Archive for the 'intimacy' Category

13
Jun
21

Exhibition: ‘The Human Cost: America’s Drug Plague’ at the Bronx Documentary Center, New York

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 5th July 2021

Curators: Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera

Artists: James Nachtwey; Jeffrey Stockbridge; Mark Trent

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF DRUG USE – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'A woman, who goes by Jen, struggling to inject herself in the freezing cold in Boston on Jan. 14. 2018' 2018

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
A woman, who goes by Jen, struggling to inject herself in the freezing cold in Boston on Jan. 14. 2018
2018
James Nachtwey for TIME 

 

 

Nature ∞ nurture

Last year, over 81,000 men, women and children were lost to drug overdoses in America. Visualise that number of people if you can… nearly 4/5ths capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia.

According to medical doctors (see quotation below), the causes of addiction “may involve an interaction of environmental effects – for example, stress, the social context of initial opiate use, and psychological conditioning – and a genetic predisposition in the form of brain pathways that were abnormal even before the first dose of opioid was taken.” So both nature and nurture.

Through experience, I understand both strands that lead to possible addiction: a genetic, psychological illness within family members coupled with the need for escape, the need for pleasure, peer group activity and the desire to loose oneself from the world. Luckily, I do not have a personality that easily becomes addicted, but the possibility within people is always there, no matter their background or social position in the world. While the photo stories in this posting concentrate on human beings from lower socio-economic backgrounds, addiction can affect anyone at anytime. Again through experience, I know that lots of high performing professional people suffer from chronic addiction but keep the fact well hidden from the community.

Addiction occurs when dependence interferes with daily life… when independence, that much searched for freedom from outside control or support (you don’t need or accept help, resources, or care from others), morphs into ‘in dependence’ – where the independence of the self, in addiction, opposes the autonomy of the self (meaning that you have free will and that you can stand behind your actions and their values while still exchanging support and care with others). In autonomy, no one is forcing you to do something you disagree with; in addiction, ‘in dependence’, those actions can no longer be justified. These are just my thoughts… but they can be seen to be linked to Self-Determination Theory (STD). “The interplay between the extrinsic forces acting on persons and the intrinsic motives and needs inherent in human nature is the territory of Self-Determination Theory.” Nature and nurture.

The word addicted (adjective) arises in the “mid 16th century: from the obsolete adjective addict ‘bound or devoted (to someone’), from Latin addict- ‘assigned’, from the verb addicere, from ad- ‘to’ + dicere ‘say’.” Its use has diminished from the 18th century until now. Conversely, the word addiction (noun) comes from the same root, but was unknown until 1900 with the use of the word skyrocketing since the 1950s onwards (with a particular spike in the use of the word in the 1960-70s, the era of free love). Perhaps this says a lot about the pressure of living in a high intensity, 24 hour world, a world where the gods of capitalism can write off 81,000 people in a year, in one country, without the blink of an eye.

What all three photo stories in this posting have ad- ‘to’ + dicere ‘say’ is this: every human being has a story worth listening to.

By embedding themselves in the communities they were photographing (instead of being “snatch and grab” photojournalists), all three photographers give their participants an opportunity to have their voice heard. To tell their stories in their own words and have those stories told with dignity and respect, through images and text. (I have linked all three segments to the full stories online).

As Jeffrey Stockbridge comments, “Everyone’s wading through problems that are unique to them, and I think it’s important to tell these stories… Hearing people discuss their past in their own words is something that you can’t ignore. It’s very powerful. I want the general public to forget what they thought they knew about prostitution, drug addiction, homelessness and poverty, and just listen to an actual person explain what they’ve been through. It’s important to remember that life is unpredictable!” James Natchwey observes, “Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level.”

This is the crux of the matter: photography helps us understand these complex issues on a human level.

Every human being is a life, has a life, and is valuable as such. Every story, every breath, every death is connected to Mother Earth. In their indifference, what capitalism and society do to others, we do to ourselves.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“Brain abnormalities resulting from chronic use of heroin, oxycodone, and other morphine-derived drugs are underlying causes of opioid dependence (the need to keep taking drugs to avoid a withdrawal syndrome) and addiction (intense drug craving and compulsive use). The abnormalities that produce dependence, well understood by science, appear to resolve after detoxification, within days or weeks after opioid use stops. The abnormalities that produce addiction, however, are more wide-ranging, complex, and long-lasting. They may involve an interaction of environmental effects – for example, stress, the social context of initial opiate use, and psychological conditioning – and a genetic predisposition in the form of brain pathways that were abnormal even before the first dose of opioid was taken. Such abnormalities can produce craving that leads to relapse months or years after the individual is no longer opioid dependent.”

.
Thomas R. Kosten, M.D. and Tony P. George, M.D. “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment,” in Science & Practice Perspectives. 2002 Jul; 1(1), pp. 13–20.

 

“Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level. Never is photography more essential than in moments of crisis. To witness people suffering is difficult. To make a photograph of that suffering is even harder. The challenge is to remain open to very powerful emotions and, rather than shutting down, channel them into the images. It is crucial to see with a sense of compassion and to comprehend that just because people are suffering does not mean they lack dignity.”

.
James Natchwey

 

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Holly, detoxing in the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, on July 3, 2017' 2017

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Holly, detoxing in the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, on July 3, 2017
2017
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

Last year, America lost 81,000 men, women and children to drug overdoses. Driven primarily by the opioid crisis – and abetted by the pill-pushing of pharmaceutical companies – millions of individuals and countless families were devastated by addiction.

The war on drugs has failed: from sea to shining sea, fentanyl, heroin, K2, crystal meth, cocaine and other drugs are available in nearly every town and city. Drug-related violence has endangered many of our streets, including Courtlandt Avenue, home to the Bronx Documentary Center.

After decades of ever changing anti-drug strategies, we are still left with familiar and yet unanswered questions: how to stop the overdoses; how to keep our youth from addiction; how to stop drug-related violence; how to offer humanitarian treatment.

The Bronx Documentary Center’s upcoming photo exhibition, The Human Cost: America’s Drug Plague, explores these issues and portrays the human toll of America’s drug scourge. The deeply personal stories told here – of losing children, families and freedom – provide a stark but compassionate look at a very complex dynamic.

James Nachtwey, the dean of American conflict photographers, reports with visual journalist and editor, Paul Moakley, from New Hampshire, Ohio, Boston, San Francisco and beyond. Jeffrey Stockbridge documents Philadelphia’s Kensington neighbourhood over the course of 6 years. And Mark Trent follows a tight-knit group of friends in West Virginia through cycles of substance abuse and tragic death. The BDC hopes this exhibition will lead to productive discussions about an intractable American problem.

Exhibition curated by Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera.

Press release from the Bronx Documentary Center

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Dorothy Onikute, 33, a deputy sheriff with the Rio Arriba County sheriff's office, responding to an overdose call on Feb. 4, on the side of the road in Alcalde, N.M.' Nd

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Dorothy Onikute, 33, a deputy sheriff with the Rio Arriba County sheriff’s office, responding to an overdose call on Feb. 4, on the side of the road in Alcalde, N.M.
Nd
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

‘This sort of thing happens so often, it’s sad to say it’s on to the next once they are out of our care.’

~ Dorothy Onikute

 

 

The Opioid Diaries – James Nachtwey and Paul Moakley

The opioid crisis is the worst addiction epidemic in American history. Drug overdoses kill more than 64,000 people per year, and the nation’s life expectancy has fallen for two years in a row. But there is a key part of the story that statistics can’t tell. In 2017, for over the course of a year, photographer James Nachtwey set out to document the opioid crisis in America through the people on its front lines. Alongside TIME‘s deputy director of photography, Paul Moakley, the pair traveled the country gathering stories from users, families, first responders and others at the heart of the epidemic. Here, Nachtwey’s images are paired with quotes from Moakley’s interviews, which have been edited. The voices are a mix of people in the photos and others who are connected to them. The Opioid Diaries is a visual record of a national emergency – and it demands our urgent attention.

Text from the Bronx Documentary Center website

The full text and more images from the series can be found on the TIME website

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Chad Colwell' 2017

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Chad Colwell, 32, being revived by EMS workers after overdosing in his truck in Miamisburg, Ohio, on July 4, 2017. He says this, his fourth overdose, led him to seek treatment
2017
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

‘Heroin grabs ahold of you, and it won’t let go. It turned me into somebody I never thought I would be.’

~ Chad Colwell

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Billy' Nd

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Billy, 31, right, preparing to use drugs in Boston on Jan. 14
Nd
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Cheryl Schmidtchen, 67, being consoled at the funeral for her granddaughter Michaela Gingras in Manchester, N.H., on September 17th, 2017. Gingras, a heroin user, was 24' 2017

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Cheryl Schmidtchen, 67, being consoled at the funeral for her granddaughter Michaela Gingras in Manchester, N.H., on September 17th, 2017. Gingras, a heroin user, was 24
2017
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

‘After Michaela died, I saw it clear as day. They’re not only destroying themselves, they’re destroying us.’

~ Cheryl Schmidtchen

 

 

What I Saw

James Natchwey

Like most people, I’d heard about the opioid epidemic. It was especially hard to get my mind around a statistic from 2016: almost as many deaths from drug overdoses as in all of America’s recent wars combined. But numbers are an abstraction. I had no idea what it looked like on the ground. The only way to make real sense of it, I told my editors, was to see what happens to individual human beings, one by one.

Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level. Never is photography more essential than in moments of crisis. To witness people suffering is difficult. To make a photograph of that suffering is even harder. The challenge is to remain open to very powerful emotions and, rather than shutting down, channel them into the images. It is crucial to see with a sense of compassion and to comprehend that just because people are suffering does not mean they lack dignity.

Over the past 35 years, my work as a photojournalist has taken me to other countries to document wars, uprisings, natural disasters and global health crises. In revisiting my own country I discovered a national nightmare. But the people living through it aren’t deviants. They are ordinary citizens, our neighbors, our family members. I don’t think I met one user whom I would consider to be a bad person. No one wants to be an addict.

I also saw signs of hope, particularly from the people who are dealing with the crisis at the street level. Some of them are former users who have lifted themselves up and are using their experience to help others. They are refusing to allow our country to be defined by this problem. Instead, they are helping us define ourselves by finding solutions. We must join them.

James Natchwey

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Bobby' 2010

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Bobby
2010
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

 

Kensington Blues – Jeffrey Stockbridge

Kensington Blues by Jeffrey Stockbridge is a decade-long documentary project about the opioid crisis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Featuring large-format photography, audio interviews, journal entries and video Stockbridge utilises a combination of styles and formats to humanise those suffering from addiction.

“During the 19th century the neighbourhood of Kensington in North Philadelphia was a strong working-class district, a national leader of the textile industry and home to a diverse population of immigrants. Like many rust belt cities, industrial restructuring of the mid twentieth century led to a sharp economic decline including high unemployment and a significant population loss.

Today, half of Kensington residents live at or below the poverty line. The neighbourhood has become an epicentre of the opioid crisis and is infamous for open air drug use, prostitution and violent crime. With the roaring El train overhead, Kensington Avenue (the major business corridor in the neighbourhood) is in a state of perpetual hustle. Heroin, Fentanyl, K-2, Crystal, Crack, Xanax, Subs – just about any drug that exists in the modern world is bought and sold in Kensington. Women, some as young as twenty years old, and others who’ve been working the Avenue for decades, populate the neighbourhood in great numbers. Prostitution has become a social norm. Drug users sell clean packaged needles for a dollar a piece – five needles equals a bag of dope.

Working with a large-format film camera, I chose a slow photographic process in order to literally slow down the rapid speed of life as it happens along the Ave. The focus of my photographic work is portraiture. I want to tap into the state of mind of those who are struggling to survive their addiction. Together my subjects and I have entered into a collaboration of sorts. Through audio recordings, journal entries and video, we are working to highlight the voices of those with lived experience. This work would not be possible without their trust and guidance. By sharing the intimate details of their plight, those I photograph are taking a stand to effectively humanise addiction and challenge the stigma that all drug addicts are morally corrupt. As the opioid crisis has taught us, addiction can happen to anyone.”

Text from the Bronx Documentary Center website

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Jamie' 2012

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Jamie
2012
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Carol' 2010

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Carol
2010
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

 

LC: Drug addicts, prostitutes and the homeless are often seen as “the other” in our society. Your photos show a different side of this – a side that people can relate to and empathise with. Can you say more?

JS: There are a million different reasons why people become homeless to begin with. You dehumanise people by lumping them into the lowest common denominator. By looking down on them and saying, “You’re all homeless because you couldn’t get your lives together” – that doesn’t help anybody. Everyone’s wading through problems that are unique to them, and I think it’s important to tell these stories. Alongside the photographs I feature a short bio or quotes; sometimes I’ll also incorporate diary entries written by my subjects, and I’ve recorded audio interviews that I post on my Kensington Blues blog.

Hearing people discuss their past in their own words is something that you can’t ignore. It’s very powerful. I want the general public to forget what they thought they knew about prostitution, drug addiction, homelessness and poverty, and just listen to an actual person explain what they’ve been through. It’s important to remember that life is unpredictable! I could end up on Kensington Avenue if certain circumstances occurred – anybody could.

LC: The images are “still” and considered. They communicate a feeling of respect and consent. You don’t seem to shoot from the hip or take the “fearless flashgun” approach like many street photographers. Can you talk about your process?

JS: I shoot with a 4 x 5 view camera. For these photographs to work, there has to be consent! My subjects have to hold still – if they move an inch forward or an inch back, they’ll be out of focus. It’s a slow-moving, old-looking camera, so it’s automatically a topic of conversation. People look at it and think, “Woah, what is that?” But it has certain limitations – you can’t photograph quickly. It takes time. I have to set it up, I have to focus, use the dark cloth, take a meter reading … It’s at least five minutes until I’m ready to go. Meanwhile, my subject has to stand around waiting. So consent is fairly important!

I’m not looking at the back of an LCP screen when I shoot; I’m in the moment. I’m connecting entirely with my subject, not just communicating with a computer. The camera is a trusted friend that’s standing there by my side. In the Kensington project it really grounded me in the neighbourhood. I think it put people at ease, because they knew I wasn’t going to take a photo and run off – I was stuck with a tripod and a big heavy camera!

Jeffrey Stockbridge, interviewed by Francesca Cronan. “Kensington Blues,” on the LensCulture website 2016 [Online] Cited 03/06/2021.

The full text and more images from the series can be found on the LensCulture website.

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Kevin' 2011

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Kevin
2011
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

 

Surviving Kensington: behind the photos of ‘Kensington Blues’

What used to be a proud blue-collar neighbourhood in Philadelphia is now a deteriorating haven for drugs, crime, and prostitution. Kensington is famous for the place to get your fix; and for the place you end up stuck when you’ve let your vices get the best of you.

For the last five years, Philly-based photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge has been taking intimate portraits of current residents (‘survivors’) in Kensington. But the stories he finds here aren’t just about Philly: Jeffrey’s photographs and raw interviews show a side of the desperation, hopelessness, and broken dreams that plague America’s addicts across the country.

Through a walk with Jeffrey on the Avenue, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to survive on Kensington.

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Krysta' 2009

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Krysta
2009
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie in traffic after losing a close friend in her recovery group to an overdose' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie in traffic after losing a close friend in her recovery group to an overdose
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Despair, Love and Loss – Mark E. Trent

None of us knew what was happening or how destructive this would be. We began seeing more and more overdoses and suicides in our community. The details were scarce and the stigma that came with drug abuse masked the early deaths until it was so common it didn’t phase us anymore; the word pillhead began being used to describe those people on drugs. This was long before it touched nearly everyone in West Virginia and across the country.

With the help of friends I travelled to interview small time dealers, addicts and local law enforcement in an attempt to understand the scope of it all. I never did. This body of work started taking shape when I was at a softball game with a long time friend. Her name is Allie. I told her what I was trying to do and she said “Stick with me and I will show you what’s going on.”

From there it was a matter of seeing what was right in front of me. I documented Allie and her friends and lovers as they struggled in active addiction and slowly lost themselves and each other. This group of women let me into their lives behind closed doors and gave me access to make this work possible. They didn’t have to. They are the reason this work exists. They were star basketball players, young mothers, and individuals that held jobs and had real dreams. One day a knee injury supplied the prescription opiate that led to the addiction that spread through their group of friends and community.

My goal with this project was longevity. I wanted to follow it through until the end. My hope is that these photographs will tell a story about a small group of individuals that suffered through a crisis few saw coming. Today Allie is six years sober. Peakay is working toward sobriety with medical assisted treatments. Barbie died of an overdose in her bed alongside her lover Kim. Jessie tells me she is “going good,” but to be honest I never know the truth with her.

Text from the Bronx Documentary Center website

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie freebasing a prescription opioid' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie freebasing a prescription opioid
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

There were times whenever I was really strung out and I didn’t realise how bad I was. What you always say is, ‘Well at least I’m not doing it to anyone else. At least I’m not hurting anyone. I’m just hurting myself. I’m not sticking needles in anyone else. It’s just me.’ But I didn’t realise how much I’d hurt my family, and my mom.

I don’t know how many people died in the house I was living in, I can’t even – three off the top of my head, because of drugs, overdoses.

But it just didn’t, it just didn’t hit me that way, I didn’t think – I wasn’t ready to see it that way I think. I feel like I had to go through everything I went through to be where I am.

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Jessie injecting Barbie with morphine' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Jessie injecting Barbie with morphine
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Barbie really was like my big sister.

She told me a year before she died she had to go to the doctor for something. They couldn’t find a vein and she had to make them put it in her neck. And they asked about the scarring on her neck.

They asked her, ‘Do you shoot in your neck? Jesus.’ And she was like, ‘Yeah.’ And they were like, ‘You’re going to be dead in a year anyway.’ But I sort of didn’t believe it. Barbie really was invincible.

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Cooking pills for injection next to dinner' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Cooking pills for injection next to dinner
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie crying, facing jail time and missing Barbie who died of an overdose, after a long night of using' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie crying, facing jail time and missing Barbie who died of an overdose, after a long night of using
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Sometimes I thought it was fine; other times I thought, ‘How did I get here? What did I do?’ I was supposed to be somebody. I was supposed to do something great with my life. I was supposed to go places. I wanted to travel. I wanted to play basketball. I wanted to be all these things.

And instead I was living in a house with no electricity, crying in the bathroom because I can’t find a vein, miserable. Absolutely miserable.

It took me getting sober and being sober for a while to look back and be like, ‘That was all really low, man. That was all really low.’

“Allie Rambo tells her story below in her own words” in ‘Despair, Love and Loss: A Journey Inside West Virginia’s Opioid Crisis’ on the NY Times website Dec. 13, 2018 [Online] Cited 03/06/2021

The full text and more images from the series can be found on the NY Times website.

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie and Regina catching snowflakes after a close friend's funeral' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie and Regina catching snowflakes after a close friend’s funeral
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Bronx Documentary Center Annex Gallery
364 E 151st St, Bronx, NY 10455

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 3-7pm
Saturday – Sunday 12-5pm

Bronx Documentary Center website

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06
Jun
21

Exhibition: ‘Herbert List: Italia’ at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Exhibition dates: 20th May – 31st July 2021

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Orco, Sacro Bosco – Garden of Pier Francesco Orsini, Bomarzo, (Lazio), Italy' 1952

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Orco, Sacro Bosco – Garden of Pier Francesco Orsini, Bomarzo, (Lazio), Italy
1952
Vintage gelatin silver print
30.4 x 24cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

 

Every kind of pleasure

I feel that Herbert List is a very underrated photographer.

While celebrated socialites and fashion, architectural and urban(e) photographers in their day, the fame of List (together with his compatriots George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst P. Horst) has largely waned.

Is this because of the photographs aesthetic beauty and classical forms, their austerity and stillness, or their allusion to Romantic realism? Or is it because all three are gay and their homoerotic photographs of youthful masculinity still possess a residual stigma that clings to photographs of young men?

Whatever the reason this is a great pity for they are, all, superb photographers.

In his Self-Portrait in a Mirror, Rome, Italy (1955, below), List can be seen as an illusionist.

With seeming simplicity but utmost dexterity, List constructs magical spaces within the image plane – enchanted openings into other worlds that are actually present in the here and now: The Enchanted – At the Villa Magica, Rome Italy (1949, below); Painter in the Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy (1949, below).

His photographs play (there is the critical word) with how the camera pictures the reality of life on earth.

At a fundamental level of existence, this is magic (realism)1 played out on a global scale that investigates the fabric and structure of existence itself.

As a song I love titled “Dreams” by the group Nuages reflects:

 

“… and you understand black implies white

self implies other

life implies death

you can feel yourself

not as a stranger in the world

not as something here on probation

not as something that has arrived here by fluke

but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental

what you are basically

deep deep down

far far in

is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

  1. The existence of fantastic elements in the real world provides the basis for magical realism. Writers do not invent new worlds, but rather, they reveal the magical in the existing world, as was done by Gabriel García Márquez, who wrote the seminal work One Hundred Years of Solitude. In the world of magical realism, the supernatural realm blends with the natural, familiar world. List’s style of fotografia metafisica, which pictured dream states and fantastic imagery, is related to magic realism.

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

 

 

“The lens is not objective. Otherwise photography would be useless as an artistic medium.”

.
Herbert List. “Photografie als künstlerisches Ausdrucksmittel,” in List, H. (1985). ‘Herbert List’. München: Christian Verlag., p. 36.

 

 

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Boys Playing Soccer, Naples, Italy' 1950

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Boys Playing Soccer, Naples, Italy
1950
Vintage gelatin silver print
23 x 29.5cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Painter in the Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy' 1949

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Painter in the Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy
1949
Vintage gelatin silver print
29.1 x 22.4cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Ottavio Russo – The Vagabond, Naples, Italy' 1961

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Ottavio Russo – The Vagabond, Naples, Italy
1961
Vintage gelatin silver print
29 x 22cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Herbert List: Italia at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne showing at right, Fight in Trastevere (1953)

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Fight in Trastevere, Trastevere, Rome, Italy' 1953

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Fight in Trastevere, Trastevere, Rome, Italy
1953
Vintage gelatin silver print
29.3 x 23.2cm

 

 

Galerie Karsten Greve is presenting an exhibition dedicated to one of the major photographers of the 20th century: Herbert List Italia. This is a debut for Herbert List at Karsten Greve’s Cologne gallery space. Photo essays, photo reports, and portraits from the artist’s estate are on show, including around 80 vintage gelatin silver prints, based on photographs taken during Herbert List’s stays in Italy between 1934 and 1961. As much a bon vivant and educational traveler as an artist, professional photographer, and a collector of 16th to 18th-century Italian Old Master drawings, Herbert List felt closely connected to Italy.

Born in Hamburg in 1903, the son of Felix List of coffee importers List & Heineken, Herbert List started an apprenticeship with a Heidelberg coffee wholesaler in 1921 while studying art history and literature at Heidelberg University, attending lectures, for instance, given by Friedrich Gundolf, a professor of German philology, Goethe scholar, and member of the George circle. His encounter with photographer Andreas Feininger, who introduced him to the reflex camera (Rolleiflex), inspired Herbert List to take up photography in 1930. Influenced by Surrealism and the Bauhaus, he began shooting still life and portraits. In 1936, he emigrated to London and Paris; most of the time between 1937 and 1941, he spent in Greece. In 1941, to avoid internment, he fled to Munich where the American military government eventually admitted him as a photo reporter after he had been forbidden to officially publish or work in Germany. Being drafted into the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces, in 1944, he served in Norway until the end of the war. In 1946, he took photos of the ruins in bombed-out Munich. He became art editor of Heute magazine. In 1952, he joined Magnum, the international photographic cooperative, in Paris and traveled Italy. He completed several book projects. From the mid-1960s, he devoted himself almost entirely to his collection of Italian Old Master drawings. Herbert List died in Munich in 1975.

The artist’s estate, formerly in the care of Max Scheler from 1975 to 2003, is currently managed by Peer-Olaf Richter in Hamburg. Since Herbert List’s first solo exhibition in Paris in 1937, his oeuvre has been shown in numerous international exhibitions and published in internationally renowned magazines. His works are held in notable public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Kunsthaus Zürich, the Photography Museum (now Photography Collection) at Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the Musée Picasso in Paris.

In the 1930s, creating works of homoerotic sensuality in line with classical aesthetics, Herbert List took photographs of vigorous boys worshiping the sun on the beaches and coasts of Liguria, and on the islands of Capri and Ischia. He dealt with age, loneliness, and death in a 1938 picture essay about Casa Verdi, the old age residence and final destination for many singers and musicians at La Scala in Milan. List’s photographs taken in the catacombs of Palermo’s Capuchin monastery (Le Catacombe dei Cappuccini) with skeletons wrapped in robes whose bizarre facial expressions gain an uncanny presence thanks to close vision and lighting effects, date from 1939. Another grotesque photographic essay shows the monster monuments overgrown with moss and leaves in the Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo (province of Viterbo, Lazio), which is used as a pasture and playground. In the jaws of Orcus, the personified throat of hell, stands a shepherd boy trying to survey his flock of grazing sheep. The ingenious gardens designed by architects Pirro Ligorio and Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola on behalf of the Roman condottiero and patron of the arts Pier Francesco (called Vicinio) Orsini between 1552 and 1585 are unique and full of puzzles.

Herbert List uncovers, and, at the same time, ironically comments on, the monumental character of architecture in Rome, the Eternal city, by juxtaposing it with people or animals: the giant marble hand of the Colossus of Emperor Constantine points its index finger towards Heaven behind a monk’s head; a cat poses under a monumental head of Jupiter. In 1952, the camera artist first used a 35 mm camera (Leica) with a telephoto lens to candidly capture events on the piazza in the Trastevere district for his View from a Window series. For a photo report about Naples, Herbert List went on photographic forays through the city starting in 1957. His sympathy was with the local residents: fishermen, traders, craftsmen, seamstresses, and laundresses, but also nuns and priests, idlers and singers, and, in particular, with the street urchins. A native of Naples, director and actor Vittorio De Sica interviewed the people List portrayed. Their collaboration resulted in Napoli, an illustrated book published in 1962; featuring photographs of authentic everyday occurrences and quotations from the people shown, it provides an overall picture of the southern Italian metropolis interspersed with social criticism.

As a specialty of Herbert List’s photography, the exhibition presents vintage gelatin silver prints of portraits of contemporary artists, writers, and intellectuals from List’s circle of acquaintances, including Giorgio de Chirico and Giorgio Morandi, Anna Magnani, Wystan H. Auden, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Benedetto Croce, to name just a few of these character studies that are considered among the outstanding achievements of 20th century portrait photography.

Accompanying the exhibition, a publication on Herbert List published by Galerie Karsten Greve is available: HERBERT LIST Italia, text: Matthias Harder, Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris, 2020, 12.00 euros.

Text from the Galerie Karsten Greve website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Herbert List: Italia at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

 

 

Born in Hamburg in 1903, the son of Felix List of coffee importers List & Heineken, Herbert List started an apprenticeship with a Heidelberg coffee wholesaler in 1921 while studying art history and literature at Heidelberg University, attending lectures, for instance, given by Friedrich Gundolf, a professor of German philology, Goethe scholar, and member of the George circle. His encounter with photographer Andreas Feininger, who introduced him to the reflex camera (Rolleiflex), inspired Herbert List to take up photography in 1930. Influenced by Surrealism and the Bauhaus, he began shooting still life and portraits. In 1936, he emigrated to London and Paris; most of the time between 1937 and 1941, he spent in Greece. In 1941, to avoid internment, he fled to Munich where the American military government eventually admitted him as a photo reporter after he had been forbidden to officially publish or work in Germany. Being drafted into the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces, in 1944, he served in Norway until the end of the war. After his return to Germany, the American military government eventually admitted him as a photo reporter after he had been forbidden to officially publish or work in Germany.  He became art editor of Heute magazine. In 1952, he joined Magnum, the international photographic cooperative, in Paris and traveled Italy. He completed several book projects. From the mid-1960s, he devoted himself almost entirely to his collection of Italian Old Master drawings. Herbert List died in Munich in 1975.

The artist’s estate, formerly in the care of Max Scheler from 1975 to 2003, is currently managed by Peer-Olaf Richter in Hamburg. Since Herbert List’s first solo exhibition in Paris in 1937, his oeuvre has been shown in numerous international exhibitions and published in internationally renowned magazines. His works are held in notable public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Kunsthaus Zürich, the Photography Museum (now Photography Collection) at Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the Musée Picasso in Paris.

In the 1930s, creating works of homoerotic sensuality in line with classical aesthetics, Herbert List took photographs of vigorous boys worshiping the sun on the beaches and coasts of Liguria, and on the islands of Capri and Ischia. He dealt with age, loneliness, and death in a 1938 picture essay about Casa Verdi, the old-age residence and final destination for many singers and musicians at La Scala in Milan. List’s photographs taken in the catacombs of Palermo’s Capuchin monastery (Le Catacombe dei Cappuccini) with skeletons wrapped in robes whose bizarre facial expressions gain an uncanny presence thanks to close vision and lighting effects, date from 1939. Another grotesque photographic essay shows the monster monuments overgrown with moss and leaves in the Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo (province of Viterbo, Lazio), which is used as a pasture and playground. In the jaws of Orcus, the personified throat of hell, stands a shepherd boy trying to survey his flock of grazing sheep. The ingenious gardens designed by architects Pirro Ligorio and Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola on behalf of the Roman condottiero and patron of the arts Pier Francesco (called Vicinio) Orsini between 1552 and 1585 are unique and full of puzzles.

Herbert List uncovers, and, at the same time, ironically comments on, the monumental character of architecture in Rome, the Eternal city, by juxtaposing it with people or animals: the giant marble hand of the Colossus of Emperor Constantine points its index finger towards Heaven behind a monk’s head; a cat poses under a monumental head of Jupiter. In 1952, the camera artist first used a 35 mm camera (Leica) with a telephoto lens to candidly capture events on the piazza in the Trastevere district for his View from a Window series. For a photo report about Naples, Herbert List went on photographic forays through the city starting in 1957. His sympathy was with the local residents: fishermen, traders, craftsmen, seamstresses, and laundresses, but also nuns and priests, idlers and singers, and, in particular, with the street urchins. A native of Naples, director and actor Vittorio De Sica interviewed the people List portrayed. Their collaboration resulted in Napoli, an illustrated book published in 1962; featuring photographs of authentic everyday occurrences and quotations from the people shown, it provides an overall picture of the southern Italian metropolis interspersed with social criticism.

As a specialty of Herbert List’s photography, the exhibition presents vintage gelatin silver prints of portraits of contemporary artists, writers, and intellectuals from List’s circle of acquaintances, including Giorgio de Chirico and Giorgio Morandi, Anna Magnani, Wystan H. Auden, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Benedetto Croce, to name just a few of these character studies that are considered among the outstanding achievements of 20th century portrait photography.

Text from the Galerie Karsten Greve website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Herbert List: Italia at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne showing at right, Italian Painter Giorgio de Chirico #4 (1951)

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Italian Painter Giorgio de Chirico #4, Rome, Italy' 1951

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Italian Painter Giorgio de Chirico #4, Rome, Italy
1951
Vintage gelatin silver print
30 x 22 .7cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

Italian Painter Giorgio di Chirico in his Atelier and Home at Piazza di Spagna

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Girls playing in a Passageway, Naples, Italy' 1959

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Girls playing in a Passageway, Naples, Italy
1959
Vintage gelatin silver print
28.9 x 21.6cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Herbert List Italia' at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Herbert List: Italia at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne showing at left, The Enchanted – At the Villa Magica (1949)

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'The Enchanted – At the Villa Magica, Rome Italy' 1949

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
The Enchanted – At the Villa Magica, Rome Italy
1949
Vintage gelatin silver print
29.4 x 23.8cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'View from a window: Little Garibaldi – Boy with Italian flag, Rome, Trastevere, Italy' 1953

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
View from a window: Little Garibaldi – Boy with Italian flag, Rome, Trastevere, Italy
1953
Vintage gelatin silver print
22.5 x 29cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Finger of God - Capuchin Monk in front of a fragment of the Statua Colossale di Costantino, Italy, Rome' 1949

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Finger of God – Capuchin Monk in front of a fragment of the Statua Colossale di Costantino, Italy, Rome
1949
Vintage gelatin silver print
28.8 x 22.2cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Balloons at the Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy' 1950

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Balloons at the Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
1950
Vintage gelatin silver print
28.9 x 23.7cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975) 'Self-Portrait in a Mirror, Rome, Italy' 1955

 

Herbert List (German, 1903-1975)
Self-Portrait in a Mirror, Rome, Italy
1955
Vintage gelatin silver print
15.9 x 21.6cm
© Herbert List Estate, Hamburg, Germany
Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne Paris St. Moritz

 

 

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29
May
21

Photographs: ‘The “Green Ticket” roundup – first roundup of Jews in France during World War II’, Memorial de la Shoah, Paris

May 2021

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs. The centre of the gymnasium is emptied. Only police officers circulate. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the summoned Jews have entered the mousetrap. We see for the first time the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together.

 

 

Death, duplicity and dishonour

Recently discovered at a Normandy flea market, these photographs by German photographer Harry Croner are taken from 5 contact sheets of 35mm negatives (probably taken on a Leica or similar). These documentary photographs are efficient, well seen, silent and in light of subsequent events… eloquent and emotional. They depict the first roundup of French Jews in Paris on May 14, 1941 at the Japy Gymnasium and a day later at the internment camps into which they were placed.

Lured to several places across the city in a pre-planned trap, Jews were “summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities… As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.”

Today, we know that these images are probably the last photographs of these men alive that were ever taken. They were held in the internment camps for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. A year later during the “during the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp”

In collusion with and at the behest of their Nazi overlords, this was not the French government’s finest hour.

The roundup – overseen by the Germans, supervised by government officials (through the General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, created by the Vichy State in March 1941 and run by fascist and anti-Semite Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, Commissioner-General for Jewish Affairs), enforced by the French police – was undertaken with alacrity, complicity and a ruthless efficiency.

.
The ironic aspect of these photographs is that Harry Croner, the German Army photographer, was soon after kicked out of the German Army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish. “In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.” So Croner ended up in the very place, a concentration camp, which he depicted so efficiently a few years earlier.

The head of the museum’s photography department Lior Lalieu-Smadja has wondered whether this knowledge of his Jewish father made Croner capture these Jewish men in a more humane light than other propaganda photographs of the same event. In an emotional sense I would say “yes” to this question, but in a technical sense, I do not think so. I don’t think the knowledge of his heritage would have influenced the aesthetic and pictorial construction of the images. In the photographs we can observe a wonderful balance within the picture frame – the use of strong intersectional points, the use of diagonals (the angle of the buses in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station), the use of near to far, the massing of bodies in crowd scenes, the use of flash, evidence of the decisive moment (Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station) as the gendarme and the man turn to look at the camera coupled with the attitude of the man’s leg as he kisses his partner goodbye, and the use of the punctum in the image… the couple sitting on the stairs at top right in Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941; the boy with his hands in his pockets in Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons; and the women staring out of the window of the Boutique à Louer at far right in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station, reminiscent of the ghostly faces of men pictured by Eugène Atget staring out of the windows of Parisian bars and cafés.

But above all these are now, today, emotional photographs, ultimately a memorialisation of the soon to be dead, photographs of people that we know are soon to be dead. They are gut wrenching in their simplicity, heart wrenching in their emotional power – the anguish of the women, that last kiss, the stoicism and calm of the men – as we trace the journey of the condemned. We can literally follow the route of one unknown man (see the first three images below) to his known fate.

A final thought enters my head… would Croner have still been in the German Army for the rest of the war, part of the Nazi war machine, if it was not discovered that his father was Jewish? Would he have hidden that fact in order to survive while at the same time serving the fascists even as they killed his own kind? The paradox of this seemingly absurd and contradictory proposition, might have been undeniable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs digitally cleaned and balanced by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Many thankx to the Memorial de la Shoah for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

5 contact sheets were recently discovered by the Shoah Memorial, retracing photo after photo of the fate of the Jews summoned by the “green ticket round-up”, the context of the raid, the German and French sponsors and especially the families excluded until now from the known propaganda photos of this roundup. While the press echoed it at the time, the official images were intended to be dehumanising and humiliating for these foreign Jews. The emotion and the dismay of these families, shown in these photos, are a rare illustration of the Shoah in France.

 

 

“Pure evil operates tidily, silently and seems so stylish.”

.
Jane Silberman

 

“The French gendarmes had licence to slap, beat, kick, whip, or insult any prisoner who broke the [Drancy] camp rules, but since these rules were never published it meant that they could ill-treat whomever they wanted whenever they wanted – and, with one or two honourable exceptions, this is just what they did. In 1942, when there were female and male prisoners in the camp, the French commandant of the camp, Marcelin Vieux, was seen whipping a woman for being too slow to move away from the middle of the yard. Another inmate remembered Vieux punching inmates and beating them with his truncheon. He also vividly recalled his two violently anti-Semitic French subordinates, who never went on patrol without their truncheons at the ready. Dr. Falkenstein, another prisoner, saw one of these men hit a four-year-old girl so hard that he knocked her unconscious.”

.
David Drake. ‘Paris at War: 1939-1944’. Harvard University Press, 2015, p. 209.

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Never-before-seen photos going on display in Paris this week shine a light on a dark moment in France’s role in rounding up Jews to send to Nazi death camps during World War II. The “green ticket round-up” was first carried out in Paris on May 14 and 15, 1941, with more than 6,000 foreign-born Jews summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities and shipped to camps south of Paris. Thousands more were rounded up in the following months.

They were held there for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz death camp.

By chance, a stash of 98 photos from the first green ticket round-up, taken by a German soldier on propaganda duty, were recently discovered by the Memorial de la Shoah, the Holocaust Museum of Paris.

Most were taken at the Japy sports hall in the city’s 11th arrondissement, where close to 1,000 were arrested, and where the photos are being put on display from Friday, exactly 80 years on. One shows SS officer Theodor Dannecker, who was in charge of implementing the “Final Solution” in France, alongside French police commissioner Francois Bard in the hall. Others show couples embracing outside, unaware that they would never see each other again.

“These photos are important because we see the opposite of Nazi propaganda that tried to depict these people as sub-human ‘parasites’,” said Lior Lalieu-Smadja, who heads the museum’s photography department. Was that a deliberate move by the photographer? “One has to wonder,” said Lalieu-Smadja, not least because the photographer was identified as Harry Croner, who was soon after kicked out of the German army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish.

The photos were bought years ago by an antiques dealer in Normandy who had found them at a flea market. He pulled them out of storage recently and contacted the museum, who informed him they were the only known pictures from the infamous round-up. Little else is known about the photos’ journey.

“The only thing we know for certain is that once they were taken, they were sent directly to Berlin. The photographer himself could not keep them, which makes this discovery even more incredible,” said Lalieu-Smadja.

Press release from the Memorial de la Shoah website

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]
May 14, 1941

 

 

A German delegation with SS Theodor Dannecker, responsible for Jewish affairs in France, and French led by the prefect of police François Bard, comes to inspect the operation.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men. They are asked to come back with some things for 2 to 3 days. The reasons given are the same: “examination of the situation”.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons and are received by the police who guard the entrance to the gymnasium. Women with children arrive with suitcases and packages. The following scenes show them standing in line and waiting their turn to hand over the suitcases.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Green Ticket roundup: The Shoah Memorial discovers a previously unpublished photo-reportage

The Shoah Memorial announces the recent acquisition of five contact sheets, totalling 98 photographs. This as yet unreleased photo-reportage accurately details every step of the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police forces on the orders of the German authorities 80 years ago, on May 14, 1941.

 

The discovery in detail

The Shoah Memorial has purchased five contact sheets – documenting the location of the roundup known as the “Green Ticket” on May 14, 1941 – from two specialised collectors. The contact sheets acquired by the Memorial, numbered 182 to 187 (contact sheet 185 is missing), represent 98 photographs. The photographer’s five rolls of film provide a reality that differs greatly from the photos released by the collaborationist press alone. For the first time, the location of the arrests as well as the protagonists of the roundup are captured from multiple angles. Dehumanised until then by propaganda and even completely erased from reportages, the families of the detainees are shown during their emotional farewells, before the very eyes of onlookers and neighbours. The most important element of this discovery, which is indispensable to history and to the duty of remembrance, allows us to follow the trajectory of these rounded-up men, from their arrival at the Japy gymnasium – the site of the trap, in Paris – up to their internment in the camps of the Loiret.

 

What the photographs reveal

The 98 photographs printed on contact sheets give a chronological, step-by-step run-down of the roundup.

  1. The first images show the protagonists of the roundup engaged in a discussion inside the Japy gymnasium. The two German and French sponsors are perfectly recognisable:
    – Théodor Dannecker (1913-1945), who represents Eichmann in France and heads Section IV J of the Gestapo, in charge of Jewish affairs
    – Admiral François Bard (1889-1944), the recently appointed Prefect of the Paris Police
  2. The Japy photo series: the arrested men are confined to the upper floor bleachers. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the Jews who have been summoned have entered the trap. These as yet unreleased photos show the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together, as well as those accompanying them, often their wives
  3. The exterior of Japy: men are still arriving carrying their summons and are received by the police officers at the entrance to the gymnasium. They bid farewell to their families while a line of women and children is formed. They wait to hand over clothes to their loved ones
  4. The neighbourhood is closed off. Neighbours are at their windows. Families are pushed to the back of the street and wait to hear from their loved one. They have anguished faces. The police blocks the street, then evacuates it
  5. Men of all ages who have been arrested come out one by one, watched over by police officers and carrying their belongings, board buses parked just outside the gymnasium, rue Japy
  6. The arrival at the Paris-Austerlitz railway station through the rear entrance to the station
  7. At Pithiviers, a previously unpublished view of the black hangar – of which there were no images until now – during the internment of the Jews, which will subsequently serve as the registration centre for the Vel’ d’Hiv’ detainees and for deportations

 

The “Green Ticket” roundup: first roundup of Jews in France during World War II

The “Green Ticket” Roundup is the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris, and it takes place on Wednesday May 14, 1941. These unsuspecting men, mainly foreigners from Eastern Europe are summoned on Wednesday morning by the Police Prefecture with a “green ticket” for a “status review” and asked to be accompanied by a relative or friend.

The men, most of them family men who were army volunteers at the beginning of the war and therefore fought for France, expect a verification of their status. Fleeing antisemitism and persecutions in their countries of origin – Poland, USSR, Romania, Czechoslovakia – and believing that they will find refuge in the land of freedom, they are arrested chiefly because they are Jewish and foreigners.

Several assembly points are indicated on the “green tickets”: the Caserne Napoléon (in the 4th arrondissement), the Caserne des Minimes (in the 3rd arrondissement), 52 rue Edouard Pailleron (in the 19th arrondissement), 33 rue de la Grange-aux-belles (in the 10th arrondissement) and the Japy gymnasium (in the 11th arrondissement) as well as other centres in the arrondissement police stations and Paris suburbs.

As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.

After that, the 3,700 arrested Jews are taken to the Paris-Austerlitz railway station in special buses, under the supervision of French police officers, and interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps (in the Loiret). They spend more than a year there before being deported directly to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by Convoy #4 on June 25, 1942, #5 on June 28, 1942 and #6 on July 17, 1942. During the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp between July and September 1942.

 

Propoganda photographs

As of the Armistice on June 25, 1940, the press is muzzled in France by the German occupier, and press photography is placed under censorship control. The Propaganda Kompanie (PK), set up within the Wehrmacht, is made up of photographers, cameramen, radio and press reporters, who are equipped with high-performance photographic material. This unit, under the direct control of Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, is in charge of documenting the historic dimension of the military effort and producing propaganda reports for foreign countries, for the press and for domestic agencies.

 

The Shoah Memorial

The Shoah Memorial, Europe’s largest archives center dedicated to the history of the Shoah, is a place of remembrance, of education and of transmission on the history of the genocide of the Jews during World War II in Europe. Today it incorporates five sites: the Shoah Memorial in Paris and the Shoah Memorial in Drancy, the Lieu de mémoire du Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), the CERCIL Musée – Mémorial des Enfants du Vel d’Hiv (Loiret), and the Centre culturel Jules Isaac de Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme).

Opened to the public on January 27, 2005 in the historic Marais district, the Paris site provides multiple spaces and an awareness program catering to all audiences: a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust and the history of the Jews in France during World War II; a temporary exhibition space; an auditorium programming screenings and symposia; The Wall of Names on which the names of 76,000 Jewish men, women and children deported from France between 1942 and 1944 as part of the “Final Solution” are engraved; the documentation center (50 million archive materials and 1,500 sound archives, 350,000 photographs, 3,900 drawings and objects, 12,000 posters and postcards, 30,000 cinema documents, 14,500 movie titles including 2,500 testimonials, and 80,000 books) and its reading room; educational spaces where children’s workshops and activities for classrooms and teachers take place; a specialty bookstore.

Better understanding the history of the Holocaust is also aimed at preventing the return of hatred and all forms of intolerance today. The Memorial has also been working for more than a decade on education programs focusing on other genocides of the 20th century, such as the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, or the Armenian genocide.

Press release from the Shoah Memorial

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]
May 14, 1941

 

 

The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours and the unusual emotion that reigns around the Japy gymnasium.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)

West Berlin stage: Harry Croner’s photographs from four decades

For 40 years, press photographer Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) accompanied life in Halbstadt with his camera: the reconstruction and creation of new landmarks, large and small events, celebrities from culture and politics, especially what happened on the city’s stages. His acquaintance with many artists living and visiting Berlin made it possible for him to take impressive snapshots and portraits. Croner’s photographic work, which is being presented for the first time with this selection, is the chronicle of an era and at the same time an homage to a small island of world politics, which was above all one thing, the big stage for culture.

 

Late career as a photographer

Harry Croner was born on March 16, 1903 in Berlin. From 1920 to 1922 he completed a commercial apprenticeship, worked for various automobile companies as an advertising manager and finally as a travel representative for Bayerische Motorenwerke. When he set up his own photo business in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1933, he probably already had a career as a photographer in mind. In addition to selling cameras and accessories, he also took portraits. In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.

 

The estate

With the support of the Prussian Sea Trade Foundation, the extensive archive (around 100,000 black and white photographs and over 1.3 million negatives) was acquired in February 1989. A representative part of the estate was digitised in 2013, supported by the Digitalization Service of the State of Berlin. Around 8,000 photos are already accessible online.

Text from the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin website [Online] Cited 20/05/2021 translated from the German by Google Translate

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

After a few hours, the men left the scene under police custody and had to board requisitioned buses for transfer to the Austerlitz station.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

The 3,710 men arrested in Paris at the various summons were transferred to the Austerlitz station to be interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps. Four convoys of passenger wagons are formed, two convoys with 2140 men to the camp of Beaune-la-Rolande and two convoys with 1570 men to that of Pithiviers. These convoys arrive on the afternoon of May 14.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station. His presence in the photos in this roundup shows that he followed and supervised the entire roundup.

 

 

Theodor Dannecker (German, 1913-1945)

Theodor Dannecker (German, 27 March 1913 – 10 December 1945) was an SS-captain (Hauptsturmführer), and an associate of Adolf Eichmann. As a specialist on Nazi anti-Jewish policies (Judenberater), he was one of those who orchestrated the Final Solution in several countries during the World War II genocide of European Jews in what became known as the Holocaust … In December 1945, Dannecker was arrested by the United States Army, and, on 10 December, he committed suicide in Bad Tölz. …

From September 1940 until July 1942, Dannecker was leader of the Judenreferat at the SD office in Paris, where he ordered and oversaw round ups by French Police. More than 13,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where most died in the Final Solution. …

Dannecker developed under Eichmann into one of the SS’s most ruthless and experienced experts on the “Jewish Question”, and his involvement in the genocide of European Jewry was one of primary responsibility. A passage from a 1942 report by Dannecker illustrates how the “Jewish Question” was handled in France:

“Subject: Points for the discussion with the French State Secretary for Police, Bousquet… The recent operation for arresting stateless Jews in Paris has yielded only about 8,000 adults and about 4,000 children. But trains for the deportation of 40,000 Jews, for the moment, have been put in readiness by the Reich Ministry of Transport. Since the deportation of the children is not possible for the time being, the number of Jews ready for removal is quite insufficient. A further Jewish operation must therefore be started immediately. For this purpose Jews of Belgian and Dutch nationality may be taken into consideration, in addition to the former German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Russian Jews who have so far been considered as being stateless. It must be expected, however, that this category will not yield sufficient numbers, and thus the French have no choice but to include those Jews who were naturalised in France after 1927, or even after 1919.”1

Text from the Wikipedia website

  1. “Eichmann trial – The District Court Sessions”. Nizkor Project. 9 May 1961. Retrieved 23 December 2013

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to settle in cold and unsanitary barracks under construction. The straw that will serve as mattresses in the bedsteads is still outside the barracks.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp] (detail)
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d'Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d’Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The gendarme to the left of the photo, posted in a watchtower, monitoring the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, is the emblematic photo from the film Nuit et Brouillard, censored when it was released in 1955.

 

 

Nuit Et Brouillard
Alain Resnais
1955

 

 

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22
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Zanele Muholi’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2020 – 31st May 2021

Curators: Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern.

 

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Zanele Muholi Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Unclassified fabulousness

There are so many words that you can say about an artist and their work. So many unnecessary words. All you have to do is look at the work. Does it speak to you? does it make you feel, does it empower you?

For me, artists either have it or they don’t… and in this case, visual activist Zanele Muholi possesses it by the bucketful. Panache, flair, downright unclassified fabulousness, call it what you want. They just have it.

They are powerful, they are strong, they are courageous, they tell great stories, they make you question history, they make you analyse what you think you know, they challenge your memories, they make you feel something about their participants, they make you want to fight for LGBTQIA+ social rights. They make you want to stand up and fight for equality and freedom for everyone. No person is an island, alone by themselves; we should all be equal under this cosmic sky.

The older I get the less tolerant I get of the stupidity of the human race and its non-evolution, in terms of spirit of self. When is the human race going to just grow up! Ditch the patriarchy, misogyny, colonialism, racial and socio-economic oppression. Appreciate difference, value the quality of every human being, debunk the dogma of religion, curtail the power of corporations and live in harmony with the earth. Not f…ing much to ask is it, after all these thousands of years.

I won’t live to see it, but with artists like Muholi, there is hope for humanity yet. Unclassifiable. Beautiful. Hail the Dark Lioness – all power to them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Tate Modern presents the first major mid-career survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi in the UK. Born in South Africa, Muholi came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that sought to envision black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives beyond deviance or victimhood.

 

 

“My mission is to re-write a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”

“In my world, every human is beautiful.”

.
Zanele Muholi

 

“Muholi prefers to be called an activist rather than an artist. Art, for them, is a means to an end, a tool to convey messages about social empowerment and visibility. “Zanele Muholi’s visual activism is not an occupation. It’s a lifestyle,” Kerryn Greenberg explains. “It’s something that occupies them day and night – whether they receive a call from someone in the community needing money to pay for a hospital appointment, or consoling those who’ve lost someone close to them in an act of violence, or giving some kind of public address at a wedding or a funeral. It’s about being a very active member of the community, and a public voice within that community.”

.
Maisie Skidmore. “Yes, but why? Zane Muholi,” on the ‘We Present’ website [Online] Cited 11 April 2021

 

“The connection that Muholi has with their participants (which they are eager to distinguish from the word “subject,” which implies a distanced gaze) translates to the viewer, who, in looking at these images, is immediately welcomed into a space of understanding and empathy. Muholi also often highlights the voices of the participants in their shows, books and events. …

The political agenda of the 260 photographs on display – which critique centuries of anti-Black sentiment, oppression and erasure – echoes the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial justice reckoning it has inspired worldwide. “Muholi’s work takes on an enormous importance within the context of Black Lives Matter because of its potential to educate audiences and promote mutual understanding,” said Sarah Allen. Each piece makes a clear visual statement: not only that Black queer lives matter but also that Black queer lives are nuanced, cherished and deserve to be celebrated.”

.
Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the ‘W Magazine’ website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi – ‘In My World, Every Human is Beautiful’ / Tate

Visual activist, Zanele Muholi, uses photography and film to document and explore issues of race and representation and to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa and beyond. Here they talk about how the power of images can show LGBTQIA+ people of South Africa, and QTIPOC people worldwide, that they are not alone. Watch as they introduce us to four key bodies of work and the ideas behind them.

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi: In Conversation with Lady Phyll / Artist’s Talk / Tate Exchange

Watch an in conversation between Muholi and Lady Phyll of UK Black Pride. Together, they discuss what difficult love looks like for QTIPOC communities in South Africa and Britain and the importance of chosen families.

This talk forms a part of From a Place of Love, a collaboration between Tate Exchange’s Love programme and UK Black Pride, whose theme for 2020 is home.

 

 

Born in 1972 and raised in Umlazi, a township on South Africa’s eastern coast, Muholi had a childhood shaped by the racial brutality of Apartheid – a white supremacist regime that systematically oppressed and displaced South Africa’s non white population for half a century. Muholi was an adolescent when Apartheid absolved and South Africa’s constitution was rewritten in 1996, with the intention of ushering a new era of equality. Even though South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, as a young queer person, Muholi was constantly reminded that the violent realities of gay life in South Africa did not align with this utopic vision of the future. Homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia remained rampant, and in South Africa, Black lesbians and transgender men are among the most at risk, and are often victims of heinous hate crimes, like “corrective” rape, abduction and murder. Drawing inspiration from the work of the American photographer Nan Goldin, whose early photographs documented queer culture and the HIV epidemic through intimate portraits of her family and friends, Muholi embarked on a mission to commemorate the battles and triumphs of her community with pictures.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi is a South African visual activist whose pronouns are they/them/theirs. Their work tells the stories of Black LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Asexual) lives in South Africa and beyond. Their photography raises awareness of injustices and aims to educate, while creating positive visual histories for under and mis-represented communities. Muholi also turns the camera on themself, making self-portraits that address race, history and representation. This exhibition charts Muholi’s emergence as an activist in the early 2000s to the present day.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political change. Apartheid was officially abolished in 1994. This was a political and social system of racial segregation underpinned by white minority rule. Anyone who was not classified as white was actively oppressed by the regime. Apartheid continued the segregation that had begun under the Dutch and British colonial regimes in the late 19th century. The apartheid regime also upheld injustice and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. While the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for prejudice, hate crimes and violence.

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 1 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Only Half the Picture (2002-6)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 1: Only Half The Picture

This room incudes work from Muholi’s first series Only Half the Picture (2002-6). It documents survivors of hate crimes living across South Africa and its townships. Under apartheid, townships were established as residential areas for those who had been evicted from places designated as ‘white only’. The people Muholi photographs – their participants – are presented with compassion, dignity and courage in the face of ongoing discrimination. The series also includes images of intimacy, expanding the narrative beyond victimhood. Muholi reveals the pain, love and defiance that exist within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Aftermath' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Aftermath
2004
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
600 x 395mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'ID Crisis' 2003

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
ID Crisis
2003
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
325 x 485mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The exhibition opens with a group of deceptively gentle images. In the first, Aftermath (2004), a torso is cropped from waist to knees, hands modestly clasped in front of Jockey shorts, a huge scar running down the person’s right leg almost like a piece of body art. In another, Ordeal (2003), hands wring out a cloth in an enamel basin of water placed on a floor. A third image shows a cropped, seated figure, again waist to thighs, hands folded in their lap, plastic hospital ties around their wrists. These pictures have a softness and beauty which completely belies the fact that their subjects are all survivors of sexual violence and “corrective rape”.

As the caption to the last picture, Hate crime survivor I, Case number (2004) explains, “Corrective rape is a term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.” This horrific practice is by no means unique to South Africa, but the term seems to have originated there – feminist activist Bernedette Muthien used it during an interview with Human Rights Watch in 2001 – and its effects on the community resonate throughout this exhibition.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 2 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 2: Being

This room features work from Muholi’s series Being (2006 – ongoing). The portraits capture moments of intimacy between couples, as well as their daily life and routines. Muholi addresses the misconception that queer life is ‘unAfrican’, a falsehood emerging in part out of the belief that same-sex orientation was a colonial import to Africa. Each couple is shown in the private spaces they share. Muholi explains how ‘lovers and friends consented to participate in the project, willing to bare and express their love for each other.’

Commenting on this series they say, ‘my photography is never about lesbian nudity. It is about portraits of lesbians who happen to be in the nude.’ This series dismantles the white patriarchal gaze and rejects negative or heteronormative images, common in political and social systems that uphold heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation.

Since slavery and colonialism, images of us African women have been used to reproduce heterosexuality and white patriarchy, and these systems of power have so organised our everyday lives that it is difficult to visualise ourselves as we actually are in our respective communities. Moreover, the images we see rely on binaries that were long prescribed for us (heterosexual / homosexual, male/female, African / unAfrican). From birth on, we are taught to internalise their existences, sometimes forgetting that if bodies are connected, connecting, the sensuousness goes beyond simplistic understandings of gender and sexuality.

.
Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Beloved V' 2005

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Beloved V
2005
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'TommyBoys' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TommyBoys
2004
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

In “TommyBoys,” a colour photograph, two muscular figures in tracksuit pants sit on a tarmac. One, in a red T-shirt, sits with her hands folded against her chest, while next to her, the second uses her white vest to wipe something from her eyes. (“Tommy Boy” is a word used in South Africa, like “butch,” to refer to a masculine-presenting lesbian.)

Text from the New York Times website

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg' 2006

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
2006
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 3 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing in the bottom photograph the series Miss Lesbian I-VII, Amsterdam (2009)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 3: Queering Public Space

Photographing Black LGBTQIA+ participants in public spaces is an important part of Muholi’s visual activism. This room contains portraits of transgender women, gay men and gender non-conforming people photographed in public places.

Several of the locations are important in the history of South Africa. Some images are taken at Constitutional Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It is a key place in relation to the country’s progression towards democracy. Other participants are photographed on beaches. These were segregated during apartheid. They are therefore potent symbols of how racial segregation affected every aspect of life. Participants are often shown on Durban Beach, close to Muholi’s birthplace of Umlazi.

Muholi states that ‘we’re ‘queering’ the space in order for us to access the space. We transition within the space in order to make sure that the Black trans bodies are part of this as well. We owe it to ourselves.’ Muholi often chooses to photograph participants in colour, bringing the work closer to reality and rooting them in the present day.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine II' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss D’vine II
2007
Lambda print
765 x 765 mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam' 2009

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam
2009
C-print
86.5 x 60.5cm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi.

Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date.

Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. From the early 2000s, they have documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

In the early series Only Half the Picture, Muholi captures moments of love and intimacy as well as intense images alluding to traumatic events – despite the equality promised by South Africa’s 1996 constitution, its LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice.

In Faces and Phases each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze. These images and the accompanying testimonies form a growing archive of a community of people who are risking their lives by living authentically in the face of oppression and discrimination.

Other key series of works, include Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos.

Muholi turns the camera on themself in the ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama – translated as ‘Hail the Dark Lioness’. These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics.​

Exhibition organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Gropius Bau, Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University.

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of South African visual activist Zanele Muholi. Muholi (b. 1972) came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that told the stories of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in South Africa. Over 300 photographs are brought together to present the full breadth of Muholi’s career to date, from their very first body of work Only Half the Picture, to their on-going series Somnyama Ngonyama. These works challenge dominant ideologies and representations, presenting the participants in their photographs as fellow human beings bravely existing in the face of prejudice, intolerance and often violence.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political changes. While the country’s 1996 post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice to this day. In the early series Only Half the Picture Muholi aimed to depict the complexities of gender and sexuality for the individuals of the queer community. The collection includes moments of love and intimacy as well intense images alluding to traumatic events in the lives of the participants. Muholi also began an ongoing visual archive of portraits, Faces and Phases, which commemorates and celebrates black lesbians, transgender people and gender non-conforming individuals. Each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze, while individual testimonies capture their stories. The images and testimonies form a living and growing archive of this community in South Africa and beyond.

The exhibition includes several other key series of works, including Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos. Images like Melissa Mbambo, Durban also attempt to reclaim public spaces for black and queer communities, such as a beach in Durban which was racially segregated during apartheid. Within these series, Muholi tells collective as well as individual stories. They challenge preconceived notions of deviance and victimhood, encourage viewers to address their own misconceptions, and create a shared sense of understanding and solidarity.

More recently, Muholi has begun an acclaimed series of dramatic self-portraits entitled Somnyama Ngonyama (‘Hail the Dark Lioness’ in Zulu). Turning the camera on themself, the artist adopts different poses, characters and archetypes to address issues of race and representation. From scouring pads and latex gloves to rubber tires and cable ties, everyday materials are transformed into politically loaded props and costumes. The resulting images explore themes of labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics, often commenting on events in South Africa’s history and Muholi’s experiences as a South African black queer person traveling abroad. By enhancing the contrast in the photographs, Muholi also emphasises the darkness of their skin tone, reclaiming their blackness with pride and re-asserting its beauty. Muholi has created some new self-portraits for this series which are being shown at Tate Modern for the first time.

Zanele Muholi is co-curated by Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Gropius Bau in Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University. Supported by the Zanele Muholi Exhibition Supporters Circle, Tate Americas Foundation, Tate International Council, Tate Patrons and Tate Members . Research supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor.

 

About Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi was born in Umlazi, Durban and lives in Johannesburg. They studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and Ryerson University, Toronto. Co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual media, Muholi is also an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany. Solo exhibitions of Muholi’s work have been hosted around the world, including at the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2012); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017-) and Museo de Arte moderno de Buenos Aires (2018). Muholi has won numerous awards, including the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2019), the 2019 ‘Best Photography Book Award’ by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation for their book Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, The Dark Lioness (Aperture), the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017);the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the Carnegie International (2013); a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Somnyama Ngonyama was shown at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Faces and Phases was shown at dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

Muholi’s pronouns are they, them, their.

Press release from the Tate website

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 4 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 4: Brave Beauties

Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing) is a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants. Queer beauty pageants offer a space of resistance within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. They are a place where individuals can realise and express their beauty outside heteronormative and white supremacist cultures. Muholi has commented that these participants ‘enter beauty pageants to change mind-sets in the communities they live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed, or worse.’

This series is also inspired by fashion magazine covers. Muholi has questioned whether ‘South Africa as a democratic country would have an image of a trans woman on the cover of a magazine.’ These images aim to challenge queerphobic and transphobic stereotypes and stigmas.

As with all of Muholi’s images, the portraits are created through a collaborative process. Muholi and the participant determine the location, clothing and pose together, focusing on producing images that are empowering for both the participant and the audience.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sazi Jali, Durban' 2020

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sazi Jali, Durban
2020
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Somizy Sincwala, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somizy Sincwala, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The series Brave Beauties, started in 2014, is “a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants.” The queer beauty pageant is many things: a celebration – and redefinition – of beauty, a declaration of independence by contestants, a challenge to “heteronormative and white supremacist cultures,” and an attempt, as Muholi puts it, “to change mind-sets in the communities [the contestants] live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed or worse.”

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

What I really want to talk about is beauty. Because I think for Muholi, that’s kind of where it all stems from, is recognising beauty in things that you might not expect. Muholi has said “All I want to see is beauty. And that doesn’t mean you have to smile, or try harder. Just be.”

I think that’s very much linked to the history of Apartheid, of course […] As a Black person being told constantly ‘your hair isn’t straight enough’, ‘you should look like this’, ‘you should look like that’ and that being legislated under Apartheid. But it’s also what is in the magazines, this idea of the perfect beauty. Muholi’s counteracting them, saying actually, none of that is relevant. It’s about being the beauty that you want to be.

There’s a really great series called Brave Beauties, which […] pictures trans women and gender non-binary individuals, many of whom have been in beauty pageants, occupying space. Demanding attention. And being absolutely stunningly beautiful. And you kind think, ‘yeah, what are our notions of beauty, what are these kind of constructions that are absolutely false?’

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 5 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 5: Collectivity

Collectivity lies at the heart of Muholi’s work. Many of Muholi’s large network of collaborators are members of their collective, Inkanyiso. This means ‘light’ in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language and one of 11 official languages in South Africa. Inkanyiso’s mission is to ‘Produce, educate and disseminate information to many audiences, especially those who are often marginalised or sensationalised by the mainstream media.’ Queer Activism = Queer Media, is the collective’s motto.

Self-organisation, mentorship and skill sharing are central to Muholi’s collaborative activity. This room features images that are collaboratively made. Whether documenting public events such as Pride marches and protests, or private events such as marriages and funerals, these images form an ever-expanding visual archive. By recording the existence of the Black LGBTQIA+ community, they resist erasure.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Room 6: Faces and Phases

Muholi began their ongoing series Faces and Phases in 2006. The project currently totals 500+ works. As a collective portrait, it celebrates, commemorates and archives the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

It is important to mark, map and preserve our mo(ve)ments through visual histories for reference and posterity so that future generations will note that we were here.

.
Many of these portraits are the result of a long and sustained relationship and collaboration. Muholi often returns to photograph the same person over time. Faces refers to the person being photographed. Phases signifies a transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and identity to another. It also marks the changes in the participants’ daily lives, including ageing, education, work experience and marriage. The gaps in the grid indicate individuals that are no longer present in the project, or a portrait yet to be taken. One wall in the exhibition is dedicated to the participants who have passed away.

Faces and Phases forms a living archive that visualises Muholi’s belief that ‘we express our gendered, radicalised, and classed selves in rich and diverse ways.’

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 6 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Faces and Phases is an ongoing series whereby the artist was seeking to document and photograph Black lesbians, trans men and gender non-conforming individuals. There’s now a mass of these incredibly beautiful portraits, which generally are presented in a grid, to show that, actually […] giving visibility to these people is a life’s work. There are many portraits of the same individuals over the course of a number of years. So you can see how people age, how they transition, sometimes, and how the way they present themselves, alters.

It is about acknowledging pain and trauma, and trying to heal people, and heal oneself through those images. Images that Muholi wants their community, to be proud of, and feel well represented by.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Death is a constant presence in Muholi’s community and work. The largest space in this exhibition is given to Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing), a collection of portraits – 500, and counting. The images “celebrate, commemorate and archive the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.” People appear more than once. Some spots on the walls are empty, marking a portrait yet to be taken or a participant no longer there. One wall is dedicated to those who have passed away.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. '"TK" Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TK Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Marcel Kutumela, Alexandra, Johannesburg
2008
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg' 2011

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg
2011
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 7 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 7: Sharing Stories

From their earliest days as an activist, Muholi sought to record first-hand testimonies and experiences of Black LGBTQIA+ people. Giving participants a platform to tell their own story, in their own words, has been an enduring goal. They have said:

Each and every person in the photos has a story to tell but many of us come from spaces in which most Black people never had that opportunity. If they had it at all, their voices were told by other people. Nobody can tell our story better than ourselves.

.
In this room, eight participants share stories of their lives and experiences as members of the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. Some of them feature in the Faces and Phases project in the previous room. The interviews have been conducted and produced by Muholi’s collaborators, some of whom are members of Inkanyiso. Some testimonies do not use Muholi’s preferred gender pronouns they, them, theirs.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 8 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 8: Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness

Somnyama Ngonyama (2012 – ongoing) is a series in which Muholi turns the camera on themself to explore the politics of race and representation. The portraits are photographed in different locations around the world. They are made using materials and objects that Muholi sources from their surroundings.The images refer to personal reflections, colonial and apartheid histories of exclusion and displacement, as well as ongoing racism. They question acts of violence and harmful representations of Black people. Muholi’s aim is to draw out these histories in order to educate people about them and to facilitate the processing of these traumas both personally and collectively.

Muholi considers how the gaze is constructed in their photographs. In some images they look away. In others they stare the camera down, asking what it means for ‘a Black person to look back’. When exhibited together the viewer is surrounded by a network of gazes. Muholi increases the contrast of the images in this series, which has the effect of darkening their skin tone.

I’m reclaiming my Blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.

.
The titles of the works in the series remain in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language. This is part of their activism, taking ownership of and pride in their language and identity. It encourages a Western audience to understand and pronounce the names. This critiques what happened during colonialism and apartheid. Then, Black people were often given English names by their employers or teachers who refused to remember or pronounce their real names.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Fisani, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Fisani, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Thulani II, Parktown' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Thulani II, Parktown
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ziphelele, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ziphelele, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'MaID IV, New York' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
MaID-IV, New York
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ntozakhe II, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ntozakhe II, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sebenzile, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sebenzile, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

As Muholi’s career started to take off internationally, they were traveling a huge amount in hotel rooms. They were exposed to the usual hassles of border immigration and airports, where racial profiling is still a reality, and entering spaces that are historically white. [They were] very conscious of the feeling that perhaps they were not quite wanted there, despite having been invited.

In 2012, they began to make a series of self-portraits, which actually I think are more accurately presented as self-projections, rather than self-portraits. In them, there is this sense of unapologetic selfhood. The sense that actually, you can be Black, you can encompass many histories, and projecting that in a really powerful way.

These photographs are often taken in situations, as I said, away from home, where Muholi might not have access to the same camera each time. And the light conditions are very variable. So, you’ll see that when they’re printed, they’re at very different scales, and that is representative of the fact that they’ve been made on the hop.

The itineracy of the lifestyle is very much evident in the pictures themselves, but also in the titles. They’re often titled in isiZulu, the artist’s home language. But then there will be the place in which they’ve been made, and that could be New York, that could be Norway, you know, a whole range of different locations.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zazi II, Boston' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zazi II, Boston
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Xiniwe at Cassilhaus' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Xiniwe at Cassilhaus
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The unforgettable works in Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness are a divine ode to Black women past and present, in Africa and beyond. In this series of black and white self portraits, Muholi becomes the participant, encouraging viewers to question what they were taught to find beautiful, and why. Often adorning themselves with different domestic materials as a tribute to their mother, who was a domestic worker for a white family (and resultantly absent from Muholi’s childhood), Muholi alludes to the broader history of colonisation and enslavement. Muholi also uses symbolically loaded poses and props which both summon and challenge visual stereotypes of African women and oppressive white beauty standards. By drawing on familiar aesthetic tropes, like fashion magazine covers and advertisements, Muholi dismantles the Western narrative by replacing the typically white bodies and faces that fill these frames with depictions of radical, queer, Black beauty.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bona, Charlottesville' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bona, Charlottesville
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester VIII, Philadelphia' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester VIII, Philadelphia
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Bester I

“This self-portrait is a special tribute to my late mother who passed on in 2009. She worked as a domestic worker for 42 years and was forced to retire due to ill health. After retirement she never lived long enough to enjoy her life at home with her family and grandchildren.

This photo is also a dedication to all the domestic workers around the globe who are able to fend for their families despite meagre salaries and make ends meet.

With this image I looked at how different people can use the materials of daily life for multiple purposes. The pegs lend an unexpected aesthetic to this photo and allow it to be read differently in the fashion world; the same goes for the striped mat. The pegs themselves can be seen as functional art in this regard. The striped doormat can also be used as shawl, but in this case it was meant for something else.

What people call a prop, I call material. The viewer is forced to rethink how they think about the materials – and their history.

I looked directly at the camera in order to create a sense of questioning or confrontation which could be read by viewers in different ways.”

~ Zanele Muholi, March 2017

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester I, Mayotte' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester I, Mayotte
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Muholi Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Qiniso, The Sails, Durban' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Qiniso, The Sails, Durban
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

In this work, Muholi has darkened their skin and whitened their eyes, and composed the picture in the manner of a classical, perfectly-lit studio portrait, posing with found objects as “costume” – a footstool as a helmet, say. There is so much to unpick in these images – references to colonialism, Apartheid, to the politics of race and representation, to femininity and “women’s work”. Muholi presents us with a kaleidoscope of views of injustice, equal parts beautiful and brutal.

The intellectual focus of every picture is slightly different. Zamile, KwaThema (2016) shows Muholi draped in a striped blanket, as used in South African prisons during Apartheid. In Quinso, The Sails, Durban (2019) Muholi’s hair is adorned with silvery Afro combs, a symbol of African and African diaspora cultural pride. In Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy (2015) their hair is stuffed with pens – a reference to the “pencil test” whereby, under Apartheid, if a pencil pushed into a person’s hair fell out they were “classified as white”.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Untitled' Nd

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Untitled
Nd
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

FEW Stop the War on Women's Bodies poster c. 2005

 

FEW Stop the War on Women’s Bodies poster
c. 2005

 

 

Room 9: Tracing Contexts

Muholi defines themself as a visual activist. They were born in 1972 during the height of apartheid in South Africa. Today their work celebrates LGBTQIA+ identity in the new era of democracy after apartheid was brought to an end in 1994, while also addressing the ongoing risks that the community face. Muholi has spoken about this being the very means through which they ‘claim their full citizenship’. The artist’s place within South African histories of activism, both as they relate to apartheid and the emergence of queer activism, are explored in this timeline. The timeline helps to highlight particular contexts from which Muholi’s work emerges and remains deeply rooted.

 

Zanele Muholi: Glossary

The terms included in this glossary are culturally complex and nuanced. Whilst the co-authors and editors of this text have attempted to reflect this, it is worth noting that the interpretations offered here are not definitive, as the meanings of many of the terms herein are deeply subjective and are consistently contested, debated and re-evaluated.

Ally

An individual who actively supports the social movements and rights of LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised identities, but who does not identify as LGBTQIA+ or as a member of said marginalised groups.

Apartheid

A former policy / oppressive system that was officially implemented in South Africa from 1948 until 1994, to enforce racial segregation and political, economic and social discrimination against people of colour or anyone who was not classified as white. The word ‘apartheid’ is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’. The term has also been used to refer to global forms of institutionalised / systemic racial and socio-economic oppression that is still prevalent in societies across the world.

Asexual

An umbrella term used to describe those with a variation of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction. The term can also describe people who are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually attracted to people, or where their attraction is not limited to physical sexual expression.

Assignment

Within the dominant culture informed by Western scientific models that classify gender and sex as binary, gender and sex are commonly assigned at birth based on external biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. A vulva-bearing child is typically assigned female at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AFAB’), while a penis bearing child is typically assigned male at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AMAB’). AFAB and AMAB are terms commonly used by transgender, gender-non-conforming and non-binary people to demonstrate that the sex and / or gender one was assigned at birth may not necessarily match one’s true gender identity.

Bisexual

An umbrella term used to describe a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bisexual people may describe themselves using one or more of a variety of terms, including (but not limited to) pansexual and queer.

Black

Capitalise when used to describe someone’s race, ethnicity or culture, unless the individual or group self-identifies otherwise.

Black Lesbian Feminism

A political identity, movement and school of thought that incorporates perspectives, experiences and politics around race, gender, class and sexual orientation, and surfaces the inextricable links between them.

Butch

A term used in queer culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically masculine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Cis / Cisgender

A term used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

Civil Union

Also known as a civil partnership, a civil union is a legally recognised arrangement which grants most or all of the rights, responsibilities and legal consequences of a marriage except the title itself. Civil unions were created primarily to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples and partnerships.

‘Corrective Rape’

A term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.

Family

A term widely used by queer and trans people to identify other queer and trans people. Also known as ‘chosen family’.

Femme

A term used in LGBTQIA+ culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Gay

A term used to refer to a man, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards men. The term can also be used more broadly and colloquially to describe a same-sex or queer orientation.

Gender

Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth. One’s gender is made up of one’s gender identity (a person’s innate sense of their own gender) and gender expression (how a person outwardly expresses their gender).

Gender Binary

The system of dividing gender into two distinct categories – man and woman – thus excluding non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Gender Dysphoria

Used to describe a person’s discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

Gender Non-conforming / Non-conformity

A person who does not conform to the binary gender categories that society prescribes (man and woman) through their gender identity/expression.

Hate Crime

Any incident that may or may not constitute a criminal offence, perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate. The perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise their victims, whom they consider different from them based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, health status, nationality, social origin, religious convictions, culture, language or other characteristics.

Heteronormativity

A socio-political system that, predicated on the gender binary, upholds heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation. Heteronormativity encompasses a belief that people fall into distinct and ‘complementary’ genders (men and women) with natural roles in life. It assumes that sexual, romantic and marital relations are most fitting between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, positioning all other sexual orientations as ‘deviations’.

Homonationalism

A form of LGBTQIA+ advocacy that frames LGBTQIA+ rights in nationalistic terms that privilege North American and European expressions over those of the Middle East and the Global South, particularly Africa. Homonationalism sees the conceptual realignment of LGBTQIA+ activism to fit the goals and ideologies of both neoliberalism and the far right in order to justify racist, classist, Islamophobic and xenophobic perspectives. This framing is based on prejudices that migrant people are supposedly homophobic, and that western society is egalitarian.

Homophobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about LGBTQIA+ people.

Homosexual

A person who has a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. ‘Homosexual’ is often considered a more medical term. The terms ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ are now more generally used.

Intersectionality

Emerging from the traditions of critical race theory, womanism and Black feminist thought, intersectionality encompasses the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The term was formalised by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in a discussion around Black women’s employment in the US. Intersectionality rejects the notion of universal experiences of womanhood in favour of a more holistic assessment of how one’s race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, nationality and religion can impact one’s experience of womanhood or gender, but also how these social inequalities intertwine with and shape one another.

Intersex

A term used to describe a person who may have biological attributes that do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes ‘male’ or ‘female’. These biological variations may manifest in different ways and at different stages throughout an individual’s life. Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

isiNgqumo

A type of language used amongst the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa, mostly among the Nguni people.

isiStabane / Stabane

A slur or derogatory isiZulu term used in vernacular language to refer to a person who is from the LGBTQIA+ community in the Southern African context. Translated into English, the term means a person who is born with both male and female ‘parts’.

Lesbian

A term used to refer to a woman, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards women or non-binary femmes.

LGBTQIA+

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. This is not an exhaustive list, as denoted by the inclusion of the plus symbol, which nods to the varying sexual orientations and gender identities that exist around the world.

Lobola

Also known as lobolo, lobola is a customary practice of marriage whereby the bridegroom’s family and kin transfer certain goods to the bride’s family in order to validate a customary marriage. Historically this was in the form of cattle, but today monetary payment is preferred, depending on the bride’s family.

MSM

An acronym standing for men who have sex with men. MSM may or may not identify as gay, queer or bisexual.

Necklacing

A practice of extrajudicial torture and execution whereby a burning rubber tyre is forced around a person’s neck. Under apartheid, necklacing was sometimes used within the Black community to punish those who were perceived to have collaborated with the apartheid government.

Non-binary

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’ (also often referred to as genderqueer). Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

Outed

When an LGBTQIA+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed without their consent.

Pansexual

A term that refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

Passbook (dompas) / Reference book

An identification book or document that every person of colour or anyone who was not classified as white had to carry under the pass laws of apartheid. The book was made up of two parts. One part had a laminated identity card that featured the name of the bearer, their ethnic affiliation, the date the card was issued, the signature of an official and a black and white portrait photograph. The other part included five sections which listed information on permissions to enter urban areas, record of required medical examinations, names and addresses of employers, work status and receipts for tax payments. Colloquially, among the Black South African population, these passes were often referred to derogatorily as the dompas, an Afrikaans term literally meaning ‘dumb’ / ‘stupid pass’.

Patriarchy

A social hierarchy that privileges and prioritises men over women and other gender identities.

Pencil Test

A racist, dehumanising test that was devised to assist authorities in racial classification under apartheid. When officials were unsure if a person should be classified as white or of colour, a pencil would be pushed into their hair. If the pencil fell out, signalling that their hair was straight rather than curly, kinky or coily, the person ‘passed’ and was ‘classified’ as white.

People / Person of Colour (POC)

A term used to denote someone who is not considered white. The term is used to emphasise the common experiences of systemic racism amongst people of colour.

Pinkwashing

A term with multiple meanings, but that commonly refers to the appropriation of the LGBTQIA+ movement in order to promote some corporate or political agenda. The term is used to describe the practices of entities who market themselves as ‘gay-friendly’ to gain favour with progressives, while simultaneously masking aspects of their practices that are violent and undemocratic.

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’, or gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they’.

QTIPOC

An acronym standing for queer, trans and intersex people of colour.

Queer

An umbrella term used by those who reject heteronormativity. Although some people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed by the queer community, who have embraced it as an empowering and subversive identity.

Safe space

An environment that enables all persons, including sexual and gender minorities, to be free to express themselves without fear of discrimination or violation of their rights and dignity. Individual actions and reactions are key in upholding or violating a safe space.

Sangoma

A traditional African healer who specialises in treating people’s spiritual and physical diseases by looking into their past and future and connecting them with the ancestors. Healers believe that they are called by their ancestors to take on this important and respected position in society.

Sex

Sex is distinct from gender. Sex is assigned to a person at birth on the basis of biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive
functions.

Transgender

An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people are binary-identified and others are not.

Transition

The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition involves different processes. For some this involves medical intervention or gender affirming healthcare such as hormone therapy and surgeries (medical transition), but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning might also involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently, changing one’s pronouns (social transition) and changing official documents (legal transition).

Transmisogynoir

A term that characterises the marginalisation of Black trans women and transfeminine people and captures the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny. It is used to denote the fact that Black trans women experience a different, racialised form of misogyny that is compounded with transphobia.

Transmisogyny

A term capturing the interlocking discrimination of transphobia and misogyny. Transmisogyny includes negative attitudes, hate and discrimination toward transgender individuals who fall on the feminine side of the gender spectrum, particularly trans women and transfeminine people.

Transphobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are transgender, including the denial / refusal to accept their gender identity.

White Supremacy

A racist ideology in which people defined and perceived as white are positioned as superior to and should dominate people of other races, and the practices based on this ideology.

WSW

An acronym standing for women who have sex with women. WSW may or may not identify as lesbian, queer or bisexual.

Zulu

A Bantu ethnic group and language of Southern Africa situated within the Nguni people. They are a branch of the southern Bantu and have close ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with the Swazi and Xhosa. The Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, with an estimated population of 10 million, residing mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

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15
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency’ at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

Exhibition dates: 19th January – 23rd May, 2021

Artists: Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, Carmen Winant

 

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Poison, Pesticide & Desperation / A deadly solution for many women' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Poison, Pesticide & Desperation
A deadly solution for many women

Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Toxic religion

This is a harrowing exhibition. In reality, in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be, for the problems that it investigates – the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility; the lack of open acknowledgement of pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, and trauma – should no longer exist. Women’s bodies are not vehicles for reproduction as seen through a patriarchal, capitalist lens.

Basically it comes down to two things: men and religion.

Men dominate religious doctrine and government. Religion and governments decide whether abortion is legal or illegal (Poland), whether women are sentenced to years in jail for abortion (El Salvador) or whether a women is handcuffed to a hospital bed after trying to give herself an abortion (Brazil). In religious countries untold harm is being done to women in the name of Christ the saviour. What a joker our imaginary friend is. Never will women be seen as equal in the eyes of God for the dogma of teaching denies their humanity. No compassion, no equality, no freedom.

The standout works in this exhibition are the devastating photo-stories of Laia Abril from On Abortion, the first part of her new long-term project, A History of Misogyny; and the surrealist collages of Joanne Leonard taken from Journal of a Miscarriage (1973). I have transcribed the text under Abril’s photographs so you can read the horror which is propagated and reproduced in the name of religion. Dark ages indeed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. Top left: The Oral Solution; top right: Deadly Grapevine; bottom left: A Night Outside; bottom second left: Poison, Pesticide & Desperation; bottom third left: Coat Hanger

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Ancient Herbs and Oral Solutions, depicting herbs used in El Salvador to induce abortion' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
The Oral Solution
Ancient Herbs and Oral Solutions, depicting herbs used in El Salvador to induce abortion

Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Coat Hanger' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Coat Hanger
Nd
From History of Misogyny
© Laia Abril

 

 

Laia Abril

“I’m trying to visualise a history of misogyny so we don’t forget what’s in the past and don’t get too comfortable in the present; so we take a look at things that sometimes we don’t want to – in a visual way that doesn’t make you just turn the page but makes you engage somehow and think a little bit.”

Under ‘natural’ circumstances, the average woman would get pregnant about 15 times in her life, resulting in ten births. Seven of those babies would survive childhood. For centuries, people have searched for ways to delay or terminate pregnancy. Today, safe and efficient means of abortion finally exist, yet women around the world continue to use ancient, illegal or risky home methods: Every year, 47,000 women die from botched abortions.

Across many countries and religions, millions of women are still denied access to abortion by the law or by social coercion. They are forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will, even minors and rape victims, and for many the pregnancy is not viable or poses a health risk. But all can be criminalised for trying to abort.

On Abortion is the first part of Laia Abril’s new long-term project, A History of Misogyny. The work was first exhibited at Les Rencontres in Arles in 2016 and awarded the Prix de la Photo Madame Figaro and the Fotopress Grant. Abril documents and conceptualises the dangers and damage caused by women’s lack of legal, safe and free access to abortion. She draws on the past to highlight the long, continuing erosion of women’s reproductive rights through to the present-day, weaving together questions of ethics and morality, to reveal a staggering series of social triggers, stigmas, and taboos around abortion that have been largely invisible until now.

Laia Abril is a visual artist, photographer and bookmaker from Barcelona. After graduating in Journalism, she enrolled at FABRICA – the Benetton artist residency; where she worked at COLORS Magazine as a creative editor and staff photographer for 5 years. Her projects have been shown throughout Europe, in the United States, and in China and have been published in media worldwide. Her work is held in many private and public collections. Her first book with Dewi Lewis Publishing, the critically acclaimed The Epilogue (2014), was shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture First Book Award, Kassel PhotoBook Festival and the Photo España Best Book Award.

Text from the Dewi Lewis Publishing website [Online] Cited 14/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. Top left: Sentenced to Decades; bottom left: The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage; right: Manuela in El Salvador.

 

Laia Abril. 'Sentenced to Decades' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Sentenced to Decades
Las 17’s court records in the headquarters of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalization of Abortion

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

El Salvador and ‘Las 17’

“Last month in El Salvador, a young woman walked free after nearly a decade behind bars. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana was just 18 when, in 2008, she was sentenced to 30 years in jail. Her crime? Having a miscarriage.
El Salvador has one of the world’s most draconian abortion statutes. It criminalises abortion on all grounds, including when the mother’s life or health is in danger, and in cases of rape. Women and girls cannot access an abortion even if continuing their pregnancy will kill them, or if their fetuses are not viable.
Those who defy the law and seek unsafe, clandestine abortions face horrifying consequences: The World Health Organization in 2008 reported that 9 percent of maternal deaths in Central America are due to such procedures.”
Erika Guevara-Rosas. “El Salvador and ‘Las 17’,” on the Amnesty International website 3rd March 2015 [Online] Cited 12/05/2021

 

Laia Abril. 'The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Manuela in El Salvador
The latrine where Manuela had her miscarriage

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

In February 2008, Manuela – an eight-months-pregnant, 33-year-old mother of two – suffered a miscarriage in the outdoor toilet of her home in a rural area of El Salvador. After losing, and then regaining, consciousness, Manuela (not her real name) managed to make it back to her house and ask her parents for help. When she got to the hospital, she was handcuffed to the bed for a week. Authorities suspected that Manuela’s miscarriage was actually “an abortion to hide her infidelity”; her husband had left her seven years prior, and she did not have the financial means to divorce him. During a trial that took place later that year, Manuela’s mother was accused of being an accomplice. Law-enforcement officials also took statements from Manuela’s illiterate father, who ended up signing documents that implicated his daughter. Manuela was condemned to 30 years in prison. Following her death behind bars two years later, in 2010, her family learned that her miscarriage had been the result of undiagnosed lymphatic cancer.

Text under the photograph

 

Laia Abril. 'Guadalupe, 26, El Salvador' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Guadalupe, 26, El Salvador
Guadalupe, one of the Las 17, was released from prison in February 2015. She had served seven years and three months in prison after a miscarriage resulting from a rape and subsequent pregnancy.

Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

I was raped when I was 17, and became pregnant. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide, after losing my baby during an obstetric emergency while working at my employer’s house. My employer would not allow me to go home, and I passed out. I was in my third trimester. I wanted my baby – I don’t know what happened to her. They never returned her body to my family. I served seven years and seven months before I was pardoned. The day I was released was very joyful. It had been a long fight, but my lawyers and family never stopped visiting me. I have a newborn baby daughter and I’m thrilled to be a mum.

Text under the photograph

 

Abortion has been illegal in El Salvador since 1998. This is the case in any and all circumstances, including when the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the mother. The extremely conservative politics of the country are due in part to the Roman Catholic Church, which exerts an outsized influence on Salvadoran politics and spearheaded a campaign in the 1990s that led to some of the most draconian laws against reproductive rights in the world.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Neil, 33, Ireland (installation view)
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

(Main photograph)

In 2010, my wife Michelle and I found out we were pregnant. She was over the moon, although I was worries and realistic – she had been fighting cancer since 2001 and was terminal. Unfortunately, her chemotherapy treatment had probably damaged the foetus, before we even knew there was one. Michelle was also unlikely to survive a pregnancy. Her oncologist prescribed an abortion. Michelle did not want to, but we had no other option. To our surprise, Cork University Hospital refused to do it.

(Right top)

The hospital told us that Michelle’s life was not at immediate risk [the only circumstance in which abortion is legal in Ireland]. Her doctor helped us to coordinate a trip to England, where the law is more flexible. Michelle was English, but she had no passport – she had not planned to travel! Waiting for the paperwork took two months, during which she was also denied treatment for her cancer [due to the pregnancy]. The trip itself was a nightmare, she was so sick and heartbroken. We had planned a medical abortion, but the pills didn’t work. In the end, she underwent a surgical procedure, which took a big toll on her health.

(Right bottom)

Michelle became quite active in the media, speaking out against the state. The [Irish government] ended up paying her compensation for the injustice. Before her pregnancy, Michelle had been responding very well to her treatment, and doctors said she could end up living for five more years. She was a very spiritual and optimistic person. But after we cam back from England, she took another scan. Her cancer had become more aggressive and spread to her brain. She died in November 2011.

Text under the three photographs above

 

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Magdalena, 32, Poland' 2018

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Magdalena, 32, Poland
2018
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs Magdalena, 32, Poland (2018)

 

 

(Main photograph)

It was December 17, 2014. I took a pregnancy test and it came out positive. I am gay – I don’t want to talk about how I got pregnant. I don’t know for sure if my grief for the abortion is over, if I left it all behind. I think about it once in a while, and sometimes I cry. Not much, though, and not because I regret it. I don’t. I know I made the right choice, and the only possible one. It was the hardest experience in my life. I am a different person now. And I’m proud of myself.

(Top left)

On a Thursday, I went to see my gynaecologist. She’s a feminist, known for openly pre-choice views. She directed me to a trusted male gynaecologist, who performs ultrasound examinations. She he confirmed the pregnancy, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I am a feminist activist, and I was familiar with the obstacles to abortion in Poland: abortion is illegal except in cases of sexual assault, serious metal deformation, or threat to the mother’s life. I talked to the ultrasound doctor openly. He hesitated at first.

(Top middle)

There is a medicine called Arthrotec: it’s a combination of the drugs Diclofenac and Minoprostol, which are used to treat cateoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. You can buy it in the pharmacy with a prescription, and use it to induce miscarriage. Another alternative is to buy abortion pills on the black market, but I don’t trust them – many vendors fake abortion pills that cost a lot and do nothing. So I contacted a colleague who’s a stomatologist and lied that mom need Arthrotec due to back problems. I was lucky. On Sunday, I had the prescription.

(Top right)

On the evening of December 22, 2014, I stayed at my friend Tomo’s. I took my first pull around 10 pm in her kitchen. You take Arthritic in three phases – four pills every three hours, three times. It’s extremely unpleasant. You can’t simply swallow the ill. You have to hold it under your tongue until it melts, then spit out the small part of analgesic Diclofenac. The pills are bitter and your moth gets numb. It rook almost one hour for the first four pills. The bleeding really started two and half hours after the first set.

(Middle left)

I felt cold and freezing. Timo cooked some potatoes and beetroots for me. Also sauerkraut – I remember I had a great craving for that. I needed someone to take care of me, and anyway it’s recommended as a presentation in case of extended bleeding or other problems. It was hard for me to pick a person, but Timo asked no questions, and gave me her full support from the beginning to the very end of this experience.

(Middle centre)

After the pills, I took several showers, and changed my sanitary napkins ofter. We watched Stardust with Claire Dens and Robert De Niro. They always sooth me. i mostly slept thorough the next day and night. But the bleeding didn’t stop. I became a bit worried, so I phone my doctor. It seems I hadn’t fully purged, he said, and advised that I take another set to pills. He also prescribed antibiotics. The second time was a horror. I was literally giving birth. I was exhausted, but even after that, clots of blood remained in my uterus. A procedure called “curettage” would be need to get rid of them.

(Middle right)

I checked into my doctor’s hospital on December 31. He told me exactly what to say: “I’m pregnant. Recently some bleeding has begun. I hope everything is fine, please just check on me.” My doctor and I pretended we didn’t know each other, so other hospital staff wouldn’t get suspicious. The plan was to state that the foetus was dead, which would me the curettage legally. My doctor winked when I was supposed to say “yes” or “no” to the procedure. It was absurd and humiliating at the same time. The curettage was scheduled for the first day of the New Year. Honestly, I didn’t care.

(Bottom left)

The next morning I had the curettage, First anaesthesia in my life. I was numb enough not to feel much fear. I stayed in the hospital until late evening. Another chat with my doctor. I thanked him a lot. I don’t know what would have happened to me if he hadn’t guided, me, advised me. answered my phone calls, then worked out a safe and legal hospital scenario. A lot of things might have happened, but I was lucky. I physically recovered quickly.

(Bottom middle)

But I was traumatised. I remember lying in bed two days before I took pills, with my hand on my belly, thinking that it would nice to able to keep that pregnancy. I cried so much the day I took the pills and told Timo how much I did and did not want to do it at the same time. How much irrational sadness I felt, even though I didn’t want to have a kid, not then, and probably not ever. It was hormones. But it was also something more than that; you can’t really talk about it unless you’ve had the experience yourself. I grieved some time after.

(Bottom right)

Later, I created a private group on Facebook so that women could help each other. exchange addresses and phone number of trusted doctors, and give each other advice. Sometimes a woman contacts me and I give her all the info and contact I have. I feel like that’s the least I can do. I still have a few mementos related to my abortion, including an ultrasound photo of the foetus. Sometime I want to throw it away. But I never do.

Text under the photographs

 

Laia Abril. 'Magdalena, 32, Poland' 2018 from the book 'On Abortion'

 

Magdalena, 32, Poland 2018 from the book On Abortion by Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs Marta, 29, Poland (Nd)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing Laia Abril’s photographs. At centre bottom, An FBI warrant for James Kopp (Nd); at right top, Prisoner #14681: Dr. Fenner (Nd); right middle, Midwife’s Mugshot (Nd); right bottom, Prisoner #5603 Dr. William H. Johnson

 

 

Prisoner #14681: Dr. Fenner

In 1941, Dr. Fenner was charged with feticide and sentenced to 16 months of hard labor in Nebraska. The doctor denied that he had performed the alleged abortion but admitted that he had performed ‘curettage” on a female patient. He claimed that his patient would have died due to inflammation otherwise.

Midwife’s Mugshot

Brazilian midwife Maria Berlimont practiced medicine without a licence and was accused of providing abortions illegally. “Dessie [current] public condemnation of both women and providers, law enforcement more often goes after the abortion provider. Police action and the media reports focus on illegal clinics while remaining silent on the women who seek out illegal abortion services.”

Prisoner #5603: Dr. William H. Johnson

In May 1910, doctor William H. Johnson of Nebraska was found guilt of having performed an illegal abortion resulting in the death of sixteen-year-old Amanda mueller. He was sentenced to two years of hard labor. Johnson was paroled on April 14, 1911, pardoned by the governor, and discharged on April 25.

 

Laia Abril. 'An FBI warrant for James Kopp, a member of The Lambs of Christ, who killed a doctor who worked at an New York abortion clinic in 1998' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
An FBI warrant for James Kopp, a member of The Lambs of Christ, who killed a doctor who worked at an New York abortion clinic in 1998
Nd
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing at right, Laia Abril’s Telephone – Voice mail, Florida Abortion Clinic (Nd)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing at right, Laia Abril’s Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence

 

Laia Abril. 'Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Hippocratic Betrayal and Obstetric Violence, by Laia Abril, referring to the case of a woman in Brazil who was handcuffed to her hospital bed after trying to give herself an abortion

This time, the found material and loaded objects – from an operating chair to a tangled heap of coathangers – make the testimonies all the more stark. One of the most resonant images is a staged photograph of a pair of handcuffs hanging from the rail of a hospital bed. It is titled Hippocratic Betrayal and refers to the case of a 19-year-old woman from São Paulo, who was taken to hospital with severe abdominal pains after ingesting abortion pills. After treating her, the doctor called the police, saying he would autopsy the foetus if she did not confess to trying to abort. She was handcuffed to her hospital bed and freed only after agreeing to pay £200 bail. Denunciation by doctors is common in Brazil, Peru and El Salvador.

“There are so many stories,” says Abril, “and it was important to find ways of telling them visually. The image of the handcuffs is a reconstruction because, of course, I was not present. No one was. The stories are true, the research is journalistic, the imagery is sometimes imaginative and sometimes documentary.”

Sean O’Hagan. “‘I’ve seen horrible things’: photographer Laia Abril on her history of misogyny,” on the Guardian website Wed 20 July 2016 [Online] Cited 14/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing photographs from Laia Abril’s On Abortion (2018) with at second left, Soap and Enema Syringes

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Soap and Enema Syringes' 2018

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Soap and Enema Syringes
2018
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

In the picture a set of household abortion tools. In places where abortion is illegal, certain medical instruments can be a giveaway. For this reason, specific supplies have rarely been developed or sold for this procedure. Instead, doctors, back-street abortionists and pregnant women turn to common household tools: knitting needles, wire clothes hangers, urinary catheters and a wide variety of other objects long enough to reach into the uterus.

In the history of coercive reproduction, before the legalisation of abortion – and currently in the countries which remains illegal; was dominated for centuries by restrictive laws, based on demographic and religious agendas. Due the lack of alternatives, women was forced to apply dangerous methods for termination of her pregnancy, facing serious physical damage or even death. Both safe and very effective methods were only developed as of the middle of the last century.  The lives and the survival rate of women have thereby greatly improved.

Museum of contraception and Abortion, Vienna, Austria, 2015. Laia Abril.

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986) 'Soap and syringes used for abortion, from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna' Nd

 

Laia Abril (Spanish, b. 1986)
Soap and syringes used for abortion, from the Museum of Contraception and Abortion in Vienna
Nd
From On Abortion
Courtesy of the artist
© Laia Abril

 

 

Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities people encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The term “reproductive” is twofold. It implies the characteristics of a photograph, bringing attention to a notable lack of visual representation of the experiences of the female body. Additionally, the term is a reference to a common patriarchal, capitalist view of women’s bodies as vehicles for reproduction. This exhibition aims to add visual presence and a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of female rights and freedoms in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) presents Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency from January 19 – May 23, 2021. The exhibition explores the psychological, physical, and emotional realities women encounter in the years leading up to, during, and after fertility. The exhibition features eight artists who consider a range of topics including birth, miscarriage, pleasure, the lack of access to abortion, trauma, and the loss of fertility. The exhibition is organised by MoCP chief curator and deputy director Karen Irvine and curator of academic programs and collections Kristin Taylor.

With works ranging from photography to video installations, the exhibition includes work by artists Laia Abril, Candice Breitz, Elinor Carucci, Krista Franklin, Doreen Garner, Candy Guinea, Joanne Leonard, and Carmen Winant. This exhibition seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the precarious nature of reproductive rights in a time where the future of these rights is uncertain.

Works on view cover a range of issues all linking back to the theme of reproductive justice. Highlights include Candice Breitz’s installation Labour (2017-ongoing), which probes the many meanings of the word “labour” in terms of capitalism, from the act of giving birth to the labour that is inherent in mothering and nurturing a child, as well as the domestic labor that has historically been assigned to women.

Artists Carmen Winant and Elinor Carucci both explore female sexuality, implicitly and explicitly critiquing the patriarchal gaze at different stages of female life and fertility. Winant’s photographic assemblage of female sexuality in History of My Pleasure (2019-2020) highlights the agency of the libidinous female body, while Carucci explores sensuality and pleasure after menopause, emphasising imagery that is seldom made visible within art history and popular culture.

Other works on view highlight the often-invisible struggles of the reproductive body, including Under the Knife (2018), a project created by Chicago-based artist Krista Franklin, which intimately details the artist’s long struggle with uterine fibroids, a condition that can cause infertility and disproportionately affects Black women. Joanne Leonard explores a different kind of trauma in her Journal of a Miscarriage series (1973), a series of collages that grapple with the loss of her first pregnancy to miscarriage.

Taking a historical approach to understanding the contemporary state of reproductive healthcare, Laia Abril investigates the history of birth control and the subsequent consequences of restricting women’s access to safe and legal abortion, while Doreen Garner hauntingly pays tribute to Black women who were subject to torture in the name of medical research. Looking closely at the contemporary moment from an LGBTQ+ perspective, Candy Guinea depicts the artist’s journey with her partner as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.

The exhibition’s title, Reproductive, refers to both the act of copying something, like a photograph, and the biological creation of offspring. Additionally, the active tense of the verb “to reproduce” points to the capacity that these artists are at once demonstrating and demanding agency.

“The artists featured in this exhibition create space for themselves – and for others – to claim their power,” said exhibition curators Karen Irvine and Kristin Taylor, “revolutionising the prevailing sense of what it means for a woman to be (re)productive.”

Press release from the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Candy Guinea. 'Still from Mariposa' 2017

 

Candy Guinea (American, b. 1984)
Still from Mariposa
2017
Single-channel video, looped
17 minutes
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

This short film convos the family story of Candy Guinea and her partner Castro as they move through the heteronormative childbirth industry. Guinea documents their journey as a queer, Latinx couple as they attempt to conceive their first child through insemination, navigating numerous trials and errors with the process, and considering the larger emotional and social realities of those who undergo this often-arduous form of conception. As the film progresses, we follow the couple as they attempt to find gender-neutral maternity clothing, as well as LGBTQ+ friendly prenatal care, revealing pervasive gender binaries surrounding maternal health care.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing work by Joanne Leonard

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing three works by Joanne Leonard: at left, Censored journal page (Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal and 1964 police photograph of Gerri Santoro, left to die after botched abortion), from Journal of miscarriage 1973; at centre, Tears, November 28, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at right, Untitled (cowry shells), November 30, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Censored journal page (Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal and 1964 police photograph of Gerri Santoro, left to die after botched abortion) (installation view)
1973
From Journal of a miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

 

Gerri Santoro

Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro (née Twerdy; August 16, 1935 – June 8, 1964) was an American woman who died because of an illegal abortion in 1964. A police photograph of her dead body, published in 1973, became a symbol of the abortion-rights movement.

 

Biography

Santoro was raised, along with 14 siblings, on the farm of a Ukrainian-American family in Coventry, Connecticut. She was described by those who knew her as “fun-loving” and “free-spirited”. At age 18 she married Sam Santoro; the couple had two daughters together.

 

Circumstances of death

In 1963, her husband’s domestic abuse prompted Santoro to leave, and she and her daughters returned to her childhood home. She took a job at Mansfield State Training School, where she met another employee, Clyde Dixon. The two began an extramarital affair and Santoro became pregnant.

When Sam Santoro announced he was coming from California to visit his daughters, Gerri Santoro feared for her life. On June 8, 1964, twenty-eight weeks into her pregnancy, she and Dixon checked into the Norwich Motel in Norwich, Connecticut, under aliases. They intended to perform a self-induced abortion, using surgical instruments and information from a textbook which Dixon had obtained from Milton Ray Morgan, a teacher at the Mansfield school. Dixon fled the motel after Santoro began to bleed. She died, and her body was found the following morning by a maid.

Dixon and Morgan were arrested three days later. Dixon was charged with manslaughter and Morgan was charged with conspiring to commit an illegal abortion. Dixon was sentenced to a year and day in prison.

 

Famous photograph

Police took a photograph of Santoro’s body as she was found: naked, kneeling, collapsed upon the floor, with a bloody towel between her legs. The picture was used in placards and famously published in Ms. magazine in April 1973, all without identifying Santoro. The photo has since become an abortion-rights symbol, used to illustrate that access to legal and professionally performed abortion reduces deaths from unsafe abortion.

Leona Gordon, Santoro’s sister, saw the photo in Ms. magazine and recognised the subject. Santoro’s daughters had been told their mother died in a car accident, which they believed until the photo became widely distributed. Of the photo’s publication, Santoro’s daughter, Joannie Santoro-Griffin, was quoted in 1995 as saying, “How dare they flaunt this? How dare they take my beautiful mom and put this in front of the public eye?” In more recent years, Joannie has become an abortion rights activist, attending the March for Women’s Lives in 2004 along with Leona and Joannie’s teenage daughter Tara, and blogging about the memory of her mother.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (cowry shells), November 30, 1973
1973
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940) 'Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973' (installation view)

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973 (installation view)
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940) 'Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973'

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Par/NoPair/OhPere October 9, 1973
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing two works by Joanne Leonard: at left, Untitled (woman/flower/snail) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at right, Love Letter, November 16, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973,

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Joanne Leonard (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (woman/flower/snail) (installation view)
From Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973
Collage
Courtesy of Jeremy Stone, San Francisco

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Joanne Leonard: at right, Untitled (clam/shell/birth), November 30, 1973 from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973; and at second right, Untitled (Joanne, frog and sperm) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Joanne Leonard: at left Magic Act (with painting my M. Ner) from Journal of a Miscarriage, 1973

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation view of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Elinor Carucci from her series Midlife (2012-2019) with at left, Winter 2016

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

Installation views of the exhibition Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Photography showing works by Elinor Carucci from her series Midlife (2012-2019)

 

Elinor Carucci. 'My Uterus' 2015

 

Elinor Carucci (Israeli-American, b. 1971)
My Uterus
2015
From Midlife 2012-2019
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

The intimate images show Elinor Carucci as she approaches the age of fifty and enters menopause – the last cycle of female fertility. Photographs of attempts to remain psychologically balanced and youthful in appearance are coupled with close-up images of blood – a longtime symbol of fertility and the female body. In one poignant image, the artist’s uterus lies starkly on a medical cart just after a hysterectomy – a powerful metaphor for ageing and the grieving that often accompanies a long life. Also included in the series are images of Carucci’s sexual intimacy with her husband Eran, augmenting her bold look at the physical and mental struggles of losing fertility with a hopeful meditation on the longevity of sensuality, physical pride, and pleasure.

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Doreen Garner. 'Betsey's Flag' 2019

 

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Betsey’s Flag
2019
Courtesy of the artist and JTT, New York

 

Krista Franklin (American, b. 1970) 'Self-Portrait in the Aftermath' 2020

 

Krista Franklin
Self-Portrait in the Aftermath
2020
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

 

(left to right)

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
The Success of the Silver Suture: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
The First Operation: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

Doreen Garner (American, b. 1986)
Death Would Have Been Preferable: As Told by Sadist
2018
Plexiglass, rubber, inkjet print, menstrual blood, urine, epoxy resin
Courtesy of JTT Gallery, New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Installation view of the exhibition 'Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency' at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

Carmen Winant. 'A History of My Pleasure' 2019-20 (installation view)

 

Carmen Winant (American, b. 1983)
A History of My Pleasure (installation views)
2019-20
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
600 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

The MoCP is CLOSED when Columbia College Chicago is closed, including all major holidays.

Museum of Contemporary Photography website

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09
May
21

Review: ‘Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Tom Goldner’ at the Meat Market Stables, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th February – 27th February 2021

Photography & Curation/Art Direction – Tom Goldner
Moving Image – Angus Scott
Sound – Sean Kenihan
Poetry – Dr Judith Crispin (publication)
Colourist – CJ Dobson (moving image)
Audio Visual – Toto Creative
Cover Art – Katherina Rodrigues (publication)

 

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

 

Strange Beauty

Bloated prostrate tentacles

wither into our idea of dying

overlapping human, shit

feeding foulest vegetables,

regenerating sourly

Kingdoms of foulest water

regorging sourly

Bloated brumbies, winged coal

rejigs

Strange Beauty

Floating in our mind

In grey greasy horror water

Full of surprises –

like a holocaust holding pond

At your peril

 

Skull twisted,

Served on corrugated soot

Land, once precious

disguised, drained

black, gold – split

burnt to reburn

charred brumbies, flying coal

rem/embers,

Millions of worst worst

Strange Beauty

lost as sources

Boiling, bubbling – like a holocaust

At your peril

 

Belching wishes to reassemble

Hexing new forms

Bottom of our nightmare

Bottom of our innings

Animals worst worst

Plants unredeemable

Satan not lucifer

Sky a trap

Wings a trap

Escape a trap

Strange Beauty

beside the dead and ugly

like a holocaust

Do you want to …

(At your peril)

… Remember ?

.
Marcus Bunyan and Ian Lobb, May 2021

 

 

Contested Ground

I saw this darkly mysterious, immersive exhibition by the artist Tom Goldner just after Melbourne suffered its mini-five day COVID lock down in February 2021, but I have been awaiting the installation photographs and video of the event to publish this posting.

This stimulating exhibition, with its wonderfully atmospheric sound track, was an overlapping animation of conceptual, documentary photographs that appear in Goldner’s book Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – and placed “the audience within the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alpine regions during the period of 2019-2020 referred to as the Black Summer“, the project (both multimedia exhibition and book) considering “the systems which position the Snowy Mountain brumby and the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires within a time of ecological uncertainty.” The starting point into Goldner’s investigation was that of the Snowy Mountain brumby, an Australian feral wild-roaming horse, an invasive, non-native species introduced during colonisation. The brumbies cannot see in red, and the artist wondered how the world must have appeared to them illuminated by the strange light of the raging bushfires. He uses this idea as a metonym throughout the project which acts as an entry point into both the human and nonhuman world, to begin to understand the human perception of this catastrophic event and the anthropogenic changes that are happening in the Australian landscape.

The research which underpins Goldner’s project is guided “by the work of English professor Timothy Morton and his theories on ‘ecological awareness’ in Dark Ecology (2016), which examine the intersection of places, scales and nonhuman interrelations. Running parallel to these ideas are those of American professor Donna Haraway’s most recent book, Staying with the Trouble (2016). Particularly her concept of the ‘Chthulucene’ that strives to capture a future in which all things in the world are connected, coexist and, in many cases, ‘collaborate’, and through this, we learn to ‘live and die well together’ and achieve a kind of ‘ongoingness’.” The artist seeks to flatten the hierarchy between human and nonhuman life by allowing us to recognise ourselves within the violence we inflict on the natural world during this human-assisted ecological disaster.

.
While the project professes to challenge the notion of clear and tidy boundaries in a time of ecological uncertainty, in reality it offers a particularly one-eyed perspective on the subject of anthropogenic changes to the landscape. I don’t mind this perspective at all, in fact I applaud it, for the ultimate goal of the photographs is to open our eyes to the destruction that human actions are inflicting on our environment. Through beautifully modulated photographs of great sensitivity Goldner pictures these spaces of destruction and re/generation. But is there ever an “original” landscape to which we must return?

In humans, a reduced sensitivity to red light due to missing or defective L-cones (or long wave cones) is known as protanopia or protanomaly. The derivation of the word protanopia is from the early 20th century: from proto- ‘original’ (red being regarded as the first component of colour vision) + an- ‘lacking’ + ‘opia’- (denoting a visual disorder). Protanomaly makes red look more green and less bright while protanopia makes you unable to tell the difference between red and green at all. People with protanopia are more likely to confuse black with many shades of red; dark brown with dark green, dark orange and dark red; some blues with some reds, purples and dark pinks; and mid-greens with some oranges (see image below).

When the first component of colour vision (red) is lacking we have a visual disorder. How, then, can we see the intersection of the human and non-human world clearly if we have a visual disorder? To what are we to return, to an untouched paradisiacal landscape pre-colonisation, pre-human inhabitation – to an “original” we can no longer see – or do we acknowledge the paradoxical “nature” of our contemporary existence on this earth in a more balanced way. Nothing is ever black and white, or in this case colour(–).1

For many generations humans have lived in the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alpine regions, singing pastorals to the gods, seeking guidance to live on the land: the mountain ranges are thought to have had Aboriginal occupation for 20,000 years and after the areas were first explored by Europeans from the 1830s-1850s, high country stockmen followed using the mountains for grazing during the summer months (Wikipedia). Over the last few years, people of Victoria’s high country and animal lovers have rallied against the proposed culling of feral brumbies in the state’s national parks. They cite that brumbies hold “heritage value, they are part of our cultural and social history. Brumbies have lived in our Heritage National Parks for two centuries; are descendants of remounts that were sent to War with our soldiers… Brumbies were immortalised by Banjo Patterson, feature in paintings by Sydney Nolan and written about in the Silvery Brumby novels by Ellyne Mitchell. Brumbies are part of the fabric of our Australian society. It is undeniable that extremist elements must not be allowed to dictate on cultural and social values.”2 Goldner states that, “Brumbies are a symbol of national consciousness. While they may be labelled as a ‘feral species’ and a threat to native ecosystems by environmentalists, they are also valued as an important part of Australia’s history as a symbol of national spirit.”

Contested ground indeed, and perhaps one that needed to be more fully investigated in Goldner’s project.

While the second sentence in the above paragraph is true I would argue that the opposite of the first sentence is at least possible – that brumbies are an anti-symbol of national consciousness, for the animals hardly ever impinge on the collective consciousness of most Australians when they think about the Australian landscape. How often would the vast bulk of the city-dwelling Australian population think about the brumby as a symbol of national consciousness? Hardly ever would be my answer. It is not an original thought about the landscape that they would have.

.
Walking through the darkened spaces of the exhibition, I let the phenomena of superb images and sounds wash over me. The experience was particularly moving given the strange beauty of the limited colour palette images and the atmospheric vibrations of the music. For me, the key image of the exhibition was not that of the bloated brumby lying prostrate on the blackened earth, but that of an isolated grave standing erect in the scorched landscape. With no context to allow the viewer to anchor this grave to a historical past, all we are left with are questions and metaphors. What is this grave doing seemingly in the middle of nowhere? Who is the person buried there? The metaphors are rich indeed: the erect whiteness of the white man’s grave stone isolated against the black ness of the landscape, a landscape not their own, and perhaps not of their own making. The anonymous writing on the grave stone standing as a metaphor for any human who has ever lived. The iron fence that segregates the human from the land even as they buried in it… as though they are a part of this earth but apart from it. A masterful image if ever I saw one.

In the overlapping, interstitial, spatio-temporal dimensions of the gallery I placed myself into the existence of these works, into their networks of existence. As the artist wanted, I recognised “the violence we inflict on the natural world during this human-assisted ecological disaster” but not, I insist, through the flattening of the hierarchy between human and nonhuman life but through it’s very opposite – through an acknowledgement of the multiple, fragmented, lexias of existence,2 networks that live in multiple levels of intersectionality, like a spiders web created in the dimensions of extended space. Into this geometry of space, into the spatio-temporal ‘nature’ of photography – death, power, transcendence, timelines, delay, exposure, territorialisations, assemblage, bricolage, rhizomic structures and the author – “seeing is no longer framed or presupposed through relations of distance or perspective. Rather, the eye and the visible are embodied as they struggle with positionality, in the physical, mental, and emotional conflicts that result when you have to take responsibility for what you see, instead of conferring that responsibility on an-other.”4

Goldner’s vision embodies this ongoing thickness, this ongoing responsibility.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. “Conceptually, wholes are divided up or taken apart, dis-integrated into component pieces. They may be reintegrated, but in a way that reflects the understanding of those pieces at the time of their disassembly; the way the functions of individual parts of a whole are seen depends on the way the whole is divided into parts. Different visions result in different views of the whole.”
    Wolf, Mark. Abstracting Reality: Art, Communication, and Cognition in the Digital Age. Lanham: University Press of America, 2000, p. 196.
  2. Anonymous author. “Melbourne rally “Stop the bullets”,” media release on the Australian Brumby Alliance website May 1, 2021 [Online] Cited 09/05/2021.
  3. Lexia is perhaps the most widely applicable term for describing the linked pieces of information within a hypertext, referred to in various contexts as nodes, pages, frames and workspaces.
  4. Burnett, Ron. Cultures of Vision: Images, Media, & the Imaginary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995, pp. 137-138.

.
Many thankx to Tom Goldner for allowing me to publish the photographs and video in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Photo Book is available from Tom Goldner’s website.

 

 

protanopia vision

 

Protanopia vision

 

 

Photography & Curation/Art Direction – Tom Goldner
Moving Image – Angus Scott

 

 

Photography & Curation/Art Direction – Tom Goldner
Moving Image – Angus Scott

 

 

“A large portion of the project was made in the Snowy Mountain region of New South Wales.

During the first tip to the fire grounds in early January 2020 we came across a wild horse… It had died of a lung bleed while trying to escape the bushfires. I used the brumby as an entry point into Australia’s colonial history, proposing that the brumby is a manifestation of our collective actions.

I later learn that horses only see in blues and greens, and I wondered how the world must have appeared to them illuminated by that strange red light.

The project asks, can we too see the world differently?”

.
Tom Goldner on the Blackriver website [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

 

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? is a research-driven project which explores anthropogenic changes in the Australian landscape through the use of conceptual documentary photography. Presented as an immersive experience this collaborative project utilises large-scale projection to place the audience within the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alpine regions during the period of 2019-2020 referred to as the Black Summer.

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? negotiates the human perception of this catastrophic event. This exhibition and publication reveals the bushfires and resulting damage through the eyes of another human-assisted ecological disaster, one of an invasive species: the Snowy Mountain Brumby.

The project considers the systems which position the Snowy Mountain brumby and the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires within a time of ecological uncertainty. The Snowy Mountain brumby, an Australian feral wild-roaming horse, appears as a metonym throughout the project and acts as an entry point into both the human and nonhuman world.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

Installation view of the exhibition 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner' 2021

 

Installation views of the exhibition Do Brumbies Dream In Red? – Tom Goldner 2021 at the Meat Market Stables, Melbourne

 

 

“Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy – with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence. The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present. Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places.”

.
Donna Haraway, 2016

 

 

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? is a project driven by research which explores anthropogenic changes in the Australian landscape through the use of conceptual documentary photography, video and audio recordings.

The project considers the systems which position the Snowy Mountain brumby and the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires within a time of ecological uncertainty. The Snowy Mountain brumby, an Australian feral wild-roaming horse, appears as a metonym throughout the project and acts as an entry point into both the human and nonhuman world.

Brumbies are a symbol of national consciousness. While they may be labelled as a ‘feral species’ and a threat to native ecosystems by environmentalists, they are also valued as an important part of Australia’s history as a symbol of national spirit. Brumbies represent wildness and the way we relate to, and attempt to control, nature.

The project challenges the notion of clear and tidy boundaries in a time of ecological uncertainty. The research is underpinned by the work of English professor Timothy Morton and his theories on ‘ecological awareness’ in Dark Ecology (2016), which examine the intersection of places, scales and nonhuman interrelations. Running parallel to these ideas are those of American professor Donna Haraway’s most recent book, Staying with the Trouble (2016). Particularly her concept of the ‘Chthulucene’ that strives to capture a future in which all things in the world are connected, coexist and, in many cases, ‘collaborate’, and through this, we learn to ‘live and die well together’ and achieve a kind of ‘ongoingness’.

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? seeks to flatten the hierarchy between human and nonhuman life by allowing us to recognise ourselves within the violence we inflict on the natural world. The visual outcomes that navigate these ideas are intertwined and are driven by a series of photographs, moving images and audio recordings. The project culminates in a photobook with an accompanying poem by Australian artist and academic Dr Judith Nangala Crispin. The publication was produced to be presented alongside a mixed-media exhibition, comprising of large-format projected still and moving imagery and a soundscape.

Text from the Tom Goldner website [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

Tom Goldner. 'Untitled' from the series 'Do Brumbies Dream In Red?' 2020

 

Tom Goldner (Australian, b. 1984)
Untitled from the series Do Brumbies Dream In Red?
2020

 

'Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Photo Book'

 

Do Brumbies Dream in Red? – Photo Book

 

 

Meat Market Stables
2 Wreckyn St, North Melbourne

Meat Market Stables website

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24
Apr
21

Exhibition: ‘Photography Is Art’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 8th August 2021

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882) 'Entrance to Black Cañon, Colorado River, from Above' 1871

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Entrance to Black Cañon, Colorado River, from Above
1871
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

A quick posting as I am not feeling that well.

This exhibition drags up that perennial favourite, is photography art? by addressing it in the affirmative ‘Photography Is Art’.

While historically the statement has had to be fought for, even having to make that statement today in the title of exhibition implies – through its very existence – that there still exists an opposite, that photography is not art. Surely a more apposite title could have been found, especially as over half the media images are from a period when photography was collected by major galleries and museums around the world.

Highlights for me are the O’Sullivan, Stieglitz, Clarence H. White and the Gordon Parks.

Let the photographs speak for themselves (now there’s a good title: ‘Speaking for themselves’).
They need no justification.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Has photography always been considered art? Though widely accepted today as a medium in its own right, art museums have not always embraced photography. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that many museums began actively collecting and displaying photographs. Photography Is Art tells the story of American photographers’ efforts, from the late 19th century on, to explore and proclaim photography’s artfulness. Drawn from the Carter’s expansive and renowned photography collection, this exhibition reveals how artists shaped their medium’s artistic language.

Text from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) 'A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris' 1894

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris
1894
Photogravure
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
Gift of Doris Bry

 

Clarence H. White (1871–1925) 'Nude' c. 1900

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Nude
c. 1900
Platinum print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Fort Worth, Texas
Bequest of the Artist

 

Carlotta Corpron (1901-1988) 'A Walk in Fair Park, Dallas' c. 1943

 

Carlotta Corpron (American, 1901-1988)
A Walk in Fair Park, Dallas
c. 1943
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of the artist
© 1988 Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

 

Carlotta Corpron was born in Blue Earth, Minnesota, but spent fifteen years of her youth in India. She returned to the United States in 1920 to earn degrees in art education at Michigan State Normal College and Columbia University, and was first introduced to photography in 1933. Her interest grew out of her desire to create close-up images of natural forms for use in art and design courses, and her vision was influenced by László Moholy-Nagy, and further shaped by her friendship with Gyorgy Kepes, who included her in his book The Language of Vision (1944). Of particular note are Corpron’s early light drawings, made by tracking moving light at amusement parks – radiant images of wild edges and rhythmic lines – and her “space compositions,” which employed eggs and shells, although their real subject is the constructed space in which they exist. This space, achieved by the use of light-reflecting surfaces, often seems to reproduce the perceptual distortions of underwater realms. Corpron also made “fluid light designs” examining reflections on plastic materials; “light follows form” studies of sculpture; abstractions of light flowing through glass; and solarisations of flowers and portraits. She retired from teaching in 1968 but continued printing her earlier work. Corpron’s photographs were shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, and were included in the 1979 ICP exhibition Recollections: Ten Women in Photography.

Corpron’s experiments with light are among the most intriguing abstract photographic works from her day, sharing as they do the concerns of her predecessors Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Her work is significant for its inventive and resolutely independent exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of light and space. Wrought from simple materials and the free play of imagination, Corpron’s light abstractions are increasingly admired.
Cynthia Fredette

Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 212 on the International Centre of Photography website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021.

 

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) 'Leonard "Red" Jackson (standing, right) supervises painting of bicycles belonging to members of his Harlem gang. In foreground is "Brother" Price, Red's cousin and assistant gang leader 1948' Oct. 8, 1948

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Leonard “Red” Jackson (standing, right) supervises painting of bicycles belonging to members of his Harlem gang. In foreground is “Brother” Price, Red’s cousin and assistant gang leader 1948
Oct. 8, 1948
Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Barbara Crane (American, b. 1928) 'NS-015-1969' 1969

 

Barbara Crane (American, b. 1928)
NS-015-1969
1969
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
Gift of Elizabeth, Jennifer, and Bruce Crane

 

Richard Avedon (1923-2004) 'Clyde Corley, Rancher, Belgrade, Montana, 8/26/79' 1979

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Clyde Corley, Rancher, Belgrade, Montana, 8/26/79
1979
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Ellen Carey (American, b. 1952) 'Self-portrait' 1984

 

Ellen Carey (American, b. 1952)
Self-portrait
1984
Dye diffusion transfer print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
© 1984 Ellen Carey

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969) 'The Wall' 2000

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969)
The Wall
2000
Inkjet print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
© Justine Kurland / Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965) 'Peaches and Blackberries' 2008

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965)
Peaches and Blackberries
2008
Dye coupler print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Purchase with funds provided by Nenetta C. Tatum and Stephen L. Tatum

 

Alex Prager (American, b. 1979) 'Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)' 2010

 

Alex Prager (American, b. 1979)
Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)
2010
Dye coupler print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday:
 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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17
Apr
21

Exhibition: ‘Faces. The Power of the Human Visage’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 20th June 2021

Artists: Gertrud Arndt, Marta Astfalck-Vietz, Irene Bayer, Aenne Biermann, Erwin Blumenfeld, Max Burchartz, Suse Byk, Paul Citroen, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Andreas Feininger, Werner David Feist, Trude Fleischmann, Jozef Glogowski, Paul Edmund Hahn, Lotte Jacobi, Grit Kallin-Fischer, Edmund Kesting, Rudolf Koppitz, Kurt Kranz, Anneliese Kretschmer, Germaine Krull, Erna Lendvai-Dircksen, Helmar Lerski, László Moholy-Nagy, Lucia Moholy, Oskar Nerlinger, Erich Retzlaff, Hans Richter, Leni Riefenstahl, Franz Roh, Werner Rohde, Ilse Salberg, August Sander, Franz Xaver Setzer, Robert Siodmak, Anton Stankowski, Edgar G. Ulmer, Umbo, Robert Wiene, Willy Zielke.

 

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956) 'Metamorphosis, 588' 1935-1936

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis, 588
1935-1936
Gelatin silver print
The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna © Estate Helmar Lerski – Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

There is a limited number of media images from Faces. The Power of the Human Visage at the Albertina, Vienna, an exhibition which investigates how 1920s and ’30s saw photographers radically renew the conventional understanding of the classic portrait during the Weimar Republic. From a distance, the overall selection of artists seems slightly ad hoc: mainly German or Austrian, with Swiss, Polish, Danish and American thrown in for good measure. Surely then, you would include luminaries such as Claude Cahun, Florence Henri and Eva Besnyö for example.

The standouts in the posting are August Sander and Herman Lerski, both from opposing camps. Peter Pfrunder observes that Lerski’s earlier subjects, “showed portraits of anonymous people from the underclass of the Berlin society, presenting them as theatrical figures so that professional titles such as “chamber maid”, “beggar” or “textile worker” appeared as arbitrarily applied roles” that reveal the inner face of the photographer (his imagination) – whereas the work of Sander, who was at the same time working on his project “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts”, was an objective, social taxonomy of various representatives of the Weimar society.

Lerksi’s is the more esoteric enterprise, as he sought to provide proof “”that the lens does not have to be objective, that the photographer can, with the help of light, work freely, characterise freely, according to his inner face.” Contrary to the conventional idea of the portrait as an expression of human identity, Lerski used the human face as a projection surface for the figures of his imagination.” The Howard Greenberg gallery suggests that the “portraits” reflect a search for the photographers own wandering soul.

For me Lerki’s project Metamorphosis through Light (1935/36) – 137 “photographs of a man” taken by the artist on a Tel Aviv rooftop using natural sunlight and the help of up to 16 mirrors and filters – is a meditation on the mutability of the human face, identity and psyche, a brooding contemplation on the ever changing nature of the human spirit pictured through the face, over time. In this case, a compressed time atop a rooftop in Tel Aviv using an out-of-work structural draughtsman and light athlete, Leo Uschatz, as a stand-in for the artist himself.

Our face becomes us. It is our presentation to the world of who we are. The worry lines, the grey hair and the broken nose are all hard-earned signs of the life that we have led. The iconography of the face. Lerski captures this outer reflection of our inner self in a series of transcendent, abstract, modernist visages [the manifestation, image, or aspect of something] – that are among the most powerful representations of the human face that have ever been captured on film.

In their very context less being, in their very transposition from prophet, to peasant, to dying soldier, to old woman, to monk, they transgress [go beyond the limits of, and become an aspect of something else] what is normally seen and recognised of what Erwin Goffman calls ‘facework’,1 our interaction through our face with the outside world. They go beyond saving face: “Because in the face the corporeal surface makes visible something of the movements of the soul, ideally.”2

In light, through time, their transmutation is the transformation of our lives, compressed, condensed, communicated.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. For more information on the face, please see my writing Facile, Facies, Facticity (2014)

 

  1. Facework theory is concerned with the ways in which we construct and preserve our self images, or the image of someone else. See Goffman, Erving. (1955) “On face-work: An analysis of ritual elements in social interaction,” in ‘Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes 18, pp. 213-231.
  2. Georges Didi-Huberman. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 49.

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

 

 

Starting from Helmar Lerski’s outstanding photo series Metamorphose – Verwandlungen durch Licht (Metamorphosis through Light) (1935/36), the exhibition Faces presents portraits from the period of the Weimar Republic.

The 1920s and ’30s saw photographers radically renew the conventional understanding of the classic portrait: their aim was no longer to represent an individual’s personality; instead, they conceived of the face as material to be staged according to their own ideas. In this, the photographed face became a locus for dealing with avant-garde aesthetic ideas as well as interwar-period social developments. And it was thus that modernist experiments, the relationship between individual and general type, feminist roll-playing, and political ideologies collided in – and thereby expanded – the general understanding of portrait photography.

 

 

“For heaven’s sake, dear Mr. Meidner, you aren’t going to throw down your brush and palette and become a photographer, are you? … Don’t take offence at the machine. Here too, it’s the spirit that creates value… Photography is something great. It doesn’t do any good to step back and cry. Join in, but hurry! Photography marches on!”

.
Helmar Lerski to the painter Ludwig Meidner, 1930

 

“His model, he [Lerski] told me in Paris, was a young man with a nondescript face who posed on the roof of a house. Lerski took over a hundred pictures of that face from a very short distance, each time subtly changing the light with the aid of screens. Big close-ups, these pictures detailed the texture of the skin so that cheeks and brows turned into a maze of inscrutable runes reminiscent of soil formations, as they appear from an airplane. The result was amazing. None of the photographs recalled the model; and all of them differed from each other.

Out of the original face there arose, evoked by the varying lights, a hundred different faces, among them those of a hero, a prophet, a peasant, a dying soldier, an old woman, a monk. Did these portraits, if portraits they were, anticipate the metamorphoses which the young man would undergo in the future? Or were they just plays of light whimsically projecting on his face dreams and experiences forever alien to him? Proust would have been delighted in Lerski’s experiment with its unfathomable implications.”

.
Siegfried Kracauer. ‘Theory of Film’. Oxford University Press, 1960, p. 162

 

“‘Facies’ simultaneously signifies the singular ‘air’ of a face, the particularity of its aspect, as well as the ‘genre’ or ‘species’ under which this aspect should be subsumed. The facies would thus be a face fixed to a synthetic combination of the universal and the singular: the visage fixed to the regime of ‘representation’, in a Helgian sense.

Why the face? – Because in the face the corporeal surface makes visible something of the movements of the soul, ideally. This also holds for the Cartesian science of the expression of the passions, and perhaps also explains why, from the outset, psychiatric photography took the form of an art of the portrait.”

.
Georges Didi-Huberman. ‘Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere’ (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 49

 

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956) 'Metamorphosis, 536' 1935-1936

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis, 536
1935-1936
Gelatin silver print
The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna © Estate Helmar Lerski – Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956) 'Metamorphosis, 537' 1935-1936

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis, 537
1935-1936
Gelatin silver print
The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna © Estate Helmar Lerski – Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

But Lerski’s pictures were only partly in line with the maxims of the New Photography, and they questioned the validity of pure objectivity. The distinguishing characteristics of his portraits included a theatrical-expressionistic, sometimes dramatic use of lighting inspired by the silent film. Although his close-up photographs captured the essential features of a face – eyes, nose and mouth –, his primary concern was not individual appearance or superficial likeness but the deeper inner potential: he emphasised the changeability, the different faces of an individual. Lerski, who sympathised with the political left wing, thereby infiltrated the photography of types that was practised (and not infrequently misused for racist purposes) by many of Lerski’s contemporaries.

In his book “Köpfe des Alltags” (Everyday Faces) (1931), a milestone in the history of photographic books, Lerski clearly expressed his convictions: he showed portraits of anonymous people from the underclass of the Berlin society, presenting them as theatrical figures so that professional titles such as “chamber maid”, “beggar” or “textile worker” appeared as arbitrarily applied roles. Thus his photographs may be interpreted as an important opposite standpoint to the work of August Sander, who was at the same time working on his project “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts” – that large-scale attempt at a social localisation of various representatives of the Weimar society.

But Helmar Lerski’s attitude was at its most radical in his work entitled “Metamorphosis”. This was completed within a few months at the beginning of 1936 in Palestine, to where Lerski and his second wife Anneliese had immigrated in 1932. In “Verwandlungen durch Licht” (this is the second title for this work), Lerski carried his theatrical talent to extremes. With the help of up to 16 mirrors and filters, he directed the natural light of the sun in constant new variations and refractions onto his model, the Bernese-born, at the time out-of-work structural draughtsman and light athlete Leo Uschatz. Thus he achieved, in a series of over 140 close-ups “hundreds of different faces, including that of a hero, a prophet, a peasant, a dying soldier, an old woman and a monk from one single original face” (Siegfried Kracauer). According to Lerski, these pictures were intended to provide proof “that the lens does not have to be objective, that the photographer can, with the help of light, work freely, characterise freely, according to his inner face.” Contrary to the conventional idea of the portrait as an expression of human identity, Lerski used the human face as a projection surface for the figures of his imagination. We are only just becoming aware of the modernity of this provocative series of photographs.

Peter Pfrunder. “Helmar Lerski: Metamorphosis,” on the Fotostiftung Schweiz website 2005 [Online] Cited 17/04/2021.

 

Lerski led a nomadic existence, driven by the events that splintered Europe and the Holy Lands throughout his life. His life was a sequence of transportations without a central resting place. It might be assumed that his thematic focus in photography, as pictured in his books Köpfe des Alltags, Les Juifs (of the “Jewish Heads” series) and Metamorphosis Through Light was of an external fascination with the human face and gesture but really reflects a search for his own self. The constant exposure to anti-Semitism and its horrible repercussions resulted in an acknowledgment of his own Judaism and for an historical identity. Ultimately, Lerski’s penetrating vision of others is a mirror of his own wandering soul.

Anonymous text on the Howard Greenberg website [Online] Cited 17/04/2021.

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956) 'Metamorphosis, 604' 1935-1936

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis, 604
1935-1936
Gelatin silver print
The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna © Estate Helmar Lerski – Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Marta Astfalck-Vietz (German, 1901-1994) 'Ohne Titel (Marta Vietz, Akt mit Spitze)' c. 1927

 

Marta Astfalck-Vietz (German, 1901-1994)
Ohne Titel (Marta Vietz, Akt mit Spitze) (Marta Vietz, nude with lace)
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
Dietmar Katz/Berlinische Galerie © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Dietmar Katz/Berlinische Galerie

 

 

Almost all of her archive was lost when her Berlin home was bombed in 1943. What remains was discovered by the curator Janos Frecot in 1989 and is now housed at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin.

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Handlanger' (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln; BILDRECHT, Wien, 2020

 

 

Later in the 1920s Sander shot what was to become one of his most iconic works, ‘Handlanger (Bricklayer)’. This photograph belongs to ‘The Skilled Tradesman’, one of seven chapters within his People of the 20th Century project. The title and subject of this photograph form an archetype of Sander’s sociological documentation of people from a variety of occupations and social classes. Formally, the portrait’s centrality, flat background and conventional framing demonstrate Sander’s investment in photography as a ‘truth-telling’ device; one which represents reality as it is, without formal experimentation and within the boundaries of the history of photographic portraiture. Sander wrote in his seminal lecture ‘Photography as a Universal Language’ that photography was the medium most able to best reflect the ‘physical path to demonstrable truth and understand physiognomy’.

Anonymous text from the Hauser and Wirth website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

August Sander’s Handlanger is one of the photographer’s definitive images from his epic series, Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (Men of the Twentieth Century). Sander also selected this image for publication in Antlitz der Zeit, his seminal 1929 book of portraits of the German people. Although very much of-a-piece with the portraits in this book, Handlanger stands out for the intensity of its subject’s gaze and for Sander’s strongly symmetrical composition. The photograph is an archetypal portrait of the working man, emanating capability and strength.

Titled simply Handlanger (hod-carrier, or handyman), this image took its place in Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time) alongside portraits of farmers, bureaucrats, students, political radicals, artists, and others, most identified only by their occupation or type. Sander’s purpose was to create a collective portrait of the German populace that was thoroughly objective, unsentimental, and unprejudiced. His stated goal was nothing less than ‘… to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people.’ Sander’s project and its inclusive scope, however, brought him to the attention of the German authorities. In 1934, the Reich Chamber of Arts ordered the destruction of the printing plates for Antlitz der Zeit and the seizure of all copies, effectively halting Sander’s picture-making.

Anonymous text from the Sothebys website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Jungbauern' (Young Farmers) 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern (Young Farmers)
1914
Gelatin silver print
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln; BILDRECHT, Wien, 2020

 

 

What This Photo Doesn’t Show

 

Irene Bayer-Hecht (American, 1898-1991) 'Andor Weininger as Clown' 1926

 

Irene Bayer-Hecht (American, 1898-1991)
Andor Weininger as Clown
1926
Gelatin silver paper
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

Chicago-born but raised in Hungary, Irene Bayer-Hecht studied commercial art in Berlin. After seeing the Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, she decided to concentrate on fine art. In 1925 she married Herbert Bayer and moved to Dessau, where she studied photography at the Bauhaus in order to assist him in his work. Her own photographs were mostly of people, both portraits and formal studies. Bayer’s work was included in the landmark Film und Foto exhibition in 1929 in Stuttgart. After moving back to the United States in 1938, Bayer gave up photography and became a translator.

Anonymous text from the J. Paul Getty website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

An international figure, Irene Bayer-Hecht was born in Chicago, grew up in Hungary, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Berlin, and the Sorbonne and École de Beaux-Arts, Paris. In 1923 she visited the first large Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar, where she met Herbert Bayer, whom she married in 1925. This allowed her to attend the Bauhaus’s Vorkurs (foundation course) that year without formally enrolling at the school. At the same time she attended photography courses at the Academy of Graphic Arts and Book Publishing in Leipzig. She took her own photographs and also used her technical training to support Bayer’s photographic work. The couple separated in 1928. Beyer-Hecht’s photographs feature experimental approaches and candid views of life at the Bauhaus; these pictures were included in the exhibition Film und Foto, in 1929. In 1938 she returned to the United States, abandoning photography and working instead as a translator.

Mitra Abbaspour on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

Gertrud Arndt (German, 1903-2000) 'Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 22' (Mask self-portrait No. 22) 1930

 

Gertrud Arndt (German, 1903-2000)
Maskenselbstbildnis Nr. 22 (Mask self-portrait No. 22)
1930
Silbergelatinepapier
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Bildrecht, Wien 2020

 

 

Gertrud Arndt (born Gertrud Hantschk in Upper Silicia) set out to become an architect, beginning a three-year apprenticeship in 1919 at the architecture firm of Karl Meinhardt in Erfurt, where her family lived at the time. While there, she began teaching herself photography by taking pictures of buildings in town. She also attended courses in typography, drawing, and art history at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of design). Encouraged by Meinhardt, a friend of Walther Gropius, Arndt was awarded a scholarship to continue her studies at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Enrolled from 1923 to 1927, Arndt took the Vorkurs (foundation course) from László Moholy-Nagy, who was a chief proponent of the value of experimentation with photography. After her Vorkurs, Georg Muche, leader of the weaving workshop, persuaded her to join his course, which then became the formal focus of her studies. Upon graduation, in March 1927, she married fellow Bauhaus graduate and architect Alfred Arndt. The couple moved to Probstzella in Eastern Germany, where Arndt photographed buildings for her husband’s architecture firm. In 1929, Hannes Meyer invited Alfred Arndt to teach at the Bauhaus, where Arndt focused her energy on photography, entering her period of greatest activity, featuring portraits of friends, still-lifes, and a series of performative self-portraits, as well as At the Masters’ Houses (MoMA 1607.2001), which shows the influence of her studies with Moholy-Nagy as well as her keen eye for architecture. After the Bauhaus closed, in 1932, the couple left Dessau and moved back to Probstzella. Three years after the end of World War II the family moved to Darmstadt; Arndt almost completely stopped making photographs.

Mitra Abbaspour on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

In 1930, Gertrud Arndt, a Bauhaus-taught weaver and textile designer, took forty-three portraits of herself in only a few days. Adopting a style which was in direct contrast with the functional Bauhaus aesthetic – indeed, it was a “welcome break” from it –, Arndt slipped into the rôles of different eras and cultural circles and captured these mises en scène with her camera. They were private photographs, photographs intended purely as a means of coming to terms with her own self, not for publication.

 

Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961) 'Lotte (Auge)' 1928

 

Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961)
Lotte (Auge)
1928
Silbergelatinepapier
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Bildrecht, Wien 2020

 

 

Max Burchartz (1887-1961) studied painting at the Akademie der Künste in Düsseldorf and came into contact with the Bauhaus in Weimar during the 1920s. In 1924 together with Johannes Canis he opened an advertising agency in Bochum, which gained a reputation for creating innovative advertising campaigns with photography and typography. Until 1932 Burchartz taught photography and commercial art at the Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in Essen. One of his students was Anton Stankowski. After Hilter came to power in 1933 Burchartz joined the Nazi Party and voluntarily joined the German army which he remained in until the end of the war. In 1949 he was reappointed to the Folkwangschule, where he taught until 1955, publishing books on design theory such as Schule des Schauens in 1962.

 

Two pages from the book 'Faces. The Power of the Human Visage'

 

Two pages from the book Faces. The Power of the Human Visage. Hirmer Verlag GmbH Hardcover – 25 May 2021

 

Oskar Nerlinger (German, 1893-1969) 'Kopf mit Taschenlampe' (Head with flashlight) c. 1928

 

Oskar Nerlinger (German, 1893-1969)
Kopf mit Taschenlampe (Head with flashlight)
c. 1928
Silbergelatinepapier
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Sigrid Nerlinger

 

 

Excluded & yet entangled in two dictatorships: The political constructivist Oskar Nerlinger 10/02/2021

 

 

Oskar Nerlinger (1893-1969) was one of the most important artists of the committed art scene in the Weimar Republic. He was a member of the Association of Proletarian Revolutionary Art (ASSO for short), which was founded in 1928 and belonged to the KPD, which cooperated with the Soviet avant-garde artist group Oktober. At that time there was no conflict between positions of aesthetic modernism and KPD politics. In 1932 the political and artistic avant-garde in the Soviet Union fell apart, with serious consequences for left-wing artists in Germany. Almost at the same time, the Nazi system broke with all forms of modernity. With his idea of art suddenly doubly isolated within his own party, which followed Stalin’s art verdict, and within Germany through the Nazi art policy, Nerlinger went into so-called “inner emigration”, but behaved in a very contradictory manner and adapted his artistic language to the Nazi aesthetics. After 1945 he joined the SED and followed the given political norms of socialist realism as part of the formalism campaign.

The twofold turning point in 1932 and 1933 left lasting traces in Oskar Nerlinger’s art. With this transition from innovation to regression, Nerlinger stands for a whole generation of politically committed artists in the Weimar Republic who, blindly believing in the doctrines of the communist party, gave up their own aesthetic and moral convictions. In a paradoxical way, Nerlinger was marginalised and at the same time entangled in two dictatorships.

 

Erich Retzlaff (German, 1899-1993) 'Bride's Traditional Dress from Kleines Walsertal' before 1936

 

Erich Retzlaff (German, 1899-1993)
Bride’s Traditional Dress from Kleines Walsertal
before 1936
From German Folk Costumes
17.6 × 12.3cm
Gelatin silver print on supporting cardboard
The Albertina Museum, Vienna – Permanent loan from the Österreichische Ludwig-Stiftung für Kunst und Wissenschaft)
© Volker Graf Bethusy-Huc

 

 

Erich Max Wilhelm Retzlaff was born in Reinfeld in Schleswig Holstein, Germany on October 9th 1899. He came from a prosperous protestant middle class background. His father, Friedrich, was the noted author of the definitive Handbuch für die Polizei im Reich (German police handbook) published in 1892. The young Erich grew up in the twilight of the Wilhelmine era and enlisted enthusiastically into the German army in 1916 to fight in the First World War. Retzlaff served as a machine gunner on the western front (Flanders), was very badly wounded and subsequently spent over a year in a military hospital. He received the Iron Cross (second class).

After the conclusion of the war he drifted into work in civilian life eventually completing a business apprenticeship in a paint factory in Düsseldorf. With help from one of his former army officers, Retzlaff was able to secure a position as a supplies buyer for a factory in Hamburg. He began to earn a decent salary and became a patron of the arts, visiting many exhibitions and associating with artists to the point that he contemplated a creative career himself. But Retzlaff was unable to pursue painting; his wounds during the war had left his hand permanently damaged. Instead, Retzlaff began to experiment with photography, initially as an amateur enthusiast and then ultimately as a career, starting up a small photographic portrait studio on the Königsallee (Düsseldorf). By the late 1920s Retzlaff moved to larger premises on the Kaiserstrasse as custom increased and the business grew. His circle of friends and associates widened and by the late 1930s included painters such as Werner Peiner, Emil Nolde, the photographer Paul Wolff and the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. A passionate German Nationalist, Retzlaff became a member of Hitler’s National Socialist party in 1932 (No.1014457).

Retzlaff moved his studio several times during the 1930s and 1940s working in a number of locations including locations in Düsseldorf and Berlin. He also expanded his oeuvre as commercial needs demanded and as well as his portraits he photographed traditional German regional costumes, landscapes and industrial scenes. However, at the heart of his portfolio was Retzlaff’s interest in photographing in a physiognomic way. Physiognomy is a belief that one can read a face to discover the personality and character of the individual. Physiognomy was hugely popular as a means of evaluating people and their lives in Germany after the First World War. During the Hitler years this interest continued with an added emphasis on race. The focus of Retzlaff’s photographs from this period was making images that applied a physiognomic parascience within a political and ideological framework.

After 1945 Retzlaff continued to make his living as a photographer and his work was still widely published. His portfolio from the post-war period includes fashion photography, landscapes, portraits of prominent Germans (such as Chancellor Konrad Adenauer), and dramatic images of West German industry. However, in a general sense, the photographs he made after 1945 are less dynamic than the work made in the 1930s and 40s. The images tend to lack the punch and bite of the earlier Retzlaff. The ideology is gone and with it the personal sense of purpose that his earlier images possessed.

These biographical details are drawn from the transcript of Professor Doctor Rolf Sachsse’s 1979 recorded interview with Erich Retzlaff and from additional biographical information provided to me by Retzlaff’s son Herr Jürgen Retzlaff and his daughter Bettina Retzlaff-Cumming.

Text on the Aberystwyth University website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

Franz Roh (German, 1890-1965) 'Masquerade' 1928-1933

 

Franz Roh (German, 1890-1965)
Masquerade
1928-1933
Gelatin silver print
Münchner Stadtmuseum – Nachlass Franz Roh, München

 

 

The 1920s are the decade of masquerade in the history of modern art. Was it the coming of the cinema, that “Hades of the Living”, in which the protagonists forever assume new identities and “the shadows already become immortal while still alive”31, or was it first and foremost the psychological consequences of the profound social changes following the First World War which made masks, disguises and rôle-playing the favourite means of self-stylisation and self-discovery among artists and writers of both sexes? For the psychoanalyst Joan Rivière, masquerade was one of the essential features of womanliness, which – she wrote in 1929 – “could be assumed and worn as a mask”, both to hide the possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to possess it. […] The reader may now ask how I define womanliness or where I draw the line between genuine womanliness and the ‘masquerade’. My suggestion is not, however, that there is any such difference; whether radical or superficial, they are the same thing.”32 Gender rôle-playing, hitherto reserved in the 19th century for the very close circles of male-attired lesbians, became a fashion phenomenon with the arrival of the “garçonne” in the 1920s.33 The poetess Else Lasker-Schüler, who would frequently masquerade as the Prince of Thebes in the literary cafés of Berlin, was written about as follows: “Disguise was an aid to becoming a person. It symbolises the ego in the process of either developing or disintegrating. […] Disguise is both the secret and the prediction of a person who seeks himself or herself in the game of (mis)taken identities; one who is versatile in the art of transformation, who can condense into many different persons again and again, but never into a tangible personality.”34 Thus photography was the ideal means of objectifying these transformations and of viewing one’s other self from a distance.

Extract from Herbert Molderings and Barbara Mülhens-Molderings. “Mirrors, Masks and Spaces. Self-portraits by Women Photographers in the twenties and thirties,” on the Jeu de Paume website 03/06/2011 [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

Franz Roh (21 February 1890 – 30 December 1965), was a German historian, photographer, and art critic. Roh is perhaps best known for his 1925 book Nach Expressionismus: Magischer Realismus: Probleme der neuesten europäischen Malerei (“After expressionism: Magical Realism: Problems of the newest European painting”) he coined the term magic realism.

Roh was born in Apolda (in present-day Thuringia), Germany. He studied at universities in Leipzig, Berlin, and Basel. In 1920, he received his Ph.D. in Munich for a work on Dutch paintings of the 17th century. As a photographer and critic, he absolutely hated photographs that mimicked painting, charcoal, or drawings. During the Nazi regime, he was isolated and briefly put in jail for his book Foto-Auge (Photo-Eye); he used his jail time he used to write the book Der Verkannte Künstler: Geschichte und Theorie des kulturellen Mißverstehens (“The unrecognised artist: history and theory of cultural misunderstanding”). After the war, in 1946, he married art historian Juliane Bartsch. He died in Munich.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

An art historian, photographer, and art critic, Franz Roh deplored photographs that were derived from painting or pretended to be drawings or charcoal sketches. His writings brought him close to avant-garde artists, who inspired many of his photographs. In 1929 he co-published and co-edited a book, Foto-Auge (Photo-Eye), with graphic designer Jan Tschichold. Asserting that photographs were an effective weapon against “the mechanisation of spirit” and one of the world’s greatest physical, chemical, and technological wonders, Roh and Tschichold based the book on a film and photography exhibition held in Stuttgart. The book’s progressive stance led to Roh’s brief imprisonment by the government censors, who forbade him to continue writing. In 1946 he was awarded a professorship at the University of Munich, a position he held for the remainder of his life.

Anonymous text from the J.Paul Getty website [Online] Cited 07/04/2021

 

Two pages from the book 'Faces. The Power of the Human Visage'

 

Two pages from the book Faces.The Power of the Human Visage. Hirmer Verlag GmbH Hardcover – 25 May 2021

 

Lotte Jacobi (American, 1896-1990) 'Head of the Dancer Niura Norskaya' 1929

 

Lotte Jacobi (American, 1896-1990)
Head of the Dancer Niura Norskaya
1929

 

 

Lotte Jacobi (August 17, 1896 – May 6, 1990) was a leading American portrait photographer and photojournalist, known for her high-contrast black-and-white portrait photography, characterised by intimate, sometimes dramatic, sometimes idiosyncratic and often definitive humanist depictions of both ordinary people in the United States and Europe and some of the most important artists, thinkers and activists of the 20th century.

 

Two pages from the book 'Faces. The Power of the Human Visage'

 

Two pages from the book Faces. The Power of the Human Visage. Hirmer Verlag GmbH Hardcover – 25 May 2021

 

Cover from the book 'Faces. The Power of the Human Visage'

 

Cover from the book Faces. The Power of the Human Visage featuring Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956) Metamorphosis, 537 1935-1936

 

 

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09
Apr
21

Review: ‘Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th February  –  18th April 2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative
39 x 58cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

“One can also pursue politics with art.
Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.”

.
Hans Richter

 

“I always wanted to document people’s lives – their work, their family, their relationships, their leisure – their pain and pleasure.

“To me, every individual’s life is more wondrous than any fantasy could ever be.”

.
Ruth Maddison

 

 

The Art of a Fellow Traveller

Since the 1970s Australia has been blessed with many talented women photographers… Sue Ford, Carol Jerrems, Joyce Evans, Ponch Hawkes, Micky Allan, Ruth Maddison, Rosemary Laing, Hoda Afshar, Anne Ferran, Katrin Koenning, Robyn Stacey, Janina Green, Bindi Cole, Tracey Moffatt, Polixeni Papapetrou, Pat Brassington, Claire Rae, Claudia Terstappen, Jacqui Stockdale, Siri Hayes, Petrina Hicks, Kim Lawler, Carolyn Lewens, Nicola Loder, Jill Orr, Kim Percy, Patricia Piccinini, Elizabeth Gertsakis, Jane Brown, to name just a few…

 ** Thinking. Australia. For such a small (in population) and isolated (geographically) country, rarely in the history of photography can there have been such an accumulated wealth of talent within the space of 60 years or so. I have suggested to a major public gallery in Melbourne a group exhibition of these artists but it went nowhere. Why? This is world class talent! **

.
Which brings me to the exhibition Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times which occupies all galleries at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

What a delight it is to see this artist in full flight in this exceptionally strong exhibition. As pictured in the flow of images, Maddison has carved her name as a social documentary and feminist photographer, her holistic body of work providing a “significant contribution to the documentation of Australian life and society from the 1970s to the present – from her earliest iconic hand-coloured works, the working life of women, Melbourne’s social and cultural life of the 1980s, and Maddison’s documentation of the people and industries of her adopted home of Eden.”

Through direct, frontal mainly black and white / hand coloured photographs, Maddison builds compelling stories in her work, stories which explore the cultures and sub-cultures of Australia: the political upheavals, alternative lifestyles and counter culture, the women’s movement, gay liberation, Vietnam, union, nuclear, anti-fascist and other protests; the fight for equality and equal pay, the fight against discrimination and other actions that fight for fairness, acceptance and respect for all, within Australian society. With compassion and understanding Maddison pictures youth and exuberance, old age and protest, life on the land and sea, and life leaving it for the cities. Her photographs serve a testificatory function – related to BOTH a person who has witnessed these events (the artist) AND an object used as evidence (the photograph).

Maddison’s testimony to such events creates a polyperspectivity – not so much in terms of what the camera sees in individual images, but in what it sees directed by the artist over an entire career, comprising more than 40 years. Of looking, of being present, of being ethical. In her work, “the shadows already become immortal while still alive.”1

This is the crux of the matter. Since the very day that Maddison picked up a camera being ethical when representing the world around her has been a gut reaction. “Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.” Her presentation of the world reflects her character and disposition. Her ethos is embedded in her being and psyche – the human soul, mind AND spirit. You can’t make this stuff up, you either have it or you don’t.

Maddison has this generosity of spirit in spades. The belief in balance, fairness, and equality for all. Yes, her photographs document people’s pleasure and pain, their lives, their existence but only through her own presence and vision. Her photographs are a reflection of her inner being, her spirit. What she believes the world can be, should be. It is this force of nature, her own being, that propels the investigation forwards. Never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic, the world needs such ethical artists. To remind us for what we fight for.

For example, Netflix have recently announced a new “docu-soap” series “Byron Baes” (babes) to be filmed in the northern NSW beachside town of Byron Bay, which will reveal “hot Instagrammers, living their best lives, being their best selves,” with a cast of “celebrity-adjacent-adjacent influencers.” Who cares about these egotistical non-entities, when in the town drug use is rampant, housing is unaffordable and people cannot get a job! That is the real story, one which an artist such as Maddison would recognise and document with empathy and insight.

Maddison is a fellow traveller2 and I travel with her. She doesn’t follow “the running dog of capitalism” – or as people used to call them, “running dogs”3 – nipping at your heels, constantly harassing you, but these days not even that… just lackadaisical multinational corporations who don’t even care to hide their disdain for the working class, or their ecological disdain for the health of the world. All that matters is money and keeping the shareholders happy. She follows her own path and long may that continue. Looking and documenting is always both personal and political and this is Maddison’s story: “Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.” Blessings to her.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Joseph Roth, quoted, in translation, from Ulrich Raulff. “Umbrische Figuren,” in Floris M. Neusüss. Fotogramme – die lichtreichen Schatten. Kassel 1983, p. 16.
  2. A person who travels with another; a person who is not a member of a particular group or political party … but who sympathises with the group’s aims and policies.
  3. A servile follower, especially of a political system.

.
Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the installation photographs at the bottom of the posting. All other iPhone photographs by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gallery One

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at left the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (born Australia 1945) 'No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)' 1977-78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)
1977-78
From the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Christmas holiday with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1977/78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945) 'Christmas Holidays with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne