Posts Tagged ‘New York City

18
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter’ at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 26th May 2013

.

“I like it when one is not certain of what one sees.
We don’t know why the photographer has taken such a picture.
If we look and look, we begin to see and are still left with the pleasure of uncertainty.”

.
“It is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it.”

.
“After the age of 75 you should not be photographed.
You should be painted by Rembrandt or Hals, but not by Caravaggio.”

.
Saul Leiter

.

.
How brave is this photographer, occluding most of the colour image in darkness, something that had never been done before and has rarely been seen since. Look at the last three photographs in this posting to understand what I mean.

Considering that Saul Leiter’s colour photography predates William Eggleston and Stephen Shore by a couple of decades, it can truly be said that he is one of the early masters of colour photography. As the curator Ingo Taubhorn comments, “The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography.”  Well said.

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

.

.

Saul Leiter. 'From the El' c. 1955

.

Saul Leiter
From the El
c. 1955
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Nude' 1970s

.

Saul Leiter
Nude
1970s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Taxi' c. 1957

.

Saul Leiter
Taxi
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

.

KUNST HAUS WIEN is devoting a major retrospective to the oeuvre of the 89-year-old photographer and painter Saul Leiter. The exhibition, which was developed in cooperation with House of Photography / Deichtorhallen Hamburg, presents the wide range of this versatile artist’s works, including early black-and-white and colour photographs, fashion images, painted photographs of nudes, paintings and a number of his sketchbooks. One section of the exhibition is devoted to Saul Leiter’s most recent photographs, which he continues to take on the streets of New York’s East Village.

It is only in the last few years that Saul Leiter has received due recognition for his role as one of the pioneers of colour photography. As early as 1946, and thus well before the representatives of the so-called “new colour” photography in the 1970s, such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, he was one of the first to use colour photography for artistic shots, despite its being frowned upon by other artists of the day. “The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography,” comments curator Ingo Taubhorn.

Saul Leiter has always considered himself both a painter and a photographer. In his painting and in his photographs he clearly tends towards abstraction and two-dimensionality. One often finds large deep-black areas, produced by shadows, taking up as much as three quarters of his photographs. Passers-by are not presented as individuals, but as blurred clouds of colour, filtered through misty panes of glass or wedged in between walls of buildings and traffic signs. The boundaries between the abstract and the representational in his paintings and photographs are virtually fluid. Saul Leiter’s street photography – a genre in which his work is matchless – is, in essence, painting metamorphosed into photography.

In Leiter’s works, the genres of street photography, portraiture, still life, fashion photography and architectural photography coalesce. He finds his motifs, such as shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and – time and again – umbrellas, in the direct vicinity of his apartment in New York, where he has now lived for almost 60 years. The indeterminateness of detail, the blurring of movement and reduced depth of field, the use of shadows or deliberate avoidance of the necessary light, as well as the alienation caused by photographing through windows or as reflections, all combine to create the muted colour vocabulary of a semi-real, semiabstract urban space. These are the works of an as yet almost undiscovered modern master of colour photography.

.
About Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter discovered his passion for art at an early age and started painting as a teenager at the end of the 1940s. His family did not support him in his artistic endeavours; his father, a renowned Talmudic rabbi and scholar, had always hoped his son Saul would one day follow him in the family tradition and become a rabbi. Leiter was self-taught, but by no means uneducated. He read and learned a great deal about art, so that his knowledge and understanding constantly grew. In this way, he made sure that his own ideas and artistic works were duly related to the historical context.

In 1946, shortly after he had moved to New York, Leiter became acquainted with Richard Poussette-Dart, who introduced him to photography, a medium that appealed to Leiter very much and that he quickly made his own. Leiter soon resolved to use photography not only as a means of making art but as a way of earning a living. He started taking fashion photographs, and thanks to his good eye, his playful sense of humour, and his pronounced sense of elegance, swiftly emerged as an extraordinary fashion photographer. In the 1950s, “Life” magazine published photo spreads of Saul Leiter’s first black-and-white series. He took part in exhibitions, for example “Always the Young Strangers” (1953) curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art. From 1958 to 1967, Leiter worked for “Harper’s Bazaar.” Altogether he spent some 20 years photographing for various classic magazines as well as more recent ones: after “Esquire” and “Harper’s” he also worked for “Show”, “Elle”, “British Vogue”, “Queen” and “Nova”.

.

Saul Leiter. 'New York' 1950s

.

Saul Leiter
New York
1950s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Sign Painter' 1954

.

Saul Leiter
Sign Painter
1954
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Graffiti Heads' 1950

.

Saul Leiter
Graffiti Heads
1950
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Shirt' 1948

.

Saul Leiter
Shirt
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Harlem' 1960

.

Saul Leiter
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Hat' 1956

.

Saul Leiter
Hat
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Street Scene' 1957

.

Saul Leiter
Street Scene
1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

.

The exhibition chapters

Abstract Painting

Although his photographic oeuvre has dominated his image as an artist, Saul Leiter sees himself first and foremost as a painter. He began his artistic career as a painter, and while working as a photographer he never stopped painting and drawing. Leiter’s passion for art began when he was just a child, even though his ambitions received no support from his family. As a teenager he spent many hours in libraries studying art books. He found inspiration in the paintings of such artists as Vermeer, Bonnard, Vuillard and Picasso, as well as in Japanese graphic art. Leiter, who was self-taught, painted his first pictures in 1940. Most of them were lyrical, abstract compositions that reflected his admiration for the new American avant-garde. His ardent feeling for colour is recognisable even in these early paintings, as is his lifelong predilection for painting small format pastels and watercolours on paper.

After moving to New York in 1946, he sometimes presented his works together with abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. His studio was located on 10th Street in the East Village, which at that time was a neighbourhood very popular with avant-garde artists. Leiter shared these artists’ interest in abstraction and the use of colour, gesture and the element of chance, but he chose a radically different format for his works. Whereas many of his contemporaries, such as Jasper Johns or Franz Kline, painted wall-sized paintings that physically filled the beholder’s entire field of vision, Leiter worked in an intimate, small format. His works were also exhibited at the Tanager Gallery, one of the most important artist-run cooperatives in the East Village at that time. After switching the main focus of his work to photography in the late 1940s, however, Leiter stopped exhibiting his paintings.

.
Figurative Painting

Saul Leiter’s abstract painting frequently unites qualities of intimacy and familiarity with a sense of space reminiscent of an open landscape. Occasionally he also makes figurative sketches. Often these give mere intimations of a face or a body, perhaps a pointed nose, eyes and a mouth. Some of his male figures wear hats, similar to those worn by the religious Jews that peopled Leiter’s world in his youth. Most of these works focus on a single figure; only occasionally do we see a couple, or several figures grouped together. The quality of the line and the subtle suggestion of figures or heads in these paintings are reminiscent of paintings by Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, in which facial features are hinted at through lines and fine shadings of color rather than being defined by careful modelling.

.
Street Photography

When, in 1947, Saul Leiter attended an exhibition of works by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, he became convinced of the creative potential of this medium. He bought himself a 35mm Leica camera at a bargain and began, without any previous training, to take photographs on the streets of New York. At first he used only black-and-white film, but in 1948 he also started using colour film. His black-and-white photographs exhibit some elements of documentary photography but are nevertheless far removed from a photojournalistic style. Rather, they are subjective observations, often concentrating on a single individual in the big city. Leiter’s complex, multilayered works evoke feelings of alienation, melancholy and tension. Leiter underscores this impression by experimenting with strong contrasts, light and shadow, and asymmetrical compositions containing large areas in which the images are blurred.

Thematically and stylistically, there are great similarities between Leiter’s works and the works of other representatives of New York street photography of the same era, for example Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein, Louis Faurer and later Robert Frank and William Klein, today generally known as the New York School. Their radical new, subjective photography had a psychological component that revealed an unusual sensitivity to social turbulences and the uncertainty felt by many Americans during the years following the Second World War.

.
Colour Photography

Until well into the 1970s, colour photography was used almost exclusively for advertising and fashion magazines. Many photographers considered the vivid colours unsuitable for artistic expression. Moreover, they were unable to develop their colour film themselves, which made it a very expensive undertaking. It was not until 1976 that the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave its first exhibition devoted to colour photography, when it presented “Photographs by William Eggleston”.

Saul Leiter was one of the few photographers who did not reject colour photography. As a painter, he took a particular interest in street photography as a genre in which to experiment with colour film. As early as 1948, at the beginning of his career, he bought his first roles of 35mm Kodachrome colour slide film, which had been on the market since 1936. In order to save money, he often used film that had passed its sell-by date. Leiter particularly liked the resulting pictures with their delicate, muted colours.

The innumerable early colour photographs that Leiter took between 1948 and 1960 are of a unique painterly and narrative quality. They stand in contrast to the works of other photographers, in which colour is often the defining element of the composition. This circumstance, coupled with Leiter’s tendency towards abstraction, links Leiter’s photography with his painting. But in contrast to his painting (and his black-and-white photographs), his colour photographs are highly structured. It is the incomparable beauty of these works that has brought Leiter recognition as one of the masters of 20th-century photography.

.
Fashion Photography

In the late 1950s, Saul Leiter worked successfully in the fields of fashion photography and advertising. From the very first, his style was unmistakeable. His images were multilayered and complex, characterised by soft, impressionistic qualities and cubist changes of perspective. He was given his first commercial assignment in 1958 by Henry Wolf, at that time the new Art Director of Harper’s Bazaar, with whom Leiter became friends. Harper’s Bazaar was one of the leading American fashion magazines, presenting trail-blazing fashion series by photographers such as Richard Avedon or Lillian Bassman.

Subsequently, Leiter was given more and more prestigious assignments, and over the years began to spend almost all his time doing commercial work. Apart from Harper’s Bazaar, his fashion and advertising photos appeared in Elle and Show, in British Vogue and Queen and also in Nova. The amazing thing is that during this period, Leiter managed to retain his own narrative, stylised aesthetic, whereas other fashion photographers favoured a rather brittle, graphic style. In the 1970s, partly due to his own dwindling interest in commercial photography, Leiter received fewer and fewer assignments. In 1981 he gave up his studio on Fifth Avenue and in the following years led a quiet life far from the public eye.

.

Saul Leiter. 'Carol Brown, 'Harper's Bazaar'' c. 1958

.

Saul Leiter
Carol Brown, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’
c. 1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Soames Bantry, 'Nova'' 1960

.

Saul Leiter
Soames Bantry, ‘Nova’
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Walking' 1956

.

Saul Leiter
Walking
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Reflection' 1958

.

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

.

.

“I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learnt to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything.”

.
Saul Leiter

.

.
Art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2005: “Mr. Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. His painter’s instincts served him well in his emphasis on surface, spatial ambiguity and a lush, carefully calibrated palette. But the abstract allure of his work doesn’t rely on soft focus, a persistent, often irritating photographic ploy, or the stark isolation of details, in the manner of Aaron Siskind or early Harry Callahan. Instead, Mr. Leiter captured the passing illusions of everyday life with a precision that might almost seem scientific, if it weren’t so poetically resonant and visually layered.” (from Lens Culture)

.

Saul Leiter. 'Shopping' c. 1953

.

Saul Leiter
Shopping
c. 1953
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Kutztown' 1948

.

Saul Leiter
Kutztown
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

Saul Leiter. 'Pizza, Patterson' 1952

.

Saul Leiter
Pizza, Patterson
1952
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

.

.

KUNST HAUS WIEN
Museum Hundertwasser
Untere Weißgerberstraße 13
1030 Vienna
T: +43-1-712 04 91

Opening hours:
Daily, 10 am – 7 pm

Kunst Haus Wein website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

24
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Photographs’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 29th April 2012

.

It is not her portraits or the road trip photographs, nor her scientific work for which Berenice Abbott will be remembered. Firstly, she will always be remembered as the person who photographed Eugene Atget in 1927 just before he died and who bought the remainder of his negatives (after the French government had bought over 2,000 in 1920 and another 2,000 had been sold after his death). She then tirelessly promoted Atget’s work helping him gain international recognition until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. Secondly, she is remembered for her magnificent photographs of New York City and its urban environs, photographs that show the influence of Atget in their attention to detail and understanding of the placement of the camera, and imaging of old and new parts of the city (much as Atget had photographed old Paris before it was destroyed). However, these photographs are uniquely her own, with their modernist New Vision aesthetic, bold perspectives and use of deep chiaroscuro to enhance form within the photograph. Abbott’s best known project, Changing New York (1935-39) eventually consisted of 305 photographs that document the buildings of Manhattan, some of which are now destroyed. As the text on Wikipedia insightfully notes:

“Abbott’s project was primarily a sociological study imbedded within modernist aesthetic practices. She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realize that their environment was a consequence of their collective behavior (and vice versa). Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favor of what she described as “fantastic” contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilized a subject (if she approved of it), or destabilized it (if she scorned it).” 

.
In the text below Gaëlle Morel observes, “Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “disappearance of the moment” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.”

While Abbott’s photographs are definitely modernist in nature I believe that today they can also be seen as deeply nostalgic, emerging as they do in the period after the Great Depression when the economy was on the move again, a peaceful time before the oncoming armageddon of the Second World War, closely followed by the fear of nuclear annihilation and the threat of communist indoctrination. They are timeless portraits of a de/reconstructed city. The images seem to float in the air, breathe in the shadows. This is the disappearance of the moment into the enigma of past, present, future – where the photograph becomes eternal, where the best work of both Atget and Abbott resides.

.

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

.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
New York Stock Exchange, New York City
1933
Gelatin silver print
24 x 19 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Treasury Building, New York City
1933
Gelatin silver print
51 x 40.5 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Architecture

“The tempo of the city is not that of eternity, nor that of time, but that of the ephemeral. That is why recording it is so important, in both documentary and artistic terms.”

“All the photographs of New York took a long time to make, because the camera had to be carefully positioned. There is nothing fortuitous about these photographs.”

The exhibition features a substantial collection from Abbott’s best known project, Changing New York (1935-39). Commissioned by the Roosevelt administration as part of its response to the nationwide economic crisis, Abbott saw this piece of work as both a way of documenting the City and as a personal work of art. Eighty of the 305 photographs taken by Abbott are on show here, along with various documents providing insight into the background of this major photographic undertaking, including posters and views of the exhibition organized by the Museum of the City of New York in 1937, sketches and historical notes made by the team of journalists working with Abbott on the project, and proofs and dummies of the layout made by the photographer before she started work.

Abbott homes in on the contrasts between old and new elements in the City’s structure. Her images alternate between a New Vision aesthetic, characterised by an emphasis on details and bold perspectives, and a more documentary style that is frontal and neutral. Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “disappearance of the moment” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.

In 1938, hoping to take advantage of the fifty million visitors expected at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the publisher, E.P. Dutton, offered to bring out a selection of one hundred images from the project accompanied by a text by the renowned art critic Elizabeth McCausland, who also happened to be Abbott’s companion and staunch supporter. Going against the women’s original ideas for an art book, Dutton produced a more standard tourist guide, breaking the City down into a series of tours, from south to north and from the centre outwards. The text, too, was shorn of its poetic and pedagogical dimensions, leaving only informative entries about the buildings in the pictures.

In the exhibition, this set of architectural photographs is rounded out by a selection of pictures of vernacular architecture taken by Abbott during a journey in the southern states of the US in the 1930s and when she was travelling along Route 1 in the 1950s. Here, portraits of farmers and wooden houses alternate with pictures of streets and local events.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Triborough Bridge, East 125th Street Approach, New York City, June 29, 1937
1937
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 19 cm
Museum of the City of New York. Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Broadway to the Battery, New York City, May 4, 1938
1938 
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24 cm
Museum of the City of New York
Museum Purchase with funds from the Mrs. Elon Hooker Acquisition Fund
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Flat Iron Building, Broadway and Fifth Avenue, New York City
1938
Gelatin silver print
101.5 x 76 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott Petit Journal

With over 120 photographs, plus a selection of books and documents never shown before, this is the first exhibition in France to cover the many different facets of the American photographer Berenice Abbott (1898–1991), who is also famous for her international advocacy of Eugène Atget. She came to Paris in 1921 where she learnt her craft from Man Ray before opening her own studio and embarking on a successful career as a portraitist. Returning to New York City in 1929, she conceived what remains her best‑known project, Changing New York (1935-39). This was financed by the Works Progress Administration as part of its response to the economic crisis sweeping the country. The photographs she took in 1954 when travelling along the US East Coast on Route 1 (the exhibition presents a previously unseen selection of these images) reflect her ambition to represent the whole of what she called the “American scene.” Furthermore, in the 1950s, she also worked on a set of images for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed to illustrate the principles of mechanics and light for educational purposes.

A committed member of the avant‑garde from the early 1920s, and a staunch opponent of Pictorialism and the school of Alfred Stieglitz, Abbott spent the whole of her career exploring the limits and nature of documentary photography and photographic realism. This exhibition shows the rich array of her interests and conveys both the unity and diversity of her work.

.

Portraits

Berenice Abbott moved to New York City in the early 1920s and went about becoming a sculptor. Mixing in the bohemian circles of Greenwich Village, she met writers and artists such as Djuna Barnes, Sadakichi Hartmann and Marcel Duchamp. She also posed for Man Ray. Economic hardship at home and the allure of what then seemed the cultural Eldorado of Europe impelled several of these artists to try their luck in Paris, and Abbott herself joined this group of American expatriates in 1921.

In 1923 she became the assistant of Man Ray, who had opened a portrait studio shortly after his arrival in France in 1921. While a fair portion of the studio’s clients were American tourists, Abbott found herself at the heart of the avant-garde scene – especially that of the Surrealists. Between 1923 and 1926 she thus learnt about darkroom techniques and portrait photography while at the same time picking up a broader intellectual and artistic education. She produced her portraits in Man Ray’s studio before opening her own in 1926. Success soon followed. Her clientele was a mixture of French cultural figures and American expatriates, of bourgeois, bohemians and literary types. Her portraits were on occasion manifestly influenced by Surrealism, and more generally show an interest in masquerade, play and disguise, but sometimes even in their use of overprinting and distortion.

The female models express a kind of sexual ambiguity, notably by their masculine haircut or clothes, deliberately exuding a sense of uncertainty with regard to their identity. In composing her portraits, Abbott developed a distinctive aesthetic, far removed from the usual commercial conventions. The absence of a set, with the background usually no more than a plain wall, helped to focus on the sitter and their posture, the position of their body and their facial expression. The use of a tripod and long-focus lenses placed at eye-height allowed her to avoid distorsions and thus heighten the physical presence of the models. In early 1929 Abbott left Paris for New York City. Back in America she continued with the same activities, opening a new portrait studio and taking part in exhibitions of modernist photography, while also promoting the work of Eugène Atget, having bought part of his estate in 1928.

.

New York City

In the early 1930s, Abbott set about her project for a great documentary portrait of the City of New York, but had no luck when she approached institutions such as the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Historical Society for funding. She assembled her first efforts in an album (eight pages of which are exhibited here) in order to convey the scale of her ambitious undertaking, and in 1934 exhibited her photographs of the City at the Museum of the City of New York in the hope of attracting sponsors. In 1935, support was at last forthcoming from the Federal Art Project, a programme set up to aid artists by the Works Progress Administration as part of the New Deal; she now had the support of a team of researchers who produced an information pack with text and drawings to accompany each image. Entitled Changing New York, she conceived this commission as both a vast documentary record of the City and a personal work of art. Eighty of the 305 photographs constituting this project have been selected for the exhibition. These are accompanied by documents – a poster, exhibition views, sketches and historical notes, proofs, pages from the preparatory album and original editions – that help to convey the concerns and ambitions behind this major photographic undertaking.

Abbott focused on the contrasts and links between old and new in the City’s structure. Her images alternate between a New Vision aesthetic, characterised by an emphasis on details and bold perspectives, and a more documentary style that is frontal and neutral. Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “vanishing instant” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.

The upshot of all this work was the publication of a book, Changing New York, in 1939. But there was considerable tension between the publisher, whose concerns were commercial, and the photographer, with her artistic ambitions. In 1938, hoping to take advantage of the fifty million visitors expected at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the publishing house E.P. Dutton proposed to bring out a selection of one hundred images from the project accompanied by a text from the renowned art critic Elizabeth McCausland, who also happened to be Abbott’s companion and unfailing supporter. Straying far from the project originally envisaged by the two women, Dutton changed the presentation of the photographs and produced what was a standard tourist guide, breaking the City down into a series of tours, from south to north and from the centre outwards. The text, too, was shorn of its poetic and pedagogical dimensions, leaving only information about the buildings in the pictures.

.

The “American scene”

This set of architectural images is completed by a selection of vernacular photographs. In the summer of 1935, Berenice Abbott went on a road trip down to the Southern US in order to create a portrait of a rural world in crisis. Choosing the kind of documentary style that would be the hallmark of the photographic survey launched by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) that same year, she focused on the modest wooden houses and the farmers. Driving around these states with Elizabeth McCausland, Abbott took some two hundred photographs which the two women saw as part of an ambitious photographic portrait of America in book form, although in the end this was never published. A similar fate befell Abbott’s piece on the small towns and villages along Route 1, which she travelled in 1954. Covering approximately 6,500  kilometres as she followed this road along the East Coast of the US, she took some 2,400 photographs, taking in stalls, shops, portraits of farmers, diners and bars and dance halls. Her photography alternated between the documentary aesthetic and Street Photography. With Route 1, Abbott continued to pursue her ambition of representing the whole of the “American scene.”

.

Science

Abbott started photographing scientific phenomena in 1939. In 1944 she was recruited by the journal Science Illustrated, where she published some of her own pictures, as head of its photography department. Abbott took a committed, pedagogical approach, seeing her images as a vital bridge between modern science and the general public. In 1957, as a result of the anxiety about national science stirred by the Soviet launch of the Sputnik into outer space, at the height of the Cold War, the National Science Foundation set up a Physical Science Study Committee at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its role was to develop new textbooks for the teaching of science in schools and to use innovative photographs to illustrate the principles of quantum mechanics. Abbott was hired by MIT to produce photographs for the popularisation and teaching of the sciences. Using abstract forms to visually express complex mechanical concepts and invisible mechanical laws, she used black grounds to reveal principles such as gravity and light waves. The exhibition features a score of Abbott’s scientific and experimental images, as well as some of the books for which they were used. Harking back to the experiments of the avant-gardes, and in particular the rayogram technique, she was able to produce visually attractive and surprising images that were also rich in discovery, thus combining documentary information with a sense of wonder.”

Text by Gaëlle Morel, curator of the exhibition, on the Jeu de Paume website

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, New York City, October 24, 1935
1935
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5 cm
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Sunoco Station, Trenton, New Jersey
1954
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Gunsmith and Police Department Headquarters, 6 Centre Market Place and 240 Centre Street, New York City, February 4, 1937
1937 
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5 cm
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Happy’s Refreshment Stand, Daytona Beach, Florida
1954
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 28 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

Berenice Abbott
Miner, Greenview, West Virginia
1935
Gelatin silver print
25 x 19 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

.

.

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12:00 – 21:00
Wednesday – Friday: 12:00 – 19:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 – 19:00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

25
Jan
12

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

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

.

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

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

.

.

.

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

.

.

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

.

.

On Photographs

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

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

.

.

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

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

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

.

Biography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

.

.

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

.

.

On Freaks

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

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

.

The Gap between Attention and Affect

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

.

Other Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

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

.

.

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

.

.

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

.

.

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12:00 – 21:00
Wednesday – Friday: 12:00 – 19:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 – 19:00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

13
Nov
11

Review: ‘Selina Ou: New York’ at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 25th October – 19th November 2011

.

A strong, nuanced body of work by Selina Au at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond. In the flesh these large colour photographs have a wonderful, polyvocal presence. The solo portraits are stronger in terms of composition and intertextuality than the double portraits.

Derived from the Latin intertexto, meaning to intermingle while weaving, intertextuality is a term first introduced by French semiotician Julia Kristeva in the late sixties.1 Intertextuality “is always an iteration which is also a re-iteration, a re-writing which foregrounds the trace of the various texts it both knowingly and unknowingly places and dis-places.”2 Intertexuality is how a text is constituted. It fragments singular readings. The reader’s own previous readings, experiences and position within the cultural formation influences these re-inscriptions.

Reminding me of a contemporary redefinition of the work of Diane Arbus, Ou’s reconceptualisations of space “produce a plurality of meanings and signifying/interpretive gestures that escape the reduction of knowledge to fixed, monological re-presentations, or presences.”3 Through a process of materialisation, using the technique of assemblage, Ou weaves a lack of fixity into her photographs. She creates a kind of tapestry in the surfaces of her images, a play of pattern/randomness that redefines the significations of the body in the fold of inscription.

Take the first three portraits in this posting, for example. The photograph Tim, Hair Stylist, Lower East Side, New York weaves space, time and memory within the pictorial frame. The physical space between the portrait on the wall at rear, Tim and the clock at right is crucial to a reading of this photograph, as is the disjuncture between the appearance of the man in the framed photograph (in jacket and tie) and the casual attire of Tim. Just as important is the memorialisation of both men within the same space (where both presumably work/ed), the collapsing of past and present into a fluid space that is neither here nor there (the past of the man in the framed photograph, the moment of passing of Tim when the photograph was ‘taken’ and the present of the photograph being looked at). There is no fixed, monological representation here: the reading of this photograph hovers between past and present, between memory and reality and haunts the body of the subject, Tim.

Similarly, Raquel, Waitress and Fashion Designer, Nolita, New York and Jerome, Retail Assistant and Fashion Designer, Soho, New York offer radical re-iterations of space, this time with less temporal associations. In Raquel, two red chevrons at top left and right frame the face of the subject, playing off the colour-changing hair of the waitress/fashion designer, the title of the photograph an ironic comment on the intertextual nature of contemporary life: a waitress (low paid, menial labourer) and a fashion designer (famous, highly visible entrepreneur). The nonchalantly limp-wristed, ringed hand and over large glasses, coupled with the bedraggled threads of the black shorts – echoing the tousled nature of the subjects hair – also belies the statement “fashion designer.” The word Cervesas (beer) offers a dichotomy with the coloured bottles of flavoured water that surround the lower half of the subject while the reflection in the window behind Raquel provides a metaphorical vista into this distorted world view.

In Jerome, the same problem in a person’s relationship with self and others is evident: the context of Jerome as both a retail assistant (low paid, menial labourer) and a fashion designer (famous, highly visible entrepreneur). The narcissistic, self-importance of Jerome is beautifully portrayed by Ou as she balances the context of his body in space – his polka-dot shirt reflecting the dotted neon of the shops name, his logo emblazoned necklace doing the same, while the reflections in the shop window again hint at outside forces (the car and consumerism) and other worlds. The defiant, could not give a shit gaze of the subject into the camera lens hints at years of subjugation and unrequited ambition for this is not his shop, these are not his clothes despite the label “fashion designer.” He is just a retail assistant, the subject of his own con(text).

The strength of these photographs is that they blur the outlines of the fixed image dispersing an image of totality, “into an unbounded, illimitable tissue of connections and associations, paraphrases and fragments, texts and con-texts.”4 In this sense the solo portraits are much more successful than the rest of the work as Ou magically weaves the tapestry of life into her compositions, ready for the reader to bring their own experiences to these re-inscriptions. In a word these photographs are, literally, breath-taking.

.

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

.

.

.

Selina Ou
Tim, Hair Stylist, Lower East Side, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

.

.

Selina Ou
Raquel, Waitress and Fashion Designer, Nolita, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

.

.

Selina Ou
Jerome, Retail Assistant and Fashion Designer, Soho, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

.

.

Selina Ou
Darren, Model and Carlito, Artist, Soho, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

.

.

Selina Ou
Carolyn and Jane, Lolitas, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

.

.

Selina Ou
Issa and Lamine, Taxi Mechanics, Upper West Side, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

.

.

1. Keep, Christopher, McLaughlin, Tim and Parmar, Robin. “Interxtuality,” on The Electronic Labyrinth website [Online] Cited 13/11/2011. elab.eserver.org/hfl0278.html

2. Ibid.,

3. Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/08/2006.
www.forkbeds.com/visual-pedagogy.htm (no longer available)

4. Keep Op cit.,

.

.

Sophie Gannon Gallery
2, Albert Street
Richmond, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Tues – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Sophie Gannon Gallery website

Back to top

03
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Joel Meyerowitz – Aftermath’ at the Miami Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 19th August – 6th November 2011

.

“And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness” as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather a force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there …”

Frederick Nietzsche, The Will to Power.

.

.

Sadness. And light. Hope. Amidst the inferno. Study the masterpiece Finding More Fireman (below) in the enlarged version and you cannot fail to be moved. It is all there: monumental, intimate, hellish, redemptive – a modern, “disastrous” form of the The Night Watch.

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

.

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz 
Searchers in Rubble
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Steven E. and Phyllis Gross

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Flower Offering
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Steven E. and Phyllis Gross

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Pit Looking North
2002
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Steven E. and Phyllis Gross

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Smoke and Spray
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Jeffrey Hugh Newman

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Moving the Monument
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Jeffrey Hugh Newman

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Finding More Fireman
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Charles S. and Elynne B. Zucker

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Searchers
2002
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Charles S. and Elynne B. Zucker

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Welders in South Tower
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Charles S. and Elynne B. Zucker

.

.

“In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Miami Art Museum presents Focus Gallery: Joel Meyerowitz – Aftermath, an exhibition of photographs taken by the only photographer granted right of entry into Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. For nine months during the day and night, Meyerowitz photographed “the pile,” as the World Trade Center came to be known, and the over 800 people a day that were working in it. The exhibition consists of 24, recently-donated photographs, presented in the Focus Gallery section of the Museum’s Permanent Collection installation. Admission to Miami Art Museum will be free to all emergency personnel, including police and firefighters, and their guests throughout the exhibition’s run, August 19 – November 6, 2011. A special preview for emergency personnel will be held on Thursday, August 18, 2011, 4-7pm. Author and photography critic Vicki Goldberg will give a lecture entitled “What Remains” on Thursday, September 8, 2011, beginning at 6:30pm.

After September 11, 2001, the Ground Zero site in New York City was classified as a crime scene and only those directly involved in the recovery efforts were allowed inside. The press was prohibited from the site. Influenced by Walker Evans’s and Dorothea Lange’s work for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, Meyerowitz, long recognized as one of the pioneers of color photography, was convinced that if a photographic record of the unprecedented recovery efforts was not made, “there would be no history.” With the help of sympathetic officials, he managed to become the only photographer granted right of entry into Ground Zero.

“I was making photographs for everyone who didn’t have access to the site,” says Meyerowitz, “I wanted to communicate what it felt like to be in there as well as what it looked like: to show the pile’s incredible intricacy and visceral power. I could provide a window for everyone else who wanted to be there, too, to help, or to grieve, or simply to try to understand what had happened to our city.”

Armed with a large-format wooden camera, Meyerowitz spent nine months photographing the site. In the first few weeks, he was chased off the site repeatedly, but over time, with the help of officials on and off site, the use of forged workers’ passes, and by assuming the “uniform” of hard hat, goggles, respirator, gloves, boots and duct taped pants, Meyerowitz became “woven into the fabric of the site.”

About the experience, Meyerowitz has written, “The nine months I worked at Ground Zero were among the most rewarding of my life. I came in as an outsider, a witness bent on keeping the record, but over time I began to feel a part of the very project I’d been intent on recording… the intense camaraderie I experienced at Ground Zero inspired me, changing both my sense of myself and my sense of responsibility to the world around me. September 11th was a tragedy of almost unfathomable proportions. But living for nine months in the midst of those individuals who faced that tragedy head-on, day after day, and did what they could to set things right, was an immense privilege.”

The photographs in MAM’s collection are from a unique set of contact prints (photographs printed on a 1:1 scale from the negatives) issued by the artist in 2006. As a group, they span the entire nine month period that Meyerowitz was on site, presenting a poignant, condensed view of the clean up effort, including portraits of the workers involved. The set is introduced by a single image of the World Trade Center towers taken by the artist in the 1980s from his apartment window.

The entire set of more than 8,000 photographs taken by Meyerowitz form an archive at the Museum of the City of New York. The Aftermath series was the focus of a 2006 book, Aftermath: World Trade Center Archives published by Phaidon (reissued this year in a special 10th anniversary edition) and an exhibition organized by the US Department of State that traveled worldwide from 2002 to 2005.”

Press release from the Miami Art Museum website

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Explosion Squad Detective
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Steven E. and Phyllis Gross

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Steps Down to Plaza
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Jeffrey Hugh Newman

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Fireman at Last Column
2002
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Charles S. and Elynne B. Zucker

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Building #5 and Woolworth
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Simon and Bonnie Levin

.

.

Joel Meyerowitz
Welder and Rubble
2001
Vintage contact print
Collection Miami Art Museum, gift of Steven E. and Phyllis Gross

.

.

Miami Art Museum
101 W Flagler St., Miami, FL 33130

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

Miami Art Museum website

Back to top

30
Oct
11

Archive: Elliott Erwitt’s Archive 
to be Housed at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin

.

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

.

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
BRAZIL. Buzios. 1990.
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
USA. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1950.
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
Jackie Kennedy, Arlington, Virginia, 1963.
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon, Moscow, 1959.
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS

.

.

“The archive of photographer Elliott Erwitt (b. 1928), which includes more than 50,000 signed photographic prints, will be housed at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. Spanning more than six decades of Erwitt’s career, the archive covers not only his work for magazine, industrial and advertising clients but also photographs that have emerged from personal interests. Collectors and philanthropists Caryl and Israel Englander have placed the archive at the Ransom Center for five years, making it accessible to researchers, scholars and students.

Born in Paris to Russian émigré parents, Erwitt spent his formative years in Milan and then immigrated to the United States, living in Los Angeles and ultimately New York. In 1948, Erwitt actively began his career and met photographers Robert Capa, Edward Steichen and Roy Stryker, all who would become mentors. In 1953, Erwitt was invited to join Magnum Photos by Capa, one of the founders of the photographic co-operative. Ten years later, Erwitt became president of the agency for three terms. A member of the Magnum organization for more than 50 years, Erwitt’s archive will be held alongside the Magnum Photos collection at the Ransom Center. While many of Erwitt’s photographs capture the famous, from Richard Nixon arguing with Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow in 1959 to Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s funeral, other subjects include everyday people, places and even dogs, a longtime love of Erwitt’s.

“The work I care about is terribly simple,” said Erwitt in “Personal Exposures” (1988). “I observe, I try to entertain, but above all I want pictures that are emotion. Little else interests me in photography. Today, so much is being done by unemotional people, or at least it looks that way…I mean, work that’s fascinating and fun and clever and technically brilliant. But if it’s not personal, then it misses what interesting photography is about.”

Exhibitions of Erwitt’s work have been featured at institutions ranging from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to The Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and his work is represented in numerous major institutions.

“Whether capturing the everyday or the extraordinary, Erwitt’s work always has a wonderful element of accessibility,” said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. “Housing the collection here adds a new dimension to that access.”

In addition to providing access to the archive, the Ransom Center will promote interest in the collection through lectures, fellowships and exhibitions.”

Text from the Harry Ransom Center website

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
USA. New York City. 1988.
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS.

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
USA. Reno, Nevada. 1960.
(on the set of the film The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable)
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS.

.

.

Elliott Erwitt
CUBA. Havana. 1964.
(Che Guevara)
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS.

.

.

Archivist Amy Armstrong inspects a box from the archive of Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt.
Photo by Pete Smith.
Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.

.

.

The Harry Ransom Center
21st and Guadalupe Streets
Austin, Texas 78712
Phone: 512-471-8944

Exhibition Galleries Opening Hours:
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Thursday
Noon – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Library Reading/Viewing Rooms Opening Hours:
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
9 a.m. – Noon Saturday

Harry Ransom Center website

Back to top

13
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘Acquisitions of Twentieth-Century Photography’ at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 7th December 2010 – 14th February 2011

.

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

.

.

.

Lewis Hine
‘Don’t Smoke, Visits Saloons’
1910

Lewis Hine. May 1910. Wilmington, Delaware. “James Lequlla, newsboy, age 12. Selling newspapers 3 years. Average earnings 50 cents per week. Selling newspapers own choice. Earnings not needed at home. Don’t smoke. Visits saloons. Works 7 hours per day.”

.

.

Gordon Parks
‘Bessie Fontenelle and Little Richard in bed, Harlem New York’
1968

.

.

Helen Levitt
‘Squatting girl/spider girl, New York City’
1980

.

“From 7 December, the Rijksmuseum will display a selection of 20th-century photographic works acquired in recent years with the support of Baker & McKenzie. The sponsorship from the renowned law firm has already allowed the museum to purchase more than thirty photographs, including works by László Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Robert Capa and Helen Levitt, as well as photography books by Man Ray and others. When it reopens in 2013, the Rijksmuseum will be the only museum in the Netherlands able to provide an overview of the history of photography in the Netherlands and abroad.

The most recent acquisition sponsored by Baker & McKenzie and the independent art fund Vereniging Rembrandt is a monumental photograph by Bauhaus photographer László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). The photograph from 1929 is a key work that marks the transition into modernity. From atop a high bridge, the Pont Transbordeur in Marseille, Moholy-Nagy pointed his camera straight down, where an almost abstract pattern of metal beams contrasted with the sailing boat passing under the bridge. Metal, bridges, machines, aeroplanes and cars formed the icons of a new era for Moholy-Nagy’s generation of artists. They were faced with advancing technology, an enormous increase in scale and mechanisation, and a faster pace of life.

The other photographs to be displayed represent a range of movements in the history of photography. Two photographs by Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972) will be displayed. They are both studies of form focusing first and foremost on composition, just as in the Moholy-Nagy work. It was in around 1920 that Hoppé photographed the play of light on cobblestones in New York, and the building of a metal construction in Philadelphia.

The documentary aspects of photography will also be highlighted, with magnificent portraits of a black mother and her child in a report about Harlem in the late 1960s (by Gordon Parks), and a portrait of two men in the southern ‘Cotton States’ of America during the Great Depression of the 1930s (by Peter Sekaer). As early as 1909, Lewis Hine used photography as a weapon in the struggle against injustice. Commissioned by the National Child Labour Committee he documented the child labour industry, in this case a small boy standing on the street selling newspapers.

During the 1930s, Bill Brandt published a (now famous) book on life in London at the time, from which came the photograph ‘Sky lightens over the suburbs’, which is both a study of form and documentary in nature. It shows a forest of glistening roofs, depicted in a melancholy yet realistic manner.

In 1942, Piet Mondrian was photographed in his studio by Arnold Newman, a session from which the Rijksmuseum has acquired a range of photographs. There are few portraits of Mondrian in Dutch collections, making this series particularly special.

A work by Helen Levitt is one of the few colour photographs included in the exhibition. Until the 1980s, colour photography was simply ‘not done’ and Levitt was one of the first to experiment with the method. The photograph of a girl searching for something underneath a green car is a marvellous example of composition in colour.”

Press release from the Rijksmuseum website

.

.

Arnold Newman
‘Piet Mondrian, New York’
1942

.

.

Emil Otto Hoppé
‘Steel construction, Philadelphia’
1926

.

.

László Moholy-Nagy
‘View from Pont Transbordeur, Marseille’
1929

.

.

Bill Brandt
‘Sky lightens over the suburbs, London’
1934

.

.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Jan Luijkenstraat 1, Amsterdam

Opening hours:
Every day from 9:00 to 18:00

Rijksmuseum website

Back to top

02
Dec
10

Exhibition: ‘American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 2nd October 2010 – 2nd January 2011

.

Berenice Abbott – what a photographer! You couldn’t have thought of a better person to save the archive of Eugene Atget for the world. It’s all there at the bread store. Many thankx to Tracy Greene for her help and The Amon Carter Museum of American Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

.

.

.

Berenice Abbott (1898–1991)
Canyon, Broadway and Exchange Place
1936
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Marvin Breckinridge Patterson, 2000.148.1

.

.

Berenice Abbott (1898–1991)
Manhattan Bridge Looking Up
1936
Gelatin silver print
The Art Institute of Chicago, Works Progress Administration Allocation, 1389.1943

.

.

Berenice Abbott (1898–1991)
Bread Store, 259 Bleecker Street
1937
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, 49.282.57

.

.

Margaret Bourke-White (1906–1971)
Chrysler Building, New York
ca. 1930–31
Gelatin silver print
© Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987, 1987.1100.338

.

.

Walker Evans (1903–1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah
1936
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum, P1987.4.1

.

.

“The Amon Carter Museum of American Art presents American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White. This special exhibition explores the work of three of the foremost photographers of the twentieth-century and the golden age of documentary photography in America. American Modern will be on view through January 2, 2011; admission is free.

Featuring more than 140 photographs by Berenice Abbott (1898–1991), Margaret Bourke-White (1906–1971) and Walker Evans (1903–1975), American Modern was co-organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine. The exhibition is the result of a unique partnership between three curators: Jessica May and Sharon Corwin of the Carter and Colby, respectively, and Terri Weissman, assistant professor of art history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Together, the three curators present the works of these three artists as case studies of documentary photography during the Great Depression and demonstrate how three factors supported the development of documentary photography during this important period in American history: first, the expansion of mass media; second, a new attitude toward and acceptance of modern art in America; and third, government support for photography during the 1930s.

“This exhibition considers the work of three of the best-loved American photographers in a new light, which is very exciting,” says curator Jessica May. “Abbott, Evans, and Bourke-White are undisputed masters of the medium of photography, but they have never been shown in relation to one another. This exhibition offers viewers an opportunity to see works together that have not been shown as such since the 1930s.”

In addition to vintage photographs from over 20 public and private collections, the exhibition also features rare first-edition copies of select books and periodicals from the 1930s. American Modern, May says, “reminds us that documentary photography was very much a public genre – this was the first generation of photographers that truly anticipated that their work would be seen by a vast audience through magazines and books.”

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

.

.

Margaret Bourke-White (1906–1971)
[Iron Mountain, Tennessee]
1937
Gelatin silver print
© Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Margaret Bourke-White Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library

.

.

Margaret Bourke-White (1906–1971)
Delman Shoes
1933
Gelatin silver print
© Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/ Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Margaret Bourke-White Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library

.

.

Walker Evans (1903–1975)
[Lunchroom Window, New York City]
1929
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Arnold H. Crane, 1971, 1971.646.35

.

.

Walker Evans (1903–1975)
People in Downtown Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1952, 52.562.7

.

.

Amon Carter Museum
3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2695

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday:
10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–5 p.m.
Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

Bookmark and Share

05
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 14th November 2010

.

Many thankx to the The J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

.

.

.

Leonard Freed
(American, 1929 – 2006)
New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
24.6 x 16.4 cm (9 11/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
© Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

W. Eugene Smith
(American, 1918 – 1978)
Industrial Waste from the Chisso Chemical Company
1972
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 34 cm (9 5/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
Minamata photographs by W. Eugene Smith & Aileen M. Smith – © Aileen Smith
H. Christopher Luce. Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York, New York

.

.

“In the decades following World War II, an independently minded and critically engaged form of photography began to gather momentum. Situated between journalism and art, its practitioners created extended photographic essays that delved deeply into topics of social concern and presented distinct personal visions of the world. On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, June 29 – November 14, 2010, Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties looks in depth at projects by a selection of the most vital photographers who have contributed to the development of this documentary approach. Passionately committed to their subjects, these photographers have captured both meditative and searing images, from the deep south in the civil rights era to the war in Iraq in 2006. Their powerful visual reports, often published extensively as books, explore aspects of life that are sometimes difficult and troubling but are worthy of attention.

“This exhibition focuses on the tradition of socially engaged photographic essays since the 1960s,” explains Brett Abbott, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition. “Working beyond traditional media outlets, these photographers have authored evocative bodies of work that transcend the realm of traditional photojournalism.”

Engaged Observers is structured around suites of photographs from the following projects: “Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield, “The Mennonites” by Larry Towell, “Streetwise” by Mary Ellen Mark, “Black in White America” by Leonard Freed, “Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979″ by Susan Meiselas, “Vietnam Inc.” by Philip Jones Griffiths, “The Sacrifice” by James Nachtwey, “Migrations: Humanity in Transition” by Sebastião Salgado, and “Minamata” by W. Eugene and Aileen M. Smith.

Although one does not always associate style with photojournalism, where objectivity and neutrality are traditionally valued, aesthetics have been an important consideration for all of the photographers represented in the exhibition. One of the strengths of this tradition has been its ability to harness artistic decisions in reporting on the world. Meiselas chose color film for her Nicaragua project because she felt it better conveyed the spirit of the revolution as she experienced it. Salgado noted that the solemn beauty so characteristic of his approach is important in conjuring a persistent grace among his migrant subjects, allowing him to present them in a dignified way while calling attention to their plight. Nachtwey used tight framing of messy conglomerations of tubes, instruments, and arms in The Sacrifice as a way of conjuring the atmosphere of controlled chaos that he experienced in trauma centers in Iraq. In this kind of work, subject and style, message and delivery, are deliberately intertwined.

All of the photographers in this exhibition use a series of images to address conceptual issues. For instance, Freed was concerned with bridging cultural divides to engender support of basic civil rights, while Griffiths denounced violent commercialization; Salgado pointed to the effects of globalization, while the Smiths addressed the related issue of industrial pollution; Meiselas engaged and countered the fragmented process by which we receive news and understand history, while Towell challenged the meaning of “newsworthy” and explored, as did Greenfield, how cultural values affect life; Nachtwey found the human toll of war unacceptable, and Mark, the idea of homeless street kids in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Many of the photographers have published books to further convey their socially engaged messages. Books allow for a greater depth of reporting than magazine articles since their length can be tailored to the needs of a particular project. And because they can be read in private, books are conducive to extended contemplation and the slow absorption of ideas, both of which are important to understanding projects that are broad in scope and have layers of meaning that, in many cases, were developed over the course of years. Moreover, they provide photographers authorial control over the presentation of their work. Each artist has the ability to decide how pictures are captioned and with what information.

A final section of the exhibition is devoted to tracing the origins of the documentary photography tradition, touching on American Civil War photographs by Alexander Gardner, turn-of-the-century activism by Lewis Hine, Depression-era photography, and photojournalism in pre-World War II picture magazines. This section also looks closely at the formation of Magnum Photos. Founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Besson, and several other photographers, Magnum provided a new platform for an independent documentary approach to photojournalism and became one of the world’s most prestigious photographic organizations. Magnum was structured to allow its members to pursue stories of their own choosing, spend as much time as they wanted on a particular topic, and be as involved as they desired in the editing, captioning, and publication of their work. The organization was meant to harness commercial assignments as a base from which to pursue independent work, and the concept has given rise to generations of independent photographers, including many of those in Engaged Observers.”

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website

.

.

Walker Evans
(American, 1903 – 1975)
Sharecropper’s Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Woods and His Family
1936
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 24.3 cm (7 5/8 x 9 9/16 in.)
© The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

Philip Jones Griffiths
(Welsh, 1936 – 2008)
Vietnam
1967
Gelatin silver print
21.3 x 31.8 cm (8 3/8 x 12 1/2 in.)
© The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation / Magnum Photos
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Limits of friendship. A Marine introduces a peasant girl to king-sized filter-tips. Of all the U.S. forces in Vietnam, it was the Marines that approached Civic Action with gusto. From their barrage of handouts, one discovers that, in the month of January1967 alone, they gave away to the Vietnamese 101,535 pounds of food, 4,810 pounds of soap, 14,662 books and magazines, 106 pounds of candy, 1,215 toys, and 1 midwifery kit. In the same month they gave the Vietnamese 530 free haircuts.

.

.

James Nachtwey
(American, born 1948)
The Sacrifice
negative 2006 – 2007; print 2010
Inkjet print
111.8 x 983 cm (44 x 387 in.)
© James Nachtwey
James Nachtwey, New York, New York

.

.

Sebastião Salgado
(Brazilian, born 1944)
Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India
negative 1995; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 51.4 cm (13 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
© Sebastião Salgado
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

Photographic Essays

.

LEONARD FREED

BLACK IN WHITE AMERICA

Photography shows the connection between things, how they relate. Photography is not entertaining, this is not decoration, this is not advertising. Photographing is an emotional thing, a graceful thing. Photography allows me to wander with a purpose.

Leonard Freed (American, 1923–2006), interview in Worldview, 2007

.

While working in Germany in 1962, photographer Leonard Freed happened to notice a black American soldier guarding the divide between East and West as the Berlin Wall was being erected. It was not the partition between the forces of Communism and Capitalism that captured Freed’s imagination, however. Instead, he was haunted by the idea of a man standing in defense of a country in which his own rights were in question. The experience ignited the young photographer’s interest in the American civil rights movement raging on the other side of the globe. In June 1963 Freed headed back to the United States to embark on a multiyear documentary project, published in about 1968 as Black in White America, that would become the signature work of his career.

The Black in White America series is a kind of visual diary with a moralizing purpose. It is highly personal and socially engaged with an implicit goal of effecting change through communication. While Freed made pictures of important events in the civil rights struggle, including the 1963 March on Washington, he quickly found that his interests lay not in recording the progress of the civil rights movement per se but in exploring the diverse, everyday lives of a community that had been marginalized for so long. Penetrating the fabric of daily existence, his work portrays the common humanity of a people persevering in unjust circumstances. His sensitive and empathetic approach sought not to stimulate outrage but to foster understanding and bridge cultural divides as a means of transcending racial antipathy.

.

LAUREN GREENFIELD

FAST FORWARD AND GIRL CULTURE

Girl Culture has been my journey as a photographer, as an observer of culture, as part of the media, as a media critic, as a woman, as a girl. . . . I was . . . thinking about my chronic teenage dieting, my gravitation toward good-looking and thin friends for as long as I can remember, and the importance of clothes and status symbols in the highly materialistic, image-oriented Los Angeles milieu in which I grew up.

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966), Girl Culture, 2002

.

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has built her reputation as a chronicler of mainstream American culture. In 2002 she published a photographic project, Girl Culture, that delves into the ways consumer society affects the lives of women in America. Of central concern to Greenfield was the exhibitionist tendencies of contemporary American femininity. Visiting girls of all ages at home, in doctors’ offices, and out with friends,

Greenfield examined personal issues of public consequence, providing an intense and intimate

exploration of girls’ relationships to their bodies and the effects of popular culture on self-image.

Many of her pictures and accompanying interviews focus on what she refers to as “body projects,” the daily grooming rituals undertaken in an effort to express identity through appearance. Others look at the social and consumerist influences from which these young women take their cues as well as the difficulty of living up to such expectations.

Girl Culture grew out of an earlier study, Fast Forward, that critically surveyed what life is like for children growing up in Los Angeles. The work revolves around her perception of an early loss of innocence among her young subjects and traces Hollywood’s role as a homogenizing force in their lives.

Greenfield’s lens becomes a mirror in which to reflect upon ourselves. Together Fast Forward and Girl Culture sensitively explore how culture leaves its imprint on individuals.

.

PHILIP JONES GRIFFITHS

VIETNAM INC.

The “bang-bang” aspect of any war is the least likely to offer any explanation of the underlying causes. My task is to discover the why, so it’s the actions surrounding the battlefields that present the best clues.

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936–2008), Aperture, spring 2008

.

A lifelong desire to leave the world a better place drove Philip Jones Griffiths, whose work is marked by a fiercely independent approach, deep engagement with his subjects, and a skeptical view of authority. Vietnam Inc., the photographer’s critical 1971 account of America’s armed intervention in Southeast Asia, is one of the most detailed photographic stories of a war published by a single photographer. The project’s exploration of the why, and not just the what, behind the war’s failures made it a particularly engaging and ambitious work of advocacy journalism and a model to which many photographers still aspire.

Griffiths’s independent approach is remarkable because of its sensitivity to the people of Vietnam and its eschewing of a Western point of view. In Vietnam Inc. there are few photographs documenting American troops and the might of their military prowess. Instead, his primary focus was on Vietnamese civilians and a culture in crisis. His book put the conflict in the context of Vietnam’s history and culture, showing the ways in which the Capitalist values that America promoted in its efforts to contain the spread of Communism were out of sync with Vietnam’s predominantly communal and agrarian way of life.

Vietnam, for Griffiths, became a “goldfish bowl where the values of Americans and Vietnamese can be observed, studied, and, because of their contrasting nature, more easily appraised.” And in Griffiths’s appraisal, it was America’s “misplaced confidence in the universal goodness” of its own values that would ultimately lead to an imperialist failure and, more importantly, the unjust devastation of a people.

.

MARY ELLEN MARK

STREETWISE

One of the reasons we chose Seattle was because it is known as “America’s most livable city.” Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York were well known for their street kids. By choosing America’s ideal city we were making the point “If street kids exist in a city like Seattle then they can be found everywhere in America, and we are therefore facing a major social problem of runaways in this country.

Mary Ellen Mark (American, born 1940), Streetwise, 1988

.

Mary Ellen Mark has reported on the state of our social environment for more than four decades. Far removed from the immediacy of war and conflict, her work plumbs the basic commonality of human experience.

In 1983 Mark traveled to Seattle to do an article for Life magazine on runaway children. Focusing on a set of streets in the city’s downtown area, she began building a sense of trust with the community of runaways and learning about their survival methods. Her pictures showed teenagers who managed to survive on the tough streets through petty crime, prostitution, foraging in dumpsters, and panhandling. She presented the abandoned buildings and underpasses they inhabited and the bonds they built with one another in the absence of family. Mark’s compositions are striking and uncomfortable, emphasizing her subjects’ youth while capturing them engaged in activities beyond their years.

Following publication of an article in Life, she continued to develop the story as both a documentary film and still photographic project with her husband, filmmaker Martin Bell, and reporter Cheryl McCall. The film, titled Streetwise, was released the following year and was nominated for an Academy Award. Mark published her still photographs from the project in a book of the same title in 1988.

The Streetwise project provided dimension to an important issue of its day. In giving specific shape, individuality, and visibility to the problem of runaway children, it called for greater social and political commitment to addressing America’s epidemic of broken families.

.

SUSAN MEISELAS

NICARAGUA, JUNE 1978–JULY 1979

We all cross histories, and the ones that we cross shape us as much as we shape them.

Susan Meiselas (American, born 1948), in conversation with the curator, 2010

.

In 1978 Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas traveled to Nicaragua. Tensions were high following the assassination of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, the editor of an opposition newspaper critical of the repressive, hard-line government. Meiselas witnessed the eruption of a full-scale revolution in August of that year. Aware that a momentous process was taking place, she stayed to record its unfolding, including the celebration of the revolutionaries’ victory in the central plaza of Managua in July 1979.

Meiselas was taken by the bravery of those who were willing to risk their lives against the dictatorship for the promise of a better future, and she took pains to photograph the action from the perspective of those involved in it. The record of her movements around the country formed a narrative about the progress of their insurrection. She made a decision, which at the time was still considered somewhat unusual in serious war reportage, to record the revolution on color film, seeing it as a more appropriate medium for capturing the vibrancy and optimism of the resistance.

The photographer’s compelling pictures were picked up by major newspapers and magazines around the world, giving individual images a public life, but one that was beyond her immediate control with regard to captioning and that was fragmented from the context of her larger body of pictures. In collecting seventy-one of her photo-graphs into a book, first published in 1981 as Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979, Meiselas reasserted the narrative of the revolution as she experienced it and gave greater permanence and coherence to her documentary endeavor.

.

JAMES NACHTWEY

THE SACRIFICE

For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war. And if it is used well, it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948), from the film The War Photographer, 2001

.

For nearly thirty years James Nachtwey has dedicated himself to delivering an antiwar message by documenting those around the world affected by conflict. Traveling with emergency medical units in Iraq in 2006, the photographer began a photo essay, The Sacrifice, that documents the struggle to save and rebuild lives. The series depicts the helicopter transfers from battle sites to treatment centers, the emergency rooms where lives hang in the balance, and the difficult process of recovery.

In anticipation of showing the work, Nachtwey created a monumental installation print, consisting of sixty individual trauma-center images, tightly framed and digitally collaged into a grid. The work stands as a grim reminder of the human costs of war. The object’s sheer size, in which one picture gives way to the next in a seemingly endless stream of torn flesh, metal instruments, snaking tubes, and bloodied hands, effectively conveys a sense of the controlled chaos that permeates these medical centers as well as the overwhelming volume of casualties flowing through the medics’ hands on a daily basis.

While it may be easy to contemplate and even support war in abstract, strategic terms, it is difficult to face Nachtwey’s portrayal of its inevitable results. In its aggressive scale, his intentionally unsettling work demands that we reconcile the goals and achievements of armed conflict with its human costs, that we be prepared to acknowledge in particular visual terms the sacrifice it entails and the valiant work of those who do their best to mend its path of destruction.

.

SEBASTIÃO SALGADO

MIGRATIONS: HUMANITY IN TRANSITION

My hope is that, as individuals, as groups, as societies, we can pause and reflect on the human condition at the turn of the millennium. Can we claim “compassion fatigue” when we show no sign of consumption fatigue?

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944), Migrations, 2000

.

Trained in economics before taking up photography, Sebastião Salgado has used his camera to raise awareness of the world’s economic disparities and provoke discussion about the state of our international social environment. Between 1994 and 1999 Salgado pursued an enormous project to document migrant populations around the world. Published in 2000 as Migrations: Humanity in Transition, this epic work of twentieth-century photojournalism documents people across forty-three countries who have been uprooted by globalization, persecution, or war. The pictures in this exhibition represent several themes in Salgado’s study, including the effects of population surges in cities of developing countries, the conditions of refugees fleeing war in Africa, and the process of migration from Latin America to the United States.

Salgado’s work is marked by a heightened attention to aesthetic grace that attempts to endow his subjects with dignity even as it communicates the discomfort of their circumstances. His photographs are constructed with careful attention to dramatic lighting, elegant contours, and striking visual impact. Ultimately, Salgado sees himself as a storyteller and a communicator, a bridge between the fortunate and the unfortunate, the developed and the undeveloped, the stable and the uprooted. Portrayed lyrically and sensitively, his subjects are transformed into metaphors for complex inequities that exist in the world – problems that must be recognized and acknowledged before they can be addressed.

.

W. EUGENE AND AILEEN M. SMITH

MINAMATA

[Pollution] is closing more tightly upon us each day. . . . After reflecting on the rights and wrongs of the situation in Minamata, we hope through this book to raise our small voices of words and photographs in a warning to the world. To cause awareness is our only strength.

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918–1978) and Aileen M. Smith (American, born 1950), Minamata, 1975

.

In 1971 W. Eugene Smith, a major figure in the history of socially concerned photography, and his wife, Aileen M. Smith, were told of a controversy over industrial pollution taking place in the small Japanese fishing village of Minamata. Beginning in the 1950s, thousands of people in the area were severely affected by mercury poisoning, brought about by eating fish contaminated with chemical waste dumped in the bay by the Chisso Corporation. Victims were afflicted with brain damage, paralysis, and convulsions. The ailment, which came to be known as Minamata Disease, is not reversible.

When the Smiths arrived in Minamata, lawsuits had already begun, and the couple set out to document the progress of the claims. They spent three years on the project, calling attention to the victims’ cause. Aileen acted as an equal collaborator, making pictures and writing texts with W. Eugene. The work resulted in numerous magazine publications, exhibitions, and a coauthored book, Minamata, published in 1975.

The Smiths’ study records the course of the trial through the court’s ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in 1973. The essay relates the importance of the sea and fishing to the town’s culture, reports on the company’s drainage pipes into the sea, chronicles the lives transformed by the disease, and depicts the demonstrations that took place in opposition to Chisso. As a tale of the dangers of industrial pollution, the project gained traction within the political atmosphere of the 1970s, when the environmental movement was taking off.

.

LARRY TOWELL

THE MENNONITES

When a Mennonite loses his land, a bit of his human dignity is forfeited; so is his financial solvency. He becomes a migrant worker, an exile who will spend the rest of his life drifting among fruit trees and vegetable vines, dreaming of owning his own farm some day. But for these who struggle with God at the end of a hoe, the refuge of land, Church, and community may be at least a generation away.

Larry Towell (Canadian, born 1953), The Mennonites, 2000

.

Wary of the media’s commitment to speed, photographer Larry Towell insists on the integrity of extended-coverage reporting. In 1989 he came into contact with members of a Mennonite community near his home in Canada. The Old Colony Mennonites are a nonconformist Protestant sect related to the Amish that originated in Europe in the 1500s.

Over the centuries, they have migrated between countries to preserve their way of life, living in colonies where faith and tradition are intertwined and modern amenities, such as cars, rubber tires, and electricity, are not welcome.

The Mennonites Towell befriended had migrated to Canada from colonies in Mexico in search of seasonal work. Due to shrinking water tables in Mexico, the effects of international trade, and a rising population in the colonies, many Mennonites have found themselves landless and economically marginalized, forced to compromise their beliefs in order to survive. Towell was eventually invited to join them in their treks back to Mexico for the winter. With his unique and intimate access, he spent the next ten years photographing their activities, capturing their struggle to preserve a lifestyle incongruent with the larger world on which they have become interdependent.

Towell’s work documented the Mennonites’ way of life for the historical record and inspires greater understanding today for a group whose attempts to embrace life could be easily overlooked. In spending a decade on a subject that would be of only passing interest to mainstream media, he asserts a form of visual reporting in which reflection takes precedence over profitability and immediacy.”

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum

.

.

Sebastião Salgado
(Brazilian, born 1944)
U.S. – Mexico Border, desert of San Ysidro, California
negative 1997; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
34.4 x 51.4 cm (13 9/16 x 20 1/4 in.)
© Sebastião Salgado
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

Mary Ellen Mark
(American, born 1940)
Lillie with Her Rag Doll, Seattle
1983
Gelatin silver print
22.6 x 34 cm (8 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
© Mary Ellen Mark
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

Mary Ellen Mark
(American, born 1940)
“Rat” and Mike with a Gun, Seattle
1983
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 34.2 cm (9 x 13 7/16 in.)
© Mary Ellen Mark
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

Lauren Greenfield
(American, born 1966)
Sheena tries on clothes with Amber, 15, in a department store dressing room, San Jose, California
negative 1999; print 2002
Dye destruction print
32.5 x 49.1 cm (12 13/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

Lauren Greenfield
(American, born 1966)
Erin, 24, is blind-weighed at an eating-disorder clinic, Coconut Creek, Florida. She has asked to mount the scale backward so as not to see her weight gain
negative 2001; print 2002
Dye destruction print
32.5 x 49.1 cm (12 13/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

.

.

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

Bookmark and Share

24
Nov
08

Exhibition: ‘Broken Glass: Photographs of the South Bronx by Ray Mortenson’ at the Museum of the City of New York

Exhibition dates: 14th November 2008 – 12th April 2009

.

Ray Mortenson. "Untitled (7-16-6)" 1984

.

Ray Mortenson
Untitled (7-16-6)
1984
Gelatin silver print

.

.

Documenting the abandoned, burnt out, and razed structures of entire city blocks in the South Bronx in the aftermath of the 1970s, during which this neighborhood experienced dramatic decline, Broken Glass: Photographs of the South Bronx by Ray Mortenson will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York from November 14, 2008 through March 9, 2009. The 50 black and white cityscapes and interiors on view – five of which are large-scale – were taken between 1982 and 1984, and they vividly illustrate the results of a downslide that began in the Great Depression of the 1930s and accelerated with the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway in the 1950s and the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Broken Glass is Mortenson’s first museum exhibition in New York City, and it is the first presentation of the South Bronx photographs.

The 50 photographs on view, all black and white, range in size from the smallest at approximately 11″ by 14″, to the most monumental at 40” by 60”. Each conveys a devastating silence, serving as a reminder that these city blocks were once the homes of individuals, families, and a large community. Mortenson has written, “The buildings were like tombs – sealed up, broken open and plundered. Inside, stairways with missing steps led up to abandoned apartments. Doors opened into rooms that were once bedrooms or kitchens. Small things left behind hint at who the occupants might have been – a hairbrush, photographs, or bits of clothing.” Ghostly remnants of the once prosperous and thriving neighborhoods can be glimpsed in his images which document the extent and severity of the urban decline experienced in the South Bronx.

These photographs document an important chapter in the history of a New York City neighborhood, augmenting their aesthetic power. The decline of the South Bronx began as early as the Great Depression when previously sustained development came to an abrupt halt. After World War II an exodus of New York’s middle class began and continued into the 1970s. This caused a population decline throughout the city, but the effects were particularly hard on the South Bronx as more than 200,000 residents left the community between 1970 and 1980. As entire communities left the city, Robert Moses’ road building and slum clearance, along with other urban renewal initiatives had dramatic effects on the lives of all who remained. In the 1970s New York City faced another economic crisis and virtual bankruptcy. City government was unable to maintain services in the South Bronx and “planned shrinkage” became an unofficial policy as services were slowly withdrawn. With little incentive for landlords to upgrade or even maintain their property, waves of arson and “insurance fires” decimated the by now largely minority community. Astonishingly, some 12,000 fires a year occurred through the 1970s, averaging more than 30 a day.

A successful resurrection of the South Bronx began in the mid-1980s, as grass roots organizations and community development corporations, along with financial reinvestment by the City, sparked its regeneration. The photographs on view stand in starkest contrast to today’s revitalized neighborhood, which has been the result of the dedication of its citizens combined with government support. The photographs serve as a reminder of the ruins that once dominated the now-vibrant streets and that the balance between prosperity and urban decline can be fragile.

.
Brief Biography

Ray Mortenson was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1944 and studied art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the San Francisco Art Institute. In the early 1970s, Mortenson moved to New York and began working with photography. His first significant photographic project was a comprehensive investigation of the industrial landscapes of New Jersey’s Meadowlands (1974-1982). Since then, Mortensen has continued to focus on landscape photography that is often interested in liminal places of transition, set apart from everyday life. His photographs have been accepted into the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.”

Press release from the Museum of the City of New York website

.

.

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street
New York, NY 10029
T: 212-534-1672

Opening hours:
7 days a week 10.00 am – 6.00 pm

Museum of the City of New York website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Join 1,004 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

For photographic services in Australia, Art Blart highly recommends CPL Digital (03) 8376 8376 cpldigital.com.au/

New work: ‘upside, down’ (2013) by Dr Marcus Bunyan

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

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.

April 2014
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Archives

Categories


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,004 other followers