but in being there.

As Professor Barbara Creed states of her interest in artistically documenting these actions, “I was very keen on the slogan – ‘The personal is political’. I was in favour of political action of all kinds – direct action, demonstrations, marches, meetings, consciousness raising groups, media publicity, television appearances, coming out at work, talks to schools etc. I was also very interested in the possibility of using artistic practices (film, photography, poetry, fiction, art) to build solidarity among gay people and to help change public opinion.”4

 

Photographer unknown. 'The original eight hour day banner' 1856

 

Figure 1
Photographer unknown
The original eight hour day banner
1856

 

John F. Shale. 'Mounted police assembled in the square during the General Strike, Brisbane' 1912

 

Figure 2
John F. Shale
Mounted police assembled in the square during the General Strike, Brisbane
1912

 

 

While “the early demonstrations illustrated in this exhibition did often include sympathetic “straights” – a term that seems to have disappeared from the language – for whom gay liberation was part of a wider set of cultural issues,”5 for gay men pictured in the photographs these meetings and marches could be seen as a form of “coming out”, or a place to find solidarity, friendship or sex.6 Gay Pride Week in 1973, for example, was seen as a chance to target, “all the institutions of our oppression: the police courts, job discrimination, the bigoted churchmen and politicians, the media, the psychiatrists, the aversion therapists, the military, the schools, the universities, the work-places … It will also seek to change the mind of the prejudiced, the fearful, the conditioned, the sexually repressed, all those who in oppressing us, oppress themselves.”7 It was also intended to say to gay and straight alike, “gay is good, gay is proud, gay is aggressively fighting for liberation. It will say to gays: come out and stand up. Only you can win your own liberation. Come out of the ghettos, the bars and beats, from your closets in suburbia and in your own minds and join the struggle for your own liberation.”8

For photographers it was a chance to picture a changing world. As Sydney photographer Roger Scott has observed, “I knew I could make a point with my camera. It was exciting. The old conservative world was ending and a new Australia was beginning.”9 With the birth of a new Australia came the end of the White Australia policy when the Whitlam Government passed laws to ensure that race would be totally disregarded as a component for immigration to Australia in 1973; with it came the presence of gay people on the streets shouting ‘come out, come out, wherever you are’ – but certainly not in the newspapers or on television for there was, essentially, the suppression of any reference to, or reportage of ‘homosexuals’ in the mainstream press in Australia.10 If they were pictured, gay people still usually turned away from the camera or had their faces blacked out for fear of discrimination and abuse. As artist John Storey notes, “Conservatism flooded the media, government and all the rest. Homophobia was everywhere but was not a term used in public.”11

As for what prompted artists to document organizations and events, Professor Creed remarks, “I loved to film life around me. I had access to good equipment. I thought it was important to have a visual record of the emergence of Gay Liberation. I believed that films and photos would help to create a sense of community for everyone involved in Gay Liberation. Many members of Gay Lib had been ‘closeted’ all of their lives and so it was a new experience for them to join what is best described as an alternative family. In those days, the Gay Lib group was relatively small – perhaps 30-40 members, so we all knew each other. We held regular meetings, joined CR groups, took part in demonstrations, went away for weekend group events, held dances etc. I also wanted to capture the way we looked, couples together, friends, what we wore, our fashions and styles. Some of the guys had a fantastic sense of style – much more than many of the women who were in revolt against ‘feminine’ fashion. I hoped my films and photos would give support to the gay community and to our emerging sense of forming a new identity.”12

By their very embodiment, the art and politics of these photographs awakens what Roland Barthes calls the “intractable reality” of the image 13 – that prick of consciousness (the punctum), that madness that documents activism and freedom from persecution as both aesthetic and ethical, performative and political. Here, the idea of “being there” – being fully present, in mind and body; being there at the marches; being in the images; being in front of the image looking at it; coupled with the physical presence of the photograph, manifests itself most strongly. Even today, the photographs shock the viewer with their intractable reality. You can just feel the passion of these people, the police presence, the fear, and the authenticity of the photographers’ voice – raw, in your face, people really standing up to be counted.

 

Photographer unknown. 'Eight Hour Day parade in Brisbane' 1912

 

Figure 3
Photographer unknown
Eight Hour Day parade in Brisbane
1912

 

Photographer unknown. 'Women evening students' float on Park Street in the 1940s' Photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

Figure 4
Photographer unknown
Women evening students’ float on Park Street in the 1940s
Photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

 

There is also another side to these photographs – the documentation of the more private moments (meetings, consciousness raising groups, friends in the car etc) and the portrayal of gays one on one, close up and personal with the camera in mugshots used in a grid for the cover of CAMP Ink magazine in 1972. Only today can we truly appreciate the intimacy and beauty of these photographs: the photographs of two young gay men in the back of a VW Kombi van that exists only as a 35mm contact print, now scanned and rescued from oblivion; or the presence of gays posing for the camera against a neutral backdrop, every pore of their skin able to be seen (a precursor to the large colour portraits of Thomas Ruff). As Professor Creed states of her desire to capture these intimate moments, “In the 70s film, media and television rarely if ever depicted us at all – let alone our public or private lives. I have always been drawn to the aesthetic power of film and photography to represent the inner world and inner lives of people. The visual image is a great leveller – it reveals the commonality of living things, the need for affection, companionship, community. Contrary to popular myths of the time, gays and lesbians also have a need for intimacy, as does everyone else. When I made my documentary, Homosexuality A Film For Discussion, I included a segment of intimate moments between couples before the commencement of the documentary street interviews, to link the two (private and public together) and to show that many of the negative comments from the general public about loneliness did not match the actual lives of gay people.”14

So where did the photographs that were taken by these artists end up? Often they were collectively passed from hand to hand and used in newsletters, pamphlets and magazines such as CAMP Ink. As Jill Matthews, who compiled the album of Adelaide photographs observes, “The groups and events were very collective enterprises. In those days anyone who had a camera took photos. If people took photos of you, you asked for copies or they gave you prints. There were many prints made and various people had copies. At the time the use of the photos was personal and collective. The newsletters were collective enterprises with everyone chipping in, using whatever was to hand. There was no editor, although some efforts were made to achieve a sense of continuity. Making the newsletters were always fun group events, with a lot of different things you could do, they were basically parties really.”15

Eventually the photographs settled in personal archives and were largely forgotten or were donated to institutions such as the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. And then they all but disappeared from view.

 

A second (but different) “coming out”

With this exhibition these eclectic photographs re-emerge in a kind of second “coming out.” Having been put away for so many years they appear in the clear light of day, in the clear light of new thinking about their artistic merit and how they act as memory aids to feelings and relationships, events and politics.

While analogue photographic images carry Roland Barthes imprint ‘this has been’ – in other words, a photograph is a depiction of something that has already happened, that is already dead – images do not have fixed or settled meanings. As Scott McQuire insightfully observes, meaning in images “is always transactive: it is the result of complex and dynamic processes of interpretation, contestation and translation. Evidence and testimony is always to be actively produced in the complex present… the photograph’s combination of unprecedented visual detail, which seems to anchor the image in a particular time and place, [is] coupled to the endless capacity for images to travel into new times and places.”16 He goes on to say that photographic history is littered with images that have their meaning altered by entry into a new setting. The images in this exhibition are a case in point for I am examining them as artworks as much as they can be seen as documentary evidence of things that have been.

We should not be afraid of this new interpretation for, as McQuire notes, “Too often when we talk about ‘context’ in relation to a photograph, it is as if there is a finite set of connections that might be fully reproduced, if only we had the time or resources. In other words, the polysemy of the image is given a cursory and limited acknowledgement, in the hope that it can be thereby tamed. Rather than this partial, rather defensive acknowledgement of the fragility of meaning, I am arguing that we need to begin with acceptance of the irreducible openness of technological images. This quality is integrally related to the capacity of any image to circulate and appear in new situations.”17 In other words there is no definitive context for any image and we should not be afraid to approach new interpretations of the work or the coexistence of many possible meanings within that work. This process can be seen as analogous in a contextual sense to the construction of what the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) called the ‘composite’ in the physical sense, which he defined as, “construction/model where things different in kind are reconciled through our experience over time. Differences are reconciled not unified. The composite embraces ideas of complexity and multiplicity, allowing different conventions, materials and contents to coexist in an artwork. It therefore permits complexities and relationships of readings to coexist. The viewer becomes aware of new and shifting layers of content revealed over the time of viewing, and of our role in constructing, interpreting and experiencing content(s). This is not just theoretical, it is the way we experience and negotiate the world everyday, as complexity in the continuum of time and space.”18 The viewer thus creates a composite view of these images in the here and now.

The images importance, then, lies in the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. Their residence in the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) archive, which undoubtedly preserves them, marks this institutional passage, this transition of marginalised histories from private to public, “which does not always mean from the secret to the non-secret.” Under the privileged topology of ALGA they are classified and ordered and made available for study and research, but we must also acknowledge that archives give shape to and regulate cultural memory. They influence our perception of the past and present. As Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever: “”There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.” He indicates that the stakes are high over the memorialisation and excavation of sites and people’s histories.”19 This does not mean that ALGA does not promote an active engagement with the works it holds in safe keeping, far from it. They encourage the use of the archive by artists and the recontextualisation and renarrativisation of the images in this exhibition, from documentary objects to visual art works and back again, could not have occurred without their forthright help. But as Mathias Danbolt notes in his excellent article Not Not Now: Archival Engagements in Queer Feminist Art, archives will always be sites of contestation: “The conversations on archives in queer and feminist contexts tend to center on ways to break with the strictures and structures of archival logics, in order to give room for alternative forms of historical (and herstorical) transmissions. But even though archival logics tend to be a continual object of critique in feminist and queer work, the desire for archives is still present… If the process of archivization is fundamentally about conferring historical status upon material, how to avoid that the status as archival disconnect the queer feminist “past” from the “present” – the “then” from the “now”?”20 Danbolt goes on to suggest that this process is a balancing act, “between the desire for having a history, and the anxiety for being historicized, in the sense of being cut off – metaphorically, practically, systemically – from the present.”21

For me, then, this exhibition is as much about freeing these images from the guardianship of the archive, if ever so briefly, to let them live again in the real world, to let them speak for themselves, as those first gay protesters did all those years ago. To free them of the shackles of being seen as “historical” documentary photographs, the official history of gay liberation in Australia and for them to be seen works of art in their own right. It is about the representation of queer identity through the evidence of photography – from that place, in that time, now breathing in a different era, these people fighting for their liberty. It is about these images and the people in them being (t)here.

In contemporary society, where we are flooded with a maelstrom of images, I believe it is important to contemplate these images for more than just a few seconds in order to understand their history and importance not just for the past, but also for the present and the future. Today, we compose our stories and our histories out of fragments and alterations of spaces. We gather together our sources (in archives, for example) and try and make sense of the past in the present for the future. This process of understanding is about an acknowledgement of the past in the present for the future. Again I say, it is about being (t)here.

In an era of ubiquitous media images, the photographs in this exhibition deserve our attention and contemplation for they are survivors – images that perceptively visualise the initial stages of Gay Liberation in Australia, images that are still alive in the present. Their contemporary re-emergence may lead the community to finally have some iconographic images of the early stages of gay resistance and visibility – intimate representations of protests, meetings and events that ultimately changed the lives of many GLBTI people. They may also have some damn good art upon which to feast their eyes.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan
July 2014

Word count: 3,423

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Poofters!' 1973, printed 2014

 

Figure 5
Ponch Hawkes
Poofters!
1973, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Ponch Hawkes

 

John Englart. 'Gay Pride Week poster, Gay Pride march outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall' Sydney, 1973

 

Figure 6
John Englart
Gay Pride Week poster, Gay Pride march outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

 

Endnotes

1. Connell, Raewyn. “Ours is in colour: the new left of the 1960s,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p. 43.

2. Nichols, James. “Sébastien Lifshitz Releasing ‘The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride’,” on The Huffington Post website 05/01/2014 [Online] cited 02/05/2014.

3. Leonard, William. “Altman on Halperin: politics versus aesthetics in the constitution of the male homosexual,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p. 197.

4. Email text in response to the question ‘What were your politics during your involvement with Gay Liberation/events (Gay Pride Week etc)’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

5. Altman, Dennis. “Out of the closets, into the streets.” Catalogue essay. Melbourne, 2014, p. 2.

6. Ibid.,

7. Anon. “Gay Pride Week,” in Melbourne Gay Liberation Newsletter, 1973 quoted in Ritale, Jo and Willett, Graham. “Rennie Ellis at Gay Pride Week, September 1973,” in The La Trobe Journal No. 87, May 2011, pp. 87-88 [Online] Cited 11/07/2014.

8. Ibid., p. 88.

9. Scott, Roger quoted in Scott, Roger; McFarlane, Robert and Hock, Peter. Roger Scott: from the street. Neutral Bay, N.S.W.: Chapter & Verse, 2001, p. 13.

10. Email text from co-curator Nicholas Henderson 12/03/2014.

11. Email text from John Storey to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 17/05/2014.

12. Email text in response to the question ‘What prompted you to document the organisations/events?’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

13. Barthes, Roland. Camera lucida: Reflections on photography. Hill and Wang, 1st American edition, 1981.

14. Email text in response to the question ‘One of the aspects of your photographs that I am quite intrigued by is the documentation of the more private moments (meetings, consciousness raising groups, friends in the car etc), what brought you to photograph these subjects?’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

15. Jill Matthews notes from telephone conversation to Nicholas Henderson, Tuesday 22 April 2014.

16. McQuire, Scott. “Photography’s afterlife: Documentary images and the operational archive,” in Journal of Material Culture 18(3) 2013, p. 227.

17. Ibid.,

18. Thomas, David. “Composite Realities Amid Time and Space: Recent Art and Photograph,” on the Centre for Contemporary Photography website [Online] Cited 12/07/2014.

19. Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 4, note 1 quoted in Eckersall, Peter. “The Site is a Stage/The Stage is a Site,” on the Archaeology and Narration blog, Saturday, April 9, 2011 [Online] Cited 05/07/2014.

20. Danbolt, Mathias. “Not Not Now: Archival Engagements in Queer Feminist Art,” in Imhoff, Aliocha and Quiros, Kantuta (eds.,). Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent. Bétonsalon No. 14, 2013, p. 4. ISSN: 2114-155X.

21. Ibid., p. 5.

 

 

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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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