Archive for the 'quotation' Category

05
Aug
18

Review: ‘Dale Cox: Inner Logic’ at Australian Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th July – 12th August 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Usurper Ruminant' 2016

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Usurper Ruminant
2016
Acrylic on gold enamel on board
120cm x 90cm

 

 

Clarion call

The sky is blue, the sun is shining and yet, in this era of the Anthropocene, the Earth is in deep shit. Through the activities of a virus, a contagion that infests the planet…. that is – the ego, the selfishness of the individual human and, collectively, of the human race – “we are perhaps amongst the first to contemplate not just our own finite existence, but the doomed fate of the Earth itself.”

My friend Dale Cox’s exhibition Inner Logic at Australian Galleries dissects this situation in a most intelligent and imaginative manner. Instead of didactic protest, Cox uses the language of Australian pastoral landscape, iconic edifice and stratigraphic cross section to make ironic comment on popular culture, history and religion. As you dissect the various influences and concepts within the work you chuckle to yourself at the artist’s inventiveness and humour.

Mixing the tight style and formal, classical beauty of Australian colonial painting (with reference in particular to the work of John Glover) with the uncanny sense of reality and precision found in the paintings of Jeffrey Smart, Cox twists his realities and points of view. Shopping trolleys have a strange perspective when filled with Australian colonial landscapes; aircraft stairs seem strangely twisted as they lead to a geological cross-section topped with verdant greenery (a journey through time); clouds in the burning landscape look like that of an atomic bomb; an Uluru-like profile of Elvis in the Australian bush is dotted with tents and encampments; and Australian ute’s of unlikely shape sit at the base of a constructed Elvis edifice, the most prominent thing to my mind in the painting being the four air conditioning units at the base of the construction cabin, sitting in an absolutely barren landscape. The perspicacity of Cox’s (re)marks is exemplary.

My favourite works in the exhibition are the Usurper paintings. Here Cox condenses the customs, traditions and rituals of the human race (colonisation, farming, habitation – power, possession, destruction and modification of the environment and its animals) onto the body of the (b)ovine family, the livestock “genetically modified over time through the artificial selection of desirable traits by humans, with a view to increasing the docility of the animals, their size and productivity, their quality as agricultural products, and other culturally desired features,”1 to serve humans who are substantially dependent on their livestock for sustenance and other purposes. These artificial bodies, these illegitimate usurpers, float on a sea of gold enamel and wood grain form.

Cox’s declamations, his inner logic if you like, document in the most inventive way the liturgy of errors of the human race. His work is a clarion call for humans to be better custodians (for that is what we are) of the Earth. Through his subversive paintings, the artist “challenges the myopic tendency for us humans to fixate on ourselves in a way that bodes poorly for our ability to see the bigger picture and act as stewards for the entire planet rather than as self serving, selfish species.” (Email to the author, 28 July 2018). His humors (basic substances which are in balance when a person, or in this case the Earth, is healthy) add to the raised voices against the naysayers of global warming, the backward looking fossil fuel industry, the power of nations and corporations, and the vested interests of the rich and powerful, mainly men. It’s time for the dreamers, the artists, and the spiritual to confront these dinosaurs of the past, so that they may shape the future. So that the human race can cast aside their shadow and learn to walk on the Earth without leaving tracks.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Shaman

“There are two kinds of people in this world.

There are those who are dreamers and those who are being dreamed.

There comes a time in every mans life when he must encounter his past.

For those that are dreamed, who have no more than a passing acquaintance with power, this moment is usually played out on their death beds as they try to bargain with fait for a few more moments of life time.

But for the dreamer, the person of power, this moment takes place alone, before a fire, when he calls upon the spectres of his personal past to stand before him like witnesses before the court…

I am not speaking of remembering the past. Anyone can remember the past, and in remembering we frame it to serve and justify the present. Remembering is a conscious act and therefore subject to embellishment. Remembering is easy.

The person of power sits alone before the fire and confronts his past. He hears the testimony of these spectres and he dismisses them one by one. He acquits himself of his past. If you comprehend this, the man of power has no past. No history that can claim him. He has cast aside his shadow and learnt to walk in the snow without leaving tracks.”

.
Dr Alberto Villoldo

 

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Usurper Transplant' 2016

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Usurper Transplant
2016
Acrylic on gold enamel on board
120cm x 90cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Usurper Glover' 2016

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Usurper Glover
2016
Acrylic on gold enamel on board
120cm x 90cm

 

John Glover (England 1767 - Australia 1849, Australia from 1831) 'The River Nile, Van Diemen's Land, from Mr Glover's farm' 1837

 

John Glover (England 1767 – Australia 1849, Australia from 1831)
The River Nile, Van Diemen’s Land, from Mr Glover’s farm
1837
Oil on canvas
76.4 x 114.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1956

 

 

John Glover’s colonial landscapes can be divided into two groups: pastoral scenes of the land surrounding his own property, and pre-contact Aboriginal Arcadias. Although the Aboriginal figures are at times generic, they are shown as active participants in the landscape. Such scenes were, however, entirely imagined, as Glover encountered very few Tasmanian Aboriginal people while in the colony. Glover had not experienced the conflict or witnessed the violence between Tasmanian Aboriginal resistance fighters and white settlers during the 1820s. By the time of his arrival in 1831, the Tasmanian Aboriginal survivors had been forced to leave Country and relocate to Flinders Island.

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Tract 38 (Burning landscape)' 2012

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Tract 38 (Burning landscape)
2012
Acrylic on canvas
102 x 152cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Tract 38 (Burning landscape)' 2012 (detail)

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Tract 38 (Burning landscape) (detail)
2012
Acrylic on canvas
102 x 152cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Flight SQ2118 to Thailand' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Flight SQ2118 to Thailand
2018
Acrylic on board
81 x 122cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Rewilding II' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Rewilding II
2018
Acrylic on board
81 x 122cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Anticolonial' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Anticolonial
2018
Acrylic on board
81 x 122cm

 

 

Inner Logic 2018

The motifs and elements in this exhibition are all related to our human predicament; to this era of the Anthropocene and our unique capacity amongst living things to contemplate our own mortality. While we have grappled with our impermanence for thousands of years, we are perhaps amongst the first to contemplate not just our own finite existence, but the doomed fate of the Earth itself. A kind of double death.

It’s a lot to take on board.

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, we are well practiced at diversion, denial and a kind of wishful thinking when it comes to our fate. Religion has served us rather well as a kind of ‘soft landing’ into the unknown; furnishing us cradle to grave with a reassuring framework towards a life after death.

It is an intoxicating idea that when we die we go elsewhere. Anything but death seems like a plan. Indeed, many opine that a belief in an afterlife is essential to the very fabric of humanity, that our lives would be meaningless if it simply ended. Perhaps there is an inner logic to this: Is there a point to a life that simply ends?

Our aversion to annihilation runs deep, and in light of some fairly compelling arguments that it is so, humanity is slow to accept the deal. And now that we are facing mounting evidence that we are hurtling towards an environmental collapse of our own making, it seems the all too human ability to simply avert our gaze is once again at play. Desperate times call for desperate measures in collective denial, and so it seems we enter the post-truth era.

There are myriad ways in which we pull off this practised art of self-delusion. Central to it is our unerring fascination with ourselves, our own species. ‘Anthropocentricity’ has served us for millennia as an essential tool of survival by strengthening our ties as family units, tribes, villages and, by extension, nations. The gods we created invariably took a patriarchal form, and we still cling to these heroic manifestations of our own image.

Even our innate altruism appears limited to all things ‘us’. We seem ill-equipped as stewards of the planet of being capable of seeing the bigger picture, of accommodating the survival of all species. All animals are necessarily hardwired to fixate on their own collective survival at the expense of other species, but it is humans alone who can progress that exclusivity to global obliteration.

I generalise, of course. Many manage to stare reality squarely in the face, and many more understand the importance of the broader environment. And it will get harder to remain wilfully ignorant, as the ecological collapse is well underway, overtaking even the gloomiest of predictive models. It is in plain sight and will only become harder to ignore.

The environmental problems we face appear too colossal for individuals to consider; it all seems too overwhelming, too daunting. These are not ‘human-sized’ problems after all. But if we can apply the same collective fervour and inventiveness we applied to bettering our human lot, if we can find a global will to turn our remarkable capacity for enterprise in science, technology and innovation to repairing the planet as a whole, we may have just cause for hope.

Dale Cox

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'The Bungle Bungles' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
The Bungle Bungles
2018
Acrylic on board
122 x 244cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Always on my mind' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Always on my mind
2018
Acrylic on board
101 x 244cm

 

 

Anthropocene definition

Relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Evolutionary psychology definition

Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach to psychology that attempts to explain useful mental and psychological traits – such as memory, perception, or language – as adaptations, i.e., as the functional products of natural selection.

The purpose of this approach is to bring the functional way of thinking about biological mechanisms such as the immune system into the field of psychology, and to approach psychological mechanisms in a similar way.

In short, evolutionary psychology is focused on how evolution has shaped the mind and behaviour. Though applicable to any organism with a nervous system, most research in evolutionary psychology focuses on humans. (Text from the Science Daily website)

Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behaviour is the output of psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments…

Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviours or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations including the abilities to infer others’ emotions, discern kin from non-kin, identify and prefer healthier mates, and cooperate with others. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Tract definition

A short piece of writing, especially on a religious or political subject, that is intended to influence other people’s opinions; a large area of land; a major passage in the body, large bundle of nerve fibres, or other continuous elongated anatomical structure or region.

Usurper definition

A usurper is an illegitimate or controversial claimant to power, often but not always in a monarchy. In other words, a person who takes the power of a country, city, or established region for themselves without any formal or legal right to claim it as their own. Usurpers are both those who overtake a region by often unexpected physical force, as well as individuals or organisations who overtake a region through political influence and subterfuge – though the word “usurper” denotes a single person; either an individual who acted alone, or the leader of a group which supported their controversial claim.

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Untitled (Lunar lander of wood)' 2012

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Untitled (Lunar lander of wood)
2012
Acrylic on board
51 x 77cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Cold War Reliquary' 2014

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Cold War Reliquary' 2014

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Cold War Reliquary' 2014

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Cold War Reliquary' 2014

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Cold War Reliquary
2014
Mixed media Wood acrylics gold enamel metal rock glass
Dimensions variable
Created for the Blake Prize

 

 

Cold War Reliquary 2015-16

A reliquary (also referred to as a shrine or by the French term châsse) is a container for relics. These may be the purported physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. (Wikipedia definition)

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My sculpture is a vessel- a craft, a portal, a reliquary. Like many Religious objects its serves as a nexus, a transport between Earth and Heaven. The Apollo Lunar Module carried the first Human to the Moon landing on July 20 1969. I was 3 months old. Russia had landed an unmanned craft safely on the moon ten years earlier. The ‘Space Race’ was chiefly an assertion of Ideological superiority between Communism and Capitalism, and the most symbolic battlefield of the ‘Cold War’.

I have long thought of mans tentative forays into space as a kind of membrane piercing journey into the Spiritual – the body released of its Earthly mass and transcended into the Heavens. The reference to a Religious Relic and object of Art – a reliquary for the precious moon rock it houses within the glass dome, elevates a Mechanical Machine to the status of a Religious Relic and is intended to supplant and parody the Christian Canon that asserts our ascension to Heaven (or Hell) upon death.

The essential role of Science as the facilitator of Space Exploration is significant, and as such the Spacecraft itself is venerated here as a Religious object.

The use of Quasi Religious painted panels directly references early Christian Art, whilst most of the Latin Inscriptions are direct translations of NASA Radio Transcripts between (Earth) Base Command and the Astronauts during the critical stages of the Moon landing, and the first historic moments upon landing. Buzz Aldrins remark as he first set foot on the moon was “Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation.” In Latin Magnificus in desertum.

Dale Cox

 

 

 

Cold War Reliquary

The Cold War Reliquary is a vessel – a spacecraft, and a Holy Relic. Like many Religious objects, it serves as a nexus, a transport between Earth and Heaven.
I have long thought of man’s forays into space as a kind of membrane piercing journey into the Spiritual – the body released of its Earthly mass and transcended into the Heavens. This reliquary for the precious moon rock it houses within a glass dome, elevates a Mechanical Machine to the status of a Religious Relic and playfully parodies the Space Race as the era in which Science finally transcended Religion.

 

Inner Logic continues Dale Cox’s insightful and evocative explorations into environmental, spiritual and anthropological themes; investigating the impact of humankind on this planet and our collective search for meaning.

“The motifs and elements within the current exhibition of my paintings all are in some way or another related to our human predicament and this era of the anthropocene and our unique capacity amongst living things to contemplate our own mortality,” says Cox, “We humans have been grappling with our own mortality for thousands of years. Are we today, however amongst the first generations to contemplate not just our own finite existence, but also the doomed fate of the Earth itself? A kind of double death…”

Inner Logic presents a dynamic series of recent paintings in Dale Cox’s highly distinctive visual language, in which elements from the natural world and icons from popular, religious, industrial and historical culture are assembled in precarious, yet harmonious balance upon a backdrop of the vast unknown. Meticulously executed in acrylic paint, these works are visually intricate and conceptually dense, yet the clarity and significance of their message resonates with immediacy and power.

Dale Cox is equally proficient in sculpture as he is in painting and works across a wide range of media. This exhibition presents the artist’s compelling Cold War Reliquary (Finalist in the 64th Blake Prize); a magnificent recreation of the Lunar Lander spacecraft realised as a gilded religious receptacle, “My sculpture is a vessel – a spacecraft, a portal, a reliquary. Like many religious objects its serves as a nexus, a transport between Earth and Heaven. I have long thought of man’s forays into space as a kind of membrane piercing journey into the spiritual – the body released of its Earthly mass and transcended into the Heavens. This reliquary for the precious moon rock it houses within a glass dome, elevates a Mechanical Machine to the status of a Religious Relic and playfully parodies and challenges the Christian Church.” Dale Cox, 2018

Press release from Australian Galleries

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Art Mart' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Art Mart
2018
Acrylic on board
120 x 89cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'Albert' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
Albert
2018
Acrylic on board
160 x 122cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'The wonder of you' 2018

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
The wonder of you
2018
Acrylic on board
120 x 90cm

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969) 'The wonder of you' 2018 (detail)

 

Dale Cox (b. 1969)
The wonder of you (detail)
2018
Acrylic on board
120 x 90cm

 

 

Australian Galleries
35 Derby Street,
Collingwood 3066
Phone: +61 3 9417 4303

Opening hours:
Open 7 days 10am to 6pm

Australian Galleries website

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27
Jul
18

Photographs: Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) ‘The North American Indian’ List of Large Plates Supplementing Volume V

July 2018

Published in: The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5

 

On the one hand, it is a privilege to post the complete large plates supplementing Volume Five of Edward S. Curtis’ The North American Indian, together with the complimentary biographical sketches of the subject as they appear in the volume, and supplementary research that I undertook into Native American customs and dress. There is no doubt that these are beautiful and atmospheric photographs of a supposedly “Vanishing Race”.

From a technical point of view we can observe the close cropping, the contextless backgrounds of the portraits, the low depth of field, the beautiful light, the direct gaze of the sitter, and the profile view; and in the exterior shots, the balance between sky and earth, how the horizon line moves up and down, how Curtis often looks up at his subject, and how he crops the negative to obtain different effects (Arikara Medicine Ceremony – The Ducks; Arikara chief).

On the other hand, these photographs can only be viewed as “constructions”, flights of fancy, imagined by Curtis to depict and capture traditional culture, a way of life that had almost disappeared by the time he took these photographs.

Talking to Executive Director Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (Choctaw) of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) he observed that,

There is no one person who can give you one opinion about the Curtis photographs – there is definitely a variety of opinion in Indian Country about them both good and bad. If you find someone in Indian Country that says there is only one way to look at the Curtis photographs, then you have the wrong person!

Personally, I understand those pictures were posed to capture what Curtis and others thought were the vanishing Indian. They do not necessarily represent reality, but a posed amalgamation of pieces of Tribal life and existence at that time. So, like so many cultural items and ancestors that have been stolen and put in museums and in private collections, American society viewed the Indian in that manner too.

Those photos are not who we are but what someone has posed as the story they (Curtis) wanted to tell. On the other hand, they show us today some things that we may no longer have access to and give us a window into eyes of real human beings who were in the process of losing the lives they had known for centuries.” (Email to the author, 1 June 2018)

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I thank Shannon very much for his insightful words. His powerful, evocative statement has just as much relevance here in Australia as in America: for these photographs picture ghosts from the past, made manifest as real human beings in the present, together with their commensurate strength and suffering. They give us a window into eyes of real human beings who were in the process of losing the lives they had known for centuries.

Colonisation, and all that it entails – here in Australia, invasion, massacres, religious conversion, Stolen Generation – is so appalling. These “staged” photographs of a “vanishing race” – again, the same photographs taken here in Australia – show the contempt of the invader for centuries of life, culture and tradition even as they document their “existence.” Culture just becomes a circus, a spectacle to be captured, owned and destroyed.

The effects of colonisation are ever present and continuing. The hurt is ongoing.

Marcus

 

These digitally cleaned photographs are published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic research and critical commentary. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Edward S. Curtis. 'The North American Indian': List of Large Plates Supplementing Volume Five

 

The North American Indian: List of Large Plates Supplementing Volume Five

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Yellow Owl - Mandan' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Yellow Owl – Mandan
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 148

 

 

A face approaching the type of pure Mandan. The neck ornament consists of beads and cylindrical bones, and from the eagle-feather war-bonnet hang numerous weasel-tails.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Spotted Bull - Mandan' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Spotted Bull – Mandan
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 149

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) '[Bear's Belly, Arikara Indian half-length portrait, facing front, wearing bearskin]' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Bear’s Belly, Arikara Indian half-length portrait, facing front, wearing bearskin
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 150

 

 

A member of the medicine fraternity, wrapped in his sacred bearskin.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Four Horns - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Four Horns – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 151

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject appears in Volume V, page 179 (below)

Born in 1847 near Fort Berthold. At the age of fourteen he accompanied a war-party against the Sioux. Two years later he enlisted as scout at Fort Buford; he served served also at Fort Phil. Kearny, where in a skirmish with Sioux he had a horse shot under him. Returning that summer to the village at Fort Berthold he led a party in pursuit of some Chippewa who had murdered a Hidatsa, and succeeded in killing two of them. Twice he joined in successful pursuit of Sioux horse-raiders. He fasted several times. On the third morning of his first fast three horse-skulls and a buffalo-skull were fastened with rawhide ropes to the muscles of his back. He dragged them a mile to the Hidatsa village, encircled it, and returned to the starting-point, but no vision was experienced. The following summer the Sun Dance was observed, and his father, determined that Four Horns should receive a vision, took him to the burial-ground and fastened him to a post by slits through his back-muscles. From sunset to sunrise he walked around the post, constantly puling on the rope. The next year his father led him to the same place and had another man tie four horse-skulls and a buffalo-skull to his back, and these he dragged some three miles; but the task occupied fully six hours, as the skulls became entangled in the roots of a stump and he had to free them without using his hands. During the Sun Dance of the succeeding year he was fastened, again by his father, to a resilient ash pole, which, springing back when he pulled on the ropes, greatly increased the torture. Thus he remained from mid-afternoon until well after sunset – about six hours – but no vision was vouchsafed him. Four Horns married at the age of fifteen, being eligible by reason of his experience in war gained during the previous year. Portrait, folio plate 151.

 

Vision Quests

Numerous Native American practiced the rite of Vision Quests, which was often taken by older children before puberty to “find themselves” and their life’s direction. How the rite was taken, its length and intensity, and at what age varied greatly from tribe to tribe. In most cases the vision quest was a “supernatural” experience in which the individual seeks to interact with a guardian spirit, usually an animal, to obtain advice or protection.

Much preparation was often taken before the vision quest was undertaken in order to determine the sincerity and commitment of the person. Sometimes the quest required the individual to go alone into the wilderness for several days, in order to become attuned to the spirit world.

Other tribes required the individual to take a long walk, or were confined to a small room. Often the individual was required to fast prior to the quest, and was not allowed to sleep. During this period of sensory deprivation, the individual was to search for a a guardian spirit’s presence or a sign that would be given to them. Once the presence or sign was “seen,” and the individual had realized his/her direction in life, they would return to the tribe to pursue their life’s journey.

Kathy Weiser. “Native American Rituals and Ceremonies,” on the Legends of America website [Online] Cited 31/05/2018

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'White Shield - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
White Shield – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 152

 

 

A mixed-blood member of the medicine fraternity.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Sitting Bear - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Sitting Bear – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 153

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 180 (below)

Born in 1844 on the west side of the Missouri, opposite present Washburn, North Dakota. He was eighteen years of age before making his first trial at war, and even then he took no part in the actual conflict with the Assiniboin whom his party encountered. The following year he engaged in the fight when a hunting party near the Fort Berthold village was surrounded by Sioux, and he even acquired some distinction by being first to strike one of the horses of the enemy. In all the was participant in twelve battles, himself being the leader six times, but only twice did he conduct his warriors into the enemy’s country. On the other occasions the encounters were brought on by Sioux attacking the village. The first expedition of which he was chief was made down the Missouri in bull-boats. After travelling for nine night, concealing themselves by day, they killed a woman that came to the river for water, and then made their escape after a minor engagement with the men of the hostile camp. Sitting Bear was the leader of the Arikara in a combined party of Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara into the Sioux country. A camp was raided and Sitting bear captured five horses. The retreat to Fort Berthold consumed six days. Sitting Bear conted a first coup in a fight near Fort Berthold being the first Arikara to strike one of the enemy, although a Hidatsa had already counted coup on him. He married at nineteen, and like his father and grandfather he became the tribal chief. Portrait, folio plate 153.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Bear's Teeth - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Bear’s Teeth – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 154

 

 

A member of the Night order of the medicine fraternity.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Little Sioux - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Little Sioux – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 155

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Bull Neck - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Bull Neck – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 156

 

 

A member of the Buffalo order of the medicine fraternity. Bull Neck is portrayed wearing his head-dress of buffalo horns and hide. A biographical sketch is given in Volume V, page 178 (below)

Born in 1836. His first experience in war was gained at the age of sixteen, when with a party of six others he floated down the Missouri into what is now South Dakota. They succeeded in running off some horses from a Sioux encampment, and Bull Neck, the youngest of the seven, was charged with the duty of driving them home, while the others retuned afoot on the other side of the river. His second war experience came while on another expedition down the Missouri. Four Sioux horses were captured, and three of the party turned back with the spoils; but the remaining four, of whom Bull Neck was one, went on southward into a region of heavy timber, where more Sioux horses were taken. On another down-river raid, about twenty-five Arikara, camping one night among the trees, heard the neighing of a horse. They prepared to fight, believing the Sioux were upon them. Bull Neck went out to make a reconnoissance and found a stray horse. The party proceeded on its way and came to a camp of wood-cutters providing fuel for the river steamboats. One of the white men, speaking in Arikara, told them of a nearby camp of Sioux, and the war-party, having found the enemy, made an attack. One Sioux and two Arikara were killed. Bull Neck participated in numerous encounters with the same enemy, some of them being engagements of his own seeking, others the result of attacks upon the Fort Berthold village. He counted a first coup in a winter campaign. Bull Neck was a Buffalo medicine-man in the medicine fraternity. Portrait, folio plate 156.

 

Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is in the upper-left corner on this map.

 

 

Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is in the upper-left corner on this map.

The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is a U.S. Indian reservation in western North Dakota that is home for the federally recognized Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. The reservation includes lands on both sides of the Missouri River.

Created in 1870, the reservation is a small part of the lands originally reserved to the tribes by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which allocated nearly 12 million acres (49,000 km²) in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming.

The population of the reservation was 6,341 as of the 2010 census. The Tribe reported a total enrolment of 15,013 registered tribe members in March 2016. Many members live in cities because there are more job opportunities. Unemployment on the reservation was at 42%. The 2000 census reported a reservation population of 5,915 persons living on a land area of 1,318.895 sq mi (3,415.923 km²). (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine fraternity' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine fraternity
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 157

 

 

In this group are shown the principal participants in the reenactment of the Arikara medicine ceremony, which was given for the author’s observation and study in July, 1908.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine ceremony - Dance of the fraternity' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine ceremony – Dance of the fraternity
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 158

 

 

After each order has performed its dance about the sacred cedar, the entire fraternity, group by group, emerges from the lodge and dances.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Announcement - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Announcement – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 159

 

 

Among the Missouri River Indians of the earthen lodges – the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara – the chiefs and priests made their announcements from the housetops. This picture is of Bear’s Teeth standing on the roof of the ceremonial lodge in which occurred the medicine ceremony described in Volume V, pages 70-76.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'The rush gatherer' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
The rush gatherer
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 160

 

 

The Arikaras, as well as their close neighbours, the Mandan and Hidatsa, made many mats of rushes. These were used largely as floor coverings.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) '[Arikara medicine ceremony - the Bears]' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
[Arikara medicine ceremony – the Bears]
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 161

 

 

After dancing around the sacred cedar, the members of the Bear order halt and complete their songs before reentering the medicine-lodge.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine ceremony - Dance of the black-tail deer' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine ceremony – Dance of the black-tail deer
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 162

 

 

The two dark figures are painted in a manner suggesting the elk, the others the antelope.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara Medicine Ceremony - The Ducks' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara Medicine Ceremony – The Ducks
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 163

 

 

Three members of the medicine fraternity, painted to represent ducks and holding the rushes among which waterfowl rest, in their dance around the sacred cedar.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara Medicine Ceremony - The Ducks' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara Medicine Ceremony – The Ducks
c. 1908
LC-DIG-ppmsca-39866
Library of Congress

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine fraternity - The prayer' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine fraternity – The prayer
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 164

 

 

Photograph shows Arikara shamans, without shirts, backs to camera, seated in a semi-circle around a sacred cedar tree, tipis in background. This impressive picture from the Arikara medicine ceremony shows the priests in a semi-circle about the sacred cedar.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara girl' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara girl
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 165

 

 

A type produced by several generations of tribal and racial intermarriage. The subject is considered by her tribesmen to be a pure Arikara, but her features point unmistakably to a white ancestor, and there is little doubt that the blood of other tribes than the one which claims her flows in her veins.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara chief' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara chief
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 166

 

 

The tribal chief, Sitting Bear, is portrayed in full costume of scalp-shirt, leggings, and moccasins, all of deerskin, and eagle-feather war-bonnet and coup-stick. (Curtis)

Photograph shows Sitting Bear, an Arikara chief, in full regalia, with a medallion around his neck. The medallion appears to bear the image of Millard Fillmore and the words: … President of the United States, 1851(?).

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara chief' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara chief
c. 1908
LC-USZ62-136605 (b&w film copy neg.)
Library of Congress

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'No Bear - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
No Bear – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 167

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject is given in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born in 1841 near the mouth of Marias river. He counted a third coup when, at the age of fifteen, he first accompanied a war-party. On another raid a solitary Indian was seen. The Atsina charged, and no Bear was the first to reach him. The enemy fired but missed, and No Bear then shot him tomahawked him, took his scalp, medicine bundle, and gun, and counted coup before the rest of the warriors reached the spot. On another occasion, while fighting some Cree who were in the timber, No Bear ran up to one who was pointing an arrow at him and counted first coup. Later another charged him, but he rushed to meet the Cree, who fired and missed, and No Bear then attacked him with his tomahawk, missing the first time, but burying the blade in his opponent’s skull at the next stroke. No Bear tomahawked an enemy during a fight with the Bloods, and counted a second coup. He was in the battle in which the twenty-one Piegan were killed (page 109), and captured a bow and a quiver. In another battle he went back and rescued an unhorsed friend. He married at the age of thirty. Portrait, folio plate 167.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Eagle Child - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Eagle Child – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 168

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 181 (below)

Born in 1862 east of the Little Rockies. He first followed the war-path when twenty years of age, but gained no honours on this occasion. His next experience was in an expedition against the Piegan. Three of the enemy charged a small party of the Atsina, and one, singling him out, came so close that when the Piegan shot, the powder burned Eagle Child. Another Atsina shot the Piegan, and Eagle Child counted second coup and took the scalp. Portrait, folio plate 168.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'The land of the Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
The land of the Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 169

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Horse Capture - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Horse Capture – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 170

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born near Milk river in 1858. When about fifteen years of age he went with a war-party against the Piegan, but achieved no honor. From their camp at Beaver creek the Atsina sent out a war-party which came upon two Sioux. Remaining hidden in a coulée, the warriors sent an old man out as a decoy. When the Sioux charged him, the rest of the Atsina rushed out and killed them both. During the fight, Horse Capture ran up to one of the enemy, who was wounded, in order to count coup, when one of his companions dashed in ahead of him and was killed by the wounded Sioux. Horse Capture then counted first coup on the enemy and killed him. He married at the age of twenty-five. Portrait, folio plate 170.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Assiniboin Boy - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Assiniboin Boy – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 171

 

 

The head-band, so commonly used by many tribes of the Southwest, notably the Apache and Navaho, is often worn in the Northwest. A biographical sketch of Assiniboin Boy appears in Volume V, page 180 (below)

Born in 1861 in western Montana. He first went on the war-path at the age of eighteen, but gained no honors. During a fight against the Piegan he counted a second coup. He participated in the battle in which the twenty-one Piegan were killed (page 109), and slew one in the pits with the knife of the enemy. On another expedition he killed two horses of the Piegan, and shot a man through both legs. He married at the age of twenty-two. Portrait, folio plate 171.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Atsina chiefs' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina chiefs
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 172

 

 

Two Atsina chiefs on horseback, one with feathered staff and one with a coup stick.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'On the war path - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
On the war path – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 173

 

 

These grim-visaged old warriors made a thrilling picture as they rode along, breaking out now and then into a wild song of the chase or the raid. (Curtis)

Small band of Atsina men on horseback, some carrying staffs with feathers, one wearing a war bonnet.

 

War bonnet

War bonnets (also called warbonnets or headdresses) are feathered headgear traditionally worn by male leaders of the American Plains Indians Nations who have earned a place of great respect in their tribe. Originally they were sometimes worn into battle, but they are now primarily used for ceremonial occasions. They are seen as items of great spiritual and political importance, only to be worn by those who have earned the right and honour through formal recognition by their people.

Native American tribes consider the presentation of an eagle feather to be one of their highest marks of respect. Any honored person must have earned their feather through selfless acts of courage and honour, or been gifted them in gratitude for their work or service to their tribe. Traditional deeds that brought honour would include acts of valor in battle, but also political and diplomatic gains or acts that helped their community survive and prosper. The esteem attached to eagle feathers was so high that in many cases, such as a warrior (e.g. Dog Soldiers of the Cheyenne), only two or three honour feathers might be awarded in their whole lifetime. Historically, the warrior who was the first to touch an enemy in battle and escape unscathed received an eagle feather. When enough feathers were collected, they might be incorporated into a headdress or some other form of worn regalia. Headdresses were usually reserved exclusively for the tribe’s chosen political and spiritual leaders. …

Plains-style bonnets

Plains Indians normally use eagle feathers as the most significant part of the bonnet to represent honor and respect. Some Plains-style bonnet forms are the “horned” bonnet, “flaring” eagle feather bonnet, and the “fluttering feather” bonnet. The “horned” bonnet can consist of a buckskin skull cap, shaved bison or cow horns, and dyed horsehair with bunches of owl feathers beneath the skull cap. The “flaring” eagle feather bonnet is often made of golden eagle tail feathers connected to a buckskin or felt crown. There are slits at the base of the crown that allow the bonnet to have a “flaring” look. An unusual form of bonnet that is no longer used would be the “fluttering feather” bonnet. This can have golden eagle, hawk, and owl feathers loosely attached to a felt or buckskin cap to make it hang at the sides.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown maker (Native American) 'Feather headdress from 'Wolf Chief', Hidatsa' c. 1830

 

Unknown maker (Native American)
Feather headdress from ‘Wolf Chief’, Hidatsa
c. 1830
Red-dyed eagle feathers
Ethnological Museum, Berlin
Copyright free image

 

Unknown maker (Native American) 'War bonnet, Plains Indian style' c. 1900

 

Unknown maker (Native American)
War bonnet, Plains Indian style
c. 1900
Eagle feathers
Robbins Museum – Middleborough, Massachusetts
Copyright free image

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) '[Atsina Indian, Red Whip, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, wearing feather, beaded buckskin shirt, holding pipe in left hand]' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina Indian, Red Whip, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, wearing feather, beaded buckskin shirt, holding pipe in left hand
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 174

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject is given in Volume V, page 183 (below)

Born in 1858 near Fort McGinnis, Montana. At the age of seventeen he went out on his first war expedition, going against the Sioux. The enemy was camped at Lodepole creek, and the Atsina attacked them at dawn, capturing several horses. Red Whip was in the lead of the charge and took a few of the animals single-handed. During a battle with the Piegan, he rushed in the enemy’s line and captured a gun, counting first coup on the owner. On another expedition the Atsina met a Sioux scout whom Red Whip charged and killed, then counted first coup and took his scalp. Later, the main body of the Sioux charged the Atsina; one singled out Red Whip and fired at him, but missed, and the young warrior shot him down. Red Whip was scouting on Tongue river with General Miles, when the Sioux charged a small body of soldiers, routing them. Red Whip says he stood firm and stopped the onrushing enemy until the troops escaped. His medicine, given to him by an uncle, is a strip of otter-fur. Portrait, folio plate 174.

 

Counting coup

Counting coup was the winning of prestige against an enemy by the Plains Indians of North America. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories. Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior with the hand, bow, or coup stick and escaping unharmed. Touching the first enemy to die in battle or touching the enemy’s defensive works also counted as coup. Counting coup could also involve stealing an enemy’s weapons or horses tied up to his lodge in camp. Risk of injury or death was required to count coup.

Escaping unharmed while counting coup was considered a higher honor than being wounded in the attempt. A warrior who won coup was permitted to wear an eagle feather in his hair. If he had been wounded in the attempt, however, he was required to paint the feather red to indicate this.

After a battle or exploit, the people of a tribe would gather together to recount their acts of bravery and “count coup.” Coups were recorded by putting notches in a coup stick. Indians of the Pacific Northwest would tie an eagle feather to their coup stick for each coup counted, but many tribes did not do so. Among the Blackfoot tribe of the upper Missouri River Valley, coup could be recorded by the placement of “coup bars” on the sleeves and shoulders of special shirts that bore paintings of the warrior’s exploits in battle.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Atsina Camp' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina Camp
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 175

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'The scout - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
The scout – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 176

 

 

The scouts of many tribes, among which were the Atsina, carried a wolf-skin which they used in waving signals to their chief. That which is apparently hair-ornamentation, standing high above the head of the subject, is in reality coarse stalks of grass, indicating that the wearer is a scout. The origin of the custom was in the practice of scouts to wear on their head thick masses of grass, which enabled them to peer over hilltops without being discovered by the enemy.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Head Dress - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Head Dress – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 177

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject appears in Volume V, page 181 (below)

Born about 1855, near Marias river, Montana. He first took the war-path when twenty years of age, going against the Assiniboin. One woman was killed by his party, but Head-dress gained no honors. A war-party composed of a few Atsina, Apsaroke, and Assiniboin, went westward and found a Flathead camp, which they charged killing one man; Head-dress was with them, but accomplished nothing. While he and another were scouting in the Piegan country, they found two of the enemy, who took refuge behind a bank. The two Atsina charged and captured both, counting coups on them. While hunting buffalo, the Atsina met a party of Sioux with a band of stolen horses, and, charging them, forced them to abandon their booty. Head-dress captured two horses himself, each with a saddle. He counted a first coup against the Piegan, and while fighting the Sioux he and another struck first coup at the same time. Head-dress has had no visions, nor has he ever fasted, but has the medicine of an eagle down-feather, which was given to him. He married at the age of thirty. Portrait, folio plate 177.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'War party's farewell - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
War party’s farewell – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 178

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Atsina warriors' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina warriors
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 179

 

 

Several Atsina warriors on horseback some with feathered staffs and one with a headdress.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Lone Flag - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Lone Flag – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 180

 

 

An eagle-wing fan is held in the hand. A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born in 1854 in northwest Montana. His first experience in war was gained in the great battle with the Piegan (page 109), on which occasion he killed one and captured his medicine bundle. In an engagement with the Sioux near what is now St. Paul’s Mission, in the Little Rockies, he saved a comrade in the thick of the fight. Lone Flag married at the age of thirty-four. Portrait, folio plate 180.

 

Little Rocky Mountains

The Little Rocky Mountains, also known as the Little Rockies, are a group of buttes, roughly 765 km2 in area, located towards the southern end of the Fort Belknap Agency in Blaine County and Phillips County in north-central Montana. Their highest summit is Antoine Butte ~5720 ft (1743 m). The nearest town is Dodson, Montana.

“Many Indian people believe that spirits dwell in north central Montana’s “island” mountains”: the Sweet Grass hills and the Bears Paw and Little Rocky ranges. Their rugged peaks, clustered like tepees in a camp, offer access to the supernatural and provide a nesting place for eagles, the messengers of the spirits who lived there. Generations of Blackfeet, Gros Ventre [the older name for Hidatsas], Assiniboine, and Chippewa-Cree have used these isolated areas for fasting, prayer and vision questing. Here are the precious gifts of water, plants, animals, and solitude from the Great Spirit. Stories describing the supernatural powers of the Little Rocky Mountains abound. One such story, handed down in many variations, tells of a terrible water-monster called Bax’aa that inhabited the spring on Eagle Child Mountain, frightening or even slaying some who attempted to fast there. Another well known site at the western end of the Little Rockies is a battleground remembered among northern Montana tribes for its spiritual significance. The great Gros Ventre warrior Red Whip won victory there over the Sioux against incredible odds. His success is attributed to a powerful war charm and a vision that foretold the battle.”

‘Little Rocky Mountains’ video on YouTube website

 

Little Rocky Mountains

Little Rocky Mountains

Little Rocky Mountains

Little Rocky Mountains

 

 

Medicine bundle

A Native American medicine bag or medicine bundle is a container for items believed to protect or give spiritual powers to its owner. Varying in size, it could be small enough to wear around the neck or it could be a large bag with a long strap called a “bandolier.” The size of the bag is determined by how many items need to be carried.

In historic times, medicine men and shamans generally carried a large medicine bundle that could hold numerous items such as seeds, herbs, pine cones, grass, animal teeth or claws, horse hair, rocks, tobacco, beads, arrowheads, bones, or anything else of relatively small size that possessed spiritual value to the bundle’s owner. Warriors also carried bundles that included items that were important to him such as rattles, animal furs, special stones, or anything that meant something to the owner.

Because the medicine bag is considered a very precious possession which represents a person’s spiritual life, it and its contents are generally considered holy by the tribal community and its contents are meant to be kept secret by the owner. The bundle should never touch the ground which is why the bundles are to be securely wrapped. Prayers and rituals usually accompany the manufacture and opening of medicine bundles. …

In many cultures some of the items that would be carried in the bag would often be procured through a vision quest, a right of passage that includes personal sacrifice such as fasting and prayer over several days in an isolated location. The purpose is to make contact with natural spiritual forces that will guide the individual in reaching his or her potential and increase his or her understanding of him/herself, community, and the world. During the vision quest a guardian spirit will generally come to the individual in a dream or a vision, which is afterwards interpreted with the help of a Shaman. Some items within the individual’s medicine bag would represent their guardian spirit.

Kathy Weiser. “Medicine Bags or Bundles,” on the Legends of America website [Online] Cited 31/05/2018 © Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2017.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Awaiting the scouts return, Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Awaiting the scouts return, Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 181

 

 

The war-party sent scouts in advance, who kept a constant lookout for the enemy. From time to time they returned to the main party to report, and when they were sighted the warriors formed in line and chanted a song of welcome.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Scout's report - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Scout’s report – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 182

 

 

The Chief of the scouts, returning to the main party, tells in the vigorous and picturesque language so natural to the Indians what he has seen and experienced. While he speaks, the war-leader stands slightly in advance of his men, and carefully listening to the words of the scout, quickly forms his plan of action.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Otter Robe - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Otter Robe – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 183

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject is given in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born in 1851 near Fort Benton. When sixteen years of age he joined a war-party against the Piegan, but on this first expedition he gained no honors. On another raid against the same people he counted a first coup. A party of Atsina, of which he was a member, camped one night near a war-party of Sioux, not knowing of their presence. At dawn the enemy charged, but were driven back, and during the skirmish he counted another first coup. A party of Piegan stole some horses; the Atsina followed, overtaking the enemy and forcing them to abandon their booty; during the fight he killed one Piegan. On another expedition against the same tribe Otter Robe killed one with the stock of his gun and counted a first coup. In another battle with the Piegan, he rushed in, pulled a warrior from his horse, and killed him with his knife. When a young man he fasted two days and two nights by a river, and had a vision in which a tree became transformed to a warrior who told him he was to obtain many honours. The faster was instructed to paint as was the spirit – yellow on the temples, with a streak of red across the forehead – and to wear a strip of otter-fur around his scalp-lock. Otter Robe married at the age of thirty. Portrait, folio plate 183.

 

 

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22
Jul
18

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Paris in film’ 2018 Part 2

July 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

 

Paris in film 2018

These photographs were taken on a trip to Paris in 2017 using my Mamiya twin-lens C220 medium format camera shot on Kodak Ektra 100 colour negative film.

It was strange taking these photographs over numerous, adventurous, energised days in Paris. Different from the yet to be sorted 4,000+ digital photographs I took, the act of taking these photographs allowed me to fully concentrate, to immerse myself in the environment, to loose myself in the process – with a commensurate dropping away of ego. I just was in the moment, “in the zone” as athletes would say.

They are only basic jpg scans of the negs, full frame, no cropping, and I have colour corrected as best I can, noting that all digital images look different from computer monitor to monitor – one of the perennial hazards of looking at work online. They have not been sequenced at the moment.

The photographs seem to hang well together as a body of work. I would love to get good scans and print some of them.

Through their clear visualisation, the photographs speak directly to the viewer.

Marcus

.
68 images
© Marcus Bunyan

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The great goal that we must all pursue is to kill off the great evil that eats away at us: egotism.”

.
“Sometimes I think I love nature just as much, if not more, for not being capable of translation into words… No words can describe some things. The more one says the less one sees. You see… nature is like love, it’s in the heart and you must not talk about it too much. You diminish what you try to describe. As for myself, I have no idea of my own nature when I act unselfconsciously. I only see what there is between the sky and myself. I have no part in it all. If I think of you, in my odd way I am you and I cease to exist.”

.
George Sand

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Fontainebleau' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Fontainebleau
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Fontainebleau' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Fontainebleau
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Rats Surmulots Captures aux Halles vers 1925' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Rats Surmulots Captures aux Halles vers 1925
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Dying light, KH in Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan
Dying light, KH in Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series ‘Paris in film’ 2018

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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03
Jun
18

Review: ‘Diane Arbus: American Portraits’ at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 21st March – 17th June 2018

Curator at Heide: Anne O’Hehir

 

Diane Arbus. 'Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963' 1963

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963
1963
Silver gelatin print

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963' 1963

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963 (installation view)
1963
Silver gelatin print
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

 

The power of intention

If I had to nominate one photographer who is my favourite of all time, it would be Diane Arbus. There is just something about her photographs that impinge on my consciousness, my love of difference in human beings, their subversiveness and diversity. She pictures it all, some with irony, some with love, some with outright contempt, but always with interest. In photographs of dwarfs you don’t get the majesty and beauty that Susan Sontag desired, you get something else instead: the closeness of intention and effect – this is who this person was at that particular moment represented in a photograph, the essence of their being at that particular time.

Arbus was fascinated by the relationships between the psychological and the physical, probing her subjects with the camera to elicit a physical response. Her sensory, emotional, intellectual and aesthetic intelligence creates a single experience in relation to subject, stimulating her to respond to the world in her own unique way. While Arbus may well have hated aspects of American culture – “Its hypocrisy, this ‘happy happy’ story after the war, the consumerism, the racism, she feels deeply about that,” as Anne O’Hehir, curator of the National Gallery of Australia’s American Portraits observes – she photographed everything that makes us human in profound and powerful photographs. To me, her subjects were not ‘caught off guard’ nor did they unintentionally reveal aspects of themselves – they revealed themselves to Arbus just as they are, because she gained their trust, she had empathy for who they were… an empathy that probably flowed both ways, enhanced by the subjects sense of Arbus’ own personal travails.

It is unfortunate then, that this exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art is such a disappointment. This has nothing to do with the wonderful installation by the Heide curatorial team in the beautiful gallery spaces, but in the prints themselves and the artists that accompany Arbus’ work. Let’s look at the prints first.

According to an article by Louise Maher on the ABC News website in 2016, “The collection is one of the largest public holdings of her work outside New York and, according to NGA curator of photography Anne O’Hehir, one of the most impressive in the world. “The gallery was buying a huge amount of work in 1980 and ’81 leading up to the opening of the gallery in 1982,” Ms O’Hehir said. “We were offered in two lots these extraordinary photographs – they were the first release of prints from the Arbus estate and they were expensive at the time.”

These vintage prints are by the hand of Arbus, not later printings by other people, and as such should be as close a rendition to what Arbus intended the work to look like as can be found. The exhibition text notes that, “All the same, she was very clear about how she wanted her images to look; she worked hard to achieve a particular quality in her prints, which have a distinct feel and appearance that are quite different from other photographs of the 1960s … She reminds us consistently through a number of careful and deliberate strategies that we are looking at a photograph that has been made by a particular person.”

Through these strategies Arbus sought to differentiate her prints from the West Coast Ansel Adams Zone system of printing which was prevalent at the time. The Zone System would have been the antithesis of what Arbus wanted from her photographs. Every popular magazine at that time would have had Zone System stuff… so Arbus didn’t dare align herself with that school. But truth be told, if these prints are the best that she could do as a printer, then they are not very good. As can be seen from the installation photographs in this posting (not the media photographs), some of the prints are so dark as to be beyond comparison to the clarity of the prints that were later produced by her daughter Doon Arbus for the Arbus estate and for reproduction in books. You only have to look at the installation photograph of Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963 (above) and another reproduction of this image to see how dark the National Gallery of Australia’s prints are. If you take time to actually look at the photographs one of the prints, Identical twins, Roselle, N.J., 1966 (1966, below) was barely in focus under the enlarger when developed, and several others have not been fixed properly. They may have been first release, but how far down the release were they? We don’t know whether these were the top shelf prints, or tenth in the stack. I know from personal experience that I have a numbering system from one to ten. You sell the best print and so number two then becomes number one, and so on.

The poorness of these prints again becomes a sign of intention. The print is the final, luminous rendition of a photographers previsualisation, the ultimate expression of their creativity. This is how I want to show you the world, through this photograph. It is the end point of a long process. I believe strongly that Arbus wanted to show things as clearly as possible, as clearly as the best possible use that photography could provide. She is like a razor the way she cuts through. But in these particular final renditions, she lets herself down. And the people who bought these photographs, should have realised what poor prints they were.

Turning to the artists that accompany the work of Arbus… was it really necessary to surround such a powerful artist’s work with such noise? While it is always a delight to see the work of Mary Ellen Mark, William Eggleston, Milton Rogovin, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Lisette Model, Walker Evans, Weegee and William Klein, to try and embed the work of Arbus within a photographic milieu, within a cacophony of imagery that stretches from the 1930s to the 1980s, simply does not work. While Arbus emerges out of the concerns of her era, she is such a powerful presence and force that simply no one compares. She is so different from the organised Evans and or the macabre Weegee, more closely aligned to Model, and certainly by no stretch of the imagination does she influence Eggleston, Friedlander, Winogrand, Mark or Rogovin in any significant way… that these artists works just become filler for this exhibition. If the intention was to situate Arbus’ work in the chronological “flow” of photography then the concept falls between intention and effect. While no artist’s work appears without regard to historical precedent, their work is simply their own and needs its own space to breathe.

What would have been more interesting would have been to position Arbus’ work within an Australian context. Now there’s an idea, since we live in Australia!

Here we go: exhibit Arbus’ prints with 15 prints by Carol Jerrems (Vale Street, Mark and Flappers), 15 prints of the early work of Polixeni Papapetrou (drag queens, Elvis fans, circus performers and wrestlers) and 15 prints of the work of Sue Ford. Four strong women who deal with issues of gender and identity in a forthright manner – not a cacophony of noise (9 artists, 6 of them men) to accompany the work of a genius. Analyse the influence of Arbus on this generation of Australian photographers. Pretty simple. Clean, concise, accessible, relevant to Australia audiences. Then intention would have possibly met effect.

There are highlights to be had within this exhibition, two in particular.

It was a pleasure to see the work of Milton Rogovin. I have always admired his work, and the small, intimate prints from his Lower West Side series (1973-2002) did not disappoint. While Arbus’ portraits are powerful visualisations, front and centre, Rogovin’s working class families are just… present. His social documentary photographs of working class families are almost reticent in their rendition. “His classical portraits, often grouped in diptychs and triptychs, expound narrative in a single image and over time. They compress time intimately… and by that I mean the viewer is engaged in a conversation with the subject, where we can imagine that we live those lives as they do (transcending time), the lives of what Rogovin called “the forgotten ones.” He makes their countenance, their physicality, the hardships they endure, and their narrative, directly and intimately compelling. We are made to feel their plight in the now and the forever. For these photographs are as relevant, if not more so, now as then.”

The other highlight is to see three Arbus photographs that I have never seen before: Old black woman with gnarled hand; Large black family in small shack; and Addie Taylor in her shack, Beaufort, South Carolina (all 1968, installation views below), all three taken with flash. These works were a revelation for their observational intimacy and evocation of a dark place in the existence of the poorest of human beings. The gnarled hand of the old woman lying in a filthy bed with cardboard walls is particularly distressing to say the least. To compare these photographs with Walker Evans’ flash photograph Hudson Street boarding house detail, New York (1931, below) and his naturally aspirated Bedroom, shrimp fisherman’s house, Biloxi, Mississippi (1945, below) in their pristine emptiness is instructive. This ideation, together with Arbus’ photographs relationship to the work of her sometime teacher Lisette Model (particularly her Lower East Side photographs (1939-42); Albert-Alberta, Hubert’s 42nd St Flea Circus, New York (c. 1945) and Woman with Veil, San Francisco (1949) all below) are the zenith of this exhibition, where the intention of embedding Arbus’ photographs in the history of the medium come best to fruition, in effect.

Finally, I must say a big thank you to Heide Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to come out to the gallery to take the installation photographs. Many thanks indeed.

Marcus

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

 

 

“People who met Arbus often said she was incredibly seductive. Immensely curious, she was softly spoken and her ability to connect with and gain the trust of people was legendary. She talked about “the gap between intention and effect”, explaining “it really is totally fantastic that we look like this and you sometimes see that very clearly in a photograph. Something is ironic in the world and it has to do with the fact that what you intend never comes out like you intend it.””

.
Kerrie O’Brien, curator of the National Gallery of Australia’s Diane Arbus: American Portraits

 

“The people in an Arbus photograph are never trivialised; they have certainly a larger-than-life intensity that few other photographers can achieve. While they seem like figures from fairy tales or myth, they are also invested with powerful agency.”

.
Gillian Wearing

 

“When you’re awake enough to question your purpose and ask how to connect to it, you’re being prodded by the power of intention. The very act of questioning why you’re here is an indication that your thoughts are nudging you to reconnect to the field of intention. What’s the source of your thoughts about your purpose? Why do you want to feel purposeful? Why is a sense of purpose considered the highest attribute of a fully functioning person? The source of thought is an infinite reservoir of energy and intelligence.

In a sense, thoughts about your purpose are really your purpose trying to reconnect to you. This infinite reservoir of loving, kind, creative, abundant energy grew out of the originating intelligence, and is stimulating you to express this universal mind in your own unique way.”

.
Dr Wayne Dyer from ‘The Power of Intention’

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Heide is delighted to host the National Gallery of Australia’s touring exhibition, Diane Arbus: American Portraits.

The photographs of Diane Arbus (1923-71) are among the most widely recognised in the history of photography. Her images stand as powerful allegories of post-war America, and once seen are rarely forgotten. Works such as Identical twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967 and Child with toy hand grenade, in Central Park, New York City have been described as two of ‘the most celebrated images in the history of the medium’.

Featuring 35 of Arbus’s most iconic and confrontational images from 1961-71, this exhibition examines the last decade of Arbus’s life,the period in which her style is in full flight. Her work has polarised viewers who question whether she exploited or empowered her subjects, who were often drawn from society’s margins. ‘The National Gallery of Australia is privileged to hold such an extraordinary collection of work by a photographer of Arbus’s significance,’ said Anne O’Hehir, curator. ‘This collection covers Arbus’s best-known pictures, and also includes images which are rarely seen. This exhibition is a testament to the power of Arbus’s extraordinary vision.’

Arbus’s photographs are exhibited alongside a selection of works by other leading American photographers whose work influenced Arbus, was shown alongside hers in the ’60s, or has been influenced by her. These include famous images by Lisette Model, Walker Evans and Weegee, her contemporaries William Klein, Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and Milton Rogovin as well as a slightly younger generation, work by Mary Ellen Mark and William Eggleston.

Heide Director and CEO Dr Natasha Cica said: ‘Heide is delighted to present this exhibition of the renowned photographer Diane Arbus. Her uncompromising view challenged existing photography conventions in a surprising and enchanting way.’

Press release from Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne with at left, Weegee’s No title (at a concert in Harlem) c. 1948, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1981 followed by William Klein’s Christmas shoppers, near Macy’s, New York 1954 and Stickball gang, New York 1955
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968) 'No title (at a concert in Harlem)' c. 1948

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968)
No title (at a concert in Harlem)
c. 1948
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of William Klein’s Christmas shoppers, near Macy’s, New York 1954 and Stickball gang, New York 1955
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of William Klein (born April 19, 1928) 'Christmas shoppers, near Macy's, New York' 1954

 

Installation view of William Klein’s Christmas shoppers, near Macy’s, New York 1954 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1993
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

William Klein (born April 19, 1928) 'Christmas shoppers, near Macy's, New York' 1954

 

William Klein (born April 19, 1928)
Christmas shoppers, near Macy’s, New York
1954
Gelatin silver photograph

 

 

Klein sandwiched his relatively short photographic career, working as a fashion photographer for Vogue, between being a painter and a filmmaker. Self-taught, he experimented with flash, wide-angle lenses, blurring, abstraction and accidents, and produced grainy, high contrast prints. He is deliberately at the other end of the spectrum from the invisible, disinterested photographer. Klein deliberately got really close to his subjects, in their faces, and caught them reacting to being photographed on the street. ‘To be visible, intervene and show it’ was his mantra.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of William Klein's 'Stickball gang, New York' 1955

 

Installation view of William Klein’s Stickball gang, New York 1955 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1993
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

William Klein (born April 19, 1928) 'Stickball gang, New York' 1955

 

William Klein (born April 19, 1928)
Stickball gang, New York
1955
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne with at right, Weegee’s No title (at a concert in Harlem) c. 1948, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1981 and at left, his No title (listening to Frank Sinatra, Palace theatre) c. 1944, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1981
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne with at right, Weegee’s No title (at a concert in Harlem) c. 1948, followed by his No title (listening to Frank Sinatra, Palace theatre) c. 1944 and Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus 1943
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968) 'Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' 1943 (installation view)

 

Installation view of Weegee’s Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus 1943, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1981
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968) 'No title (listening to Frank Sinatra, Palace theatre)' c. 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968)
No title (listening to Frank Sinatra, Palace theatre)
c. 1944
Silver gelatin print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing the work of Walker Evans
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, Diane Arbus’ Rocks on wheels, Disneyland, Cal 1962; Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963; and Lady in a rooming house parlour, Albion, N.Y. 1963, all National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1981
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Rocks on wheels, Disneyland, Cal' 1962

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Rocks on wheels, Disneyland, Cal
1962
Silver gelatin print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing at left, Diane Arbus’ Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1962 and at right, Burlesque comedienne in her dressing room, Atlantic City, N.J. 1963, both National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1981 and 1980
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y.' 1962

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Muscle Man in his dressing room with trophy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
1962
Silver gelatin print

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Two Ladies at the Automat, New York City, 1966' 1966 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Two Ladies at the Automat, New York City, 1966 (installation view)
1966
Silver gelatin print
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Transvestite with torn stocking, N.Y.C. 1966' 1966 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Transvestite with torn stocking, N.Y.C. 1966 (installation view)
1966
Silver gelatin print
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Mae West on bed' 1965

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Mae West on bed
1965
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963' 1963 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963 (installation view)
1963
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963' 1963 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963 (installation view)
1963
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963' 1963

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963
1963
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, Diane Arbus’A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, N.Y., 1970;Untitled (1) 1970-71; and Woman with a beehive hairdo 1965; and Mexican dwarf in his hotel room N.Y.C. 1970
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, N.Y., 1970' 1970

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, N.Y., 1970
1970
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Untitled (1)' 1970-71

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Untitled (1)
1970-71
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Mexican dwarf in his hotel room N.Y.C. 1970' 1970

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Mexican dwarf in his hotel room N.Y.C. 1970
1970
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Identical twins, Roselle, N.J., 1966' 1966

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Identical twins, Roselle, N.J., 1966
1966
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, Diane Arbus’ Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967; A young man in curlers at home on West 20th St., N.Y.C. 1966; and A Family on Their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, New York 1968
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967' 1967

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967
1967
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'A young man in curlers at home on West 20th St., N.Y.C. 1966' 1966 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
A young man in curlers at home on West 20th St., N.Y.C. 1966 (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'A young man in curlers at home on West 20th St., N.Y.C. 1966' 1966

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
A young man in curlers at home on West 20th St., N.Y.C. 1966 (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'A Family on Their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, New York 1968' 1968

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
A Family on Their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester, New York 1968
1968
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, Diane Arbus’ A young Negro boy, Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965; Blonde girl in Washington Square Park c. 1965-68; Woman with a beehive hairdo 1965; and Girl in a watch cap, N.Y.C. 1965
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'A young Negro boy, Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965' c. 1965

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
A young Negro boy, Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965
c. 1965
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, Diane Arbus’ Woman with a beehive hairdo 1965 and Girl in a watch cap, N.Y.C. 1965
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Woman with a beehive hairdo' 1965 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Woman with a beehive hairdo (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Woman with a beehive hairdo' 1965

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Woman with a beehive hairdo
1965
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Girl in a watch cap, N.Y.C. 1965' 1965

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Girl in a watch cap, N.Y.C. 1965
1965
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Child with toy hand grenade, in Central Park, New York City 1962' 1962

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Child with toy hand grenade, in Central Park, New York City 1962
1962
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Old black woman with gnarled hand' 1968 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Old black woman with gnarled hand (installation view)
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Large black family in small shack [Robert Evans and his family, 1968]' 1968 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Large black family in small shack [Robert Evans and his family, 1968] (installation view)
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'Addie Taylor in her shack, Beaufort, South Carolina' 1968 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
Addie Taylor in her shack, Beaufort, South Carolina (installation view)
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71) 'A family of six at a nudist camp' c. 1963 (installation view)

 

Diane Arbus (1923-71)
A family of six at a nudist camp (installation view)
c. 1963
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

 

Introduction

The photographs of Diane Arbus (1923-1971) are powerful allegories of postwar America. Once seen they are rarely forgotten. Contemporary audiences found the way that Arbus approached the genre of portraiture confronting and her work continues to polarise opinion. The images raise difficult, uncomfortable questions concerning the intent of the photographer.

Arbus had a huge curiosity about the society around her; her favourite thing was ‘to go where I’ve never been’. As she was a photographer, this manifested as an obsessive exploration into what it means to photograph and be photographed, and what can happen at that moment of exchange – something elusive and a little bit magical. Whether Arbus is an empathetic champion of the outsider, or an exploitative voyeur, is something that each viewer alone must decide.

The National Gallery of Australia’s collection of Arbus photographs is among the most impressive in the world. The NGA is extremely fortunate to have bought 36 rare, vintage prints in 1980 and 1981, from the earliest releases of prints from the Arbus Estate. These works are from the last decade of the artist’s life, the period in which her recognisable style is in full flight and she was in total control of her medium.

These rare prints are shown alongside photographs by others who also sought to redefine the tradition of portraiture, and whose vision of America is also both challenging and moving. The work of these photographers relates to Arbus in a variety of ways: they are influencers, contemporaries or heirs to aspects of her worldview. Like Arbus, they are keen, singular observers of their worlds, transforming the sometimes banal and ugly into images of unexpected beauty.

 

An uncompromising view of the world

Diane Arbus was born Diane Nemerov, the daughter of wealthy Jewish New Yorkers; her father ran Russek’s, a department store on Fifth Avenue selling furs and women’s clothing. Growing up in an apartment in a towering building on Central Park West, her world was highly protected, one in which she never felt adversity. This was something Arbus resented both at the time and later; it seemed to her to be an unreal experience of the world. At 18 she married her childhood sweetheart, Allan Arbus, and for a decade from the mid 1940s, they ran a successful photography studio doing fashion shots for leading picture magazines.

In 1956 Arbus ceased working with Allan in the studio and began instead to explore subjects of her own choice. She was, apart from the occasional class, essentially self-taught and as she struck out on her own, she undertook a detailed study of the work of other photographers. Compelled to confront that which had been off-limits in her own privileged childhood, she looked to other photographers who had confronted the world head-on, including Weegee, William Klein, Walker Evans and Lisette Model. They recorded, each in their own way, their surroundings with an at-times frightening candour. In their images, Arbus found an uncompromising view of the world, stripped of sentimentality.

Weegee

Weegee turns the banal and seedy underbelly of New York city streets after hours into moments of great psychological drama. A freelance news photographer, he supplied images to the popular press but was also well regarded in art circles. The Museum of Modern Art collected his work and exhibited it in 1943. Arbus owned a number of Weegee’s books and greatly admired his Runyonesque view of the world. She closely studied aspects of his working method as she formulated her own, especially his use of flash. His ‘wild dynamics’ made everyone else ‘look like an academician’, she wrote.

William Klein

Returning to New York in 1954 from his émigré life in Paris, Klein was at once taken aback by what he perceived to be a society pursuing purely materialistic goals, but also excited by the energy he found on the streets. Self-taught, he experimented with flash, wide-angle lenses, blurring and close-ups, abstraction and accidents, and produced grainy, high contrast prints. Klein’s 1956 book, Life is Good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels, a copy of which Arbus owned, gave impetus to the emerging genre of street photography through his harsh, uncompromising vision of the city. His work was met, particularly in the United States, with misunderstanding and hostility.

Walker Evans

The writer James Agee travelled to Alabama in America’s South in 1936 to research an article on the plight of tenant farmers for Fortune magazine. He chose photographer Walker Evans to accompany him. The article did not eventuate but a book did, Let us now praise famous men. Both men were unnerved by what they saw: Agee wrote of ‘the nakedness, disadvantage and humiliation of … an undefended and appallingly damaged group of human beings’. And yet in the face of this, Evans made images of insistent frontality and careful symmetrical framing; devoid of cliché or pretention, and suggesting an impartiality. This gave the images a great authenticity and power.

Evans’ oeuvre is essentially concerned with how photography represents the world. His significance in the development of twentieth-century photography was reappraised during the 1960s, largely through the largesse of John Szarkowski, the head of the Museum of Modern Art’s photography department at the time. Szarkowski argued that the foundations for many of the key aesthetic and formal tendencies of 1960s photography rested in Evans’ work. The catalogue that accompanied his 1938 exhibition American photographs, in particular, had a huge impact on the new generation of photographers, and on Arbus in particular. She met Evans in 1961 and visited him regularly at his New York home throughout the decade. He wrote in support of her 1963 Guggenheim Grant application.

Lisette Model

Lisette Model’s satirical portraits of the rich on the French Riviera and the photographs she made in the 1940s of the Lower East Side’s poor and marginalised bear out the fact that she took her own advice: ‘Don’t shoot ’till the subject hits you in the pit of your stomach’. By the 1950s she had largely turned to teaching and her influence on Arbus, who took a number of her classes at the New School in 1956 and again in 1957-58, was profound. Model encouraged Arbus to pursue her own distinctive voice. Model recalled, ‘One day I said to her, and I think this was very crucial, “originality means coming from the source…” And from then on, Diane was sitting there and – I’ve never in my life seen anybody – not listening to me but suddenly listening to herself through what was said.’

 

The gap between intention and effect

Prior to 1962 Arbus worked primarily with a 35mm Nikon camera. Her images at this time were often about gesture, with grainy images and subjects frequently shown in movement. In 1962 Arbus switched to a 2 ¼ inch medium-format, twin-lens Rolleiflex (later a Mamiyaflex), which she used with a flash and which when printed full-frame, gave the photographs a square format. The pictures she took with these cameras are deceptively, deliberately simple. Compositionally they are often masterful with repetitions of shapes and minutely observed, subtly presented details. Despite the confronting subject matter, her images have a classical stillness, an insistent frontality that she borrowed from classic documentary photography. To this Arbus adds a very deliberate use of the snap-shot aesthetic, with slightly tilted picture planes and people caught unawares, to signal the authenticity of her connection with the subject.

Arbus developed a working method and style that offered what amounts to a critique of the photographic portrait. There is a palpable tension in the way she presents her subjects, a complicity in the image-making process which rubs up against the fact that her subjects seem caught off-guard, unintentionally revealing aspects of themselves. Arbus identified this as ‘the gap between intention and effect’, explaining that ‘it really is totally fantastic that we look like this and you sometimes see that very clearly in a photograph. Something is ironic in the world and it has to do with the fact that what you intend never comes out like you intend it’. Arbus’s ability to connect with and gain the trust of people is legendary. Fellow photographer Joel Meyerowitz felt that she was ‘an emissary from the world of feeling. She cared about these people. They felt that and gave her their secret’.

 

The aristocrats

As a student at the alternative Fieldston Ethical Culture School in the Bronx, Arbus developed a fascination with myths, ritual and public spectacle. This preoccupation remained steadfast throughout her life. For example, in 1963 she was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship to document ‘American rites, manners and customs’. Arbus had an almost insatiable curiosity and fascination with the world and she sought to make photographs that addressed fundamental aspects of our humanity in the broadest terms. It was the photographer Lisette Model, with whom she studied in the late 1950s, who made her realise that, in a seemingly contradictory way, the more specific a photograph of something was, the more general its message became.

To this extent, it is notable that Arbus’s photographs rarely address the issues of the day in any overt and obvious way. While there are exceptions – for example, her work for magazines from the sixties, including portraits of celebrities and documentary work examining the plight of the poor in South Carolina – for the most part Arbus used the camera as a licence to enter the specifics of other people’s lives.

She was particularly drawn to marginalised people, who for whatever reason had fallen out of a conventional place in society and were forced (those born into disability) or chose (the nudists, for example) to construct their own identity. To find them, she frequented sideshow alleys and Hubert’s Freak Museum at Broadway and 42nd Street, joined nudist camps in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and visited seedy hotels; she also found them in public spaces, in streets and parks where social rules were often arbitrarily imposed and discarded.

Arbus’s subjects are often seen to play with society’s roles and restrictions. She classified these people as ‘aristocrats’, having achieved a certain freedom from social constraints, and they made her feel a mix of shame and awe.

 

The prints

Arbus stated that, for her, ‘the subject of the picture is more important than the picture’. There is no doubt that the emotional authenticity of what she photographed was of upmost importance. In keeping with this, she often undersold her skill as a photographer; she often complained of technical difficulties, and others frequently observed that she seemed weighed down by her equipment. In downplaying her relationship to the technical aspects of her work, Arbus sought to emphasise instead her rapport with her subjects. All the same, she was very clear about how she wanted her images to look; she worked hard to achieve a particular quality in her prints, which have a distinct feel and appearance that are quite different from other photographs of the 1960s.

From the mid 1960s, Arbus worked hard to emphasise the photographic-ness of her pictures. She modified the negative tray on her Omega ‘D’ enlarger, which produced the distinctive black border around her images; later again, she used strips of cardboard down the sides of the negatives to blur the edges of her images. Both of these techniques meant that each of her prints is slightly, wonderfully unique. And there is often, as in the cases of Woman with a beehive hairdo and Girl in a watch cap, both made in 1965, damage (tears and marks) on the negative that Arbus has made no effort to minimise or disguise. Close viewing of the collection of photographs held at the NGA reveal ghostly traces of the hand of Arbus. She reminds us consistently through a number of careful and deliberate strategies that we are looking at a photograph that has been made by a particular person.

 

To know life

Arbus was not alone in photographing the social landscape of America in the 1960s. Others, including Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and Milton Rogovin, similarly took to the country’s streets. Rogovin’s life work was to photograph people from poor minority groups, much of his work being made in Buffalo, New York, where he himself lived. Like Arbus, he often knew and befriended his subjects, returning to photograph them over many years, collaborating with them to create images of great dignity and integrity.

Like Arbus, Winogrand and Friedlander were included in the landmark 1967 exhibition New documents, curated by John Szarkowski for the Museum of Modern Art, New York. This was the only major showing of Arbus’s work during her lifetime. While acknowledging that each of the artists in the exhibition had their own distinct styles, Szarkowski characterised them as part of a generation that used the documentary tradition ‘to more personal ends.’ As he wrote: ‘Their aim has been not to reform life, but to know it. Their work betrays a sympathy – almost an affection – for the imperfections and frailties of society’.

An essential aspect of their innovation was the way they positioned photography and the acts of taking and viewing a photograph as an essential aspect of the work. Their photographs were not intended simply as windows to the world. As Winogrand noted when asked how he felt about missing photographs while he reloaded his camera, ‘there are no photographs while I’m reloading’. Winogrand, Friedlander and Arbus were fascinated by how the real was translated into the language of photography, and how the experience of the photograph involves a fascinating, multilayered three-way interaction between the photographer, the subject and the viewer.

Garry Winogrand

Winogrand restlessly prowled the same streets of New York as Arbus in the 1960s, working stealthily, capturing people without their knowledge. His viewpoint, one he asks the viewer to join, is unashamedly, unapologetically voyeuristic. He used a Leica M4 with a wide-angle lens and tipped the picture plane, giving his compositions a particular feel. Traumatised by the fraught political tensions of the cold war period, anxiety found its way into the imagery – lending his work an edge that makes for a compelling reading of an alienated and fearful society in the throes of change. His city is a site of unexpected confrontations and strange, witty juxtapositions. Fellow photographer Joel Meyerowitz remarked that Winogrand ‘set a tempo on the street so strong that it was impossible not to follow it. It was like jazz. You just had to get in the same groove’.

Lee Friedlander

Friedlander’s images are invariably about looking and this includes turning the camera on himself. He often intrudes into his hastily grabbed, ironic studies of the city, through reflection or shadow or a pair of shoes. Thus, the viewer of his photographs is constantly reminded that this is an image of the world that is made by someone, in this case, the photographer Lee Friedlander. The works are laconic, witty and intensely personal: and certainly the self-portraits are rarely flattering. Coming at the end of a decade in which a particular, new brand of art photographer had begun to achieve celebrity status, through the efforts of curators like John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, Friedlander’s self-portraits can also be seen as a shrewd send-up of fame.

Milton Rogovin

Originally trained as an optometrist, Rogovin began his career as a social documentary photographer in 1958, recording gospel services held in ‘store-front’ churches in the African-American neighbourhood of Buffalo, New York. Profoundly influenced as a young man by the impact of the Great Depression, Rogovin reflected that, ‘I could no longer be indifferent to the problems of the people, especially the poor, the forgotten ones’. He worked in collaboration with his subjects, who were always allowed to determine how they should be photographed. His photographs focus on family life, the celebrations and events that bind a community together, and the particulars of an individual’s existence.

 

The Arbus legacy

Arbus occupies an important place in the development of American photography. Her work has indelibly influenced the way that the documentary tradition has continued to evolve over the last 50 years, with many of the leading contemporary photographers, such as William Eggleston and Mary Ellen Mark, continuing to rethink the tradition, looking back to Arbus just as she looked back to her predecessors. Although it has often infuriated, and continues to do so, those who take issue with the way Arbus photographed the world, her impact on audiences and photographers alike is incontestable.

William Eggleston

While Arbus used the snap-shot aesthetic in her work to increase its aura of authenticity and immediacy, when Eggleston employed the same technique in colour without the abstraction and artistic mediation of black-and-white, contemporary audiences reacted with confusion. Careful observation of the images though reveals a masterful eye, and a sophisticated understanding of the way photography transforms the world. Eggleston’s images are at once monumental and mundane, ordinary and strange, prosaic and poetic. The result is luminous, breathtaking and perfectly banal.

Mary Ellen Mark

The photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark built a career photographing those on the fringes of society, seeking out those who she felt displayed what she described as attitude and often working on projects over many years, slowly earning trust. Her commitment was to give the people she photographed a unique voice, an individuality. Commenting on a body of work, Mark spoke of her desire to let her subjects ‘make contact with the outside world by letting them reach out and present themselves. I didn’t want to use them. I wanted them to use me’.

Mark spent months photographing the New York bar scene at night. This work formed the basis of her first one person exhibition, at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. She reflected at the time, ‘I would like to have the means to travel the whole country and show what America is through its bars. Millions of people who do not want or can not stay at home. The majority of clients are loners, which is why it is extremely difficult to work in these places. I had to make myself accepted’.

Text from the National Gallery of Australia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing at left, Lisette Model’s Coney Island Bather, New York 1939-41 and at right, Woman with Veil, San Francisco 1949
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Coney Island Bather, New York' [Baigneuse, Coney Island] c. 1939-1941

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Coney Island Bather, New York [Baigneuse, Coney Island]
c. 1939-1941
Silver gelatin print
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Woman with Veil, San Francisco' 1949

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Woman with Veil, San Francisco
1949
Silver gelatin print
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing at left, Lisette Model’s Lower East Side, New York
1942 and at right,Lower East Side, New York 1939-42
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Lower East Side, New York' 1942

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Lower East Side, New York
1942
Gelatin silver photograph
49.2 h x 39.5 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Lower East Side, New York' 1939-42

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Lower East Side, New York
1939-42
Gelatin silver photograph
48.9 h x 38.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, Lisette Model’s Fashion show, Hotel Pierre, New York City 1940-46; Cafe Metropole, New York City c. 1946; and Albert-Alberta, Hubert’s 42nd St Flea Circus, New York [Albert/Alberta] c. 1945
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Fashion show, Hotel Pierre, New York City' 1940-46

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Fashion show, Hotel Pierre, New York City
1940-46
Gelatin silver photograph
40.0 h x 49.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Cafe Metropole, New York City' c. 1946

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Cafe Metropole, New York City
c. 1946
Gelatin silver photograph
49.5 h x 40.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

 

While training as a musician in Vienna, Lisette Model studied under the avant-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg, who introduced her to the Expressionist painters of the early 20th century. Influenced by European modernist philosophy and aesthetics, Model abandoned music in Paris in 1933, taking up painting and then photography. She gained initial renown for a series of photographs of men and women lounging in deck chairs along the Promenade des Anglais in the south of France. In 1938, she relocated to New York with her husband (the artist Evsa Model), where she took photographs of exuberant characters on the streets of New York – catching reflections of individuals in store windows and images of feet in motion and holidaymakers around Coney Island. Model taught at the New School where one of her most famous students was Diane Arbus, and was published by Harper’s Bazaar and other magazines.

Text from the Artsy website

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983) 'Albert-Alberta, Hubert's 42nd St Flea Circus, New York' c. 1945

 

Lisette Model (1901-1983)
Albert-Alberta, Hubert’s 42nd St Flea Circus, New York [Albert/Alberta]
c. 1945
Gelatin silver photograph
49.5 h x 39.7 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing work from Mary Ellen Mark’s The bar series 1977
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) 'Untitled' from 'The bar series' 1977

 

Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015)
Untitled from The bar series
1977
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing from left to right, William Eggleston’s Huntsville, Alabama c. 1971; Memphis c. 1969; and Greenwood, Mississippi “The Red Ceiling” 1973
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

William Eggleston (America,born July 27, 1939) 'Huntsville, Alabama' c. 1971

 

William Eggleston (American, born July 27, 1939)
Huntsville, Alabama
c. 1971
Dye transfer colour photograph
46.6 h x 32.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

William Eggleston (America, born July 27, 1939) 'Memphis' c. 1970 printed 1980

 

William Eggleston (American, born July 27, 1939)
Memphis
c. 1970 printed 1980
Dye transfer colour photograph
30.2 h x 44.2 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

William Eggleston (America,born July 27, 1939) 'Greenwood, Mississippi' ["The Red Ceiling"] 1973, printed 1979

 

William Eggleston (American, born July 27, 1939)
Greenwood, Mississippi [“The Red Ceiling”]
1973, printed 1979
Dye transfer colour photograph
29.5 h x 45.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

 

With its intense red, Eggleston’s picture of the spare room in a friend’s home is one of the most iconic of all colour photographs. Often called The red room, this photograph was intended to be shocking: Eggleston described the effect of the colour as like ‘red blood that is wet on the wall’. But the radicalness of the picture is not just in its juicy (and impossible to reproduce) redness; it is also found in the strange view it provides of a domestic interior, one that Eggleston has described as a ‘fly’s eye view’.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing the work of Garry Winogrand
Photos: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) 'No title [Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York]' 1969

 

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984)
No title [Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York]
1969
Gelatin silver photograph
27.2 h x 42.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) 'New York City, New York'. From "Garry Winogrand" 1970

 

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984)
New York City, New York. From “Garry Winogrand”
1970
Gelatin silver photograph
21.6 h x 32.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

 

Winogrand was asked how he felt about missing photographs while he reloaded his camera. He replied ‘There are no photographs while I’m reloading’: There is no possibility in the Winograndian world view of regarding the camera as a window onto the world; it becomes a mirror reflecting back the photographer’s concerns. Winogrand was fascinated by how the real was translated into the photographic. In the end this fascination became an obsession from which he could not escape or find solace – or meaning. At the time of his death there were a third of a million exposures that he had never looked at including 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing the work of Lee Friedlander
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Lee Friedlander (born July 14, 1934) 'Rt. 9w, N.Y.' 1969

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born July 14, 1934)
Rt. 9w, N.Y.
1969
Gelatin silver photograph
18.8 h x 28.2 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

Lee Friedlander (born United States 1934) 'Mount Rushmore' 1969

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born July 14, 1934)
Mount Rushmore
1969
Gelatin silver photograph
18.8 h x 28.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1981

 

 

“I always wanted to be a photographer. I was fascinated with the materials. But I never dreamed I would be having this much fun. I imagined something much less elusive, much more mundane.” ~ Lee Friedlander

Friedlander is known for his complex, layered images, exploring the way that the urban landscape fragments our vision. Throughout his career he has found endless fascination in photographing reflections in windows – merging what lies behind the glass with what is reflected in it – out of which he has created juxtapositions which are witty and insightful. He often inserts himself into the image, either overtly or more frequently as a shadow or partially concealed form – part of his face, for instance, hidden behind the camera.

In the 1960s he moved away from a recognisably documentary style toward one in which the subject is more elusive, reflecting a society which had itself become more fragmented and complex. By cropping and cutting up city and natural landscapes he changes our perception of them. In creating compositions that are dynamic, unexpected and often confusing, Friedlander asks us to look freshly at our everyday environments.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing the work of Walker Evans
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Hudson Street boarding house detail, New York' 1931

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Hudson Street boarding house detail, New York
1931
Gelatin silver photograph
15.7 h x 20.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Bedroom, shrimp fisherman's house, Biloxi, Mississippi' 1945

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Bedroom, shrimp fisherman’s house, Biloxi, Mississippi
1945
Gelatin silver photograph
23.4 h x 18.3 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Tenant Farmer's Wife, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Tenant Farmer’s Wife, Alabama
[Allie Mae Burroughs, wife of a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama]

1936
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 h x 18.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1978

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Diane Arbus: American Portraits' at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Diane Arbus: American Portraits at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne showing the work of Milton Rogovin with from left to right, Not titled (Family in front of house) – 241-2 1973 and Not titled (Family in front of house) – 142-11 1985, both from the Lower West Side series (1973-2002)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and Heide Museum of Modern Art

 

 

“Written with her trademark flair and force, Sontag’s book [On Photography] inaugurated a wave of criticism, much of it influenced by Foucaultian theory, that underscored the instrumentality and implicit violence of photography, its ability to police and regulate it subjects, especially those lacking social and political power: the poor, presumed “deviants” or “criminals,” and workers. As Sontag herself acknowledged, however, photography is not only a predatory means of taking possession, but also a mode of conferring value; it can potentially be put to counter-hegemonic uses, used to see and frame in ways that affirm and legitimate, rather than strictly contain and control, the presence of culturally disenfranchised persons.”

“The power of his art stems from the particular manner in which Rogovin transforms traditional portrait photography and documentary practice, opening up potentially instrumentalist, one-sided visual forms to dynamics of reciprocity and mutuality…”

“Rogovin’s photography thus balances the documentary desire to grasp and present, to “capture” an image of the”Other,” with a commitment to holding back in order to allow his subjects space to shape the photographic process. His practice is a form of”approach,” to borrow a term from Carol Shloss, that resists even as it engages. We might call this an aesthetic of “making space”: a photographic method that creates room for subjects to actively participate in the production of their own images rather than stand as passive objects before a colonizing gaze.”

“The fact that Rogovin’s work at once invokes and questions the camera’s capacity to classify – to embed individuals in a larger archive – echoes his challenge to documentary business as usual. Certainly, Rogovin’s images of working people perform a classic documentary task: to lend public visibility to those who have been overlooked and exploited, to give aggrieved people the social recognition they are otherwise denied in our society. However, his images do not enforce the power and prerogatives of middle-class reformers or governmental institutions, as did so much early twentieth-century documentary photography, which, as Maren Stange has argued, tended to reassure “a 11 liberal middle-class that social oversight was both its duty and its right.” By refusing to provide pity-inducing images of working people that present them as weak and vulnerable, Rogovin’s photographs undercut the sense of privilege viewers often feel when looking at pictures of what Jacob Riis called “the other half.””

Joseph Entin. “Milton Rogovin’s Approach: Photography, Class, and the Aesthetics of Making Space (2008),” on the ASX website July 12, 2010 [Online] Cited 12/05/2018

 

 

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7, Templestowe Road
Bulleen, Victoria 3105

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(Heide II and Heide III)
Tue – Fri 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
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25
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 4th March – 28th May 2018

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Was Ever Love' 2009

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Was Ever Love
2009
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the S.I. Morris Photography Endowment
© Sally Mann

 

 

“These are the places and things most of us drive by unseeing, scenes of Southern dejection we’d contemplate only if our car broke down and left us by the verdant roadside.”

.
Sally Mann

 

“Aurore’s conception of place had undergone a transformation on her return to Nohant from the Pyrenees. Her reflections on place were intimately bound up with a new perspective on identity, and this implicated others, both alive and dead. Her sense of fusedness with others involved a temporal complexity which, in its turn, was bound up with the notion of history. And historical events were soon to become very much a part of her life. Thus the timeless melancholy of a place outside history had become the urgent historical now. She was caught up in Nohant’s past, her past, and projecting the now into the future, she imagined what the now would look like with hindsight.”

.
Belinda Jack. George Sand: A Women’s Life Writ Large. London: Vintage, 2001, p. 155.

 

 

(Un)seeing: the quality of the affection … that has carved the trace in the mind

I did some research on The University of Melbourne library website on articles written on the work of Sally Mann. The titles included, What Remains: Sally Mann’s Encounter with Death and Wet Collodion (Lisa Wright, Afterimage 2004); The Disturbing Photography of Sally Mann (Richard Woodward, New York Times 1992); The camera of Sally Mann and the spaces of childhood (James Steward, Michigan Quarterly Review 2000); and Death and Memory in the Photography of Sally Mann (Mary Perkins, MA Thesis 2008). Everything you could possibly want to know is there. The passage of time and the transience of life. Time, memory and experience. Childhood, death and desire. Family, place and seeing.

Reviewing the book What Remains, my favourite body of work by Mann, Wright insightfully observes, “In her photographs Mann invokes fear, peace and continuing joy that make up existence and its inevitable demise… Lacking the ingredients of the grotesque, avoiding shock as a strategy to attract the viewer’s attention, her images are true inquisitions into the very nature of death and its effect on the living. Definitely and subtly combining content and form, Mann captures the horror and sublime beauty of what our western culture tends to carefully hide. The wet collodion process she utilises serves to strengthen the haunting and archaic beauty of her pictures, their eeriness, giving the impression that the very images themselves are subject to the same death and decay as their subjects.”

In the body of work What Remains this turns out to be the death of her pet greyhound and the bones that remain, the breakdown of the human body after death when she “photographed bodies that were in various states of decomposition on the grounds of a forensic study site”, the photographs of the Civil War battlefield of Antietam, contested ground which still makes the American South what it is today, and tightly-cropped portraits of her children in adolescence. As in all of Mann’s work, there is a quality of affection which carves a trace in the mind. Not affectation, nor affliction, but affection. It is a personal affection for something that she sees that others don’t. “These are the places and things most of us drive by unseeing…” which she acknowledges and offers to the viewer. Unseeing is defined as, not seeing; especially: not consciously observing, whereas I believe what Mann does is subconsciously recognise and feel and then consciously observe, hence (un)seeing.

In her photography in which the senses are fully engaged, there is a fusedness with the object of her affection, whether it be battlefields or bodies, rivers or recreation. In the biography of the writer and bohemian George Sand that I am reading at the moment, there is a wonderful quotation that I have posted above which I believe has relevance here; specifically, the notion of how the past, present and future time becomes conflated into an eternal present (something that photography does so well), and how past history and people still illuminate the present and the future. “Her reflections on place were intimately bound up with a new perspective on identity, and this implicated others, both alive and dead. Her sense of fusedness with others involved a temporal complexity which, in its turn, was bound up with the notion of history.”

Mann’s sense of fusedness with others, both alive and dead, leads to a temporal complexity bound up with the notion of history. How she iterates such concepts within her sensual photographs “with affection” is at the core of her art: the discontinuity of life in all its contexts, made eternal. What a simply breath—- taking artist.

Marcus

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

 

 

Sally Mann The First Letter 1994

 

Sally Mann. “The First Letter,” from ‘Sally Mann: Correspondence with Melissa Harris’. Aperture 1995; 138, p. 124 [Online] Cited 25/05/2018

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'The Ditch' 1987

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
The Ditch
1987
Gelatin silver print
47.5 x 58 cm (18 11/16 x 22 13/16 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Sally Mann and Edwynn Houk Gallery, 2000.41
The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Easter Dress' 1986

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Easter Dress
1986
Gelatin silver print
47 x 57.8 cm (18 1/2 x 22 3/4 in.)
Patricia and David Schulte
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Blowing Bubbles' 1987

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Blowing Bubbles
1987
Gelatin silver print
High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Purchase with funds from Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

 Gertrude Käsebier. 'Mother and Child' 1899

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Mother and Child
1899
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Mina Turner

 

 

Mann often drew inspiration from earlier artists, including the pioneering early twentieth-century photographer Gertrude Käsebier, celebrated for powerful and tender pictures that convey the bonds between parents and children. (Wall text)

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Jessie Bites' 1985

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Jessie Bites
1985
Gelatin silver print
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude' 1987

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude
1987
Gelatin silver print
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Gorjus' 1989

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Gorjus
1989
Gelatin silver print
Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Cherry Tomatoes' 1991

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Cherry Tomatoes
1991
Gelatin silver print
47.6 x 59 cm (18 3/4 x 23 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection
Gift of David M. Malcolm in memory of Peter T. Malcolm
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Emmett floating at Camp' 1991

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Emmett floating at Camp
1991
Private collection
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951) 'Bloody Nose' 1991

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951)
Bloody Nose
1991
Silver dye bleach print
Private collection

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951) 'Bean's Bottom' 1991

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951)
Bean’s Bottom
1991
Silver dye bleach print
Private collection

 

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'On the Maury' 1992

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
On the Maury
1992
Gelatin silver print
25.4 x 20.3 cm (10 x 8 in.)
Private collection
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Virginia, Untitled (Blue Hills)' 1993

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Virginia, Untitled (Blue Hills)
1993
Gelatin silver print, printed 1997
77.5 x 97.8 cm (30 1/2 x 38 1/2 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1998 (1998.49)
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Gustave Le Gray. 'Beech Tree, Forest of Fontainbleau' c. 1856

 

Gustave Le Gray
Beech Tree, Forest of Fontainbleau
c. 1856
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Scarred Tree)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Scarred Tree)
1998
Gelatin silver print
96.5 x 121.9 cm (38 x 48 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Fontainebleau)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Fontainebleau)
1998
Gelatin silver print, printed 2017
94.9 x 120 cm (37 3/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Promised Gift of Stephen G. Stein Employee Benefit Trust
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Three Drips)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Three Drips)
1998
Gelatin silver print, printed 1999
96.4 x 120.3 cm (37 15/16 x 47 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee and The Sarah and William L Walton Fund
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Valentine Windsor)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Valentine Windsor)
1998
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Gift of the Massey Charitable Trust
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Stick)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Stick)
1998
Gelatin silver print, printed 1999
Courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art: Collection of H. Russell Albright, M.D.
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Bridge on Tallahatchie)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Bridge on Tallahatchie)
1998
Gelatin silver print
93.98 x 120.65 cm (37 x 47 1/2 in.)
Markel Corporate Art Collection
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Deep South, Untitled (Emmett Till River Bank)' 1998

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Deep South, Untitled (Emmett Till River Bank)
1998
Gelatin silver print
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

 

For more than 40 years, Sally Mann (b. 1951) has made experimental, elegiac, and hauntingly beautiful photographs that explore the overarching themes of existence: memory, desire, death, the bonds of family, and nature’s magisterial indifference to human endeavour. What unites this broad body of work – figure studies, landscapes, and architectural views – is that it is all bred of a place, the American South. Using her deep love of her homeland and her knowledge of its historically fraught heritage, Mann asks powerful, provocative questions – about history, identity, race, and religion – that reverberate across geographic and national boundaries.

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings, the first major survey of this celebrated artist to travel internationally, investigates how Mann’s relationship with her native land – a place rich in literary and artistic traditions but troubled by history – has shaped her work. The exhibition brings together 109 photographs, many exhibited for the first time. On view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from March 4 through May 28, 2018, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, presenting an in-depth exploration of the evolution of Mann’s art, and a short film highlighting her technical process.

“In her compelling photographs, Mann uses the personal to allude to the universal, considering intimate questions of family, memory, and death while also evoking larger concerns about the influence of the South’s past on its present,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “With the acquisition of works from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 2014, the National Gallery is now one of the largest repositories of Mann’s photographs. We are grateful for the opportunity to work closely with the artist in presenting a wide selection of the work she has created over four decades. ”

 

Exhibition Highlights

The seeds for Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings were planted in 2014, when National Gallery of Art curators undertook a review of photographs from the Corcoran Gallery of Art after its collections were placed under the stewardship of the National Gallery. Among the Corcor­an’s works were 25 photographs by Sally Mann, made from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. With the addition of these works, plus several more acquired through purchase, the National Gallery became one of the largest public repositories of Mann’s photographs in the country. The curators’ interest in mounting an exhibition of Mann’s art deepened when they realised that despite her immense talent and prominence, the full range of Mann’s work had not yet received sufficient and widespread scholarly and critical attention.

Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings is organised into five sections – Family, The Land, Last Measure, Abide with Me, and What Remains. The exhibition opens with works from the 1980s, when Mann began to photograph her three children at the family’s remote summer cabin on the Maury River near Lexington, Virginia. Taken with an 8 x 10 inch view camera, the family pictures refute the stereotypes of childhood, offering instead unsettling visions of its complexity. Rooted in the experience of a particular natural environment – the arcadian woodlands, rocky cliffs, and languid rivers – these works convey the inextricable link between the family and their land, and the sanctuary and freedom that it provided them.

The exhibition continues in The Land with photographs of the swamplands, fields, and ruined estates Mann encountered as she traveled across Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the 1990s. Hoping to capture what she called the “radical light of the American South,” Mann made pictures in Virginia that glow with a tremulous light, while those made in Georgia and Mississippi are more blasted and bleak. In these photographs, Mann was also experimenting with antique lenses and the 19th-century collodion wet plate process and printing in a much larger size (30 x 38 and 40 x 50 inches). The resulting photographic effects, including light flares, vignetting, blurs, streaks and scratches, serve as metaphors for the South as a site of memory, defeat, ruin, and rebirth. Mann then used these same techniques for her photographs of Civil War battlefields in the exhibition’s third section, Last Measure. These brooding and elusive pictures evoke the land as history’s graveyard, silently absorbing the blood and bones of the many thousands who perished in battles such as Antietam, Appomattox, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Spotsylvania, and the Wilderness.

The fourth section, Abide with Me, merges four series of photographs to explore how race and history shaped the landscape of Virginia as well as Mann’s own childhood and adolescence. Expanding her understanding of the land as not only a vessel for memory but also a story of struggle and survival, Mann made a series of starkly beautiful tintypes between 2006 and 2015 in the Great Dismal Swamp – home to many fugitive slaves in the years before the Civil War – and along nearby rivers in southeastern Virginia where Nat Turner led a rebellion of enslaved people on August 21, 1831. Here, Mann’s use of the tintype process – essentially a collodion negative on a sheet of darkened tin – yields a rich, liquid-like surface with deep blacks that mirror the bracken swamp and rivers. Merging her techniques with metaphoric possibilities, she conveyed the region’s dual history as the site of slavery and death but also freedom and sanctuary. Mann also photographed numerous 19th-century African American churches near her home in Lexington. Founded in the decades immediately after the Civil War when African Americans in Virginia could worship without the presence of a white minister for the first time, these humble but richly evocative churches seem alive with the spirit that inspired their creation and the memories of those who prayed there.

Also included in Abide with Me are photographs of Virginia “Gee-Gee” Carter, the African American woman who worked for Mann’s family for 50 years. A defining and beloved presence in Mann’s life, Carter was also the person who taught Mann the profoundly complicated and charged nature of race relations in the South. The final component of this section is a group of pictures of African American men rendered in large prints (50 x 40 inches) made from collodion negatives. Representing Mann’s desire to reach across “the seemingly untraversable chasm of race in the American South,” these beautiful but provocative photographs examine an “abstract gesture heated up in the crucible of our association,” as Bill T. Jones, who in part inspired the series, once said.

The final section of the exhibition, What Remains, explores themes of time, transformation, and death through photographs of Mann and her family. Her enduring fascination with decay and the body’s vulnerability to the ravages of time is evident in a series of spectral portraits of her children’s faces and intimate photographs detailing the changing body of her husband Larry, who suffers from muscular dystrophy. The exhibition closes with several riveting self-portraits Mann made in the wake of a grave riding accident. Here, her links to southern literature and her preoccupation with decay are in full evidence: the pitted, scratched, ravaged, and cloudy surfaces of the ambrotypes function as analogues for the body’s corrosion and death. The impression of the series as a whole is of an artist confronting her own mortality with composure and conviction.

 

Sally Mann

Born in 1951 in Lexington, Virginia, Sally Mann continues to live and work in Rockbridge County. Mann developed her first roll of film in 1969 and began to work as a professional photographer in 1972. She attended Bennington College, Vermont, and graduated in 1974 with a BA in literature from Hollins College, Roanoke, Virginia where she earned an MA in creative writing the following year. She has exhibited widely and published her photographs in the books Second Sight: The Photographs of Sally Mann (1983), Sweet Silent Thought: Platinum Prints by Sally Mann (1987), At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988), Immediate Family (1992), Still Time (1994), Mother Land: Recent Landscapes of Georgia and Virginia (1997), What Remains (2003), Deep South (2005), Sally Mann: Photographs and Poetry (2005), Proud Flesh (2009), Sally Mann: The Flesh and the Spirit (2010), and Remembered Light: Cy Twombly in Lexington (2016). Mann’s best selling memoir, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (2015), was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has received numerous honours as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2011 Mann delivered the prestigious William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University.

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Battlefields, Antietam (Cornfield)' 2001

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Battlefields, Antietam (Cornfield)
2001
Gelatin silver print
97.16 x 122.87 cm (38 1/4 x 48 3/8 in.)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, The National Endowment for the Arts Fund for American Art
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Battlefields, Fredericksburg (Cedar Trees)' 2001

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Battlefields, Fredericksburg (Cedar Trees)
2001
Gelatin silver print, printed 2003
97.8 x 123.2 cm (38 1/2 x 48 1/2 in.)
Waterman/Kislinger Family
© Sally Mann

 

 

To achieve the textural, almost gritty appearance of her battlefield photographs, Mann coated the surface with a varnish mixed with diatomaceous earth – the fossilised remains of tiny marine creatures. (Wall text)

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Battlefields, Antietam (Black Sun)' 2001

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Battlefields, Antietam (Black Sun)
2001
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Battlefields, Antietam (Starry Night)' 2001

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Battlefields, Antietam (Starry Night)
2001
Gelatin silver print
96.52 x 122.56 cm (38 x 48 1/4 in.)
Alan Kirshner and Deborah Mihaloff Art Collection
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Battlefields, Cold Harbor (Battle)' 2003

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Battlefields, Cold Harbor (Battle)
2003
Gelatin silver print
99.1 x 124.5 cm (39 x 49 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee and The Sarah and William L Walton Fund
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Battlefields, Antietam (Trenches)' 2001

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Battlefields, Antietam (Trenches)
2001
gelatin silver print
96.8 x 122.6 cm (38 1/8 x 48 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Promised Gift of Stephen G. Stein Employee Benefit Trust
© Sally Mann

 

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'St. Paul United Methodist' 2008-2016

 

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
First Baptist Church of Goshen, St. Paul United Methodist
2008-2016
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

Located twenty miles north of Lexington, the First Baptist Church of Goshen is now abandoned.

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal' 2008-2016

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal
2008-2016
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Oak Hill Baptist' 2008-2016

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Oak Hill Baptist, Mt. Tabor United Methodist
2008-2016
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

 

Founded in the late 1870s or early 1880s, Oak Hill Baptist Church in Middlebrook, Virginia, remains active today. Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church nestles near the edge of Round Hill, a traditionally African American community in New Hope, Virginia. It replaced a log structure built prior to 1850. Here, the church appears as an apparition, an effect achieved by overexposing the negative. (Wall text)

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951) 'Beulah Baptist 01:01' 2008-2016

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951)
Beulah Baptist 01:01
2008-2016
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'The Two Virginias #4' 1991

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
The Two Virginias #4
1991
Gelatin silver print
Collection of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Blackwater 9' 2008-2012

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Blackwater 9
2008-2012
Tintype
Plate: 38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Blackwater 20' 2008-2012

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Blackwater 20
2008-2012
Tintype
Plate: 38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Blackwater 25' 2008-2012

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Blackwater 25
2008-2012
Tintype
Plate: 38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Blackwater 3' 2008-2012

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Blackwater 3
2008-2012
tintype
Plate: 38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Collection of the artist
Image © Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Blackwater 17' 2008-2012

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Blackwater 17
2008-2012
Tintype
Plate: 38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Collection of the artist
© Sally Mann

 

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'The Turn' 2005

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
The Turn
2005
Gelatin silver print
Private colleciton
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Semaphore' 2003

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Semaphore
2003
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase, 2010.264
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Hephaestus' 2008

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Hephaestus
2008
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951) 'Ponder Heart' 2009

 

Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Ponder Heart
2009
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann wall text

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Speak, Memory' 2008

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Speak, Memory
2008
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Courtesy Gagosian
© Sally Mann

 

 

Here Mann referenced Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography Speak, Memory, which addresses memory’s changeability over time and life’s fleeting nature: “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” (Wall text)

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'The Quality of the Affection' 2006

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
The Quality of the Affection
2006
Gelatin silver print
38.1 x 34.3 cm (15 x 13 1/2 in.)
Private collection
© Sally Mann

 

 

The title of this photograph of Mann’s husband, Larry, is drawn from Ezra Pound’s Cantos, a long, ambitious poem that Mann explored in her 1975 master’s thesis in creative writing. Reflecting on time, memory and experience, Pound concluded:

nothing matters but the quality

of the affection –

in the end – that has carved the trace in the mind

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951) 'Memory's Truth' 2008

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Memory’s Truth
2008
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy Gagosian
© Sally Mann

 

 

Mann took the title from Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children, which asserts that memory has its own kind of truth: “It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality.” (Wall text)

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951) 'Triptych' 2004

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951)
Triptych
2004
3 gelatin silver prints
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Sally Mann

 

 

Ethereal and indistinct, receding and dissolving, these larger-then-life faces express Mann’s long-standing fascination with the fragility of physical presence. (Wall text)

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951) 'Jessie #25' 2004

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951)
Jessie #25
2004
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Sally Mann

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951) 'Virginia #6' 2004

 

Sally Mann (American, born 1951)
Virginia #6
2004
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Sally Mann

 

 

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09
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Balthasar Burkhard’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 10th February – 21st May 2018

 

Balthasar Burkhard

Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

As is so often the case with an artist, it is the early work that shines brightest in this posting.

The works from On the Alp possess an essential power; the daring capture of actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day make you wish you had been there; and the installation photograph of ‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 (below) makes me want to see more of his 1980s installations, with their shift in scale and repetitive nature. There are no more examples online, but a couple of photographs can be seen in the first installation photograph below.

I can leave the underwhelming aerial, cloud and landscape work well alone. There are many people in the history of photography who have taken better photographs of such subject matter. His life-sized photographs of animals again do nothing for me. They possess a reductive minimalism riffing on the canvas backgrounds of Avedon blown up to enormous size (as in most contemporary photography, as if by making something large the photograph gains aura and importance) but they lead nowhere. Perhaps in their actual presence (the physicality of the print) I might be transported to another place, but in reproduction they are a one-dimensional non sequitur.

From the energy of the earlier work emerges “a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot”, scrupulous studio photos that demand to be taken seriously, but mean very little. Here, passion has lost out to rigorous and deathly control.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz will showcase the oeuvre of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) in a major retrospective. Burkhard’s work spans half a century: from his early days as a trainee photographer with Kurt Blum to his seminal role in chronicling the art of his time, eventually becoming a photographic artist in his own right who brought photography into the realms of contemporary art in the form of the monumental tableau. More than 150 works and groups of works chart not only the progress of his own photographic career, but also the emergence of photography as an art form in the second half of the twentieth century. An exhibition in collaboration with Museum Folkwang, Essen, and Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano.

 

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) from 'On the Alp' 1963

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
from On the Alp
1963
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam
1969
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol's Factory), New York' 1972

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol’s Factory), New York
1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Jean-Christophe Ammann. 'oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA' 1972

 

Jean-Christophe Ammann
oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA
Venice, 1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz have launched a major retrospective exhibition dedicated to the lifetime achievement of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

The exhibition charts the many facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step, from his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum – in which he adhered closely to the traditional reportage and illustrative photography of the 1960s, and undertook his first independent photographic projects – to his role alongside legendary curator Harald Szeemann, and his documentation of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Balthasar Burkhard is the author of many iconic images of such groundbreaking exhibitions as When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969 and the 1972 documenta 5, capturing radical and frequently ephemeral works, actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day.

Meanwhile, Burkhard endeavoured to make his mark both as a photographer and as an artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend and colleague Markus Raetz, trying out his skills as an actor in the USA, and ultimately being invited to hold his own highly influential exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel and Musée Rath in Geneva in 1983 and 1984. These enabled him to liberate photography from its purely documentary role by creating monumental tableaux in which he developed the motif of the body into sculptural human landscapes and site-specific architectures.

Throughout the course of his career, Burkhard turned time and again to portraiture. Whereas his early photographs tended to show artists in action within their own setting, his later portraits adopted an increasingly formalised approach. During the 1990s, he transposed this stylistic reduction to a wide-ranging series of animal portraits reminiscent of the encyclopaedic style of nineteenth century photography.

Another milestone of Burkhard’s oeuvre can be found in his vast aerial photographs of major mega cities such as Tokyo and Mexico City. These images, shot from an aircraft, like his images of the earth’s deserts, were destined to become a personal passion. Balthasar Burkhard’s quest for a morphology, for a formula that could encapsulate both nature and culture, is particularly evident in his later work, which ranges from pictures of waves and clouds, Swiss mountains and rivers, to the delicate fragility of plants. His interest was always focused on the materiality of the image. Alongside the highly idosyncratic and somewhat darkly sombre tonality of his prints, Burkhard constantly sought to explore every aspect of photography’s aesthetic and technical potential.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the joint exhibition by Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung not only shows individual works, but also reflects on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented, underpinned by a wealth of documents from the archives of the artist. The exhibition is divided in two parts and shown in parallel in the exhibition spaces of Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung.

Press release

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz. 'The Bed' 1969/70

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz
The Bed
1969/70
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne
1969
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne
1969
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel' 1972

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel
1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

With this major retrospective, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz pay homage to the Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer, but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

Together, the two institutions chart the many and varied facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step. Fotostiftung presents early works from the days of his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum and his first independent documentary photographs. The exhibition also traces Burkhard’s role as a photographer alongside the curator Harald Szeemann and capturing images of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, Burkhard carved his niche as a photographer and artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend Markus Raetz and eventually breaking away from the European art world in search of both himself and new inspiration in the USA.

The second part of the exhibition at Fotomuseum shows the work created by Burkhard after his return to Europe, and his exploration of the photographic tableau. It was during this phase that he largely succeeded in emancipating photography from its purely documentary function. Using monumental formats, he translated the motif of the human body into sculptural landscapes and site-specific architectures. He went on to apply his stylistic device of formal reduction to portraits and landscapes. This marked the beginning of a series of experiments in the handling of photographic techniques. From long-distance aerial photographs of mega-cities such as Mexico City and Tokyo to close-up studies of flowers and plants, Burkhard seemed to be constantly seeking a formula that would embrace both nature and culture, encapsulating a sensory and sensual grasp of visible reality.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the exhibition not only shows individual works, but is also underpinned by applied projects, films and many documents from the archives of the artist. This wealth of material allows a reflection both on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented in the exhibition space as well as his constant weighing-up of other media.

 

Part I (Fotostiftung Schweiz)

Early photographs

Balthasar Burkhard was just eight years old when his father gave him a camera to take along on a school excursion. Burkhard himself describes this early experience with the camera as the starting point of his career. It was also his father who suggested an apprenticeship with Kurt Blum, one of Switzerland’s foremost photographers, ranking along-side Paul Senn, Jakob Tuggener and Gotthard Schuh. Blum taught the young Balz, as he was nicknamed, all the finer points of darkroom technique as well as the art of large-format photography. The earliest work from Burkhard’s apprentice years is a reportage of the school, in the form of a book, while his documentation of the Distelzwang Society’s historic guildhall in the old quarter of Bern was clearly a lesson in architectural photography. Yet, no sooner had he completed his apprenticeship than Burkhard was already embarking on his very own independent projects inspired by post-war humanist photography, such as Auf der Alp, a study of rural Alpine life, for which he was awarded the Swiss Federal Grant for Applied Arts in 1964.

 

Chronicler of Bohemian Life in Bern

Even during his apprenticeship, Burkhard moved in the Bernese art circles to which his teacher Kurt Blum also belonged. In 1962, he created a first portrait, in book form, of painter and writer Urs Dickerhof. Shortly after that, he became friends with his near-contemporary Markus Raetz, and started taking photographs for the charismatic curator Harald Szeemann, who was director of Kunsthalle Bern from 1961 to 1969. Burkhard immersed himself in the vibrantly dynamic Swiss art scene, documenting the often controversial exhibitions of conceptual art at the Kunsthalle, and capturing the lives of Bern’s bohemian set with his 35mm camera. These visual mementos would later be collated in a kind of photographic journal. Initial collaborative projects with artists included a 1966 artists’ book about the village of Curogna (Ticino) and a window display for the Loeb department store in Bern featuring photographic portraits of the Bernese artist Esther Altorfer, devised in collaboration with Markus Raetz and his later wife, fashion designer Monika Raetz-Müller.

 

Landscapes 1969

Inspired by his friend Raetz, Burkhard photographed bleak and rugged snow-covered landscapes in the Bernese Seeland region. Heaps of earth piled up along the wayside reminded him of Robert Smithson’s Earthworks, which had just emerged in contemporary art. As Burkhard would later explain, “I wanted to leave out everything relating to myself, so that I could truly relate to what remained. I distanced myself from my subject-matter. I succeeded in stepping back both from myself and from my work.”

A close-up of bare agricultural soil, vaguely reminiscent of a lunar landscape, forms the basis for an object with a neon tube created in 1969 for the legendary exhibition When Attitudes Become Form in collaboration with Harald Szeemann, Markus Raetz and Jean-Frédéric Schnyder. In 1969, Burkhard’s brown-toned landscapes were included in the 1969 exhibition photo actuelle suisse in Sion. They were subsequently published as his first independent portfolio by Allan Porter in the May issue of Camera magazine, which was dedicated to avant-garde European photography and its affinity with contemporary art.

 

The Amsterdam Canvases 1969-70

When Markus Raetz took a studio in Amsterdam in 1969, he and Burkhard continued to work on joint projects. Photographs of everyday motifs were enlarged, practically life-sized, onto canvas, and caused a sensation in the spring 1970 exhibition Visualisierte Denkprozesse (Visualised thought processes) at Kunstmuseum Luzern, curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann, who wrote: “On huge canvases, they [Raetz and Burkhard] showed, among other things, a spartan studio space, a bedroom, a kitchen, a curtain. They relativised the purely object-like character by hanging the canvases on clips. The resulting folds enriched the images by adding a new dimension.” In other words, the folds in the canvas created a “quasi ironic and disillusioning barrier.” Burkhard’s large-format works foreshadowed the monumental photographic tableaux that would eventually herald the ultimate march of photography into the museum space some ten years later.

 

Documentarist of the International Art Scene

By the end of the 1960s, Harald Szeemann and his polarising, controversial exhibitions were drawing increasing attention far beyond the boundaries of Switzerland. In particular, his (in)famous 1969 show When Attitudes Become Form unleashed heated debates that ultimately led to Szeemann’s resignation as director of Kunsthalle Bern. Then, in 1970, he shocked the members and visitors of the Kunstverein in Cologne with an exhibition dedicated to Happening & Fluxus. Here, too, Burkhard was on hand with his camera. Jean-Christophe Ammann, with whom Burkhard undertook a research trip to the USA in 1972, photographing many artists’ studios, proved no less controversial a figure. Moreover, Burkhard also photographed artists, actions and installations at the 1972 documenta 5 in Kassel, which was headed by none other than Szeemann himself. Given the expanded concept of art that prevailed at the time, which strengthened the role of performance art and installation works alike, photography, too, gained a newfound core significance. Indeed, it was only through photography that many of these innovative works were preserved for posterity.

 

Chicago and the Self-Invention of the Artist

Following a relatively unproductive period in the wake of documenta 5, during which he worked, among other things, on an unfinished documentary project about the small Swiss town of Zofingen, Burkhard spent the years between 1975 and 1978 in Chicago, where he taught photography at the University of Illinois. It was while he was there that he once again reprised the series of photo canvases he had been working on in Amsterdam between 1969 and 1970. This led to new large-format works portraying everyday scenes such as the back seat of an automobile or the interior of a home with a TV, as well as three now lost photographs of roller skaters and a very androgynous back-view nude study of a young man. In 1977 the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago presented these canvases together with a selection of the Amsterdam works in what was Burkhard’s first solo exhibition. Critics were impressed by his “soft photographs”. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, enthused: “‘European’ grace is wedded to ‘American’ strength in a supreme artistic fiction that suggests the wide-screen format of film.”

 

Self-Portraits

In Chicago, Burkhard rekindled his friendship with performance and conceptual artist Thomas Kovachevic, whom he had first met at documenta 5 and who now introduced him to the local art scene. At the same time, Burkhard toyed with the notion of trying his chances as a film actor in Hollywood. With Kovachevich’s help, he produced a series of self-portraits, both Polaroids and slides, which he presented in a small snakeskin-covered box as his application portfolio. He approached Alfred Hitchcock and Joshua Shelley of Columbia Pictures, albeit unsuccessfully. His only film role was in Urs Egger’s 1978 Eiskalte Vögel (Icebound; screened in seminar room I). Burkhard later transformed some of his self-portraits into large-scale canvases, through which he asserted his newfound sense of identity as an artist, making himself the subject-matter of his own artistic work. One of these was also shown in the Photo Canvases exhibition at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery.

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'feet 2' 1980

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
feet 2
1980
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Knie', Kunsthalle Basel (installation view) 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel 
(installation view)
1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Study of The Head' c. 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Study of The Head
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Design for Body II' c. 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Design for Body II
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

 

Part II (Fotomuseum Winterthur)

Body and Sculpture

The 1980s heralded the advent of a particularly productive period for Balthasar Burkhard in which he adopted a more sculptural approach to photography, treating his prints as an integral part of the exhibition architecture. Just as he himself had witnessed how the generation of artists before him had called the classic exhibition space into question, so too did his own latest works now begin to take control of that space. Burkhard became one of the foremost proponents of large-scale photographic tableaux, as evidenced by his groundbreaking exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 and Museé Rath, Geneva, in 1984.

It was in the photo canvases he made in Chicago during the late 1970s that Burkhard first turned towards the motif of the body as a sculptural form with which he would continue to experiment over the coming years. Such an overtly sculptural approach to the body and to the nude as landscape soon began to demand a larger format than Burkhard had previously been using. An arm, almost four metres long, framed by heavy steel, or the multipart installation Das Knie (Knee), reflect the very core of his creative oeuvre in all its many facets: monumentality, fragmentation and the breaking of genre boundaries by transposing two-dimensional images into spatially commanding installations.

 

Portraits: Types and Individuals

The increasing formal reduction of Balthasar Burkhard’s images continued in the field of portraiture. He invited fellow artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Christian Boltanski to sit for him. With this series, it seemed that he had finally put behind him his days as a chronicler of the art scene, reliant on the techniques of applied photography.

Portraits of a rather different kind are his profiles of animals, in an equally reduced setting, against the backdrop of a tarpaulin. Redolent of Renaissance drawings or nineteenth century animal photography, his images of sheep, wolves and lions come across as representing ideal and typical examples of their species without anthropomorphising them, while at the same time wrenching them out of their natural environment. These images reached a broad audience through the popular 1997 children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera, which was republished in its second edition in 2017.

 

Architectural Photography

Given his increasing success in the art world, Burkhard could well afford to be selective about his choice of commissioned works. He had already been taking photographs for architects connected with the Bern-based firm Atelier 5 back in the 1960s, and was still accepting commissions in this field in the 1990s. Burkhard’s photographic essay on the Ricola building designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron indicates just how thoroughly his own distinctive artistic syntax permeates his commissioned and architectural photography, right through to the details of fragments and materials. These photographs were shown in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1991, having been explicitly designed for this particular exhibition space. As in his artistic oeuvre, Burkhard operates here with spatially commanding installations, skilfully dovetailing the architectural motif with the presentational form.

 

Aerial Photography

In the 1990s, before the art world had even begun to turn its attention to the subject of megacities, Burkhard was already taking a keen interest in the world’s major conurbations. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a Swiss airforce pilot, he took bird’s-eye-view photographs from a plane. His panoramic shots of cities such as London, Mexico City and Los Angeles were preceded by small-format studies of clouds: the so-called Nuages series. Having incorporated a study of rural Switzerland into his formative training in 1963 with the series Auf der Alp (On the Alp), he returned once more to focus on the landscape of his homeland in the early 2000s with an entire series of aerial photographs of the Bernina mountain range.

 

Landscape and Flora

In the last two decades of his life, Burkhard concentrated primarily on landscape and flora, turning to historical precedents both in his techniques and in his choice of motif. The desert formations of Namibia, in which all sense of proportion is lost amid the remote and untouched wilderness, set a counterpoint to the sprawling urban expanses of Mexico City and London. The diptych Welle (Wave), by contrast, pays homage to the work of French artist Gustave Courbet, with Burkhard making a pilgrimage to the tide swept shores where the father of Realism had painted in 1870.

In another series, Burkhard adapts the aesthetics of botanical plant studies, which were as widely used around the turn of the twentieth century as the complex photographic process of heliography, and transposes these to larger-than-life formats. Whereas Burkhard, as a young photographer, had captured the exuberant art scene of the 1960s and 1970s, snapshot-style, he later went on, as an artist-photographer, to explore the potential of the photographic tableau, diligently researching near-forgotten techniques and the sensual details of the visible world.

 

Artwork and Commissioned Work

The site-specific installations of his photographs and Burkhard’s own dedicated approach to museum spaces warrant an excursion into the archives of the artist, paying particular attention to four exemplary exhibitions.

One spectacular and iconic show was the Fotowerke (Photo works) exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983. Curated by artist Rémy Zaugg, the installations can be reconstructed thanks to the catalogue and copious documentation. Contact prints and studies, for instance, help to give an insight into the no longer extant thirteen metre work Körper I (Body I) as well as shedding light on the choice of motif for further body fragments.

A 1984 solo exhibition at the Le Consortium in Dijon, on the other hand, shows how Burkhard responded with his group of works Das Knie (Knee) to an entirely different installation context within the given space. Similarly, at the Musée Rath in Geneva that same year, Burkhard, together with his friend Niele Toroni, instigated a radical juxtaposition of photography and painting based on the pillars of the exhibition venue.

At Grand-Hornu in the Belgian town of Mons, by contrast, his life-sized photographs of animals were mounted at eye level. While Burkhard chose a large format for the exhibition venue, the images in his children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera tell of a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot. This apparent discrepancy between artwork and commissioned work never seemed to be relevant to Burkhard. The sheer volume of his studio photos, alone, indicates just how scrupulously precise he was about the way he wanted to be perceived as a serious photographer.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

 

Installation views of the exhibition Balthasar Burkhard at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February – May 2018

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Balthasar Burkhard in his studio' 1995

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Balthasar Burkhard in his studio
1995
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Camel' 1997

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Camel
1997
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bull' 1996

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Bull
1996
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Reindeer' 1996

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
The Reindeer
1996
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Mexico City
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Mexico City
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Nuages ​​8' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Nuages ​​8
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Ecosse' (Scotland) 2000

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Ecosse (Scotland)
2000
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bernina' 2003

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Bernina
2003
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Silberen' 2004

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Silberen
2004
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Rio Negro' 2002

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Rio Negro
2002
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
Tel: +41 52 234 10 30

Opening hours:
Daily 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotostiftung Schweiz website

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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04
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Susan Meiselas: Mediations’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 20th May 2018

Curators: Carles Guerra and Pia Viewing

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : "L'homme au cocktail Molotov", Nicaragua' 16 juillet 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : “L’homme au cocktail Molotov”, Nicaragua
16 juillet 1979
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Esteli. 1979. Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters

 

 

The second of a double header from Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Whatever you write or say doesn’t matter. It’s the images that matter, the work before you.

Meiselas’ work offers respect, that is the key word, respect for the individuality of the people she photographs. You can feel it in her images; it is what gives them their power. Unlike the previous posting on the work of Raoul Hausmann, where it was all about the photographer, here the work is authored but the photographs are all about the subject: their place in the world, their trials and tribulations.

Meiselas’ photographs are very strong – graphic work (in form and declaration) balanced with an existential, human touch. Meiselas questions the nature of the original photograph and photographic process in order to understand how the photograph and its ongoing testimonies change in specific times and places, by developing multilayered narratives which integrate the participation of her subjects into her works. As such they are as much meditations on the human condition as much as mediations between place, her role as witness, storytelling, and how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion, which is facilitated by technology.

On the compilation of her visual histories, I can’t put it better than the text below:

“Lauded documentary photographer Susan Meiselas has been working at the nexus of history, politics, ethnography, art, and storytelling throughout her prolific career, producing multi-layered photographic narratives about individuals and societies across the U.S. and the world. Sensitive to both the potential and limitations of images, the 1992 MacArthur Fellow approaches her projects aware of their inevitable impartiality and incompleteness, supplementing her own photographs with texts, interviews, archival images, and other forms of documentation. “My projects are authored but I’d like to think they are not authoritative,” she says.

“About Susan Meiselas” on the Artsy website

Marcus

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

 

A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’ unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

 

 

“It is important to me – in fact, it is central to my work – that I do what I can to respect the individuality of the people I photograph, all of whom exist in specific times and places.”

.
“This photograph is for whom. And so, for a long time that’s been the question motivating almost everything that I do.”

.
Susan Meiselas

 

 

Susan Meiselas: Mediations at Jeu de Paume on Vimeo

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sharif and Son' 1971

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sharif and Son
1971
Série 44 Irving Street, 1971
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena après le spectacle, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena on the Bally Box

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena after the show

 

 

“Meiselas is known for her searing, visceral photographs of civil unrest and political revolution around the world, from Central America to Kurdistan. However, it is her “Carnival Strippers” that defines her career for many.”

“A History of Magnum Photos in Ten Photographers” on the Artsy website.
See what they mean on the Susan Meiselas: “Carnival Strippers” 1972 – 1975 web page.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972' 1972

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972
1972
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Rockland, Maine. 1972. Debbie and Renee

 

 

Meiselas’s first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women performing striptease at New England country fairs, whom she photographed during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in New York City public school classrooms. Carnival Strippers was originally published in 1976 with a new edition of the book (which included a CD of the audio recordings) produced by Steidl/Whitney in 2003. In 1976, Meiselas was invited to join the photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Beginning in 1976, she photographed a group of young girls living in her neighbourhood of Little Italy, New York. Entitled Prince Street Girls, they inspired an on-going relationship.

Meiselas is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America for over a decade. In 1978 Meiselas made her first trip to Nicaragua, and that year one of her iconic images was published on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. In 1981, she published Nicaragua: June 1978-July 1979, reprinted in 2008 (with a DVD of the film “Pictures from a Revolution”) and in 2016 (with a customize AR app, to trigger film clips from the photographs). Her image of Pablo Jesús Aráuz, the ‘Molotov Man’, made on July 16, 1979 just before the triumph of the Sandinistas, has become an icon of the revolution. The image is shown recontextualised in the installation The Life of an Image: ‘Molotov Man’, 1979–2009. Meiselas served as an editor for two collaborative projects, both of which support and highlight the work of regional photographers. The first, El Salvador: The Work of Thirty Photographers, Writers and Readers, 1983, also features her own images. The second project, Chile from Within, W. W. Norton, 1991, focuses on work by photographers living under the Pinochet regime. Meiselas has also co-directed four films: Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family, 1986 ; Voyages, on her work in Nicaragua produced in collaboration with director M. Karlin, Pictures from a Revolution, 1991, with R. P. Rogers and A. Guzzetti; and Reframing History, 2004.

In 1992, Meiselas produced Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, Random House, 1997; University of Chicago Press, 2008. The book was produced along with akaKURDISTAN, 1998, an online archive of collective memory, currently shown as a physical map with story books made by contributors from the Kurdish diaspora worldwide. Pandora’s Box, Trebruk/Magnum Editions, 2003, is an exploration of an underground New York S&M club that began in 1995. Both projects are shown as exhibition works.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Mississippi' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Mississippi
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Caroline du Sud' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Caroline du Sud
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976' 1976

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976
1976
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978
1978
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. New York CIty. 1978. Roseann on the way to Manhattan Beach

 

Alain Dejean Sygma. 'Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua' Septembre 1978

 

Alain Dejean Sygma
Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua
Septembre 1978
© Alain Dejean Sygma

 

 

The retrospective devoted to the American photographer Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) brings together a selection of works from the 1970s to the present day. A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’s unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

Her early works already illustrate her interest for documentary photography. Her very first project, 44 Irving Street (1971), was a series of black and white portraits. Here, she used her camera as a means of interacting with the other tenants of the boarding house where she lived during her time as a student. For Carnival Strippers (1972-1975), Meiselas followed strippers working in carnivals in New England over the course of three consecutive summers. The reportage is completed with audio recordings of the women, their clients and managers.

From this period originates also Prince Street Girls (1975-1992), which was shot in the district known as Little Italy, in New York, where Susan Meiselas still lives. She photographed a group of young girls over several years, capturing the changes that took place in their lives as they were growing up, constituting a chronicle of the evolving relationship between the young girls and the photographer.

Three important series represent the center of the exhibition: Nicaragua, El Salvador and Kurdistan. Made between the late 1970s and 2000, the works reveal the way in which the artist challenges and practises photography. During the course of her extensive travels in Latin America, over a number of decades, in times of war and peace, Meiselas returns to the sites where she took the original photographs, using the images to find the people she had met in order to pursue a record of their testimonies. With her project Mediations (1982), Susan Meiselas reveals how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion. Her novel approach is almost prophetic in a world where the diffusion of the image is facilitated by technology.

As from 1997, Meiselas addresses each conflict in a different way according to the context. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997) is an archive of the visual history of a people without a nation. Meiselas, who gathered those elements all around the world in collaboration with Kurdish people, constructed her work as an installation composed of a compilation of documents, photographs and videos.

In 1992, Meiselas, asked to contribute to an awareness campaign exposing domestic violence, began by photographing crime scenes, accompanying a team of police investigators, and then selected a number of documents with photographs from the archives of the San Francisco Police Department. This research led her to create Archives of Abuse, collages of police reports and photographs, exhibited in the city’s public spaces as posters on bus shelters.

For the retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, Susan Meiselas has created a new work, begun in 2015, based on her involvement with Multistory, a regional arts organisation based in the United Kingdom. This last series A Room of Their Own was made collaboratively in a refuge for women and focuses on domestic violence. The installation includes five narrative video works, featuring Meiselas’s photographs, first-hand testimonies, collages and drawings.

The exhibition of the Jeu de Paume is the most comprehensive retrospective of her work ever held in France. It retraces her trajectory since the 1970s as a visual artist who associates her subjects to her approach and questions the status of images in relation to the context in which they are perceived.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l'insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l’insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua
[Traditional mask used during the popular uprising, Masaya, Nicaragua]

1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

In the late 1970s, without an assignment of any sort, Susan Meiselas went to Nicaragua to cover the popular insurrection following the assassination of the editor of the opposition newspaper La Prensa. She became one of the most celebrated photojournalists in the world for her colour photographs of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Some of them became icons of the Nicaraguan revolution. She didn’t see the insurrection as a series of isolated news events as a photojournalist would, but rather a historical process that was unfolding every day. Her approach was specific to the context of the conflict and the terrain.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Cuidad Sandino. Searching everyone traveling by car, truck, bus or foot

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Masaya. September, 1978. Returning home

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Matagalpa. Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1980. Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador' 1983

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador
1983
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1983. Road to Aguilares.

 

 

With Mediations, 1982, the project that lends its title to this retrospective exhibition, Meiselas revealed the effects that the circulation of images produces on their meaning. At a time when, thanks to new technologies, photography has become the object of an all-reaching exchange, Meiselas’s attitude becomes unprecedented, while her archival projects constitute a valuable precedent. Two of them, the ones devoted to Nicaragua and Kurdistan, are widely represented in this exhibition.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
1992
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NORTHERN IRAQ. Kurdistan. June, 1992. Widow at mass grave found in Koreme

 

 

The retrospective emphasises the development of Susan Meiselas’ photographic practice from the 1970s onwards. In most of her early work, she addresses the subjects of her portrait-based images by including them in one way or another in the process of her work. In 44 Irving Street, (1972), she asks the persons portrayed to comment on their representation and in Carnival Strippers (1975), a sound recording of the context in which the photographs are taken gives further perspective on the strippers lives. In addition to this aspect, her interest in archival documentation and the compilation of visual histories can also be traced back to this period (Lando, 1975) and one can see this develop in her research work on Kurdistan. Her treatment of images reveals that, in her artistic practice, she considers the photographic frame as a moment in time complementary to other forms of framing and capturing reality, which may be seen and reviewed over time.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
[Concrete blocks signaling Koreme Mass grave, northern Iraq]

1992
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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