Archive for the 'Polaroid photography' Category

23
Sep
21

Exhibition: ‘Dawoud Bey: An American Project’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 3rd October 2021

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). From left to right: Fresh Coons and Wild Rabbits, Harlem, NY, 1975; A Boy in Front of the Loew’s 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976; A Woman and a Child in the Doorway, Harlem, NY, 1975; Clockwise, from top left: Four Children at Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY, 1977; A Woman and Two Boys Passing, Harlem, NY, 1978; Deas McNeil, the Barber, Harlem, NY, 1976; A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, Harlem, NY, 1976; Two Girls at Lady D’s, Harlem, NY, c. 1976; A Young Boy from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1977; Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978; A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

 

To fit it in with other exhibitions closing soon, a mid-week posting on this strong exhibition – Dawoud Bey: An American Project – this time at the Whitney Museum of American Art, with further media images, audio and installation photographs. The first posting with my comments about the exhibition was at the High Museum of Art.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

 

 

Dawoud Bey: An American Project

Since the mid-1970s, Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) has worked to expand upon what photography can and should be. Insisting that it is an ethical practice requiring collaboration with his subjects, he creates poignant meditations on visibility, power, and race. Bey chronicles communities and histories that have been largely underrepresented or even unseen, and his work lends renewed urgency to an enduring conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera.

Spanning from his earliest street portraits in Harlem to his most recent series imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Dawoud Bey: An American Project attests to the artist’s profound engagement with the Black subject. He is deeply committed to the craft of photography, drawing on the medium’s specific tools, processes, and materials to amplify the formal, aesthetic, and conceptual goals of each body of work. Bey views photography not only as a form of personal expression but as an act of political responsibility, emphasising the necessary and ongoing work of artists and institutions to break down obstacles to access, convene communities, and open dialogues.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project is co-organised by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is co-curated by Elisabeth Sherman, Assistant Curator at the Whitney, and Corey Keller, Curator of Photography at SFMOMA.

 

Room 800 Introduction

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Girls at Lady D's, Harlem, NY' c. 1976, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Girls at Lady D’s, Harlem, NY
c. 1976, printed 2019
From Harlem, U.S.A.
Gelatin silver print
11 × 14 in. (27.9 × 35.6cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
Image courtesy the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Four Children at Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY' 1977, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Four Children at Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY
1977, printed 2019
From Harlem, U.S.A.
Gelatin silver print
11 × 14 in. (27.9 × 35.6cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

1

.
Harlem, U.S.A.

Bey began photographing in Harlem in 1975, at the age of twenty-two. Although he was raised in Queens, Bey was intimately connected to the neighbourhood: his parents had met there, and members of his extended family still made it their home. Drawn to the neighbourhood as both a symbol of and a wellspring for Black American culture, Bey wanted to portray its residents as complex individuals in images free of stereotype. These works all come from the series Harlem, U.S.A. (1975-79).

Bey used a 35mm camera with a slightly wide-angle lens, which required him to get close to his subjects while grounding them in the cityscape behind them. His set-up was nimble and discreet, and let the artist carefully control the framing. In 1979, the series was exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, a museum dedicated to the arts of the African diaspora. Even at this very early moment in his career, it was critical to Bey that the works be shown in the community where they were made, allowing the people he was representing to have access to the work they inspired.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, Harlem, NY' 1977, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, Harlem, NY
1977, printed 2019
From Harlem, U.S.A.
Gelatin silver print
14 × 11 in. overall (35.6 × 27.9cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Four Teenagers after Church Service, Syracuse, NY' 1985, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Four Teenagers after Church Service, Syracuse, NY
1985, printed 2019
Gelatin silver print
20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). Clockwise, from top left: Two Boys, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Young Man with a Bus Transfer, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Two Boys at a Syracuse Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Car in Backyard, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Young Woman Waiting for the Bus, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Young Man at the Bus Stop, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Four Teenagers After Church Service, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986; Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Woman and Three Children, Syracuse, NY, 1985. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY' 1985, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY
1985, printed 2019
Gelatin silver print
20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
Image courtesy the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

2

.
Syracuse, NY

For much of the 1980s Bey continued to use the same slightly wide-angle lens and 35mm camera that he had used to make Harlem, U.S.A. Increasingly attuned to the formal and expressive geometries of the camera’s rectangular frame, he explored new ways to make use of shadow and light to help define a dynamic and improvisational composition. These aesthetic choices were deeply informed by the photographers he knew and studied, most importantly Roy DeCarava (1919-2009).

In 1985 Bey had a residency at Light Work in Syracuse, New York. Residencies and the projects that grew out of them would become a key aspect of his career, allowing him to focus on one place or organisation and incorporate that specificity into his work. In this series of photographs made in Syracuse, Bey portrays the city’s Black community. He noted: “It was a deliberate choice to foreground the Black subject in those photographs, giving them a place not only in my pictures … but on the wall[s] of galleries and museums when that work was exhibited.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Woman Waiting for the Bus, Syracuse, NY' 1985, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Woman Waiting for the Bus, Syracuse, NY
1985, printed 2019
Gelatin silver print
20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Ask a Curator: Dawoud Bey: An American Project

Join assistant curator Elisabeth Sherman and curatorial assistant Ambika Trasi for an overview of the exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project. For more than four decades, Dawoud Bey has used the camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, power, and race, chronicling communities and histories that have largely been underrepresented or even unseen. The exhibition traces continuities across Bey’s major series, from his earliest street portraits in Harlem through his most recent project imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad.

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). From left to right: A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990; A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988; A Man at Fulton Street and Cambridge Place, Brooklyn, NY, 1988; A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988; Max, Celia, Ramon, and Candida, New York, NY, 1992; Martina and Rhonda, Chicago, IL, 1993. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man at Fulton Street and Cambridge Place, Brooklyn, NY' 1988, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man at Fulton Street and Cambridge Place, Brooklyn, NY
1988, printed 2019
Pigmented inkjet print
30 × 40 in. (76.2 × 101.6cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

3

.
Type 55 Polaroid Street Portraits

After more than a decade of using a handheld 35mm camera, in 1988 Bey chose to slow down his process, moving to a larger and more conspicuous tripod-mounted 4 × 5-inch-format camera to make this series of street portraits. Like many other photographers working at that time, Bey was increasingly concerned with the ethics of traditional street photography, “which privileged the photographer at the expense of the subject,” and sought more equitable, reciprocal relationships with his sitters.

He began openly approaching strangers he wished to photograph in order to give “the Black subjects [a space] to assert themselves and their presence in the world, with their gaze meeting the viewer’s on equal footing.” He used Polaroid Type 55 film, which produced both instant pictures that he gave to the sitters and negatives that could be used later to make additional prints. Printing technologies have advanced in the decades since Bey made the photographs; the images here have been reprinted at nearly life-size, realising his original intention of creating a more heightened encounter between subject and viewer.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Boy Eating a Foxy Pop, Brooklyn, NY' 1988, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Boy Eating a Foxy Pop, Brooklyn, NY
1988, printed 2019
Pigmented inkjet print
40 × 30 in. (101.6 × 76.2cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Room 803 Young Man at a Tent Revival, Brooklyn, NY

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Young Man at a Tent Revival, Brooklyn, NY' 1989, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Young Man at a Tent Revival, Brooklyn, NY
1989, printed 2019
Pigmented inkjet print
40 × 30 in. (101.6 × 76.2cm)
Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). From left to right: (clockwise, from top left) Two Boys, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Young Man with a Bus Transfer, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Two Boys at a Syracuse Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Car in Backyard, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Young Woman Waiting for the Bus, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Young Man at the Bus Stop, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Four Teenagers After Church Service, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986; Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985; A Woman and Three Children, Syracuse, NY, 1985; Kenosha II, 1996; Hilary and Taro, Chicago, IL, 1992; A Girl with School Medals, Brooklyn, NY, 1988; A Boy Eating a Foxy Pop, Brooklyn, NY, 1988; A Girl with a Knife Nosepin, Brooklyn, NY, 1990. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Hilary and Taro, Chicago, IL' 1992

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Hilary and Taro, Chicago, IL
1992
Two dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroids)
30 1/8 × 44 in. overall (76.5 × 111.8cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Max, Celia, Ramon and Candida, New York, NY' 1992

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Max, Celia, Ramon and Candida, New York, NY
1992
Three dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroid)
30 × 67 7/8 in. overall (76.2 × 167.64cm)
Collection of Candida Alvarez
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

4

.
20 × 24 Polaroids

In 1991, Bey began using the 20 × 24-inch camera that the Polaroid Corporation made available to artists through its Artist Support Program. The camera was gargantuan and cumbersome – more than two hundred pounds and over six feet tall and five feet wide – and required two people to operate it, the photographer and a technician. Unlike the chance, and often brief, encounters with his subjects outside when using a 35mm camera, the Polaroid camera studio sessions offered Bey the opportunity to orchestrate all the conditions of the image and to have a more contemplative and sustained engagement with each sitter.

His earliest subjects were his artist friends; later he photographed teenagers that he met through a series of residencies at high schools and museums around the country. Over the course of Bey’s eight-year engagement with the 20 × 24-inch Polaroid camera, he increasingly explored the possibilities of multi-panel portraiture as a way of conveying a sense of the length of a portrait session as well as acknowledging the reality that no one image can fully portray an individual’s complexity.

 

Room 804 Lorna, New York, NY

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Lorna, New York, NY' 1992

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Lorna, New York, NY
1992
Two dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroid)
30 × 44 in. overall (76.2 × 111.76cm)
Collection of Eileen Harris Norton
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Martina and Rhonda, Chicago, IL' 1993

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Martina and Rhonda, Chicago, IL
1993
Six dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroid)
48 × 60 in. overall (121.9 × 152.4cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Eric Ceputis and David W. Williams
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

 

Reimagining History: Dawoud Bey in conversation with Jason Moran and Sarah M. Broom

On the occasion of the exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project, this conversation brings Dawoud Bey together with artist and musician Jason Moran and writer Sarah M. Broom to discuss their shared interest in specific histories and shared memories as the ground for their respective practices.

Inspired by Bey’s The Birmingham Project (2012) – a tribute to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL, in 1963 – and Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2019), which imagines the flight of enslaved Black Americans along the final leg of the Underground Railroad, the three speakers reflect on how an artwork can become an act of commemoration and radical reinvention.

Jason Moran is an interdisciplinary artist, musician, and composer who draws on and celebrates the history of Black music and musicians such as James Reese Europe, Thelonious Monk, and Fats Waller, among others.

Sarah M. Broom is the author of The Yellow House, a memoir that weaves the story of her family in New Orleans across multiple generations.

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). From left to right, from Class PicturesKevin, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, 2005; Simone, Kenwood Academy, Chicago, IL, 2003; Danny, Fashion Industries High School, New York, NY, 2006. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Kevin, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA' 2005

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Kevin, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
2005
From Class Pictures
Pigmented inkjet print
40 × 32 in. (101.6 × 81.3cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

5

.
Class Pictures

Bey has long understood that the act of representation – as well as the corollary act of being seen – is both powerful and political. In Class Pictures (1992-2006) he once again turned his attention to teenagers, a population he felt was underrepresented and misjudged, seen either as “socially problematic or as engines for a certain consumerism.” The series originated during a residency at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, where Bey began working with local high-school students; during residencies at other museums and schools around the country, he expanded the project to capture a geographically and socioeconomically diverse slice of American adolescence.

Working in empty classrooms between class periods, Bey made careful and tender formal colour portraits of teens. He then invited them to write brief autobiographical statements to accompany their images, giving his subjects voice as well as visibility. Many of the residencies also included a curatorial project with the students using works in the museums’ collections. While the photographs and texts are what remain of these projects, it is the collaborative undertaking that Bey considers the work of Class Pictures.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Jordan, School of the Arts, San Francisco, CA' 2006

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Jordan, School of the Arts, San Francisco, CA
2006
From Class Pictures
Pigmented inkjet print
40 × 32 in. (101.6 × 81.3cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Omar, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA' 2005, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Omar, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
2005, printed 2019
From Class Pictures
Pigmented inkjet print
40 × 32 in. (101.6 × 81.3cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Room 805 Omar, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Omar, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA' 2005, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Omar, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA (detail)
2005, printed 2019
From Class Pictures
Pigmented inkjet print
40 × 32 in. (101.6 × 81.3cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Braxton McKinney and Lavone Thomas, Birmingham, AL' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Braxton McKinney and Lavone Thomas, Birmingham, AL
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Pigmented inkjet prints
40 × 32 in. each (101.6 × 81.3cm each)
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

6

.
The Birmingham Project

On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four Black girls – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley – inside. Two Black boys – Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware – were also killed in racially motivated violence later that day. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project (2012) commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event. The artist made formal portraits of Birmingham residents, pairing children the same ages as the victims with adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived.

Bey said of the experience making these works: “To think of someone striking such a young life down with impunity is a renewed horror each time a young person sits in front of my camera. To see the older men and women, having lived rich full lives, reminds me constantly of the tragically abbreviated lives of those six young people.” Bey made the portraits in two locations: Bethel Baptist Church, an early headquarters for the civil rights movement in Birmingham, and the Birmingham Museum of Art, which in 1963 was a segregated space that admitted Black visitors only one day a week. The resulting works both honour the tragic loss of the six children and make plain the continued impact of violence, trauma, and racism.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Betty Selvage and Faith Speights, Birmingham, AL' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Betty Selvage and Faith Speights, Birmingham, AL
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Pigmented inkjet prints
40 × 32 in. each (101.6 × 81.3cm each)
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). From left to right, from The Birmingham Project: Braxton McKinney and Lavon Thomas, 2012; Betty Selvage and Faith Speights, 2012; Jean Shamburger and Kyrian McDaniel, 2012. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

Installation view of 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021)

 

Installation view of Dawoud Bey: An American Project (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17-October 3, 2021). Mathis Menefee and Cassandra Griffin, from The Birmingham Project, 2012. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

 

Room 103 Mathis Menefee and Cassandra Griffin

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Mathis Menefee and Cassandra Griffin, Birmingham, AL' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Mathis Menefee and Cassandra Griffin, Birmingham, AL
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Pigmented inkjet prints
40 × 64 in. each (101.6 × 162.56cm each)
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'West 124th Street and Lenox Avenue, NY' 2016, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
West 124th Street and Lenox Avenue, NY
2016, printed 2019
From Harlem Redux
Pigmented inkjet print
40 3/8 × 48 1/4 × 2 in. overall (102.6 × 122.6 × 5.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

7

.
Harlem Redux

In 2014, Bey began the series of which this work is a part, Harlem Redux. It marked a return to the neighbourhood, where four decades earlier he had made his first critically acclaimed body of work, Harlem, U.S.A. If the earlier series is a love letter to the historic epicentre of Black community and culture in the United States, Harlem Redux (2014-17) is an incisive and elegiac look at its recent, rapid transformation and gentrification. Bey used a medium-format camera and made the pictures large scale and in colour, techniques common to contemporary photography practices, in order to signal that these changes are taking place now, and not in a historical moment.

This series commemorates sites of cultural significance in Harlem – such as the legendary jazz club the Lenox Lounge, which was demolished not long after Bey’s photograph was made – and makes evident the impacts of otherwise invisible socioeconomic forces. In his words, Harlem is now a neighbourhood “increasingly defined by a sense of ‘erase and replace’, wherein pieces of social and cultural history, along with memory itself, are routinely discarded.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Young Man, West 127th Street, Harlem, NY' 2015, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Young Man, West 127th Street, Harlem, NY
2015, printed 2019
From Harlem Redux
Pigmented inkjet print
40 3/8 × 48 1/4 × 2 in. overall (102.6 × 122.6 × 5.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Room 801 Girls, Ornaments, and Vacant Lot

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Girls, Ornaments, and Vacant Lot, NY' 2016, printed 2019

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Girls, Ornaments, and Vacant Lot, NY
2016, printed 2019
From Harlem Redux
Pigmented inkjet print
40 3/8 × 48 1/4 × 2 in. (102.6 × 122.6 × 5.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; and Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #21 (Farmhouse and Picket Fence II)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #21 (Farmhouse and Picket Fence II)
2017
from Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
44 × 54 5/8 in. (111.8 × 138.7cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee, in honour of Sondra Gilman
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

8

.
Night Coming Tenderly, Black

Bey’s most recent work imagines the flight of enslaved Black Americans along the leg of the Underground Railroad that operated in Ohio – the last fifty or so miles before they reached the vast expanse of Lake Erie, on the other side of which lay Canada, and freedom. As a covert network of safe houses and churches, the sites of the Underground Railroad were by necessity secret. Bey’s photographs suggest the experience of the journey and the landscapes and buildings that may have provided protection along the way. Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2017) marks the first time in his career that Bey turned completely to landscape photography, removing the presence of the figure entirely.

Nonetheless, the images imply the perspective of the individuals whose invisibility was requisite for their safety. Their large scale and rich black tones invite the viewer to engage their own body in the act of looking, taking time for their eyes to adjust and moving around to register the entirety of each image. The series pays homage to two Black American artists, the photographer Roy DeCarava and the poet Langston Hughes. DeCarava’s influence can be seen in the lush and protective darkness of the prints, while the project’s title is drawn from the final couplet of Hughes’s “Dream Variations”: “Night coming tenderly / Black like me.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #24 (At Lake Erie)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #24 (At Lake Erie)
2017
from Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
48 × 55 in. (121.9 × 139.7cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee, in honour of Sondra Gilman
© Dawoud Bey

 

Room 806 Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)

 

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)
2017
From Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
44 × 55 in. (111.8 × 139.7cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Accessions Committee Fund purchase
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

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18
Jul
21

Exhibition: ‘Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood’ at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington

Exhibition dates: 3rd March – 8th August 2021

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Tashara and Tanesha Reese, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, Ohio' 1998 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Tashara and Tanesha Reese, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, Ohio
1998 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
20 x 24 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

I have always liked Mary Ellen Mark’s work.

Photographing subjects living outside of mainstream society, there is something of the spirit of Diane Arbus present in her photographs (see Tashara and Tanesha Reese, Twins Days Festival, Twinsburg, Ohio 1998, above) but pushed further, photographed with more sensitivity and compassion for subject matter.

As a photographer Mark blends into the background leaving her subjects to speak for themselves. Intimate moments, abandoned youths, institutionalised patients and child prostitutes are all documented with a sensitive eye. She does not judge.

Her work is not about developing novels ways of representation. As an artist it is not always about being “fashionable” or “contemporary” or coming up with new ways to represent things. With her subjects comfortable in her presence and before her lens, she records what she sees. She lets her subjects tell their own stories.

Sumeja Tulic states that the photograph Falkland Road, Mumbai, India (1978, below) “leaves one uncomfortable at the sight of girls and women performing their sexuality before her lens.” I don’t feel uncomfortable, do you?

I understand the circumstances of the photograph, I feel sadness that this is happening, I feel anger that this girl has to sell her body to men to survive. I feel the injustice of the world. I want there to be fairness and equity in the world not men controlling women… and I feel the empathy of the photographer towards her subject.

“I don’t like to photograph children as children,” Mark said. “I like to see them as adults, as who they really are. I’m always looking for the side of who they might become.”

Through her vision we might be able to access some of the many paths that life may take: from teen runaway to sex worker, to drug addict, to mother of ten.

Unbounded steps on the precious path of life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Emine Dressed Up for Republic Day. Trabzon, Turkey' Nd

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Emine Dressed Up for Republic Day. Trabzon, Turkey
Nd
© Mary Ellen Mark/The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

In 1965, Mark was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph in Turkey. She took this portrait in the courtyard of Emine’s home. Mark gave minimal direction, encouraging the girl to pose herself. With a hand on her hip, Emine mimics an older teen, but her unbuckled, dirt-stained shoes and hair loosening from its bow reveal markers of childhood. Calling this “the first strong photograph I made,” Mark captured a young girl’s eagerness to grow up.

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Women and Children in a Doorway, Mexico' 1965

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Women and Children in a Doorway, Mexico
1965
Vintage gelatin silver print
11 x 14 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Jill and Jeffrey Stern
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation
Photo by Lee Stalsworth

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Laurie in the Bathtub, Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon' 1976 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Laurie in the Bathtub, Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon
1976 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
20 x 24 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Susan and Earl Cohen
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation
Photo by Lee Stalsworth

 

 

In 1975, Mark visited the hospital in which Milos Forman’s film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next (1975) was being shot, on assignment for The Pennsylvania Gazette. The living conditions inside Women’s Ward 81 greatly affected Mark, and she returned a year later, living inside the facility for 36 days. During this time, she made a body of work about the institutionalised patients. The exhibition includes one of these photographs: a girl, Laurie, submerged in a bathtub [featured image]. Her hair rests on the bathtub’s rim, and her eyes gaze out at Mark. The photograph excludes the institutional surroundings, transforming the frame into a scene of deceptive domesticity.

Text from Sumeja Tulic. “Mary Ellen Mark’s distinct depictions of girlhood reflect the diverse realities of that word,” on the 1854 website March 2021 [Online] Cited 03/04/2021.

 

Mark approached her subjects with sensitivity and compassion. While photographing on the set of the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), shot at the Oregon State Hospital, Mark encountered young women living in a high-security ward for patients considered dangerous to themselves or others. Interested in getting to know the residents, Mark gained temporary permission to live in an adjacent ward. Laurie’s open expression in this portrait reveals little of the institutional environment, as Mark strove to capture the women’s inner selves beyond their diagnoses.

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Girl Jumping over a Wall, Central Park. New York City' Nd

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Girl Jumping over a Wall, Central Park. New York City
Nd
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Falkland Road, Mumbai, India' 1978

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Falkland Road, Mumbai, India
1978
Dye transfer print
20 x 24 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Jean Rossall
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

Mark was not always successful in challenging stereotypes or developing novel ways of representation. An image depicting a woman applying lipstick to the lips of a girl sitting on a bed in a dimly-lit room is a jarring example of this. There is synchronicity between the unbuttoned buttons on the girl’s dress and her slightly open mouth. Mark’s caption states that she made the photograph in a brothel, where villagers brought the girl after her husband left her. The image is part of Falkland Road (1981), a book about sex workers in Bombay, India. Although Mark invested deeply in making the series, the work leaves one uncomfortable at the sight of girls and women performing their sexuality before her lens.

Text from Sumeja Tulic. “Mary Ellen Mark’s distinct depictions of girlhood reflect the diverse realities of that word,” on the 1854 website March 2021 [Online] Cited 03/04/2021.

 

Mark spent three months photographing the brothels that line Falkland Road in Mumbai, India. Though she typically worked in black and white, for this project she used colour film. The vibrant saturation of the jewel-toned walls, curtains, and clothing heightens the intensity of this somber scene in which a teenage sex worker is made up for a client. Mark portrayed each of her subjects with dignity and empathy. Her photographs called international attention to the injustices faced by these overlooked young women.

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Jeanette and Victor, Brooklyn, New York' 1979 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Jeanette and Victor, Brooklyn, New York
1979 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Shaun Lucas
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation
Photo by Lee Stalsworth

 

 

This portrait of Jeanette and her boyfriend, Victor, captures the tenderness of young love. Mark met fifteen-year-old Jeanette when she was five months pregnant. Several times a week for the remainder of the teen’s pregnancy, Mark visited and photographed the couple and their families in Brooklyn, eventually documenting the birth of their daughter. “Photographing Jeanette was a great learning experience for me,” Mark said. “I learned that you can capture more intimate moments by blending into the background.”

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Runaway Girls on Pike Street, Seattle, Washington' 1983

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Runaway Girls on Pike Street, Seattle, Washington
1983
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

In 1983, Mark traveled to Seattle to document runaway and abandoned youths living on the streets for Life magazine. That assignment became the basis for Streetwise, a photographic series and film documenting the challenges, complexities, and occasional joys in the lives of these children and teenagers. Many of the youths Mark photographed in Seattle fled violent homes or were forced to the streets by poverty. In this image, two girls rest against a graffitied wall on Pike Street, a popular gathering place for the city’s homeless youth.

 

 

An icon of modern photography, Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) created compassionate and candid portraits of subjects living outside of mainstream society. From street children in Seattle to circus performers in India, Mark captured the lives and stories of individuals with empathy, humour, and candour. Through the lens of her camera, she cut through social and societal barriers to champion overlooked communities in the United States, India, Mexico, the former Soviet Union, and other countries.

Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood examines Mark’s depictions of girls and young women living in a variety of circumstances around the globe. While Mark photographed people from all walks of life, she was particularly interested in children. “I don’t like to photograph children as children,” Mark said. “I like to see them as adults, as who they really are. I’m always looking for the side of who they might become.”

Made possible by a recent donation from the Photography Buyers Syndicate of more than 160 Mary Ellen Mark works, this presentation includes approximately 30 photographs that span the artist’s 50-year career – from her earliest work in Turkey in the 1960s to images taken on Polaroid film in the early 2000s. Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood highlights some of the artist’s best-known series, including “Prom,” “Streetwise,” and “Twins,” offering viewers an intriguing glimpse into the artist’s wondrous and uncanny vision of girlhood.

Text from the National Museum of Women in the Arts website

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Classroom, Kiev, Ukraine' 1987 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Classroom, Kiev, Ukraine
1987 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Lakeisha, South Dallas' 1988 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Lakeisha, South Dallas
1988 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation
Photo by Lee Stalsworth

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Child Acrobat with Two Children in Peacock Costumes, Great Royal Circus, Himmatnagar, India' 1989 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Child Acrobat with Two Children in Peacock Costumes, Great Royal Circus, Himmatnagar, India
1989 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Jill and Jeffrey Stern
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

In 1968, during her first visit to India, Mark encountered the Indian circus. Her photographs of the events hint at strange and wondrous sights – including this fantastically costumed trio – but focus on the performers in their down time. Mark said, “I wanted to document the lives of the people when they weren’t performing… If I had photographed from the audience’s point of view, I would have just been a spectator.”

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Batman and Little Barbies at the Toys "R" Us Holiday Parade, New York' 2002 (printed later)

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Batman and Little Barbies at the Toys “R” Us Holiday Parade, New York
2002 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Susan and Earl Cohen
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation
Photo by Lee Stalsworth

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Idesha and Mikayla Preston, 8 Years Old, Idesha Older by 10 Minutes, Twinsburg, Ohio' 2002

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Idesha and Mikayla Preston, 8 Years Old, Idesha Older by 10 Minutes, Twinsburg, Ohio
2002
Polaroid, 28 ¼ x 22 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Susan and Earl Cohen
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Ursula Phillips and Gregg Whitlock Jr., Malcolm X Shabazz Prom' 2006

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Ursula Phillips and Gregg Whitlock Jr., Malcolm X Shabazz Prom
2006
Polaroid
28 1/4 x 22 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Frieder K. Hofmann
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'Lucas Nathan and Grace Bush-Vineberg, Palisades Charter High School Prom, Los Angeles, California' 2008

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Lucas Nathan and Grace Bush-Vineberg, Palisades Charter High School Prom, Los Angeles, California
2008
Polaroid
28 1/4 x 22 in.
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

From 2006 to 2009, Mark traveled the United States documenting high school proms. A rite of passage for American teens, the prom symbolises an impending transition to adulthood. Mark’s subjects exhibit a range of reactions; some pose seriously with their dates, while others affect more playful mannerisms. Mark used a six-foot-high, 240-pound Polaroid 20 x 24 Land Camera for these portraits. As with the smaller, more familiar Polaroid instant cameras, each shot produces just one unique print with no negative.

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) 'J'Lisa Looks Through the Blinds, Streetwise Revisited' Nd

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
J’Lisa Looks Through the Blinds, Streetwise Revisited
Nd
© Mary Ellen Mark / The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation

 

 

The exhibition also includes one photograph, which Mark took the year before her death. In J’Lisa Looks Through the Blinds (2014), a child gazes through broken window blinds. The subject is the daughter of Erin Blackwell, better known as, Tiny. Mark first photographed Tiny in 1983 while working on her most influential body of work, Streetwise. When Mark met Tiny, she was a teen sex worker. By the end of Mark’s life, Tiny was a mother of 10 children and a recovered drug addict. Streetwise also became a film in 1984, documenting runaway children living on the streets of Seattle.

Text from Sumeja Tulic. “Mary Ellen Mark’s distinct depictions of girlhood reflect the diverse realities of that word,” on the 1854 website March 2021 [Online] Cited 03/04/2021.

 

Mark often took personal interest in those she met and photographed, and in some instances she formed lasting connections with her subjects. Mark’s involvement with Erin Blackwell (nicknamed “Tiny”) began in 1983 while filming the Streetwise (1984) documentary, when the girl was just thirteen. Over the next thirty-two years, Mark documented Tiny’s transition from teen runaway to sex worker, to drug addict, to mother of ten. In this image, Tiny’s daughter J’Lisa peers out of a window, her expression brimming with anticipation and skepticism.

 

 

National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20005

Opening hours:
Exhibition hours
Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm

National Museum of Women in the Arts website

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07
Mar
21

Exhibition: ‘Dawoud Bey: An American Project’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 7th November 2020 – 14th March 2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976' 1976

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Early in his career, Bey realised the importance of collaborating with his subjects to make a picture that would also serve as a dialogue between artist and subject: “I wanted to photograph this man in the bowler hat who was talking to a group of three friends and I had no idea how to interrupt their conversation in order to do so. This is when I first realised that it wasn’t just about the photograph; it was also about establishing a relationship out of which comes the photograph.”

 

 

I have always admired artists who have a social conscience, who investigate their subject matter with intelligence, empathy and insight.

I have always admired artist who examine their subject matter from different perspectives, turning the diamond of the world in light, to probe the moral and existential questions of existence.

I have always admired artists who develop their practice, never repeating for the sake of it the same constructs over and over – from a lack of imagination, to be successful, or to follow the money trail.

One such artist is Dawoud Bey.

From formal to informal portraiture, through conceptual “bodies”, Bey’s work visualises Black American history in the present moment, not by using the trope of reusing colonial photographs or memorabilia, but by presenting afresh the history of injustice enacted on a people and a culture, picturing their ongoing pain and disenfranchisement – in the here and now – through powerful and deeply political photographs. As the press release observes, Bey “has used his camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, race, place, and American history.”

“His art is grounded in the concept of citizenship, community and belonging, and especially in centring the experiences and histories of Black Americans at the forefront of our culture. His photographs actively work to provide space, voice and visibility for communities who have long been excluded from dominant narratives, especially in institutions like museums.”

From his early street photographs through the later large format Polaroid work and on to the conceptual series, Bey’s photographs have an engaging directness and candour to them. There are no photographic or subjective histrionics here, just immensely rich social documentary photographs that speak truth to subject. The subjects stare directly at the camera and reveal themselves with a poignant honesty.

The series that affected me most deeply was The Birmingham Project.

“On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four African American girls inside. Two Black boys were also killed later that same day in the violence that ensued. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event, rendering it painfully immediate. Bey made formal portraits of Birmingham children the same ages as the victims and adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived. He then paired the photographs in diptychs that both honour the community’s unthinkable loss and make tangible the continued impact of racism, violence, and trauma in the present.”

All the suffering, all the ongoing pain and misery of an unfair world was, to me, wrapped up in these unforgettable images. The violence against other human beings, against people of difference 50 years ago brought into the present. Thinking about what these people could have achieved in the world, what life they would have led, what they would have looked like. Photography transcending time and space, Bey intelligently bringing past into present future. As Bey says, “I wanted to give those young people a more tangible, less-mythic, palpable presence… I wanted to figure out how to show the passage of time and the tragic loss of possibility.”

In my imagination I try to construct this tragic loss of possibility through the agency of Bey’s photographs. They produce sadness, anger, and empathy in me. They bring the possibility of change to the forefront of my mind, and an acknowledgment that we can all do better, that the world must do better. And that experience is a powerful thing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan.

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

 

 

“I’ve come to believe that the best works tend to result not from the imposition of an idea on a situation, but to be responsive to what’s going on once you get there.”

“How can one visualise African American history and make that history resonate in the contemporary moment?”

.
Dawoud Bey

 

“Dreams are spaces that do not yet exist, except by escape through an unknown night.”

.
Anna Mirzayan

 

“I Never Had White Folks That Was Good To Me, EVER… We all worked jest like dogs and had about half enough to eat and got whupped for everything. Our days was a constant misery to us… My old Master was Dave Giles, the meanest man that ever lived. He didn’t have many slaves, my mammy, and me, and my sister, Uncle Bill, and Truman. He had owned my grandma but he give her a bad whupping and she never did git over it and died. We all done as much work as a dozen niggers – we knowed we had to. I seen old Master git mad at Truman and he buckled him down across a barrel and whupped him till he cut the blood out of him and then he rubbed salt and pepper in the raw places. It looked like Truman would die it hurt so bad. I know that don’t sound reasonable that a white man in a Christian community would do such a thing but you can’t realise how heartless he was. People didn’t know about it and we dassent tell for we knowed he’d kill us if we did. You must remember he owned us body and soul and they wasn’t anything we could do about it. Old Mistress and her three girls was mean to us too. One time me and my sister was spinning and old Mistress went to the well-house and she found a chicken snake and killed it. She brought it back and she throwed it around my sister’s neck. She jest laughed and laughed about it. She thought it was a big joke. Old Master stayed drunk all the time. I reckon that is the reason he was so fetched mean. My, how we hated him! He finally killed hisself drinking and I remember Old Mistress called us in to look at him in his coffin. We all marched by him slow like and I jest happened to look up and caught my sister’s eye and we both jest natchelly laughed – Why shouldn’t we? We was glad he was dead. It’s a good thing we had our laugh fer old Mistress took us out and whupped us with a broomstick. She didn’t make us sorry though.”

.
Annie Hawkins, formerly enslaved Afrikan who was sold from Georgia to Texas. This interview was done in Colbert, Oklahoma where her and her family moved after emancipation. Interview, conducted Spring, 1937 with a date stamp of August 16, 1937. Ms. Hawkins was 90 years old at the time of the interview and what she relates occurred in Texas. Source: Library of Congress

 

 

Since the beginning of his career in the 1970s, Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) has used his camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, race, place, and American history. From early street portraits made in Harlem to a recent series imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Bey explores photography’s potential to reveal communities and stories that have been underrepresented or even unseen. Both a form of personal expression and an act of political responsibility, Bey’s art insists on the power of photography to transform stereotypes, convene communities, and create dialogue.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project traces these through lines across the forty-five years of Bey’s career and his profound engagement with the young Black subject and African American history. The title intentionally inserts his photographs into a long-running conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera. The questions of who is considered an American photographer, or simply an American, and whose story is an American story are particularly urgent today. Bey’s work offers a potent corrective to the gaps in our picture of American society and history – and an emphatic reminder of the ongoing impact of those omissions.

 

 

Dawoud Bey on visualising history

Photographer Dawoud Bey’s work grapples with history. The artist asks, “How can one visualise African American history and make that history resonate in the contemporary moment?” Here he discusses several series, sited from Harlem to Birmingham to the Underground Railroad routes of northeastern Ohio, each of which works to make histories visible.

 

 

Dawoud Bey: An American Project – Part 1

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Boy in Front of the Loew's 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976' 1976

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Boy in Front of the Loew’s 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The Street

Bey’s landmark black-and-white 1975-78 series “Harlem, USA” documents portraits and street scenes with locals of the historic neighbourhood in New York. As a young man growing up in Queens, Bey was intrigued by his family’s history in Harlem, where his parents met and where he visited family and friends throughout childhood. The series premiered at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979, when Bey was just 26.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, 1977' 1977

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

In his hands, portraiture conveys contradiction – diffident joy, resistant sorrow – and tells the truth.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978' 1978

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“His art is grounded in the concept of citizenship, community and belonging, and especially in centring the experiences and histories of Black Americans at the forefront of our culture. His photographs actively work to provide space, voice and visibility for communities who have long been excluded from dominant narratives, especially in institutions like museums.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Boys at a Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985' 1985

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Boys at a Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985
1985
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Throughout the 1980s, Bey continued to use a handheld 35 mm camera. This lightweight apparatus allowed him to respond intuitively and quickly to whatever captivated his eye, and his photographs during this time reflect his knowledge of contemporary street photography and his growing interest in capturing flux, movement, and the play of light and shadow. Although he continued to photograph people, he moved away from formal portraiture, instead endeavouring to capture individuals in more spontaneous ways.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985' 1985

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985
1985
Gelatin silver print
20 x 24 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986' 1986

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986
1986
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

In 1985, during a residency at Light Work, a photography nonprofit affiliated with Syracuse University, New York, Bey photographed the city’s African American community. For him, it was both a political and aesthetic choice: “By then I felt that was part of my agenda: to make the African American subject a visible and resonant presence through my photographs […] it was as much about making a certain kind of photograph, and operating within a certain tradition, as it was a deliberate choice to foreground the black subject […] giving them a place … on the wall of galleries and museums.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

By the end of the 1980s, Bey had thoroughly digested the lessons of working spontaneously with a small camera and desired to work in a way that would allow him to engage more directly with his subjects. He began to make formal “street portraits” with a large-format (4- × 5-inch) camera and Polaroid Type 55 film, which produced both instant pictures that he gave to the sitters and negatives that he used to make large-scale, highly detailed prints that could be enlarged to create monumental portraits. Bey was increasingly ambivalent about the ethics of traditional documentary photography and sought more equitable, reciprocal relationships with his sitters. He began to approach the strangers he wished to portray openly and deliberately, giving, as he writes, “the black subjects [a space] to assert themselves and their presence in the world, with their gaze meeting the viewer’s on equal footing.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Girl Striking A Pose, Brooklyn, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Girl Striking A Pose, Brooklyn, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man with Buttons Brooklyn NY 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man with Buttons Brooklyn NY 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Woman Coming from the Store, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Woman Coming from the Store, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man with His Hair Brush, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man with His Hair Brush, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Alfonso, Washington, DC, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Alfonso, Washington, DC, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman Wearing Denim, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman Wearing Denim, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man with a Towel, Brooklyn, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man with a Towel, Brooklyn, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Poppy Brooklyn, NY, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Poppy, Brooklyn, NY, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Girl Holding a Hotdog and Gum, Brooklyn, NY, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Girl Holding a Hotdog and Gum, Brooklyn, NY, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990' 1990

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990
1990
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Few images of tenderness have such resounding power as this lush portrait of a young, stylish couple embracing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Note how perfectly their bodies fit together as he relaxes his shoulders, allowing her to easily wrap her arms around him protectively, declaring with the upward tilt of her chin and her direct gaze at us that they are together, united in love. Pictures as openly intimate as this one emerged from Bey’s deep and abiding interest in “wanting to describe the Black subject in a way that’s as complex as the experiences of anyone else.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Girls from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1990' 1990

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Girls from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1990
1990
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery, and Rena Bransten Gallery
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

For more than four decades, renowned photographer Dawoud Bey has created powerful and tender photographs that portray underrepresented communities and explore African American history. From portraits in Harlem and classic street photography to nocturnal landscapes and large-scale studio portraits, his works combine an ethical imperative with an unparalleled mastery of his medium. The High Museum of Art celebrates his important contributions to photography as the exclusive Southeast venue for Dawoud Bey: An American Project, the artist’s first full career retrospective in 25 years.

Co-organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the exhibition features approximately 80 works that span the breadth of Bey’s career, from his earliest street portraits made in Harlem in the 1970s to his most recent series reimagining sites of the Underground Railroad (2017).

The High has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Bey, who was commissioned in 1996 for the Museum’s inaugural “Picturing the South” series, which asks noted photographers to turn their lens toward the American South. For his project, Bey collaborated with Atlanta high school students to create empathetic, larger-than-life portraits. Made with the monumental 20-by-24-inch Polaroid camera, these photographs explore the complexity of adolescence as a time of critical identity formation and expand the concept of portraiture. The High now holds more than 50 photographs by Bey, one of the most significant museum collections of his work.

“Bey’s portraits are remarkable for their keen sensitivity and for how they elicit and honour their subjects’ sense of self, which is partly an outcome of the artist’s collaborative practice,” remarked Sarah Kennel, the High’s Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography. “Given the museum’s long relationship with Bey and the strength of our holdings, we are thrilled to present this important retrospective. We look forward to sharing the artist’s photographs and his powerful and moving reflections on African American history and identity in their country with our visitors.”

Bey, born in 1953 in Queens, New York, began to develop an interest in photography as a teenager. He received his first camera as a gift from his godmother in 1968, and the next year, he saw the exhibition “Harlem on My Mind” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Widely criticised for its failure to include significant numbers of artworks by African Americans, the exhibition’s representation of Black subjects nonetheless made an impression on Bey and inspired him to develop his own documentary project about Harlem in 1975. Since that time, he has worked primarily in portraiture, making tender, psychologically rich and direct portrayals, often in collaboration with his subjects. More recently, he has explored seminal moments in African American history through both portraiture and landscape.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project includes work from the artist’s eight major series and is organised to reflect the development of Bey’s vision throughout his career and to highlight his enduring engagement with portraiture, place and history.

Press release from The High Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Images courtesy of the artist and High Museum. Photos by Mike Jensen.

 

Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey
Photo: Sean Kelly Gallery

 

 

About Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey was born in Queens, New York, and began his career as a photographer in 1975 with a series of photographs, Harlem, USA, that were later exhibited in his first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979.

Since then his work has been featured in exhibitions at numerous institutions worldwide, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Brooklyn Museum; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Fogg Museum, Harvard University; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among many others.

His photographs are represented in collections worldwide, and his critical writings on photography have appeared in numerous publications and exhibition catalogues. Bey received the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2017 and is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University and is currently Professor of Art and a Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Gerard, Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL, 2003' 2003

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Gerard, Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL, 2003
2003
Inkjet print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Behind his Class Pictures series:

“It was a sort of snapshot of America through its young people at that particular moment. I started working in Chicago, then to New York, California and Florida. I wanted it to be geographically representative of the country. I’ve always been acutely aware that photographs tell you a lot less than what they do tell you. There’s certain things you would never know just from looking at them. You wouldn’t know from a portrait if someone is an only child, whether they have siblings, who their parents are. There’s a lot of information outside of a photograph. For Class Pictures, I thought that was important to bring that information into the construct of work and to create a space of self-representation. The young people who I photographed could give a sense of who they were.”

Summer Evans. “Photographer Dawoud Bey Shines A Light On America’s Underrepresented Communities,” on the WABE website Nov 18, 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Usha, Gateway High School, San Francisco, CA, 2006' 2006

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Usha, Gateway High School, San Francisco, CA, 2006
2006
Inkjet print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Bey has long understood that the act of representation – as well as the corollary act of being seen – is both powerful and deeply political. In this series, he once again turned his attention to teenagers, a population he felt was underrepresented and misjudged, seen either as “socially problematic or as engines for a certain consumerism.” Class Pictures (2001-2006) originated during a residency at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, where Bey began working with local high school students. He later expanded it to capture a geographically and socioeconomically diverse slice of American adolescence.

Working in empty classrooms between class periods, Bey made formal colour portraits of teens that attend, carefully and tenderly, to their gestures and expressions. He also invited them to write brief autobiographical statements, giving his subjects visibility as well as voice. Class Pictures can also be understood as a play on words, for in several cases, Bey chose to photograph students at elite private schools as well as teens from nearby, poorer neighbourhoods, bringing together these subjects in a single space.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Don Sledge and Moses Austin' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Don Sledge and Moses Austin
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Inkjet prints
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four African American girls inside. Two Black boys were also killed later that same day in the violence that ensued. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event, rendering it painfully immediate. Bey made formal portraits of Birmingham children the same ages as the victims and adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived. He then paired the photographs in diptychs that both honour the community’s unthinkable loss and make tangible the continued impact of racism, violence, and trauma in the present.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Mary Parker and Caela Cowan' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Mary Parker and Caela Cowan
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Inkjet prints
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“Together the sitters for The Birmingham Project are simultaneously surrogates, mourners, witnesses, community, and agents of their own narratives. These subjects, then are not symbols but flesh and bone.”

 

In 2012, the project was created as a commission from the Birmingham Museum of Art. It memorialises the victims of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four African-American girls were killed in the bombing, and two boys were later killed in riots that followed.

“I decided to make portraits of young African-Americans in Birmingham who were the exact same ages as those six young people who had been killed that day. I wanted to give those young people a more tangible, less-mythic, palpable presence.” Bey continues, “It still felt somewhat complete. I wanted to figure out how to show the passage of time and the tragic loss of possibility. Then, I started thinking about making portraits of African-Americans in Birmingham who were the ages of the six young people would have been their age today. I begun pairing those portraits with those young people, which embodied 50 years.”

Summer Evans. “Photographer Dawoud Bey Shines A Light On America’s Underrepresented Communities,” on the WABE website Nov 18, 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Night Coming Tenderly, Black

Dawoud Bey’s large-scale photographs dive into art and literary history while trying to re-create the experience of slaves fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

“I consider myself to be making photographs both in conversation with the history of photography and also the history of Black representation within photography. I wanted to use what I learned early on from looking at photographs by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Walker Evans and Mike Disfarmer – along with what I learned from Roy DeCarava, who was African American – and apply all of that to my own African American subjects as I began to build my vocabulary of picture-making. Because I’m African American myself, and because so few representations of African Americans are made from inside that experience, I set out to make that my space, to make work that operated at the level of those other photographs but with Black subjects, since those were the people I knew best. I also wanted to add something to the history of Black expressive culture. …

Night Coming Tenderly, Black continues my interest in visualising African American history by visualising the past in the contemporary moment. It takes as its conceptual touchstones the photographs of DeCarava, which are about the Black subject and often printed very darkly, some almost black. The blackness of his prints is a very beautiful and materially lush blackness. And the Black subjects inhabit this wonderful material darkness in a way that is not foreboding but is beautiful.” ~ Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey. ‘Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)’ 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The photographs in this series are some of the most sensual and layered. These are sights that are at first confining then liberating when you understand them through the lens of history.

In their grandeur and mystery, they transform houses masked in darkness, bodies of water, and fields into an emblematic hope. A pristine fencepost and a homestead visible through the haze of the darkness; a wetland glistening in nightfall; a jungle thick with small trees; an image of Lake Erie, with the expansive sky and horizon forewarning the freedom that lies beyond.

 

The Underground Railroad

Night Coming Tenderly, Black contains 25 large-scale images of homesteads with wooded or grassy grounds that are believed to have formed the part of the said Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad is an actual invisible web of routes and safe houses believed to have made the final way station for more than 100,000 fugitive slaves escaping to Canada. But according to the artist himself, some of the images may be of actual Underground Railroad.

 

The meaning of the title

This series is also a tribute to poet Langston Hughes (1901-1967) and photographer Roy DeCarava (1919-2009), who each played significant roles in addressing the experience of African Americans by representing what DeCarava described as a world shaped by blackness. Bey was inspired by DeCarava’s incredible ability to print a spectrum of dark hues, making him picture landscapes of twilight uncertainty.

On the other hand, Hughes Langston wrote a poem titled Dream Variations in 1926, in which he yearned for a time when the black American worker, extremely tired by the daily hustle of hard labor and prejudice, might be truly free. However, this freedom, he imagined, would not be obtained in the glare of daylight, but instead under the ominous, protective cover of the night.

Upending a dominant literary conceit, blackness, rather than whiteness, functioned as an allegory for hope and transcendence. A night coming tenderly, black like me, (Hughes poem), helped the fight for racial equality and justice. The metaphor in the poem is central to Dawoud Bey’s series Night Coming Tenderly, Black.

 

Influenced by Roy DeCarava

Bey has never stopped waxing lyrical on the influence of the two figures that inspired his artistic career, especially Roy DeCarava, who was one of the most prominent photographers of his generation. The images he took were visually rich and redolent, and they pushed the aesthetic limits of photography…

Dawoud Bey noted that DeCarava’s images were characteristically printed in dark and rich colour range. In this context, the dark prints served as a symbol for black subjects and experience. Bey says:

“DeCarava used blackness as an affirmative value, as a kind of beautiful blackness through which his subjects both moved and emerged. His work was formative to my own thinking early on, and these dark landscapes are a kind of material conversation with his work, using the darkness of the landscape and the photographic print as an evocative space of blackness through which the unseen and imaginary black fugitive subject is moving.” …

The artist printed these images in a large size to encase the viewer and deliberately dark to reveal his subject matter: He took the photos of the sites in and near Cleveland associated with the Underground Railroad that guided the slaves to liberation.

Anonymous. “Dawoud Bey’s somber ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ project,” on the Public Delivery website  January 30, 2021 website [Online] Cited 02/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #11 (Bent Branches)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #11 (Bent Branches)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #12 (The Marsh)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #12 (The Marsh)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“I ranged far and wideout there since there were expansive rural landscapes that looked as they might have in the 18th and 19th centuries. The landscape and the history there have not been built over…

Some of the photographs, to the extent that we know, are actual Underground Railroad sites, and the majority of them are placed in the landscape that I identified in proximity to some of those locations, where I could make work that suggested the movement of fugitive slaves through the landscape…

I wanted the photographs to almost involuntarily pull you back to the experience of the landscape through which those fugitive black bodies were moving in the 19th century to escape slavery. So I had to learn, for the first time, how to make photographs in the kind of space…

It is a tender one, through which one moves. That is the space I imagined the fugitive black subjects moving through as they sought their self-liberation, moving through the dark landscape of America and Ohio toward freedom under cover of a munificent and blessed blackness.” ~ Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown's Tannery)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown’s Tannery)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #17 (Forest)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #17 (Forest)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Bey’s most recent work imagines the flight of enslaved Black Americans along the leg of the Underground Railroad that operated in Ohio – the last fifty or so miles before they reached the vast expanse of Lake Erie, on the other side of which lay Canada, and freedom.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #19 (Creek and Trees)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #19 (Creek and Trees)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Behind his Night Coming Tenderly, Black series:

“The photographs are meant to imagine or reimagine the path of self-liberation in Northeastern Ohio along what is called the ‘Underground Railroad’. Formerly slaved Africans, and then African-Americans moved towards freedom by way of Lake Eerie in Ohio. I began to think about the fugitive moving through this tender space of blackness.”

Anonymous. “Dawoud Bey’s somber ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ project,” on the Public Delivery website  January 30, 2021 website [Online] Cited 02/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #20 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse I)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #20 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse I)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The gelatin silver prints in Night Coming Tenderly, Black are moody and dim, overlaid with a sheen that is almost gritty in texture thanks to the coated paper they are printed on. The trees, fences, lakes, and buildings in the photos are initially obscured, purposefully made more difficult to see through Bey’s printing methods (which take advantage of the light sensitivity of silver particles as well as their ability to be chemically “toned” through the introduction of other substances). These images resist both reproduction and easy interpretation. That one also has to wait for one’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, before slowly traveling over the terrain of each picture, reminds the viewer that the formerly enslaved people who traversed these sites often did so under cover of darkness. Darkness here is multivalent: its obscuring power, which prevents viewers from immediately processing the whole of Bey’s photographs, aided formerly enslaved people in their escape. The Underground Railroad, as the artist has noted, occupies a semi-mythological place in American history, and some of the places Bey photographs are only cannot be confirmed to have been stops on the Railroad. Like the experience of slavery, these places are unrepresentable. They are half-shrouded locales that evade being captured on a map or in a photo.

Though these photographs are dark, they are shot in the daylight and processed in such a way as to make them initially appear to be taken at night. They bring to mind Hiroshi Sugimoto’s eerily beautiful “Seascapes” series (1980- ongoing), which are shot at night, the film exposed for different lengths of time in order to reveal how light plays even after dark. Yet there is no analogous method for bringing night to the day. Bey may make his photos dark, but this is achieved through processing and glazing the finish image, which occurs after the initial act of taking the photograph. How can we account for Bey’s artificial night?

The philosopher François Laruelle’s 2011 book The Concept of Non-Photography suggests one answer to this question. In essence, Laruelle starts with the premise that works of art cannot and do not represent anything, be it objects, thoughts, concepts, or movements. He posits art as an entirely self-sufficient engagement with the world (which he calls the Real), independent even of viewer and creator. Art is a machine; the medium, processes, and even the artist are its materials. What art “shows,” Laurelle argues, is only the world according to itself – which he terms the world-in-painting, the world-in-photo, and so on. He turns to photography in part because of its connection to modern scientific advancement and its attempts literally to illuminate the world “objectively.” Non-photography aims to re-conceptualise the photographic flash, which Laruelle associates with the flash of logos or reason, as a form of potential insurrection against its traditional association with illumination, and against photography’s constant reproduction of the asymmetrical dichotomy between light and dark.

Anna Mirzayan. “”Artificial night”: on Dawoud Bey’s America,” on the Art Agenda website December 15 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #23 (Near Lake Erie)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #23 (Near Lake Erie)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“I was thinking about this narrative of the Black subject — the unseen Black subject, in this case — a fugitive slave moving through the darkness of night,” Bey explains. “And that darkness of night being the kind of Black space that would lead to liberation.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

As a covert network of safe houses and churches, the sites of the Underground Railroad were by necessity secret, and Bey’s landscapes suggest, rather than document, the experience. Photographed by day but printed in shades of grey and black so deep they resemble nocturnes, the sensuous prints conjure a darkness at once ominous and lush. The series title, which is drawn from the last couplet of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations” (1926), suggests a black night that envelops the fugitives in a darkness that serves as a protective embrace: “Night coming tenderly / Black like me.”

 

 

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31
Jan
21

Review: ‘DESTINY’ at NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2020 – 14th February 2021

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

“There is no excuse for ignorance, and you should make an effort to understand what happens in our world. How else can you be contemporary?”

.
Destiny Deacon

 

 

Embodied Ab/origin

This is a strong, powerful if rather repetitive exhibition by Destiny Deacon at NGV Australia, Melbourne. It’s like being hit over the head with a blakly ironic blunt object many times over, just like Aboriginal people have had both physical and cultural violence enacted upon them many times over since the arrival of the white man in terra nullius, a misnomer if ever there was one.

“Drawing from her vast collection of Aboriginalia, Deacon interrogates the way in which Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, misrepresented within popular culture.” Aboriginalia is repurposed “historicised, interpreted and recast through Aboriginal eyes”, especially through the use of white-appropriated and conceptualised Blak dolly models that allegedly “possess a liveliness and personality, making the violence enacted on to them all the more confronting.” Deacon photographs her reclaimed dollies using Polaroids from which colour prints are enlarged. Technically and aesthetically this means the photographs loose the uniqueness, size and aura of a Polaroid, perhaps not the best outcome for the use of the instant photography process in the making of memorable images.

The exhibition never strays far from its theme: that whities will never understand the symbols of racism perpetrated against Blaks embedded in white culture, unless they are pointed out to them. This concept is expressed through the silent voice of the archetypal Blak doll – dis/embodied, headless, amputated, tied up, trapped in a blizzard, over the fence, adopted – inserted placelessly into whatever scenario bigotry and racism rears its head, a snatched headline of dispossession and grief. While the Blak dolls are a paradigm that Deacon uses to represent the “collective lives” of Aborigines under the heal of a repressive regime, no idea is ever investigated fully for the viewer is only given a snippet of information. Holistically, these snippets add up to a terrible indictment of a dominant race lording it over a vanquished one.

“Marcia Langton once described Destiny Deacon’s work as a ‘barometer of postcolonial anxiety’.” Personally, I don’t feel any sense of postcolonial anxiety when I look at Deacon’s work. I just feel sad, very sad and guilty. Sad for the invasion, sad and guilty for the lives lost, dispossession, poor health, shorter life spans, racism and inequality, the ongoing discrimination and neglect. It’s like sticking the knife in over and over again. I so wish it was different. We KNOW, if we are informed sentient beings, the injustices that Aboriginal people suffered and continue to suffer. As Deacon says, there is no excuse for ignorance. But this is preaching to the converted. How many Joe Public will come and see this exhibition to be informed and to change their mind? As a friend of mine succinctly said, “Don’t come to this exhibition if you don’t want your racism challenged.” Many will not bother. For others this will be a confronting exhibition. And in all this reclaiming of Aboriginalia, all this confrontation, all this looking back, the dredging up of every little inequality – it leaves me thinking: what is the future, where is the positiveness, where is the forward looking cultural creativity of a great people?

I believe that this contemporary reconceptualisation of history from a singular standpoint – that of a unified Ab/original people represented by Blak dolly – is pure hokum. Aboriginal culture is made up of many mobs, many voices, reflecting the difference in backgrounds and experiences of different communities which come together in diversity to present “a statement about the unity of Aboriginal people, the defiant continuity of their cultural traditions and the personal search of many individual artists for their own Aboriginal identity.”1 In this exhibition, where are the homosexual Aboriginals, the lesbian Aboriginals, the transgender Sista Girls, or an investigation into interracial marriages that are loving and kind, instead of just more and more works that reinforce injustices (of history) in the here and now, through the dis/embodied plastic body of a silent doll. Where is the positivity for the future, for example an acknowledgement of the thousands of people that attended Invasion Day rallies this year?

Collectively, the exhibition powerfully questions the processes of a problematic cultural assimilation using repurposed Aboriginalia but today Aboriginal identities, like all identities, are in a state of transformation and flux. I look at the work of contemporary African artists and I see joy, hope, colour, movement, new identities, new sites of conceptualisation in the evolving struggle to engage new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous, self-governing body. They acknowledge history, discrimination, the struggle for freedom, but are more forward looking, more engaged with the possibilities of the future rather than the deficits of the past expressed in the inequalities of the present. When is a positive voice of embodied (not disembodied, decapitated) Ab/origin going to emerge in contemporary art?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Jennifer Isaacs. “Introduction,” in Jennifer Isaacs (ed.,). Aboriginality: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings and Prints. University of Queensland Press, 1996, p. 8.

.
Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. All the other images, as noted, are iPhone images of the exhibition by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Destiny Deacon is one of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists. In the largest retrospective of her work to date, DESTINY marks the artist’s first solo show in over 15 years. Featuring more than 100 multi-disciplinary works made over a 30-year period, the exhibition includes the premiere of newly-commissioned works. Numerous early video works created with the late Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon are also on display.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub / Mer people from Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Deacon is internationally known for a body of work depicting her darkly comic, idiosyncratic worldview. Offering a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny snapshot of contemporary Australian life, Deacon reminds us that ‘serious’ art can also have a sense of humour.

Melbourne-based, Deacon works across photography, video, sculpture and installation to explore dichotomies such as childhood and adulthood, comedy and tragedy, and theft and reclamation. Her chaotic worlds, where disgraced dolls play out sinister scenes for audience amusement, subvert cultural phenomena to reflect and parody the environments around us.

 

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's 'Abi see da classroom' 2006

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Abi see da classroom 2006 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Abi see da classroom' 2006 (still)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Virginia Fraser (Australian, d. 2021)
Abi see da classroom (stills)
2006
10 min. sound
National Gallery of Victoria
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Abi see da classroom

For the fiftieth anniversary of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Destiny Deacon and her long-time collaborator Virginia Fraser were given unrestricted access to the ABC’s archive, possibly the most significant collection of film and television held in Australia. By searching for any keywords that started with ‘Aborigin’ they were able to uncover a large assortment of videos.

In this installation, two CRT television screens play alongside each other, creating a mashup of noise and black-and-white moving images. The television on the right shows archival footage of Aboriginal children attending school, reading and playing musical instruments, while the television on the left presents a series of short clips of people in varying degrees of blackface. Switching from uncomfortable to distasteful, to overtly racist, the two channels juxtapose extreme versions of how Aboriginal people have historically been depicted on television. The footage is problematic and offensive; though, some might say ‘it was a different time’. The flashback to the 1950s prompts audiences to consider Australia’s legacy of televised racism and poses the question: how far have we actually come?

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Blak lik mi' 1991

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Blak lik mi 1991 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Blak lik mi' 1991

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Blak lik mi
1991, printed 1995
Exhibition version printed 202
Colour laser print from Polaroid original
80.0 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Blak lik mi

Historically photography has been used as a tool to categorise and document Aboriginal people and their lives. In this work Destiny Deacon reclaims three images taken from a 1960s reproduction of a 1957 Axel Poignant photograph, from his photo essay, originally titled Picaninny Walkabout, later renamed Bush Walkabout. Deacon turns the colonial gaze back on the coloniser, photographing the photograph, and subverting her position as both subject and photographer.

The title Blak lik mi is a reference to John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical novel, Black Like Me, in which Griffin took large doses of an anti-vitiligo drug and spent hour daily under an ultraviolet lamp in order to change the appearance of his skin so that he ‘passed’ as Black. Deacon’s work offers a window into her own interrogation about what constitutes her Aboriginal identity. On this, Deacon often jokes that she ‘took the c, out of black little c**t’. Rude words beginning with ‘c’, of which there are many, are often used as offensive slights, and Deacon recalls being taunted with these words as a child.

‘Blak’, unlike ‘Black’, was Deacon’s way of self-determining her identity, and originating a version of the self that comes entirely from within. The legacy of this work has been massive. Countless Aboriginal people now self-determine their identity as Blak, so much so that a Google search of ‘Blak’ returns a nearly all Australian Indigenous search result.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol) 1997 at left, Last laughs 1995 at centre, and Where’s Mickey 2002 at right, on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Me and Virginia's doll (Me and Carol)' 1997

 

Destiny Deacon (Australian, Kuku/Erub/Mer b. 1957)
Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol)
1997, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original

 

 

Destiny Deacon began her professional career in photography in her late thirties as a way to express herself and her political beliefs. A self-taught artist, Deacon is primarily known for her photographs and videos where she subverts familiar icons with humour and wit. Often when Deacon photographs people she poses them like paintings. In this image, Deacon presents herself as Frida, staging the image as an homage to Kahlo’s 1937 painting Me and my doll.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Last laughs' 1995

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Last laughs
1995
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In this image Deacon both reclaims and ridicules a genre of colonial photography, which historically depicted Aboriginal women as a highly sexualised or exotic ‘other’. In the nineteenth century it was commonplace for Aboriginal women to appear naked in ethnographic photographs that were mass reproduced and distributed as souvenirs around the world. In Last laughs three Blak women pose for the camera, limbs intertwined, performing their sexuality. Unlike in the colonial photography it references, the subjects in this work are the ones in control.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Where's Mickey?' 2002

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Where’s Mickey?
2002, printed 2016
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Where’s Mickey? plays on the Australian slang phrase ‘Mickey Mouse’, used to refer to something that is substandard, poorly executed or amateurish. Mickey Mouse is also the archetypal figure of an (often white) American consumerist culture. In this portrait of Luke Captain, Deacon pokes fun at the cartoon icon, suggesting his animated spirit has possessed the body of an Aboriginal Australian man, who is dressed as a woman.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left, Where’s Mickey? 2002, and at right Meloncholy 2000
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Meloncholy' 2000

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Meloncholy
2000
From the Sad & Bad series
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In 1970 African-American film director, Melvin Van Peebles released Watermelon Man, a movie in which a fictional, white insurance salesman wakes up one morning only  to discover he has turned Black overnight. The film is inspired by John Howard Griffin’s autobiographical novel, Black Like Me. In this image Deacon gives the watermelon a double meaning. The emptied peel of the melon cradles the doll’s body, kind of like the coolamon [Coolamon is an anglicised NSW Aboriginal word used to describe an Australian Aboriginal carrying vessel], but it is also a fruit that has been severed from its skin. She challenges the relationship between identity, skin colour, and how the world perceives and responds to both Blackness and Blakness.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Adoption' 2000 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Adoption (installation view)
2000; printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016; copy printed 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In this image Destiny Deacon has placed a collection of plastic, black toy babies into paper cupcake shells. Titled Adoption, this work directly references Australia’s shameful history of government-sanctioned Aboriginal child removal. In addition, Adoption also pokes fun at the deeply offensive misnomer of the nineteenth century that Aboriginal mothers were both infanticidal, as well as cannibals of their newborns. Deacon describes how she came to collect dolls, saying ‘in the beginning I wanted to rescue them, because otherwise they’d end up in a white home or something, somewhere no one would appreciate them’.

 

 

Destiny Deacon, one of Australia’s boldest and most acclaimed contemporary artists, will be celebrated in her largest retrospective to date opening at the National Gallery of Victoria on 23 November 2020.

DESTINY will mark Deacon’s first solo show in over 15 years, featuring more than 100 multi-disciplinary works made over a 30-year period, and including the premiere of newly-commissioned works created with the artist and her long-term collaborator Virginia Fraser. The exhibition will also feature a number of early video works created with the late Wiradjuri / Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub / Mer people from Far North Queensland and Torres Strait, Deacon is internationally known for a body of work depicting her darkly comic, idiosyncratic world view. Offering a nuanced, thoughtful and, at times, intensely funny snapshot of contemporary Australian life, Deacon reminds us that art can have both pathos and humour.

Melbourne-based, Deacon works across photography, video, sculpture, and installation to explore dichotomies such as childhood and adulthood, comedy and tragedy, and theft and reclamation. Her chaotic worlds, where disgraced dolls play out sinister scenes for audience amusement, subvert cultural phenomena to reflect and parody the environments around us.

Featuring early videos which mock negative stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians – Home video 1987, Welcome to my Koori world 1992, I don’t wanna be a bludger 1999 – the exhibition will also feature an installation of a lounge room housing Deacon’s own collection of ‘Koori kitsch’. Deacon and Fraser’s highly acclaimed installation Colourblinded 2005 will also be on display. A powerful combination of photographs, sculptures, and video projections, this interactive work leaves the viewer both literally and metaphorically ‘colourblinded’.

“Featuring new NGV commissions and some of the highlights of Deacon’s 30-year career, the retrospective DESTINY pays tribute to an artist who has been challenging audiences for more than 30 years,” said Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria. “Destiny Deacon has never shied away from confronting our country’s difficult history and her work continues to make a vital contribution to Australian cultural discourse,” said Ellwood.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at second right, Meloncholy 2000 and at right, Over the fence 2000
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Over the fence' 2000 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Over the fence (installation view)
2000, printed 2000
Exhibition version printed 2020
From the Sad & Bad series
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The nostalgic qualities in Deacon’s poignant photograph Over the fence reinforce a narrative familiar to many Aboriginal people. Two segregated dollies peer at each other across a suburban, wooden fence, leaving the audience wondering who is fenced in, and who is fenced out? The image illustrates an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality towards race, which many Aboriginal people would recognise beneath this seemingly ‘friendly’ neighbourhood encounter.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Portrait of Peter Blazey, writer' 2004 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Portrait of Peter Blazey, writer (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Peter Blazey, journalist, author and gay activist.

Blazey was born in Melbourne in 1939 and worked for The Australian, the National Times and as a regular columnist for OutRage, a gay magazine. He published a number of books, including a political biography of Henry Bolte, and was co-editor of the short fiction anthology, Love Cries. His personal memoir, Screw Loose, appeared after his death from AIDS in 1997.

“Peter was someone with a lion’s head of loose ends that could never fit into some ideologically sound and tidy space. Storyteller, mythomane, and one of the last great conversationalists in a country wary of the free flow of uncensored language, he was a comet who flashed his tail at everyone.” – Tim Herbert, OutRage, 1997.

Text from the University of Melbourne Scholarship website [Online] Cited 29/01/2021

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Portrait of Gary Foley, activist' 1995 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Portrait of Gary Foley, activist (installation view)
1995, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Often in Deacon’s portrait photography, sitters are posed like those in paintings. In these three images, Deacon presents Gary Foley, an Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor; Peter Blazey, the late journalist, author and gay activist; and Richard Bell, and activist and artist of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities. All three men are posed in a near identical way to the 1932 painting The boy at the basin by Australian landscape and portrait artist William Dobell.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'My boomerang did come back' 2003 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
My boomerang did come back (installation view)
2003, printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'My boomerang did come back' 2003

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
My boomerang did come back
2003, printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

This image is a reference to Charlie Drake’s 1961 song ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’. Drake sings in a halting and staccato manner, wildly grunting ‘ho’ and ‘ugh’ as he narrates the story of an effeminate young Aboriginal boy named Mac, who has been banished from his tribe because he is ‘a big disgrace to the Aborigine [sic] race’ because his ‘boomerang won’t come back’. A single hand (Lisa Bellear’s) reachers upward, grasping a bloody boomerang in front of a black background. Deacon suggests that Drake, whose song is at best a kind of vaudevillian blackface, has assassinated himself.

 

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Hear come the judge (installation view)
2006
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Deacon references the 1968 comedic funk song ‘Here Comes the Judge’ by American entertained Dewey ‘Pigmeat’ Markham, which is regarded by many to be the first recorded hip-hop song. Markham’s lyrics ridicule the formalities of courtroom etiquette by painting a picture of a make-believe world where justice is in the hands of Black people. Deacon’s photograph uses humour to disarm and interrogate something that is inherently unfunny. The Blak / Black judge is only comical because it is supposedly unbelievable, a notion Deacon challenges audiences to reconsider.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Border patrol' 2006 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Border patrol (installation view)
2006, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“And they figured a dispossessed people as racial types, suggesting that authentic Aboriginal identity was purely tribal and something to be trivialised as curios and knick-knacks…

But the figurines of a racialised people, of warriors, beautiful girls and adorable children, took this interest into a different realm of curiosity, namely objectification.

Elder women, who were often savagely vilified in popular newspapers as “unsightly frights”, never appear among these figurines. Lithe young women, deep-chested warrior tribesmen, dignified elder “noble savages” and sweetly smiling “piccaninnies” were particularly prized. In the early prints of artists Peg Maltby and Brownie Downing, endearing Aboriginal children are orphaned by the bush rather than being at home in the country of their birthright. They find playmates with baby native animals but are divested of family and community. They seem to be crying out for the care that only the state, it was thought, could properly provide. …

The figures found in Aboriginalia evoke a troubling presence, in which visual appeal, sometimes libidinal, stands in for the profound ambivalence at the heart of settler-colonialism, which has benefited from the violent dispossession of a people.

While townships were campaigning to exclude Aboriginal kids from schools, families from housing and adults from pubs, these nostalgic, perplexing images were being taken into white homes in the form of bric-a-brac.

Sociologist Adrian Franklin has described the “semiotic drenching” of souvenirs with Aboriginal motifs and argues “these objects became ‘repositories of recognition’ of what was often entirely absent, denied or undermined in the everyday political and policy spheres”.

These objects, he suggests, gave some expression to the sadness surrounding dispossession and removal. In more recent years, Indigenous artists such as Destiny Deacon and Tony Albert have repurposed Aboriginalia.

Thus it is finally being historicised, interpreted and recast through Aboriginal eyes.

Deacon uses dolls and kitsch ephemera from her own extensive collection to turn the tables on the uncritical consumption of racist imagery. In one of her best backhanders, she puts plastic, black babies in cupcake shells and titles the photograph Adoption.”

Extract from Dr Liz Conor. “Friday essay: the politics of Aboriginal kitsch,” on The Conversation website March 3, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/01/2021 CC

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right Border patrol 2006
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at second left, Heart broken 2006, and at fourth from left,
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Heart broken' 2006

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Heart broken
2006
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Ask your mother for sixpence' 1995

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Ask your mother for sixpence
1995
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist © Destiny Deacon

 

 

This image takes its name from a cheeky nursery rhyme Deacon recalls learning when living in Port Melbourne as a child. The playful limerick teases audiences with the threat of a rude word: ‘Ask your mum for sixpence, to see the big giraffe, pimples on his whiskers, and pimples on his – ask your mum for sixpence’. The work was originally displayed in juxtaposition with a photograph of a half-built Crown Casino in Melbourne, challenging audiences to consider the dynamic between the main character, a Blak woman working in service sweeping up coins, and the multinational gambling corporation.

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

 

Installation views of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley’s I don’t wanna be a bludger 1999 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020. Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon and Michael Riley's 'I don't wanna be a bludger' 1999

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 with at left, Whitey’s watching 1994; and at right, Moomba princess and Moomba princeling (both 2004)
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at centre, Moomba princess and Moomba princeling (both 2004), and at right Thought cone (A-F) 1997
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Moomba princess' 2004 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Moomba princess (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Moomba princess and Moomba princeling show Deacon’s young niece and nephew dressed in the robes and regalia of Moomba sovereigns. Moomba is an annual parade and community festival held in Melbourne, which each year crowns a ‘Moomba monarch’. The portraits reference Elizabethan Armada portraiture, a style of painting which first depicted the Tudor queen seated in royal garb and surrounded by symbols against a backdrop depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. At first glance, the Moomba portraits can be read as innocent children playing dress ups, but by presenting two Aboriginal models in this type of colonial ceremonial dress, Deacon challenges audiences to consider the legacy and impact of British invasion.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Moomba princeling' 2004 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Moomba princeling (installation view)
2004, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Thought cone (A-F) 1997 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Thought cone (A-F) 1997 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Thought cone (A-F) (installation view details)
1997, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Whitey's watching' 1994

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Whitey’s watching 1994 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Whitey’s watching 1994 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For more than thirty years Destiny Deacon has forged a path as an international artist with a distinct brand of artistic humour unlike any other. Descended from the Kuku and Erub / Mer peoples of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait, Deacon has been living and working in Melbourne since she arrived here as a small child.

Deacon’s work sits in the uncomfortable but compelling space between comedy and tragedy, and contrasts seemingly innocuous childhood imagery with scenes from the dark side of adulthood. She actively resists interpretation and so called ‘art speak’, instead choosing to let her work speak for itself. The more we look, the greater we understand that the world Deacon conjures is a complex one. Drawing from her vast collection of Aboriginalia, Deacon interrogates the way in which Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, misrepresented within popular culture. Decapitated, amputated, pants down, tied up, trapped in a blizzard or flying through the air, the characters in Deacon’s world both reflect and parody the one in which we live.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right, Regal eagles (A-B) 1994
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Regal eagles (A-B)' 1994 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Regal eagles (A-B) (installation views)
1994, printed 2020
Lightjet print from Polaroid original
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Academic, historian and Indigenous rights activist Marcia Langton once described Destiny Deacon’s work as a ‘barometer of postcolonial anxiety’. This diptych combines two congruent images: the photo on the left shows a pair of young, white boys holding plastic Union Jacks and eating in front of a disregarded, spread-eagled Black doll. The image on the right shows another Black dolly in a Koori flag T-shirt pinned onto a board surrounded by appropriated Aboriginalia. As always in Deacon’s work, the dolls possess a liveliness and personality, making the violence enacted on to them all the more confronting.

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Melbourne Noir 2013
Photos: Tom Ross

 

 

Adapting the quotidian formats of snapshot photography, home videos, community TV and performance modes drawn from vaudeville and minstrel shows, Deacon’s artistic practice is marked by a wicked yet melancholy comedic and satirical disposition. In decidedly lo-fi vignettes, friends, family and members of Melbourne’s Indigenous community appear in mischievous narratives that amplify and deconstruct stereotypes of Indigenous identity and national history. For Melbourne Now, Deacon and Fraser present a trailer for a film noir that does not exist, a suite of photographs and a carnivalesque diorama. The pair’s playful political critiques underscore a prevailing sense of postcolonial unease, while connecting their work to wider global discourses concerned with racial struggle and cultural identity.

Text from Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 1

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's Melbourne Noir 2013

Installation view of 'DESTINY' at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser's 'Melbourne Noir' 2013

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Melbourne Noir 2013
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

Digital prints, Digital prints on plywood, wood, gelatin silver photographs, high-definition video, sound
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing in the foreground Snow storm 2005
Photos: Tom Ross

Colour Blinded

Man & doll (a)
Man & doll (b)
Man & doll (c)
Baby boomer
Back up
Pacified
2005, printed 2020
Lightfoot print from orthochromatic film negative

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Virginia Fraser (Australian) 'Snow storm' 2005 (installation vie

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Virginia Fraser (Australian)
Snow storm (installation views)
2005
Golliwogs, polystyrene and perspex cube
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Man & doll' 2005 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Man & doll' 2005 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Man & doll (installation view details)
2005, printed 2020
Lightfoot print from orthochromatic film negative
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Koori lounge room 2021
Photos: Tom Ross

 

Wall text

 

Wall text

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Koori lounge room 2021
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Ebony and Ivy face race' 2016 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Ebony and Ivy face race (installation view)
2016, printed 2020
Lightjet print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Sand minding / Sand grabs (installation views)
2017, printed 2020
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

More than half of all mining projects in Australia are in close proximity to Indigenous communities. This relationship has long been, and continues to be, the source of much debate. In this work Deacon condemns the violence committed by the sand mining industry on the ecosystem, the land and its people. A latex-gloved hand makes an incision in a bag of soil, destructively releasing the sand inside. The white hand grasps the contents and takes a handful. Two disturbing characters look on with a seemingly perplexed expression, perhaps inviting us to consider the consequences of mining.

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left, Arrears windows 2009; at centre, Sand minding / Sand grabs 2017; and in the background Koori lounge room 2021

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Arrears windows' 2009

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Arrears windows
2009
From the series Gazette
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
60.0 x 80.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Gazette

Gossip walks
Look out!
Action men
Arrears windows
Come on in my kitchen

In 2009 Deacon produced the series Gazette. These now eerily familiar scenes appear like vignettes, offering windows into the lives of those living inside Melbourne’s public housing towers. Recent scenes from the news are echoed in Arrears windows, which shows Deacon’s collection of black and brown dolls crammed into yellow plastic tubs. The series draws attention to the individual lives and struggles of residents within these buildings, while also reminding viewers of the often-overcrowded conditions these residents live in. Each image brings to light Deacon’s idiosyncratic take on current global and national events with her semi-autobiographical edge.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Action men' 2009

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Action men
2009
From the series Gazette
Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper
80.0 x 60cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view detail)

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly eyes' (A-H) 2020 (installation view detail)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Dolly eyes (A-H)
2020
Lightjet print
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A doll with piercing blue eyes and dark brown skin is among the unblinking, manic faces that make up Destiny Deacon’s most recent series, Dolly Eyes, 2020. While people of colour can and do have an array of different-coloured eyes, blue eyes are often seen as a signifier of whiteness. Deacon’s tightly cropped images reduce these dollies to just eyes and skin tone, highlighting the problematic nature of using physical features to signify of racial identity.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Dolly lips (A-E)' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Dolly lips (A-E)
2017, printed 2020
Lightjet print
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Dolly lips extracts surprising expressions from some of Deacon’s regular models. Some of these dolls have been posing for Deacon for decades, but these sensitive and suggestive images show them in a new light.

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon's 'Smile' 2017

 

Installation view of Destiny Deacon’s Smile 2017 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Smile' 2017

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Smile
2017
Exhibition version printed 2020
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2016
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Deacon undercuts our trust in the innocuous smiley face emoji and prompts the viewer to look more closely at the everyday symbols that proliferate in our lives. The dolls appear decapitated, but perhaps even more ominously the disembodied heads are actually poking through a yellow sheet. Deacon uses an op-shop boomerang to complete the smile. When broken down, the individual features that make up the happy face are all racially charged. However, when viewed at a glance, all people see is the familiar smiley face emoji.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Oz Games – Under the spell of the tall poppies' 1998

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Oz Games – Under the spell of the tall poppies
1998
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

In the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Deacon produced Oz, a series of works parodying the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. In the original film, Dorothy Gale is swept away from a farmhouse in Kansas to the magical land of Oz. In this series, Deacon transforms the journey undertaken by the original characters into a contemporary recognition of Aboriginality. Dorothy, now known as the ‘traveller’, appears alongside a ‘sad’ tin man, a ‘slow’ scarecrow in blackface and a ‘scared’ cowardly lion. The character’s quest for self-realisation resembles the personal journeys many Aboriginal people go through every day.

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation views of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at right, On reflection 2019

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'On reflection' 2019

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
On reflection
2019
Lightjet print
100.0 x 80.0cm
Collection of the artist
© Destiny Deacon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Escape – From the whacking spoon' 2007

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Escape – From the whacking spoon
2007
Lightjet photograph from Polaroid photograph
80.0 x 100.0cm
Courtesy of the artist
© Destiny Deacon

 

 

Whacked

Escape – from the whacking spoon
Whacked to sleep (B)
Fence sitters (A)
The goodie hoodie family
Waiting for the bust
Whacked & coming home

2007, printed 2020
Lightjet print

This series of photographs references familiar imagery from news media and contemporary culture, making a link between themes of terrorism, surveillance, suppression and Australian nationalism. Playing with stereotypes, Deacon and her friends have masked themselves in long johns with disturbing painted faces. The images use sinister humour to highlight shared similarities between fanatics around the world.

 

Installation view of 'Postcards from Mummy' 1998

Installation view of 'Postcards from Mummy' 1998

 

Installation view of Postcards from Mummy 1998 on display in DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020

 

Installation view of DESTINY at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 2020 showing at left Dolly eyes (A-H) 2020; and at right, Blak 2020
Photo: Tom Ross

 

 

Throughout her career, this cast of characters has become central to Deacon’s practice, as has her subversive use of language. For Deacon, language, and in particular spelling, has provided an opportunity to reframe and assert her identity on her own terms. In its deceptive simplicity the recasting of ‘Black’ to ‘Blak’ resonated with Aboriginal communities everywhere. What started as Deacon asserting her personal identity as a Kuku / Erub / Mer woman, has since morphed into a Community-owned declaration of Aboriginal pride. It is fitting to conclude this exhibition with a singular photographic work: the letters b-l-a-k emblazoned across the surface with seventeen of Deacon’s regular dolly models.

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957) 'Blak' 2020 (installation view)

 

Destiny Deacon (Kuku/Erub/Mer b. Australia 1957)
Blak (installation view)
2020
Light jet print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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17
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘William Wegman: Being Human’ at Fotomuseum den Haag, the Netherlands

Exhibition dates: 5th September 2020 – 3rd January 2021

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Untitled (Three Legged Dog)' 1974

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Untitled (Three Legged Dog)
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collectie Kunstmuseum Den Haag
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Concept

Pathos

Portrait
Polaroid
Performance

History
Humour
Humanity

Master / artist

Human / being

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

People like us / People we like

I didn’t always dress up the dogs. My first dog Man Ray was spared anthropomorphic adornment. That was left for Fay Ray. Fay and I came to a mutual realisation that she had a desire to be observed. Anyway, I found myself looking at her for long periods of time. Then one day, after some looking, I made her tall. Before long I was blurring the pedestal with fabric and creating the illusion of the anthropomorphic vertical. With the birth of Fay’s puppies, my cast of characters grew. Fay’s puppies – Chundo, Battina and Crooky – grew up watching their famous mother, and when it came their turn they were not taken by surprise. They knew what to do.

 

Colour fields

I began by ignoring colour, using the colour Polaroid film as though it were black and white. I distrusted colour. Sensuous, romantic, elusive colour. Colour was … well … colourful. In fact, the first few days with the Polaroid camera I made only black-on-black pictures. Man Ray under a black cloth against a black background. Polaroid film is very beautiful within a limited range. Man Ray was too dark for this film but Fay was perfect. With Fay I began to explore colour and light.

 

Weimaraners

No other breed that I am aware of is as conducive to the illusion of transformation as Weimaraners. Weimaraners are called ‘grey ghosts’. Their fur gives off an almost iridescent glow. They inhabit their forms in a strange way, never appearing to solidify into themselves as, say, a lab, a collie or a bulldog does. When you photograph a collie, you get a collie.

 

Tales

One day my assistant Andrea stood behind Fay to adjust her dress and she gestured out to me with her hand. Her long human arm appeared as Fay’s. The illusion startled me. A miracle. Kind of creepy. Fay was part human. I thought of cartoons and mythology, superheroes and Egyptian gods. Next thing you know, Batty’s son Chip was playing the flute.

 

Sit! / Stay!

The dogs have an obvious pride in what they do. They can sense the feeling in the room when they are working. If it’s a great picture or a difficult picture, they can feel what happens because everyone stops and goes ‘Wow!’ Fay was particularly agile and for her I concocted a series of anatomically challenging poses. I came to understand her balance and points of physical tension. Fay liked the challenge of a difficult pose. I think she liked to impress me.

 

Vogue / Style

I have a very awkward relationship with fashion. I’m a little bit timid about it. This isn’t the attitude of the typical fashion photographer. Fortunately, my Weimaraners are the perfect fashion models. Their slinky elegant forms are covered in grey, and grey, as everyone knows, goes with anything.

 

Nudes / Physique

Up close, unadorned, standing, sitting or lying before the eye of the big camera, the dogs become landscapes, a forest of trees, a topography of hills and valleys, earth and boulders, in a shoreline of endless interconnectivity.

 

Cubists

Since 1972 I have had a habit of keeping a white box in the studio. If I can’t think of anything to do, the box is a good place to start. The original work I made with this box alluded to Sol LeWitt’s minimal sculptures of the 1960s, but this is now a fading memory. I use a box the way a philosopher uses a chair, as a physical object representing hypothetical questions: ‘How many ways can a dog fit on a box?’, ‘How many dogs can fit in a box?’, ‘Around a box?’ And on and on. On these square wheels, round questions keep rolling.

.
William Wegman

 

 

Fotomuseum – William Wegman from Kunstmuseum Den Haag on Vimeo.

 

 

Many artists have a muse. Movie directors perfect their craft working repeatedly with their favourite actors, while choreographers create some of their best works for a specific dancer. In some cases, the muse is a silent partner, the object of an artist’s intense and obsessive gaze; in others the work emerges from a partnership so close that it is unclear which is the artist and which is the muse. For the American artist William Wegman (b. 1943), his muses have been generations of the Weimaraner breed. The inspiration came in 1970 when his first dog, Man Ray – named after Wegman’s favourite artist – sat himself in front of the camera. Instead of sending his faithful companion to his bed, Wegman seized the moment, and the rest is history. Wegman was already a well-known artist, but it is his numerous, human-like portraits of his ever-expanding cast of Weimaraners that have brought him worldwide fame. In partnership with renowned guest curator William A. Ewing and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Fotomuseum Den Haag presents a major survey of no fewer than four decades of Wegman’s wide-ranging collaboration with Man Ray, Fay Wray, Candy and their descendants.

Press release from the Fotomuseum den Haag

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Constructivism' 2014

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Constructivism
2014
Pigment print
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Dog Walker' 1990

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Dog Walker
1990
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Farm Boy' 1996

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Farm Boy
1996
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Tamino with magic flute' 1996

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Tamino with magic flute
1996
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

 

In Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity under the high priest Sarastro; instead, he learns the high ideals of Sarastro’s community and seeks to join it. Separately, then together, Tamino and Pamina undergo severe trials of initiation, which end in triumph, with the Queen and her cohorts vanquished. The earthy Papageno, who accompanies Tamino on his quest, fails the trials completely but is rewarded anyway with the hand of his ideal female companion, Papagena.

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'George' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
George
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Wall' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Wall
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Cut to Reveal' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Cut to Reveal
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Feathered Footwear' 1999

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Feathered Footwear
1999
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Casual' 2002

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Casual
2002
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

 

William Wegman: Being Human

Many great artists have a muse. Sometimes this muse is a silent partner, the object of an artist’s obsessive gaze. At other times the relationship is a deeply collaborative act.
The history of photography has its own celebrated cases: Jacques-Henri Lartigue and Renée Perle, for example, or Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. For William Wegman, whose muses have been all these things and more, inspiration arrived almost half a century ago, when a Weimaraner who had joined the family showed both aptitude and passion for performing before the camera. In honour of one of Wegman’s most admired modern artists, he was named Man Ray, the first in a line of highly spirited performers.

William Wegman is a renowned and versatile American artist who resists an easy classification as he moves adroitly between painting, drawing, photography, film, video, books and performances. Although his famed Weimaraners are not featured in all these media, they reside at the core of his art. In the late 1970s Wegman found, in the large-format Polaroid print, his ideal means of expression – the perfect print size, exquisite colour and an ‘instantaneity’ which allowed for spontaneity and beneficial ‘accidents’. When his Polaroid chapter finally came to an end, the artist shifted to working digitally, rediscovering in this new medium what was essential to him about the Polaroid process: the print size, expressive colour and the studio set-ups.

Wegman’s world may revolve around his dogs, but his choice of sets, costumes and props betray a fascination with art history – Cubism, colour field painting, Abstract Expressionism, Constructivism, Conceptualism and the like. The diverse fields of photography also intrigue the artist, and we find in his work landscapes, nudes, portraits, reportage and fashion.

And yet, is it all really about dogs? Being Human suggests otherwise: these performers are us and we are them: housewife, astronaut, lawyer, priest, farm worker, even a dog walker! Some pose proudly and with confidence, others express doubts or vulnerabilities. It’s all about being human.

William A. Ewing. Exhibition curator

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Upside Downward' 2006

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Upside Downward
2006
Color Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'From the spirit world' 2006

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
From the spirit world
2006
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'On base' 2007

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
On base
2007
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Cursive Display' 2013

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Cursive Display
2013
Pigment Print
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Contact' 2014

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Contact
2014
pigment print
111.7 x 86.4cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'V' 2017

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
V
2017
Colour polaroid photograph
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

 

Fotomuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 43
2517 HV Den Haag

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 – 17.00
The museum is closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Den Haag website

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27
Sep
20

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘L’equilibriste, André Kertész’ at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours Part 2

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 27th October 2019
Visited September 2019 posted September 2020

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin and Pia Viewing

 

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nageur sous l’eau, Esztergom
Underwater swimmer, Esztergom
1918
Contact original

 

 

“”… especially haptic qualities are demanded of the deconstructionist performer, spectator, and reader; not to follow optically the ‘line of ideas’ in the text or in a picture and see only the representation proper, the surface, but to probe with the eyes the pictorial texture and even to enter the texture.”69 Such “touching” with the eye did not lead to a secure tactile experience of being firmly planted on the ground, for all grounds, all foundations, were suspect, however construed. We are, as Nietzsche knew, swimming in an endless sea, rather than standing on dry land. To “touch” a trace, groping blindly in the dark, is no more the guarantee of certainty than to see its residues.”

.
Gandelman, Claude. ‘Reading Pictures, Viewing Texts’. Bloomington, Indiana, 1991, p. 140 quoted in Martin Jay. ‘Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought’. Berkley: University of California Press, 1993, p. 512.

 

 

Touching with the eye

Part 2 of a large posting on the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours, which I saw in Tours in September 2019.

This posting contains photographs from his famous series “Distortions” (fascinating to see the original plates for the book of the same name, complete with cropping marks and red lead pencil annotations); American works from 1936 onwards, when Kertész moved to the United States to avoid the persecution of the Jews and the threat of World War II; and the late work colour Polaroids.

I admit that Kertész is not my favourite photographer. While I admire some of his photographs, I feel emotionally distant from most of them. Edward Clay observes in the quotation below that Kertész was “one of the most lyrical and formally inventive photographers of the twentieth-century… [His photographs] often convey a quiet mood of melancholy … He remains revered for his clarity of style and ability to blend simplicity with emotion, prizing impact over technical precision, seeking metaphors and geometry in everyday objects and scenarios, to turn the mundane into the surreal.”

Personally, I don’t find his photographs emotional nor lyrical, only a few poetic. Not melancholic, but geometric. In later works, he simplifies, simplifies, simplifies much like his friend Mondrian did. For me, the balance between sacred / geometry, the sacred geometry of the mystery of things, is often unbalanced in these images (particularly relevant, given the title of this exhibition). Is it enough just to turn the mundane into the surreal? Where does that lead the viewer? Is it enough to just observe, represent, without digging deeper.

At his best, in images such as Underwater swimmer, Esztergom (1918, above), Arm and Fan, New York (1937, below) and Washington Square, New York (1954, below) there is a structured, avant-garde mystery about the reality of the world, as re/presented through the object of the photograph, it’s physical presence. In Underwater swimmer, the body is stretched and distorted by an element, water, not a man-made mirror. His photographs from Hungary, Italy and early Paris possess a sensitivity of spirit that seems to have been excised from his life, the older he got. Far too often in later images, there is a “brittleness” to his photography, in which the object of reflection sits at the surface of the image, all sparkling in unflinching light. The single cloud oh so lonely in the sterile city; the man looking at the broken bench; the “buy, buy, buy” of consumer culture. You consumer Kertész’s later images, you do not reflect on them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. View Part 1 of the posting.

 

 

“André Kertész, one of the most lyrical and formally inventive photographers of the twentieth-century, whose work advocated for spontaneity over technical precision, has left a distinctive legacy of poetic images which form a bridge between the avant-garde and geometrical precision. A roamer for much of his life, his feelings of rootlessness manifest in his work and often convey a quiet mood of melancholy. …

Claiming “I am an amateur and I intend to stay that way for the rest of my life”, Kertesz was a great source of inspiration to photographic legends such as Cartier-Bresson.

He remains revered for his clarity of style and ability to blend simplicity with emotion, prizing impact over technical precision, seeking metaphors and geometry in everyday objects and scenarios, to turn the mundane into the surreal. Nothing was too plain or ordinary for his eye, since he had a special ability to breathe life into even the most ‘unremarkable’ subjects.”

.
Edward Clay. “André Kertész: between poetry and geometry,” on ‘The Independent Photographer’ website, May 19th 2020 [Online] Cited 26/08/2020

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #34' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #34 
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #40' 1933

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #40
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing photographs from the series Distortions, the bottom image showing at left, the photograph Underwater swimmer, Esztergom 1918
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Original plates of the model of the book 'Distortions'' 1975-76 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Planches originales de la maquette du livre ‘Distortions’ (installation view)
Original plates of the model of the book ‘Distortions’ 
1975-76
Collection Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing photographs from the series Distortions
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #60' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #60 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #86' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #86 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #86' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #86 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #109' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #109 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #6' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #6 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #159' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #159 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #128' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #128 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #70' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #70 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #70' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #70 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion #80' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion #80 (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distortion' 1933 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Distortion (installation view)
1933
Contact original
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Distorted Portrait (Face of a Woman), Paris' 1927 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Portrait déformé (Visage de femme), Paris (installation view)
Distorted Portrait (Face of a Woman), Paris
1927
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

One of the twentieth century’s great photographers, André Kertész (Budapest, 1894 – New York, 1985) left a prolific body of work spanning more than seventy years (1912-1984), a blend of the poetic and the intimate with its wellspring in his Hungarian culture. The Art of Poise: André Kertész traces this singular career, showcasing compositions that bear the stamp of Europe’s avant-garde art movements, from the artist’s earliest Hungarian photographs to the blossoming of his talent in France, and from his New York years to ultimate international recognition.

Kertész arrived in Paris in October 1925. Moving in avant-garde literary and artistic circles, he photographed his Hungarian friends, artists’ studios, street life and the city’s parks and gardens. In 1933 he embarked on his famous Distortions series of nudes deformed by funhouse mirrors, producing anamorphic images similar in spirit to the work of Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp and Henry Moore.

In addition to this profusion of activity, he explored the possibility of disseminating his work in publications. Between 1933 and the end of his life he had designed and published a total of nineteen books.

In 1936 Kertész and his wife Elizabeth left for New York, where he began with a brief assignment for Keystone, the world’s biggest photographic agency. He struggled, though, to carve out a place for himself in a context whose demands were very different from those of his Paris years.

Inspired by the rediscovery of his Hungarian and French negatives, from 1963 onwards he devoted himself solely to personal projects, and was offered retrospectives by the French National Library in Paris and MoMA in New York. This fresh recognition sparked a flurry of books in which he harked back to the high points of his oeuvre. In his last years, armed with a Polaroid, he returned to his earlier practice of everyday photography.

Text from the Jeu de Paume website for the earlier exhibition The Art of Poise: André Kertész

 

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Text from the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Tulipe mélancolique, New York
Melancholic Tulip, New York
1939
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1984 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris (installation view)
1984
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Paris' 1984

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Paris
1984
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at top left, Ballet, New York 1938; and at bottom left, Lake Placid 1954
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Ballet, New York' 1938 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Ballet, New York (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Ballet, New York' 1938

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Ballet, New York
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Lake Placid' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Lake Placid (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1939 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1939

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York
1939
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view) 'Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view)
Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York

1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view) 'Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Escalier, rampe, ombres et femme, New York (installation view)
Staircase, banister, shadows and woman, New York

1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '"Buy", Long Island' 1963

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
“Buy”, Long Island
1963
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '6th Avenue, New York' 1973

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
6th Avenue, New York
1973
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Nuage égaré' 'Lost cloud' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nuage égaré
Lost cloud
1937
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész. 'Lost Cloud' New York, 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nuage égaré
Lost cloud
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Poughkeepsie, New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Poughkeepsie, New York (installation view)
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Poughkeepsie, New York' 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Poughkeepsie, New York
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '"Buy", New York' 1966 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
“Buy”, New York (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Double page de la maquette originale du livre ‘Of New York…’ (installation view)
Double page of the original model of the book ‘Of New York…’
1975-76
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at second left, New York 1939; and at third left, New York 1936
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1939 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1936 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1936

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at second right, Arm and Fan, New York 1937
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Bras et ventilateur, New York' 'Arm and Fan, New York' 1937 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Bras et ventilateur, New York (installation view)
Arm and Fan, New York
1937
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Arm and Fan, New York' 1937

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Bras et ventilateur, New York
Arm and Fan, New York
1937
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1947 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1947
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Le retour au port, New York' 'Return to port, New York' 1944 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Le retour au port, New York (installation view)
Return to port, New York
1944
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at left, Disappearance, New York 1955
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Disparition, New York' 'Disappearance, New York' 1955 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Disparition, New York (installation view)
Disappearance, New York
1955
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'La Disparition, New York' 'Disappearance, New York' 1955 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
La Disparition, New York (installation view)
Disappearance, New York
1955
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Disappearance, New York' 1955

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Disappearance, New York
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'New York' 1969 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
New York (installation view)
1969
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Text from the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing at left in the bottom image, Broken Bench, New York 1962
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

1985) 'Broken Bench, New York' 1962

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Le Banc cassé, New York
Broken Bench, New York

1962
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Of New York…' New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Of New York… (installation view)
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Soixante ans de photographie' 'Sixty years of photography' 1912-1972 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Soixante ans de photographie (installation view)
Sixty years of photography
1912-1972
Paris, éditions du Chêne, 1972
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Jour pluvieux, Tokyo' 'Rainy day, Tokyo' 1968 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jour pluvieux, Tokyo (installation view)
Rainy day, Tokyo
1968
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'McDougall Alley, New York' 1965 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
McDougall Alley, New York (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Washington Square, New York' 1954

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Washington Square, New York
1954
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Washington Square, New York' 1954 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Washington Square, New York (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Washington Square, New York' 1954

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Washington Square, New York
1954
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Winter Garden, New York' 1970 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Jardin d’hiver, New York (installation view)
Winter Garden, New York
1970
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Martinique' 1972

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Martinique
1972
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Soixante ans de photographie' 'Sixty years of photography' 1912-1972 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Soixante ans de photographie (installation view)
Sixty years of photography
1912-1972
Paris, éditions du Chêne, 1972
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'In the cellar, Williamsburg' 1951 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Dans la cave, Williamsburg (installation view)
In the cellar, Williamsburg
1951
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Nara, Japan' 1968

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Nara, Japan
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Text from the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Text from the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Harold Riley. 'André Kertész' Manchester, The Manchester Collection, 1984  (installation view)

 

Harold Riley
André Kertész (installation view)
Manchester, The Manchester Collection, 1984
Collection Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

Installation view of the exhibition 'L'equilibriste, André Kertész' at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours

 

Installation views of the exhibition L’equilibriste, André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Château de Tours showing his late Polaroid work
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '12 December 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
12 December 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Untitled' 1979-1981 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Untitled (installation view)
1979-1981
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'June 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
June 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '21 June 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
21 June 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Untitled' 1979-1981 (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Untitled (installation view)
1979-1981
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '13 August 1979' (installation view)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
13 August 1979 (installation view)
1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'July 3, 1979
'

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
July 3, 1979

1979
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Untitled' 1979-1981

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Untitled
1979-1981
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019
Inkjet print from a reproduction of a polaroid, 2019

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) '13 August 1983'

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
13 August
1983
Tirage jet d’encre d’après la reproduction d’un polaroid, 2019

 

 

Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours
25 avenue André Malraux, 37000 Tours
Phone: 02 47 70 88 46

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 2pm – 6pm
Closed on Monday

Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours website

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23
Feb
20

Exhibition: ‘Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2019 – 8th March 2020

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968) '[Calypso]' about 1944; before 1946

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968)
[Calypso]
about 1944; before 1946
Gelatin silver print
26.2 x 33.3 cm (10 5/16 x 13 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© International Center of Photography

 

 

Imagine having these photographs in your collection!

My particular favourite is Hiromu Kira’s The Thinker (about 1930). For me it sums up our singular 1 thoughtful 2 imaginative 3 ephemeral 4 ether/real 5 existence.

“Aether is the fifth element in the series of classical elements thought to make up our experience of the universe… Although the Aether goes by as many names as there are cultures that have referenced it, the general meaning always transcends and includes the same four “material” elements [earth, air, water, fire]. It is sometimes more generally translated simply as “Spirit” when referring to an incorporeal living force behind all things. In Japanese, it is considered to be the void through which all other elements come into existence.” (Adam Amorastreya. “The End of the Aether,” on the Resonance website Feb 16, 2015 [Online] Cited 23/02/2020)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916) '[Guadalupe Mill]' 1860

 

Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
[Guadalupe Mill]
1860
Salted paper print
Image (dome-topped): 33.8 × 41.6 cm (13 5/16 × 16 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963) 'The Goalie Gets There a Split Second Too Late' about 1923

 

Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963)
The Goalie Gets There a Split Second Too Late
about 1923
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 36.7 cm (11 3/4 × 14 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Martin Munkácsi, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Hiromu Kira (American, 1898-1991) 'The Thinker' about 1930

 

Hiromu Kira (American, 1898-1991)
The Thinker
about 1930
Gelatin silver print
27.9 × 35.1 cm (11 × 13 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Sadamura Family Trust

 

 

Hiromu Kira (1898-1991) was one of the most successful and well-known Japanese American photographers in prewar Los Angeles. He was born in Waipahu, O’ahu, Hawai’i on April 5, 1898, but was sent to Kumamoto, Japan, for his early education. When he was eighteen years old, he returned to the United States and settled in Seattle, Washington, where he first became interested in photography. In 1923, he submitted prints to the Seattle Photography Salon which accepted two of the photographs. In 1923, his work was accepted in the Pittsburg Salon and the Annual Competition of American Photography. He found work at the camera department of a local Seattle pharmacy and began meeting other Issei, Nisei and Kibei photographers such as Kyo Koike and joined the Seattle Camera Club.

In 1926, Kira moved to Los Angeles with his wife and two young children. Although he was never a member of the Japanese Camera Pictorialists of California, a group that was active in Los Angeles at that time, he developed strong friendships with club members associated with the pictorialist movement of the 1920s and ’30s such as K. Asaishi and T. K. Shindo. In 1928, Kira was named an associate of the Royal Photography Society, and the following year he was made a full fellow and began exhibiting both nationally and internationally. In 1929 alone, Kira exhibited ninety-six works in twenty-five different shows. In the late twenties, he worked at T. Iwata’s art store. In 1931, his photograph The Thinker, made while showing a customer how to use his newly purchased camera properly, appeared on the March 1931 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

On December 5, two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kira was selected to be included in the 25th Annual International Salon of the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. Within a few months, he was forced to store his camera, photography books and prints in the basement of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles for the duration of World War II. He and his family were incarcerated at Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Gila River, Arizona concentration camp from 1942-44, leaving the latter in April 1944.

Following his release, he lived briefly in Chicago before returning to Los Angeles in 1946, where he remained for the rest of his life. In Los Angeles, he worked as a photo retoucher and printer for the Disney, RKO and Columbia Picture studios but never exhibited again as he had before the war.

Text from the Hiromu Kira page on the Densho Encyclopedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

 

Marinus Jacob Kjeldgaard (Danish, 1884-1964, active Paris, France late 1930s - late 1940s) '[Collage: Balance of Powers]' about 1939

 

Marinus Jacob Kjeldgaard (Danish, 1884-1964, active Paris, France late 1930s – late 1940s)
[Collage: Balance of Powers]
about 1939
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 32 cm (11 1/4 × 12 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Marinus Jacob Kjeldgaard

 

Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958) '[Egg in Spotlight]' 1943

 

Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958)
[Egg in Spotlight]
1943
Gelatin silver print
26.4x 34.4 cm (10 3/8 x 13 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2019 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

 

Emil Cadoo (American, 1926-2002) 'Children of Harlem' 1965

 

Emil Cadoo (American, 1926-2002)
Children of Harlem
1965
Gelatin silver print
20.3 × 25.2 cm (8 × 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Joyce Cadoo / Janos Gat Gallery
© Estate of Emil Cadoo, courtesy of Janos Gat Gallery

 

Anthony Hernandez (American, b. 1947) 'Los Angeles #1' 1969

 

Anthony Hernandez (American, b. 1947)
Los Angeles #1
1969
Gelatin silver print
18.9 × 28.4 cm (7 7/16 × 11 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Anthony Hernandez

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939) 'Dolls on Cadillac, Memphis' 1972

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Dolls on Cadillac, Memphis
1972
Chromogenic print
25.4 × 38.1 cm (10 × 15 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Wegman (American, b, 1943) 'Dog and Ball' 1973

 

William Wegman (American, b, 1943)
Dog and Ball
1973
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

Marketa Luskacova (Czech, born 1944) 'Sclater St, Woman with Baby and Girl' 1975

 

Markéta Luskačová (Czech, b. 1944)
Sclater St, Woman with Baby and Girl
1975
Gelatin silver print
21 x 31.8 cm (8 1/4 x 12 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Markéta Luskačová

 

 

Markéta Luskačová (born 1944) is a Czech photographer known for her series of photographs taken in Slovakia, Britain and elsewhere. Considered one of the best Czech social photographers to date, since the 1990s she has photographed children in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and also Poland…

In the 1970s and 1980s, the communist censorship attempted to conceal her international reputation. Her works were banned in Czechoslovakia, and the catalogues for the exhibition Pilgrims in the Victoria and Albert Museum were lost on their way to Czechoslovakia.

Luskačová started photographing London’s markets in 1974. In the markets of Portobello Road, Brixton and Spitalfields, she “[found] a vivid Dickensian staging”.

In 2016 she self-published a collection of photographs of street musicians, mostly taken in the markets of east London, under the title To Remember – London Street Musicians 1975-1990, and with an introduction by John Berger.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

Marketa Luskacova (Czech, b. 1944) 'Men around Fire, Spitalfields Market' Negative 1976, print 1991

 

Markéta Luskačová (Czech, b. 1944)
Men around Fire, Spitalfields Market
Negative 1976, print 1991
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 32.9 cm (9 x 12 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Markéta Luskačová

 

Shigeichi Nagano (Japanese, born 1925, active Tokyo, Japan) '[Tokyo, Aobadai (Nishi Saigoyama Park), Meguro Ward]' 1988

 

Shigeichi Nagano (Japanese, 1925-2019, active Tokyo, Japan)
[Tokyo, Aobadai (Nishi Saigoyama Park), Meguro Ward]
1988
Gelatin silver print
26 × 39.4 cm (10 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shigeichi Nagano

 

 

During the 1960s Nagano observed the period of intense economic growth in Japan, depicting the lives of Tokyo’s sarariman with some humour. The photographs of this period were only published in book form much later, as Dorīmu eiji and 1960 (1978 and 1990 respectively).

Nagano exhibited recent examples of his street photography in 1986, winning the Ina Nobuo Award. He published several books of his works since then, and won a number of awards. Nagano had a major retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in 2000.

Nagano died two months short of his 94th birthday, on January 30, 2019.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Untitled #15' 1997

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Untitled #15
1997
Inkjet print
40.6 × 104.1 cm (16 × 41 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Catherine Opie

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953) 'Self Portrait, Red, Zurich' 2002

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Self Portrait, Red, Zurich
2002
Silver-dye bleach print
Framed [outer dim]: 72.4 x 104.1 cm (28 1/2 x 41 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Nan Goldin, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery and the artist

 

Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1965) 'My Things No. 5 - 5,000 Pieces of Rubbish' 2002

 

Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1965)
My Things No. 5 – 5,000 Pieces of Rubbish
2002
Chromogenic print
120 × 210.8 cm (47 1/4 × 83 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Anonymous Gift
© Hong Hao, Courtesy of Chambers Fine Art

 

Veronika Kellndorfer (German, b. 1962) 'Succulent Screen' 2007

 

Veronika Kellndorfer (German, b. 1962)
Succulent Screen
2007
Silkscreen print on glass
288 × 351.5 cm (113 3/8 × 138 3/8 in.)
Gift of Christopher Grimes in honour of Virginia Heckert
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Veronika Kellndorfer

 

 

A three-panel silkscreen print on glass, Succulent Screen depicts a detail view of one of the signature miter-cut windows of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Freeman House. The house was built in the Hollywood Hills in 1923, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as a California Historical Landmark and as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #247 in 1981; it was bequeathed to the USC School of Architecture in 1986. (Text from the Getty Museum website)

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965) 'Early American, Strawberries and Ostrich Egg' 2007

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965)
Early American, Strawberries and Ostrich Egg
2007
Chromogenic print
42.8 x 56.8 cm (16 7/8 x 22 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Sharon Core

 

 

The Getty Museum holds one of the largest collections of photographs in the United States, with more than 148,000 prints. However, only a small percentage of these have ever been exhibited at the Museum. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Photographs, the Getty Museum is exhibiting 200 of these never-before-seen photographs and pull back the curtain on the work of the many professionals who care for this important collection in Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs, on view December 17, 2019 – March 8, 2020.

“Rather than showcasing again the best-known highlights of the collection, the time is right to dig deeper into our extraordinary holdings and present a selection of never-before-seen treasures. I have no doubt that visitors will be intrigued and delighted by the diversity and quality of the collection, whose riches will support exhibition and research well into the decades ahead,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The exhibition includes photographs by dozens of artists from the birth of the medium in the mid-19th century to the present day. The selection also encompasses a variety of photographic processes, including the delicate cyanotypes of Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871), Polaroids by Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953) and Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) and an architectural photographic silkscreen on glass by Veronika Kellndorfer (German, born 1962).

Visual associations among photographs from different places and times illuminate the breadth of the Getty’s holdings and underscore a sense of continuity and change within the history of the medium. The curators have also personalised some of the labels in the central galleries to give voice to their individual insights and perspectives.

 

Growth of the collection

In 1984, as the J. Paul Getty Trust was in the early stages of conceiving what would eventually become the Getty Center, the Getty Museum created its Department of Photographs. It did so with the acquisition of several world-famous private collections, including those of Sam Wagstaff, André Jammes, Arnold Crane, and Volker Kahmen and Georg Heusch. These dramatic acquisitions immediately established the Museum as a leading center for photography.

While the founding collections are particularly strong in 19th and early 20th century European and American work, the department now embraces contemporary photography and, increasingly, work produced around the world. The collection continues to evolve, has been shaped by several generations of curators and benefits from the generosity of patrons and collectors.

 

Behind the scenes

In addition to the photographs on view, the exhibition spotlights members of Getty staff who care for, handle, and monitor these works of art.

“What the general public may not realise is that before a single photograph is hung on a wall, the object and its related data is managed by teams of professional conservators, registrars, curators, mount-makers, and many others,” says Jim Ganz, senior curator of photographs at the Getty Museum. “In addition to exposing works of art in the collection that are not well known, we wanted to shed light on the largely hidden activity that goes into caring for such a collection.”

 

Collecting Contemporary Photography

The department’s collecting of contemporary photography has been given strong encouragement by the Getty Museum Photographs Council, and a section of the exhibition will be dedicated to objects purchased with the Council’s funding. Established in 2005, this group supports the department’s curatorial program, especially with the acquisition of works made after 1945 by artists not yet represented or underrepresented in the collection. Since its founding, the Council has contributed over $3 million toward the purchase of nearly five hundred photographs by artists from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, and Taiwan, as well as Europe and the United States.

 

Looking ahead

The exhibition also looks towards the future of the collection, and includes a gallery of very newly-acquired works by Laura Aguilar (American, 1959-2018), Osamu Shiihara (Japanese, 1905-1974), as well as highlights of the Dennis Reed collection of photographs by Japanese American photographers. The selection represents the department’s strengthening of diversity in front of and behind the camera, the collection of works relevant to Southern California communities, and the acquisition of photographs that expand the understanding of the history of the medium.

“With this exhibition we celebrate the past 35 years of collecting, and look forward to the collection’s continued expansion, encompassing important work by artists all over the world and across three centuries,” adds Potts.

Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs is on view December 17, 2019 – March 8, 2020 at the Getty Center. The exhibition is organised by Jim Ganz, senior curator of photographs at the Getty Museum in collaboration with Getty curators Mazie Harris, Virginia Heckert, Karen Hellman, Arpad Kovacs, Amanda Maddox, and Paul Martineau.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum [Online] Cited 09/20/2020

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Botanical Specimen (Erica mutabolis), March 1839' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Botanical Specimen (Erica mutabolis), March 1839
2009
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9 cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) '[Spring]' 1873

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
[Spring]
1873
Albumen silver print
35.4 × 25.7 cm (13 15/16 × 10 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Reverend William Ellis (British, 1794-1872) and Samuel Smith. '[Portrait of a Black Couple]' about 1873

 

Reverend William Ellis (British, 1794-1872) and Samuel Smith
[Portrait of a Black Couple]
about 1873
Albumen silver print
24.1 × 18.6 cm (9 1/2 × 7 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte (French, 1858-1924) 'Jacobus Huch, 26 ans' about 1888

 

Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte (French, 1858-1924)
Jacobus Huch, 26 ans
about 1888
Albumen silver print
15.9 × 10.9 cm (6 1/4 × 4 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Underwood & Underwood (American, founded 1881, dissolved 1940s) 'Les Chiens du Front, eux-mems, portent des masques contre les gaz' May 27, 1917

 

Underwood & Underwood (American, founded 1881, dissolved 1940s)
Les Chiens du Front, eux-mems, portent des masques contre les gaz
May 27, 1917
Rotogravure
22 × 20.4 cm (8 11/16 × 8 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946) '[The Law of the Series]' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
[The Law of the Series]
1925
Gelatin silver print
21.6 × 16.2 cm (8 1/2 × 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2019 Estate of László Moholy-Nagy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963) 'Big Dummies' 1927-1933

 

Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963)
Big Dummies
1927-1933
Gelatin silver print
33.5 × 26.7 cm (13 3/16 × 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Martin Munkácsi, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Munkácsi was a newspaper writer and photographer in Hungary, specialising in sports. At the time, sports action photography could only be done in bright light outdoors. Munkácsi’s innovation was to make sport photographs as meticulously composed action photographs, which required both artistic and technical skill.

Munkácsi’s break was to happen upon a fatal brawl, which he photographed. Those photos affected the outcome of the trial of the accused killer, and gave Munkácsi considerable notoriety. That notoriety helped him get a job in Berlin in 1928, for Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, where his first published photo was a motorcycle splashing its way through a puddle. He also worked for the fashion magazine Die Dame.

More than just sports and fashion, he photographed Berliners, rich and poor, in all their activities. He traveled to Turkey, Sicily, Egypt, London, New York, and Liberia, for photo spreads in Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung.

The speed of the modern age and the excitement of new photographic viewpoints enthralled him, especially flying. There are aerial photographs; there are air-to-air photographs of a flying school for women; there are photographs from a Zeppelin, including the ones on his trip to Brazil, where he crossed over a boat whose passengers wave to the airship above.

On 21 March 1933, he photographed the fateful Day of Potsdam, when the aged President Paul von Hindenburg handed Germany over to Adolf Hitler. On assignment for Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, he photographed Hitler’s inner circle, although he was a Jewish foreigner.

Munkácsi left for New York City… Munkácsi died in poverty and controversy. Several universities and museums declined to accept his archives, and they were scattered around the world.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

Erwin Blumenfeld (American, born Germany, 1897-1969) 'Hitlerfresse (Hitler's Mug)' January 30, 1933

 

Erwin Blumenfeld (American, born Germany, 1897-1969)
Hitlerfresse (Hitler’s Mug)
January 30, 1933
Gelatin silver print collage with ink
29.2 × 21.3 cm (11 1/2 × 8 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

 

Blumenfeld was born in Berlin on 26 January 1897. As a young man he worked in the clothes trade and wrote poetry. In 1918 he went to Amsterdam, where he came into contact with Paul Citroen and Georg Grosz. In 1933 he made a photomontage showing Hitler as a skull with a swastika on its forehead; this image was later used in Allied propaganda material in 1943.

He married Lena Citroen, with whom he had three children, in 1921. In 1922 he started a leather goods shop, which failed in 1935. He moved to Paris, where in 1936 he set up as a photographer and did free-lance work for French Vogue. After the outbreak of the Second World War he was placed in an internment camp; in 1941 he was able to emigrate to the United States. There he soon became a successful and well-paid fashion photographer, and worked as a free-lancer for Harper’s Bazaar, Life and American Vogue. Blumenfeld died in Rome on 4 July 1969.

Text from