Archive for the 'quotation' Category

17
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective’ at the Serpentine North Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 19th May – 24th October 2021

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Portrait of James Barnor in front of some of his photographs, Accra' 1957

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Portrait of James Barnor in front of some of his photographs, Accra
1957
Courtesy Autograph

 

 

It’s late, but it’s better late than never

After a life of giving – putting his photographs out into the world, generous of his energy and spirit – this ‘Ever Young’ artist is, finally, getting the recognition that he so richly deserves.

In the tradition of Black African photographers such as Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keïta and Sanlé Sory, Barnor’s photographs present people of all ages and all walks of life – whether in Accra, Ghana or in the suburbs of London, England – through direct and honest studio portraits or in more candid documents of the communities that surrounded him. Barnor’s work “is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters.”

In all of Barnor’s work their is a sensitivity to subject matter. Noticeably, in the work from the 1960s onwards there is a freeing up of the picture plane, a playfulness and freshness in these images, which capture the spirit which is naturally embedded within African culture. I look at his photographs and they make me smile. For example, the glorious presence of the women in Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James’ cousin (late 1970s, below) or the radiant women with the Christmas tree on top of the television in At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin (c. 1970-71, below). People at ease in front of the camera, with no overt acting up, no pretension. His Afro-modernist colour photographs of people in Accra in the 1970s are magnificent for their refined use of limited colour palettes and the relaxed ease of the subjects. As the press release states, “These images are drawn from a long lifetime of capturing people and places with the camera, a lifetime in which Barnor acts as witness, maker, interpreter and storyteller.” As he says, the story is the picture.

But what pushes Barnor’s photographs further than other Black African photographers is that he ventured to another, foreign land to photograph Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Imagine arriving in London in 1959 where you couldn’t get work as a Black photographer, and all the racism that this statement entails, to then continue to photograph for Drum magazine the vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community. In the ‘Swinging Sixties’ where ‘Black was Beautiful’, Barnor’s photographs were “affirming the place of black bodies in public and encouraging the active mixing of multinational cultural markers… Bridging between the world of Africa and Europe gave Barnor a unique perspective, and the best of his photographs simmer with cross-cultural style and verve.”1 This can be seen particularly in his personal images from parties, weddings, and family outings and in his cover work for Drum, where his models are in public – happy, proud and free. It is wonderful for me to see pictures such as A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London (c. 1966, below) for its depiction of a world where skin colour does not matter, should never matter. For too long has this world been ruled by hatred and division.

Barnor’s photographs plant the seed of equality and happiness as a way of transmitting this knowledge to others. “He is a living archive, a link between the birth of photography in West Africa and the development of the discipline for the modern era.”2 It is his passion and feeling for the practice of photography, the stories that it tells and his engagement with the spirit of the people that he encounters – as a conversation between equals – that intuitively ground his work in the history of photography and the history of Black culture and makes them forever young. As the article on the L’Officiel website by Kleaver Cruz observes, “… it is his calling to connect with his subjects, to create space for them to be free, and to capture their essence for the record, for the sake of our existence as Black and African peoples, and for what has become an important archive of the lives he has interacted with over the course of his own long and rich life.”

Lives across time and space, across this life and the next.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Loring Knoblauch. “James Barnor, The Roadmaker,” on the Collector Daily website, June 18, 2021 [Online] Cited 17/10/2021
  2. Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.
  3. Ibid.,

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

 

 

“I came across a magazine with an inscription that said: “A civilisation flourishes when men plant trees under which they themselves will never sit.” But to me it’s not only plants – putting something in somebody’s life, a young person’s life, is the same as planting a tree that you will not cut and sell during your lifetime. That has helped me a lot in my work. Sometimes the more you give, the more you get.”

.
James Barnor

 

“I wish the recognition that I’m getting now had come to me when I was about 65. And I wish when I was 60, 65, 70, my work was regarded as ‘iconic,’ or whatever people call it now. Then I would have had the chance to approach people for assignments and I would not have been taken for granted. And I’d have been able to buy the type of equipment I needed or wanted, and sold pictures at places that understood my work. It’s late, but it’s better late than never.”

.
James Barnor

 

“It took me a long time to understand the art of photography. There is a big difference between doing art and doing photography. I have come to realise that, when you get an education, as soon as you see a picture, you already know this should be here, that should be there. You form the story before you take the pictures: you take two or three, and you are on the way.”

.
James Barnor, ‘Frieze Magazine’, May 2021

 

“You can google all the technical stuff. It’s the ideas that you have that’re important. The community development, the self-involvement. Go and learn and be knowledgeable and take the camera. The story is the picture.”

.
James Barnor

 

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Mr. Blavo and friends at a Youth Development Club party, Scout Headquarters, Accra' 1953

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mr. Blavo and friends at a Youth Development Club party, Scout Headquarters, Accra
1953
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

As a young person, Barnor was active in Youth Development Clubs and other social activities organised for young people in Accra. In this image, he captured some new and old friends during a camping-style party hosted at the Boy Scout Headquarters in the capital city. At the centre of the group is someone Barnor was less familiar with, but remembered as a classmate and one of the first trained health workers in the country; on her left is E. Quarshie Blavo, a prominent Scout and youth leader who was “always coming up with ideas to get the youth united and to learn and do things and give service;” to her right is another friend of Barnor’s, Mr. Kitson-Mills who worked as a Tax Controller. Barnor was also part of developing the youth hostel system in Ghana, which offered affordable options for young Ghanaians who wanted to travel and get better acquainted with all their home country had to offer.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Eva, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Eva, London
1960s, printed 2010
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

A celebration of the great Ghanaian photographer, who established his Ever Young studio in Accra in the early 1950s, and documented London during the swinging 60s as a photojournalist for Drum magazine. Capturing the mood of Ghana as it transitioned to independence in the 1950s, Barnor’s work remains an important reference for painters, photographers and film-makers.

The Serpentine presents a major survey of British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, whose career spans six decades, two continents and numerous photographic genres through his work with studio portraiture, photojournalism, editorial commissions and wider social commentary.

Born in 1929 in Ghana, James Barnor established his famous Ever Young studio in Accra in the early 1950s, capturing a nation on the cusp of independence in an ambiance animated by conversation and highlife music. In 1959 he arrived in London, furthering his studies and continuing assignments for influential South African magazine Drum which reflected the spirit of the era and the experiences of London’s burgeoning African diaspora. He returned to Ghana in the early 1970s to establish the country’s first colour processing lab while continuing his work as a portrait photographer and embedding himself in the music scene. He returned to London in 1994.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters. Barnor’s desire to bring communities with him along his journey extends to his lifelong passion for education, not just as a means of furthering his own skills but also as a way of transmitting his knowledge to others. The recent digitisation of his archive of 32,000 images has enabled him to adopt the daily practice of revisiting his pictures with fresh eyes and memories to share his extraordinary life and work with a new generation.

Organised in broadly chronological order, James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective moves between the two countries, and includes portraits taken at his first studio, Ever Young; images taken in and around the independence movement in Ghana; Barnor’s era-defining work for South African anti-apartheid / Black lifestyle publication Drum and extensive photography of life in 1960s London; plus work from his time managing the first colour-processing laboratory in 1970s Ghana.

Text from the Serpentine North Gallery website

 

 

 

James Barnor at Serpentine 2021

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at centre, Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra (c. 1953, below), and at left The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra (1955, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1953

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1953
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra' 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra
1955
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Roy Ankrah and an unknown boxer in a remote area of Ghana' 1952

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Roy Ankrah and an unknown boxer in a remote area of Ghana
1952
James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

 

 

John Theophilus Oti Ankrah (25 December 1925 – 28 May 1995), better known as Roy Ankrah, was a Ghanaian featherweight contender during the 1950s. He was given the nicknames “The Black Flash” and “Mr. Perpetual Motion” because of his fast hands and crafty footwork. Ankrah held the Commonwealth featherweight title from 1951 to 1952 and had his biggest fight against then-reigning NBA, NYSAC, and The Ring bantamweight world champion in a non-title fight as both fighters weighed above the 118lbs limit of bantamweight.

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at right Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London (1966, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London' 1966, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London
1966, printed 2010
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) ''Drum' magazine cover with Constance Mulondo, East Africa edition' August 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
‘Drum’ magazine cover with Constance Mulondo, East Africa edition
August 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Marie Hallowi, 'Drum' covergirl, Kent' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Marie Hallowi, ‘Drum’ covergirl, Kent
1966

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation views, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine), the bottom image showing Barnor cover photographs for the magazine Drum
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

 

“There weren’t magazines or newspapers showing Black models – Drum started it,” he said. “Any time I saw a Drum cover in London, side by side with international magazines, I felt really satisfied. I knew I was recording something. I knew I had to take care of my negatives.” ~ James Barnor

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at third right Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London (1966, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London
1966

 

 

At 24 years old, Muhammad Ali, then the heavyweight champion of the world, was scheduled to defend his title against Brian London in the UK’s capital in 1966. Barnor was commissioned by Drum to capture Ali during his preparation for the big fight. “I didn’t talk to him at all. I should have asked him to do this or that for me. I’m sure that he would have done anything I asked him to do – ‘turn this way’ or ‘you do that,’ he would have done it. But he was so fascinating,” Barnor says of photographing the young star. Consistent with his intuitive spirit, Barnor chose to focus on the icon’s back rather than his face. “Nobody would have thought of photographing somebody’s back,” he recalls. Barnor shot this image with a Mamiya he had acquired from trading the camera he came to London with following the completion of his studies at Medway College of Art in Kent.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Self Portrait with Nkrumah, Roy Ankrah and his Wife, Rebecca, Accra' Nd

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Self Portrait with Nkrumah, Roy Ankrah and his Wife, Rebecca, Accra
Nd
Courtesy Autograph, London

 

 

James Barnor’s career as a studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer spans six decades, recording major social and political changes in Accra and London. His pioneering, resolutely modern work has influenced generations of photographers in Africa and around the world. James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective, focuses on the period 1950-1980, selected from more than 32,000available images.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether making family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and his images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters.

Organised in broadly chronological order, James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective moves between the two countries, and includes portraits taken at his first studio, Ever Young; images taken in and around the independence movement in Ghana; Barnor’s era-defining work for South African anti-apartheid / Black lifestyle publication Drum and extensive photography of life in 1960s London; plus work from his time managing the first colour-processing laboratory in 1970s Ghana. His life-long passion for music is visible through portraits of musicians and performers.

“James Barnor’s work reminds us how thrillingly expansive life is; his photographs offer the possibility of connection and exchange across continents and through time. These images are drawn from a long lifetime of capturing people and places with the camera, a lifetime in which Barnor acts as witness, maker, interpreter and storyteller. We are immensely proud to be able to present this show atSerpentine this summer. We are so grateful to James Barnor for his vision, his unfailing energy and for sharing his memories so generously.”

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, and Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, Serpentine

This exhibition is part of Serpentine’s commitment to programming pioneering artists achieving wider recognition later in their careers, including exhibitions in recent years by Rose Wylie (2017), Luchita Hurtado and Faith Ringgold (both 2019).

 

About James Barnor

Born in 1929 in Accra, Ghana, Barnor came from a family of photographers. He initially trained under a photographic apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo, before establishing Ever Young, his first studio, in the early 1950s. Barnor likened Ever Young to a community centre, and it was there that he captured a nation on the cusp of independence in an environment of lively conversation and music. During this time, he also undertook assignments for the Daily Graphic newspaper, documenting key events and figures in the lead-up to Ghana’s independence in 1957, which established him as the first photojournalist in the country. Enticed by a friend’s promise that ‘London was the place for him’, Barnor left Accra in 1959 and spent the next decade furthering his studies, continuing assignments for Drum, and photographing his ever-growing circle of family and friends. He returned to Accra a decade later to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in Ghana. Barnor settled permanently in the UK in 1994 and lives in West London.

On the occasion of the exhibition Serpentine is publishing a catalogue, Accra/London –A Retrospective, with Koenig Books, which is co-produced with MASI Lugano and Detroit Institute of Arts. Richly illustrated and designed by Mark El-khatib, it includes contributions by head of the photographic collection at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, Christine Barthe; architect Sir David Adjaye OBE; artist David Hartt; curator Alicia Knock, and a personal recollection from former Drum magazine model, Erlin Ibreck, who worked with Barnor on numerous shoots during the 1960s in London. The catalogue also includes a conversation between Barnor and Serpentine Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Press release from the Serpentine North Gallery website

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Revolution in the public transport ticketing system, Accra' c. 1950s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Revolution in the public transport ticketing system, Accra
c. 1950s
Courtesy Autograph, London

 

 

On March 6, 1957, the nation known today as Ghana gained its independence from British colonial rule, marking a growing tide of independence movements across the continent. In the capital city of Accra, where Barnor grew up, many waves of change occurred, including an upgraded bus system. Recalling today, Barnor describes the busyness of the capital city and how the municipal bus system transported people throughout the metropolitan area and its suburbs, as well as the enhancement of its technology, evidence of which we see in the suited conductor issuing paper tickets detailing the price and distance which each passenger was travelling. Barnor also notes elements of interaction between different classes, which is apparent in the dress and accessories of the woman on the far right in contrast to the other passengers. In regard to the people looking directly into the lens, Barnor recalls the excitement and curiosity when he showed up with a camera; after all, Barnor was the nation’s first newspaper photographer and, when people saw him, many understood that their image could potentially appear in the next day’s publication. “Oh yes… somebody with a camera coming, you know, people would ask, ‘What are you shooting for?’ By all means, everybody looks at you,” he says.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Naa Jacobson as Ballroom Queen, Ever Queen Studio, Accra' 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Naa Jacobson as Ballroom Queen, Ever Queen Studio, Accra
1955

 

 

There are so many stories here;
I have a special relationship with many of my models.
This is my comfort zone because I am inspired:
distracted and also attracted by so many details!
These are some of the people I enjoyed photographing most,
But there are so many more stories to tell.

~ James Barnor

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Four Nurses (graduates of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital), Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1957

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Four Nurses (graduates of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital), Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1957
Courtesy Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Nigerian Superman. Old Polo Ground, Mantse Agbona Park, Accra' 1958

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Nigerian Superman. Old Polo Ground, Mantse Agbona Park, Accra
1958
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A car accident outside Accra Brewery' Nd

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A car accident outside Accra Brewery
Nd
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929). 'Untitled, Studio X23, Accra' 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Untitled, Studio X23, Accra
1975
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James' cousin. Amanomo, Accra' Late 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James’ cousin, Amanomo, Accra
Late 1970s
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Ghanaian traditional hairstyle at Studio X23, Accra' c. 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Ghanaian traditional hairstyle at Studio X23, Accra
c. 1970s, modern print
Inkjet print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

In 1973 Barnor converted a small storeroom given to him by his cousin Albert M. Quarcoopome into a darkroom before expanding into a building. This became his second studio Studio X23 (1973-1994) where alongside a multifaceted commission practice he continued working as a portrait photographer for twenty years.

 

Ever Young Studio, Jamestown, Accra

 

Ever Young Studio, Jamestown, Accra
Credit: James Barnor

 

 

Barnor’s studio was like a “community center,” he remembers, and he made “people feel at home,” by talking to and getting to know them. “Young men would come by to have a chat and have their photograph taken,” he said. “Most people had confidence in me already. Everybody knew me in Ghana as a successful photographer – they knew they would be satisfied.”

Barnor says he believes the photographs he took during this time showed a different, stylish view of his home country – one that belied assumptions. “When I had my studio in Ghana people thought we (Ghanaians) didn’t dress up,” he said. “But all my sitters, my friends, were fashion conscious – women would often request full-length photos with shoes, a handbag and their accessories.”

Emma Firth. “From Accra to London, how photographer James Barnor captured decades of style,” on the CNN style website 20th June 2020 [Online] Cited 10/07/2021

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'AGIP with Graphic Designer' 1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
AGIP with Graphic Designer
1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Print in progress, Studio X23. Accra' 1972

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Print in progress, Studio X23, Accra
1972
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Kids dressed in identical suits. Accra' 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Kids dressed in identical suits, Accra
1970s
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Ever Young studio. Accra' 1954

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Ever Young studio, Accra
1954
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'J Peter Dodoo Jnr., Yoga student of "Mr Strong", Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
J Peter Dodoo Jnr., Yoga student of “Mr Strong”, Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1955, modern print
Inkjet print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Accra in the 1950s was a decade marked by the significant transformation of nation building and the rise of cosmopolitanism. Photography served as an important medium for sitters to articulate their own self-actualisation. Barnor described his first studio Ever Young (1953-1959), in the Jamestown district of the city, as a community centre filled with music and conversation, a drop-in space that embodied precisely this spirit of reinvention through the frame.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Evelyn Abbew, Ever Young Studio, Accra' 1954

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Evelyn Abbew, Ever Young Studio, Accra
1954
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Emma Christiana Bruce Annan, Drum Party, Chorkor Beach, Accra' 1954-56

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Emma Christiana Bruce Annan, Drum Party, Chorkor Beach, Accra
1954-56
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Introduction

Throughout his career, British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor has captured images of societies in transition and transformation. Moving between Accra and London to cultivate a practice that encompasses the genres of studio portraiture, photojournalism and social documentary photography, Barnor witnessed and recorded major social and political changes during a career that spans over six decades and two continents. This exhibition, the largest survey of his work to date, is drawn from his extensive archive and focuses on the decades 1950-80.

Born in 1929 in Accra, Ghana, Barnor came from a family of photographers. He initially trained under a photographic apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo, before establishing Ever Young, his first studio, in the early 1950s. Barnor likened Ever Young to a community centre, and it was there that he captured a nation on the cusp of independence in an environment of lively conversation and music. During this time, he also undertook assignments for the Daily Graphic newspaper, owned by the Mirror Group, documenting key events and figures in the lead-up to Ghana’s independence in 1957, which established him as the first photojournalist in the country. Enticed by a friend’s promise that ‘London was the place for him’, Barnor arrived in London in December 1959 and spent the next decade furthering his studies, continuing assignments for the influential South African magazine Drum, and photographing his ever-growing circle of family and friends. He returned to Accra a decade later to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in Ghana. Barnor settled permanently in the UK in 1994 and now lives in West London.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters. Barnor’s desire to bring communities with him along his journey extends to his lifelong passion for education, not just as a means of furthering his own skills but also as a way of transmitting his knowledge to others. The recent digitisation of his archive of 32,000 images has enabled him to adopt the daily practice of revisiting his pictures with fresh eyes and memories to share his extraordinary life and work with a new generation.

 

Ever Young Studio

Barnor first developed his photographic skills while serving an apprenticeship under his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo before going out on his own to establish Ever Young Studio in the early 1950s. Initially a modest, outdoor set-up with a darkroom in his aunt’s vacant room, the studio later moved to the Jamestown district of Accra in 953. Ever Young was a hive of activity, a drop-in space for people of all ages and all walks of life: ‘My studio was at a spot where everything happened in Accra, where young and old people met from various backgrounds, free to talk about everything and anything.’

Barnor took the name Ever Young from the story of Iduna’s Grove that he learned in school as a child. In the myth ‘Iduna, the beautiful young goddess of the Norsemen, lived in a pretty grove called Ever Young. She had a golden casket full of the most beautiful apples. A hero might come, tired and weary to Iduna’s Grove, feeling that he was growing old. Then Iduna would give him an apple and as soon as he had eaten it he would feel fresh and young again. It is not surprising that Iduna’s Grove was never lonely. As soon as the last rosy fruit had been given away, the casket was filled again by an invisible hand.’

The ethos of the name Ever Young can be felt in Barnor’s youthful energy and commitment to inspiring younger generations. The name also refers to his photographic training and process: ‘The essence of my studio profession is retouching, that’s the training I had, even though I wasn’t perfect. I thought that if someone came in, I’d make them look younger. So, if I open a studio, what should I call it? Ever Young.’

 

Accra Life

Barnor’s early work depicting life in and around Accra in the 1950s resisted the formal quality and rigid structure associated with large-format studio portraiture, becoming progressively more candid as he documented the communities around him using a small camera.

‘For me it was like living in two worlds: there was the careful handling of a sitter in my “studio” with a big camera on a heavy tripod, and then running around town chasing news and sports! … If I needed a picture, or a new story, I would rush to the Makola market, where people behave most like themselves. I enjoyed this more than studio photography. I would use a small camera. It was good for finding stories.’

Barnor became great friends with Drum magazine’s energetic proprietor, Jim Bailey. Drum was an influential South African politics and lifestyle magazine that also served as an anti-apartheid platform. When visiting Ghana, Bailey would host impromptu, often legendary, parties for the Drum community. One gathering was organised by Barnor at his studio, with another taking place on the beach, where he recounts that ‘people were swimming under the moon’.

 

Independence

In 1957, Ghana became the first West African country to gain independence from British colonial rule when Dr Kwame Nkrumah was elected its Prime Minister. Nkrumah’s political trajectory compounded by ‘philosophical consciencism’, an ideology for decolonisation to enable social revolution, saw him organising extensively with scholars and activists such as George Padmore and W.E.B Du Bois, who all resided in the country. Barnor was there to capture it all.

After gaining attention after one of his photographs was published in the Telegraph, Barnor was commissioned by UK-based Black Star Picture Agency and Drum magazine to photograph this time of significant historic transformation for a new nation, and the subsequent celebrations that drew people from all over the world.

‘I was the first newspaper photographer in Ghana, and I’m proud of that. Newspaper photography changed people’s lives and it changed journalism in Ghana. I was part of this moment.’

 

London

‘My friend and mentor, A. Q. A. Archampong, who had been my class teacher, had decided to go to England to study. We always kept in touch. Before he left, I said to him: “If the place is alright, write to me.” So, in his first letter to me, he wrote: “London is the place for you”.’

In 1959, two years after Ghana’s independence, Barnor arrived in London. After initially lodging in Peckham, he was introduced to Dennis Kemp by the Ghanaian Embassy, a lecturer in visual education working for the Kodak Lecture Service, who was researching Africa in preparation for a trip to document the forthcoming Nigerian independence celebrations. Kemp shared Barnor’s passion for photography and the two toured schools around the country where Kemp gave lectures using his archive of images on subjects that interested him, such as his travels, climbing and pot-holing, in order to demonstrate Kodak products as visual teaching aids. Barnor also joined Kemp on his trip to Nigeria in October 1960, and lodged at his flat in Holborn, eventually receiving a grant from the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board to support his training. Barnor and Kemp would often host coffee evenings with friends discussing approaches to photography and shared interests in African cultures and philosophies.

 

Drum

‘When I saw Drum with my photos on the cover, alongside other magazines at the newsstands, I felt like I was in heaven.’

In London, Barnor continued assignments for Drum. He captured the experiences of a vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community for the magazine, playing a key role in placing models of African descent, such as Erlin Ibreck and Marie Hallowi, on the cover. Through his work for Drum, Barnor combined studio portraiture and street photography, capturing a singular vision of a diasporic ‘Swinging Sixties’ in London. Whether picturing Hallowi gazing seductively from a convertible car, or Mike Eghan joyously floating down the steps at Piccadilly Circus, these pictorial narratives articulate the Afro-diasporic reclaiming of space and agency in self-expression.

‘You couldn’t get work in the 1960s as a Black photographer. It wouldn’t happen that a Black photographer would instruct white sitters […] If you worked for a studio in London, you worked behind the scenes in the darkroom doing odd jobs. Drum though, where I did freelance work, was different. They let me photograph the cover girls, Muhammad Ali, Mike Eghan (the BBC presenter). Drum was my home in London, my office, I got everything done there.’

 

UK 1960s

In 1960, Barnor moved to Kent, where he learned about colour photography at the Colour Processing Laboratories (CPL) in Edenbridge, the UK’s leading lab at the time. With Kemp’s encouragement he enrolled in a three-year course at Medway College of Art in Rochester. At Medway, he learned the technical aspects of colour photography, while continuing to work during the holidays at CPL. After graduating he was employed as a technician at the college before he was hired as a photographer in the design section of Centre for Educational Television Overseas (CETO).

During this period Barnor became close to Kemp’s family, who lived in Southwick, West Sussex, spending his free time rock climbing with Kemp and going on weekly outings with the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, a community group that fostered friendships between people who had recently settled in West Kent. Barnor was offered full-time employment as a colour printer by CPL in 1968.

 

Colour in Ghana

Driven by a desire to share the experience and kills he acquired while working with colour photography in the UK, Barnor returned to Ghana in 1970 as a trained manager for Sick-Hagemayer, a subdivision of the photographic equipment and materials manufacturer Agfa-Gevaert, to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in the country, where he worked until 1973 before establishing his own studio. Prior to the introduction of colour film-processing labs in West Africa in the 1970s, photographers had to improvise or send films for processing abroad. With a local colour processing lab in Accra, under Barnor’s leadership, came a greater demand and wider access to colour photography. People wanted their photographs to depict the range of vibrant life and Ghanaian fashion around them. Barnor excelled in this regard, using his knowledge of colour and singular aesthetic to capture popular dress and create a new style of portraiture.

‘Colour really changed people’s ideas about photography. Kente is Ghanaian woven fabric with many different colours, and people wanted their photographs taken after church or in town wearing this cloth, so the news spread quickly.’

 

Accra Life and Studio X23

[Barnor] established his second studio, Studio X23 in 1973. Barnor initially converted a small storeroom given to him by his cousin Albert M. Quarcoopome into a darkroom before expanding into other parts of the building. Although he returned to Ghana with little intention of continuing a studio practice, it nevertheless found him again and for the next twenty years Barnor continued his practice as a portrait photographer.

 

Commissions

Alongside his studio practice Barnor regularly took on commercial commissions, many of which were passed on to him by his friend the graphic designer Emmanuel Odartey Lamptey. Barnor shot images for clients including a promotional calendar for the Italian oil company AGIP, and publicity shots and record sleeve images for musicians like E. K. Nyame. ‘I was close to the music fraternity too. I knew E.T. Mensah, who played the trumpet and the sax and spearheaded high-life music before all the others. I knew all the musicians. I was taking their pictures.’

 

Music

While continuing to run Studio X23 and working at the United States Information Service throughout the 1970s and 80s Barnor’s attention became increasingly focussed on pursuing his passion for music through the management of children’s troupe Ebaahi Gbiko (All Will Be Well One Day), later renamed Fee Hi (All is Well). The group rehearsed in the yard of the studio every day with the understanding that they had to attend school. He felt that practising together after school kept the group out of trouble and focused on their education: ‘I don’t play drums, write music or sing, but I took them in like my own children.’ The troupe became an important part of Barnor’s life, and he accompanied them on a tour of Italy in 1983 as part of an anti-apartheid campaign focusing on the living conditions of South African children for which they had been officially nominated.

As a result of the early 1980s global economic recession, by the middle of the decade Ghana’s economy collapsed, leading to a debt crisis that spread across the African continent. This made conditions difficult for Barnor to continue his photographic practice, the troupe disbanded and in 1994 he returned to the UK. Barnor enrolled in business-management classes in the evening and secured a rehearsal space with the hope of reforming the troupe and bringing them to London but was unable to arrange work permits and relinquished the idea. Today, former members of Fee Hi are, as Barnor notes: ‘All over the diaspora. They have since joined other groups, and I feel very pleased. The memory of them will never leave me.’

Text from the Serpentine North Gallery

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck at Trafalgar Square, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck at Trafalgar Square, London
1966, modern print
C-Type Print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Throughout the 1960s James Barnor shot six covers for Drum, a leading lifestyle, culture and politics magazine on the African continent that also served as anti-apartheid platform. By combining studio portraiture and street photography, Barnor’s lens captured the experiences of a vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community in London, playing a key role in placing models of African descent such as Erlin Ibreck on the cover of Drum. Here he captured the experiences of another growing and vibrant ‘Swinging Sixties’ as articulated by the Afro diasporic community in their self-expression thus reclaiming of space and agency.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, 'Drum' cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, Drum cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires, London
1967
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London
1967
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

As part of his work with Drum, Barnor captured the BBC’s first Black broadcaster, Mike Eghan, on the steps of the famous Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, central London. Another photo shows street-scouted cover girl, 19-year-old Erlin Ibreck – whom he met waiting for a bus – feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Coffee night at Theobald's Road, London' 1960

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Coffee night at Theobald’s Road, London
1960
James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London
1960s
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Early morning in Covent Garden market in 1960s London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Early morning in Covent Garden market in 1960s London
1960s
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum cover girl Rosemarie Thompson, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover girl Rosemarie Thompson, London
1967
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Wedding guests, London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Wedding guests, London
1960s
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey's wedding, London' c. 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London
c. 1966
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra' c. 1970-71

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra
c. 1970-71
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) Wedding Portrait, Nii Ayi, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Accra 1970-1980

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Wedding Portrait, Nii Ayi, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Accra
1970-1980
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra' c. 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra
c. 1975
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Sister holding Brother, Accra' 1979

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Sister holding Brother, Accra
1979
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) ''Drum' cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London

1966
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, Relaxing after a Hot Summer Sunday Walk, Kent' c. 1968

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, Relaxing after a Hot Summer Sunday Walk, Kent
c. 1968
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Two friends dressed for a church celebration with James' car, Accra' 1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Two friends dressed for a church celebration with James’ car, Accra
1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'James Barnor at the studio Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium' 1969

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
James Barnor at the studio Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium
1969
© James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mavis and Mary Barnor with an Agfa advertising ball' 1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mavis and Mary Barnor with an Agfa advertising ball
1970
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Miss Sophia Salomon, Kokomlemle, Accra' c. 1972

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Miss Sophia Salomon, Kokomlemle, Accra
c. 1972
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Salah Day, Kokomlemle, Accra' 1973

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Salah Day, Kokomlemle, Accra
1973
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store. Accra' 1971

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store. Accra
1971
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A store assistant on Station Road, Accra' 1971

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A store assistant on Station Road, Accra
1971
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'AGIP calendar model' 1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
AGIP calendar model
1974
October Gallery, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra' c. 1974-1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra
c. 1974-1975
© James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Fee Hii Cultural troupe' c. 1983-1984

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Fee Hii Cultural troupe
c. 1983-1984

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' book cover

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective book cover

 

 

Serpentine Gallery
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA
Phone: 020 7402 6075

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10
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 10th October 2021

 

Mario Giacomelli. 'Puglia' 1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925 – 2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
1958
Gelatin silver print
28.2 × 39.2cm (11 1/8 × 15 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The realist illusionist

When I look at the work of Mario Giacomelli, his photographs remind me why I love the practice of photography.

They discombobulate and disorientate me; they challenge me to see the world in a different way; they reveal new things over time the more one looks at them… and they act as momento mori for both human and land. His conceptual photographs, for that is what they are, are refreshed time and time again – through their impressions, through their graphic nature, and their lack of grounding in a fixed reality.

Whether it be the abstract photographs from the series Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, the shimmering figures from the series Scanno (are they really one negative!), the groundlessness of the figures in Young Priests, the abstract figuration of The Good Earth, or the spatial levitation of Metamorphosis of the Land / Awareness of Nature, the viewer is forced to reassess their relationship with the physical object (the photograph) and its representation and interpretation of our passage on this earth. As has been said of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, “The ways that stories are linked by geography, themes, or contrasts creates interesting effects and constantly forces the reader to evaluate the connections.”

Giacomelli’s photographs are active in this way: they act on the perceptions of the viewer in order to challenge what we understand of the interaction between human beings (he continued to photograph in his hometown of Senigallia for almost 50 years), and the interaction between human beings and the land (where his photographs “function as commentary on the capacity of both natural occurrences and human interventions to change the character of the land.”) As with many artists, the concerns that were present when he started photography – his subject matter informed by the people and places closest to him – remained with him for the rest of his life. Except he turned personal stories into universal narratives.

All of Giacomelli’s sequences (he conceived many of his series as sequences) required periods of sustained observation, where the artist embedded himself with and in his subject matter. Only in this way could the artist understand the spirit of the land and its people, his people. He had an innate ability to describe people and the land in a specific time and place… which, on reflection, seem to be timeless, like a fairy-tale or a lament. Places and people steeped in the past but in the photographs hovering on the edge of his nowhere.

The text for the series Metamorphosis of the Land in this posting perfectly sums up how much time Giacomelli took over a series, how conceptual his series were, and the artistic techniques he used to manipulate reality:

The photographs gathered under the title Metamorphosis of the Land were created over roughly two decades in the countryside surrounding Senigallia. Without a horizon line to anchor them, they are disorienting, requiring the viewer to rely on a lone house or tree as a focal point. Perspectival ambiguity abounds: Did Giacomelli take the photographs from an elevated or lowered vantage point? Did he hold the camera parallel or perpendicular to the land? Is this confusion a result of the inherent “verticality” of the hilly Marche region, or did Giacomelli rely on darkroom manipulation (such as printing on diagonally tilted sheets of photo paper) to create right-angled configurations of shapes that should otherwise recede in the distance, following the tenets of one-point perspective?

These ambiguities are further intensified by Giacomelli’s intention for this body of work to address issues of ecological neglect and loss. Deeply attuned to the rural geography and agricultural practices of the Marche, he was wary of the consequences that accompanied the shift from centuries-old systems of subdivided fields and crop rotation to modern methods of mechanisation and fertilisation that overtax the land by keeping it in constant use. The series is one of lament.

.
In his later series of transformation tales Giacomelli once again disrupts the flow of temporal reality. As he reflects on the death of his mother, his own mortality and the changing nature of the landscape, his photographs “mark a noticeable shift from Giacomelli’s earlier position of critiquing the slow degradation of the land to one that sets the stage for a more metaphysical contemplation of the interconnectivity of space, time, and being.” Of course, this contemplation had always been there since the beginnings of his photography where, “metaphysically speaking, understanding time means understanding the shared world that man encounters and with which man interacts.”

Through art techniques (double exposures, variable perspectives, slow shutter speeds, moving his camera during exposure, abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, the development of the negative, painting or scratching of areas on the negative to introduce elements of the absurd or surreal, use of high-contrast paper and darkroom manipulations) and conceptual structures (inspired by poems to create parallel narratives, repurposing “an image made for one series in another series, reinforcing the sense of fluidity that connects all of his work”), Giacomelli seeks to confront the inevitability of his own mortality and thus his return to earth. As he observes, “Of course [photography] cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth…”

In Giacomelli’s unique interpretation of figure | ground lies his elevation into the “pantheon” of photographic stars. A self-taught artist, he was not encumbered or impeded by traditional photographic practice but described his own visual photographic language, instantly recognisable as his (once seen, never forgotten) signature. A stamp on the verso of each print in the series Awareness of Nature describes the series as “the work of man and my intervention (the signs, the material, the randomness, etc.) recorded as a document before being lost in the relative folds of time.”

In my humble opinion there is no fear, only elation, that Giacomelli’s essential work will ever be lost to the folds of time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Born into poverty and largely self-taught, Mario Giacomelli became one of Italy’s leading photographers. After purchasing his first camera in 1953, he began creating humanistic portrayals of people in their natural environments and dramatic abstractions of the landscapes. He continued to photograph in his hometown of Senigallia, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, for almost fifty years. Rendered in high-contrast black and white, his photographs are often gritty and raw, but always intensely personal.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Greenberg (1941-2021) and is made possible through gifts made by him and Susan Steinhauser.

 

 

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas / corpora;
(I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities;)

.
Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book I, lines 1–2

 

Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened,
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praising as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.

Be. And know as well the need to not be:
let that ground of all that changes
bring you to completion now.

To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.

.
Rainer Maria Rilke. Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13

 

“Of course [photography] cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth, like a notebook…
… For me each photo represents a moment, like breathing. Who can say the breath before is more important than the one after? They are continuous and follow each other until everything stops. How many times did we breathe tonight? Could you say one breath is more beautiful than the rest? But their sum makes up an existence.”

.
Mario Giacomelli, 1987

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Still Life with Figs' (Natura morta con fichi) 1960

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Still Life with Figs (Natura morta con fichi)
1960
Gelatin silver print
28.2 × 33.7cm (11 1/8 × 13 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Known for his gritty, black-and-white images, Mario Giacomelli is recognised as one of the foremost Italian photographers of the 20th century. Drawn from the Getty Museum’s deep holdings, the exhibition Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground features 91 photographs that showcase the raw expressiveness of the artist’s style, which echoed many of the concerns of postwar Neorealist film and Existentialist literature.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Greenberg (1941-2021) and was made possible through generous gifts from him and his wife, Susan Steinhauser. As photography collectors for more than two decades and founding members of the Getty Museum Photographs Council, Greenberg and Steinhauser have been generous donors to the Getty. All of the photographs in this exhibition were donated by Greenberg and Steinhauser or purchased in part with funds they provided.

“After the Museum’s yearlong closure, we are particularly pleased to be able to reopen the Center for Photographs at the Getty Center with two important exhibitions that highlight the Museum’s extensive collections,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We are especially pleased to honour the extraordinary contributions of Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, whose gifts of works by Giacomelli are the basis of the first monographic exhibition of the artist in a U.S. museum in 35 years. The exhibition and its catalogue are testament both to their passion as collectors and their generosity as benefactors to the Getty Museum over many years.”

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground

Born into poverty, Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) lived his entire life in Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. He lost his father at an early age and took up poetry and painting before apprenticing as a printmaker, which became his livelihood. After purchasing his first camera in 1953, Giacomelli quickly gained recognition for his unique approach to photographing people, landscapes, and people in the landscape. Although photography was initially relegated to Sundays, when his printshop was closed, and to his immediate surroundings in the Marche, he became one of Italy’s most prominent practitioners.

Giacomelli’s use of flash, grainy film, and high-contrast paper resulted in bold, geometric compositions with deep blacks and glowing whites. He most frequently focused his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche. He often spent several years exploring a photographic idea, expanding and reinterpreting it, or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry, he transformed familiar subjects into meditations on the themes of time, memory, and existence.

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends. His first, sustained body of work was Hospice, which he began in 1954 and later titled Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, after a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese. Depicting residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia and made with flash, the images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. Additional early series on view include Scanno (1957-59) and Young Priests (1961-63), both of which further demonstrate Giacomelli’s ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In both series, figures clothed in black are set against stark white backgrounds. While there is an underlying sense of furtiveness or foreboding in the Scanno images, the Young Priests series, which Giacomelli later titled I Have No Hands That Caress My Face, is uncharacteristically light-hearted. Another series, The Good Earth, follows a farming family going about daily life, planting and harvesting crops and tending to livestock in the countryside surrounding Senigallia; the intermingling of generations suggests the cyclical nature of existence.

Landscapes feature prominently in Giacomelli’s engagement with photography from the beginning. The exhibition features several early works dating from the 1950s, as well as signature series, such as Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-80) and Awareness of Nature (1976-80). Both series portray fields and small farms in the Marche region, many of which he revisited as seasons changed and crops were rotated. Giacomelli wanted to show how modernised cultivation practices were overtaxing the land and changing the landscape. He often photographed from a low or an elevated vantage point – including from a plane – to eliminate the horizon and create disorienting patchworks of geometric shapes or pulsating configurations of plowed furrows.

In his later years, Giacomelli created several series that intersperse landscapes with figure studies. He often merged the two genres in double exposures or by experimenting with slow shutter speeds and moving his camera during exposure to blur the lines between figure and ground. Several of these series were inspired by poems, both as composed by himself or by others. Giacomelli reflects on the interconnectedness of space, time, and being, in these works, which have a metaphysical quality. I Would Like to Tell This Memory is one of his last bodies of work. Incorporating various props, such as a mannequin, a stuffed dog, and stuffed birds, the images in the series suggest that the artist is reflecting on the inevitability of his own mortality.

“It is exciting to present this collection of Mario Giacomelli photographs assembled by Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser over a period of almost twenty years,” says Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the Museum and curator of both exhibitions. “Not only does the exhibition introduce a new audience to Giacomelli’s work, but it does so through the eyes of the collectors, who were drawn to his expressive portrayals of people and the land.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Infinite' about 1986-1988

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Infinite
about 1986-1988
Gelatin silver print
29.5 × 38.8cm (11 5/8 × 15 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure / Ground

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) is widely regarded as one of the foremost Italian photographers of the twentieth century. Born into poverty, he lived his entire life in Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. After losing his father at age nine and completing elementary school at eleven, he apprenticed as a typesetter and printer, while also teaching himself to paint and write poetry. With money given to him by a resident of the ospizio (hospice) where his mother worked, he opened a printshop, a business that ensured lifelong financial stability. His engagement with photography began shortly thereafter, occurring primarily on Sundays, when the shop was closed.

After purchasing his first camera in 1953, Giacomelli quickly gained recognition for the raw expressiveness of his images, which echoed many of the concerns of postwar Neorealist film and Existentialist literature, with their interests in the conditions of everyday life and in ordinary people as thinking, feeling individuals. His preference for grainy film and high-contrast paper resulted in bold, geometric compositions with deep blacks and glowing whites. Most frequently focusing his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche, Giacomelli often spent several years exploring a photographic idea, expanding and reinterpreting it, or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry, he transformed familiar subjects into meditations on the themes of time, memory, and existence.

 

Forming Giacomelli

As a young man, Giacomelli served briefly in the Italian army during World War II. His photographic practice shows the influence of two approaches prevalent in postwar European photography: humanism, which is often associated with photojournalism; and artistic expression as a means of exploring the inner psyche, which derived from the theory of Subjective photography advanced by Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978). In Italy, these approaches found their respective counterparts in the camera clubs La Gondola (The Gondola), established in Venice in 1948, and La Bussola (The Compass), begun in Milan in 1947. Giacomelli, who was self-taught as a photographer, exchanged ideas with and learned from members of both clubs. He was also a cofounder of Misa, a local chapter of La Bussola named after Senigallia’s principal river.

Senigallia’s people and places were recurring motifs in Giacomelli’s work. In addition to revealing his interest in the different communities of his hometown, these photographs of a Romani family and of children frolicking on the beach demonstrate his ability to combine humanist and expressive impulses. Giacomelli understood that graininess, movement, and high contrast could do more than simply provide a veneer of abstraction; they also heighten the emotive power of images.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Figure (The Nude), No. 271' 1958; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Figure (The Nude), No. 271
1958; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Figure (My Mother), No. 130' 1956; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Figure (My Mother), No. 130
1956; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.1 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Early work (1956-60)

In 1955 Giacomelli acquired the secondhand Kobell camera with a Voigtländer lens that he would employ for the rest of his career. He later described it as something that had been “cobbled up,” held together with tape and always losing parts. Made by the Milanese manufacturers Boniforti & Ballerio, the camera used 120 roll film to produce 6 x 9 cm negatives and accommodated interchangeable lenses and a synchronised flash. For Giacomelli, it was not a device to record reality but a means of personal expression. His early association with members of local and national camera clubs and his experimentation with natural and artificial lighting, multiple exposures, and other in-camera and darkroom techniques soon led to the refinement of a unique visual language.

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends; the image of his mother holding a spade is one of his most notable. He also staged still lifes and figure studies in his home and garden; the nudes shown here depict the photographer and his wife, Anna. Relatively conventional in composition, these works give a sense of Giacomelli learning his craft, while also indicating the extent to which his subject matter was informed by the people and places closest to him.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes' c. 1954-57

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi)
c. 1954-57
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 38.9cm (11 1/2 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 97' (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 97) negative 1966; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 97 (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 97)
Negative 1966; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm (11 7/8 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 95' (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 95) negative 1966; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 95 (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 95)
Negative 1966; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Hospice | Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (1954-83)

The first body of work that Giacomelli exhibited as a series was Hospice. It depicts residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia where his mother was a laundress and which he visited for several years before he began photographing there. Made with flash, the resulting images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. He later referred to these as his truest and most direct photographs because they reflected his own fear of growing old.

Giacomelli continued this series for almost three decades, renaming it Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes in 1966 after the first few lines of a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese (Italian, 1908-1950). For a portfolio published in 1981 he heightened the unsettling qualities of mental and physical decline and isolation by tightly cropping his negatives and printing on paper that was curled rather than flat.

“Death will come and will have your eyes – this death that accompanies us from morning till evening, unsleeping.”

~ Translated by Geoffrey Brock, 2002

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Lourdes' 1957

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Lourdes
1957
Gelatin silver print
23.3 × 37.6cm (8 3/4 × 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Lourdes' 1957

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Lourdes
1957
Gelatin silver print
26.7 × 38.1cm (10 1/2 × 15 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Lourdes (1957 and 1966)

In contrast to Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, the series Lourdes depicts people living with illness, injury, or disability who are in search of miraculous healing. Giacomelli received a commission to photograph at this Catholic pilgrimage site in southern France in 1957.

Tremendously pained by what he saw, he shot just a few rolls of film, returned the fee that had been advanced, and did not show anyone the images for some time. He travelled to Lourdes again in 1966, with his wife and second child. This time he, too, was in search of a cure, for their son, who had lost the ability to speak following an accident.

Lourdes is the only series that Giacomelli created outside Italy, although a group of photographs made in Ethiopia (1974) and another in India (1976) have been attributed to him. Giacomelli purchased cameras and film for two individuals who were planning travel to these countries, and both of them drew on previous discussions with him when they photographed at their respective locations. Giacomelli later made prints from the negatives and signed his name to several of them, acknowledging the collaboration.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Puglia' negative 1958, printed 1970

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
Negative 1958, printed 1970
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 40cm (11 1/4 × 15 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Puglia' negative 1958, printed 1960

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
Negative 1958, printed 1960
Gelatin silver print
28.7 × 23.5cm (11 5/16 × 9 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Apulia (Puglia) (1958)

Giacomelli operated his printshop, Tipografia Marchigiana, in the centre of Senigallia. The successful establishment became a gathering place for photographers, artists, and critics, and provided the address stamped on the verso of all his photographs. In its early years, the business occupied the majority of Giacomelli’s time, leaving only Sundays for photography excursions. While he most often explored his hometown, its beaches, and the surrounding countryside in the Marche region, he occasionally traveled farther afield.

For this series, made in Apulia, Italy’s most southeastern province (the “heel of the boot”), a journey of about 330 miles was required. There he focused his attention on the interaction of multiple generations of townspeople gathering leisurely against the simple, whitewashed architecture typical of hillside towns such as Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Vico del Gargano, and Monte Sant’Angelo. These images provide insight into Giacomelli’s ability to engage his subjects, while also underscoring a fundamental humanistic impulse in his work.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' negative 1957-59, printed later

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-59, printed later
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 39.6cm (11 3/4 × 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' negative 1957-59, printed 1980s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-59, printed 1980s
Gelatin silver print
26.8 × 34cm (10 9/16 × 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno, No. 52' 1957-59; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 52
1957-59; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno, No. 57' 1957-59; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 57
1957-59; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' 1957-59

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
1957-59
Gelatin silver print
37.9 × 28.4cm (14 15/16 × 11 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Scanno (1957-59)

Following his sustained observation of hospice residents in Senigallia, the photographs that Giacomelli made during trips to Scanno in 1957 and 1959 further demonstrate his ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In this town located in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy, about 270 miles south of Senigallia, Giacomelli encountered men and women going about their daily chores or gathering in the square, draped in dark garments or cloaks, their heads covered with hats or scarves. Even when congregating, subjects seem to be isolated or lost in thought. Whether in sharp focus or blurred by movement, the occasional individual who looks directly into his camera suggests a sense of mystery or furtiveness. Giacomelli used a slow shutter speed and shallow depth of field to photograph these stark, black-clad figures against whitewashed architectural settings, introducing indistinct passages that amplify the fairy-tale mood of a town that appears to be irretrievably steeped in the past.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests' (Pretini) Negative 1961-1963

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests (Pretini)
Negative 1961-1963
Gelatin silver print
29 × 38.6cm (11 7/16 × 15 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 70'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 70 (Pretini, No. 70)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 72'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 72 (Pretini, No. 72)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 71'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 71 (Pretini, No. 71)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 74'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 74 (Pretini, No. 74)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Young PriestsI Have No Hands That Caress My Face (1961-63)

Among Giacomelli’s most memorable images are those of pretini (young priests) in the seminary of Senigallia, whom he captured playing in the snow or relaxing in the courtyard. Once again juxtaposing the distinctive shapes of black-clad figures (this time, seminarians in cassocks) against a white ground (snow-covered or sun-drenched settings), these photographs suggest a more lighthearted mood than is evident in other series. Although appearing to have been choreographed, they are the result of the priests’ unbridled joviality as they run, throw snowballs, or play ring-around-the-rosy, and of Giacomelli’s foresight to let the scenes unfold as he recorded them from the building’s rooftop.

After Giacomelli had won the trust of the seminarians, his interaction with them was brought to an abrupt end when he provided the young men with cigars for photographs he intended to submit to a competition on the theme of smoking. The rector denied him further access. Giacomelli later applied the title I Have No Hands That Caress My Face to this series, from the first two lines of a poem by Father David Maria Turoldo (Italian, 1916-1992) about young men who seek solitary religious life. This title lends poignancy to the moments of exuberance and camaraderie that accompanied study for such a calling.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Flames on the Field' (Paesaggio, fiamme sul campo) 1954; printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Flames on the Field (Paesaggio, fiamme sul campo)
1954; printed 1980
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39cm (11 1/4 × 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Early landscapes (1954-60)

Italy’s Marche region is characterised by rolling hills, small farms, and frazioni (hamlets), all of which were among the first motifs that Giacomelli photographed. As with his portraits and figure studies from this period, the compositions of his early landscapes were fairly conventional, with foreground, middle-ground, and background elements organised around a clearly discernible horizon line. As he refined his technique, however, Giacomelli often positioned himself at the top of a hill pointing his camera downward or at the base aiming it upward, thereby eliminating the horizon and creating a disorienting patchwork of geometric shapes. His development of the negative, use of high-contrast paper, and manipulations in the darkroom further enhanced the distinctively graphic qualities of his images. It was not uncommon for him to scratch forms into his negatives to add dramatic counterpoints.

Over the years, Giacomelli returned to certain sites multiple times, documenting them during different seasons and crop rotations. He would later incorporate photographs made for one purpose into a series that had other ambitions, most notably to function as commentary on the capacity of both natural occurrences and human interventions to change the character of the land.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66
Gelatin silver print
14.3 × 38.9cm (5 5/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed before 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed before 1980
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm (11 15/16 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed early 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed early 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.9cm (11 3/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' 1964-66; printed 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39.4cm (11 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 146' (La Buona Terra, No. 146) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 146 (La Buona Terra, No. 146)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 208' (La Buona Terra, No. 208) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 208 (La Buona Terra, No. 208)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 219' (La Buona Terra, No. 219) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 219 (La Buona Terra, No. 219)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Good Earth (1964-66)

For this series, Giacomelli followed a farming family off and on over several years as they went about their daily lives in the countryside surrounding Senigallia, planting and harvesting crops and tending livestock. Once he had gained their trust, he began to make photographs that underscored the cyclical nature of their existence, including both the intermingling of multiple generations and the interweaving of daily chores and responsibilities with moments of leisure and renewal. The Good Earth tells a story of resilience, self-sufficiency, and continuity. The last of these is symbolised by the recurring motif of towering haystacks that serve as the backdrop for work, play, and the celebration of a young couple’s wedding.

Periodically Giacomelli asked the family, with whom he maintained a friendship beyond this project, to use their tractor to plough patterns in fields that lay fallow. The resulting images, which form the basis of his series Awareness of Nature, address the issue of humankind’s interventions in the landscape. Examples are on display in the final gallery of the exhibition.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land' (Metamorfosi della terra) 1976

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land (Metamorfosi della terra)
1976
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 39.4cm  (11 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 2' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 2) 1971; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 2 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 2)
1971, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
29.5 × 39.1cm  (11 5/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 10' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 10) 1974, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 10 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 10)
1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 19' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 19) Before 1966, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 19 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 19)
Before 1966, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 283' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 283) Before 1968, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 283 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 283)
Before 1968, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land' (Metamorfosi della terra) 1958; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land (Metamorfosi della terra)
1958; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2cm × 30.2cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 5' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 5) 1971, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 5 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 5)
1971, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2cm × 30.1cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-60)

The photographs gathered under the title Metamorphosis of the Land were created over roughly two decades in the countryside surrounding Senigallia. Without a horizon line to anchor them, they are disorienting, requiring the viewer to rely on a lone house or tree as a focal point. Perspectival ambiguity abounds: Did Giacomelli take the photographs from an elevated or lowered vantage point? Did he hold the camera parallel or perpendicular to the land? Is this confusion a result of the inherent “verticality” of the hilly Marche region, or did Giacomelli rely on darkroom manipulation (such as printing on diagonally tilted sheets of photo paper) to create right-angled configurations of shapes that should otherwise recede in the distance, following the tenets of one-point perspective?

These ambiguities are further intensified by Giacomelli’s intention for this body of work to address issues of ecological neglect and loss. Deeply attuned to the rural geography and agricultural practices of the Marche, he was wary of the consequences that accompanied the shift from centuries-old systems of subdivided fields and crop rotation to modern methods of mechanisation and fertilisation that overtax the land by keeping it in constant use. The series is one of lament.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura) 1976

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature (Presa di coscienza sulla natura)
1976
Gelatin silver print
29.7 × 39.5cm  (11 11/16 x 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 3' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3) 1970-74, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 3 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3)
1970-74, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 38' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 38) 1970, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 38 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 38)
1970, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 171' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 171) 1980, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 171 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 171)
1980, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 471' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 471) 1980, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 471 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 471)
1980, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 30.1cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8  in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Awareness of Nature (1976-80)

The photographs in this series are among Giacomelli’s most iconic, notable for their gritty, graphic abstraction, which he achieved with an aerial perspective and by using expired film to exaggerate the contrast between black and white. Finding a poetic reciprocity in portraying land that was undergoing “sad devastation” with film that was “dead,” Giacomelli perceived these images as a means of resuscitating his beloved Marche countryside and endowing it with a different kind of beauty. The ploughed fields pulsate with a rhythmic intensity that is absent from previous pictures, in part because he asked that some of these furrows be cut into the land (by the farming family he featured in The Good Earth). A stamp on the verso of each print describes the series further as “the work of man and my intervention (the signs, the material, the randomness, etc.) recorded as a document before being lost in the relative folds of time.” The images resonate conceptually with the Land Art, or Earth Art, movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, in which artists used the landscape to create site-specific sculptures and art forms. As was his custom, Giacomelli incorporated photographs from earlier series, which may have been made from a neighbouring hilltop or did not include his interventions.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1975-80

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1975-80
Gelatin silver print
25.1 × 37.7cm  (9 7/8 x 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1970s-80s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-80s
Gelatin silver print
19.7 × 28.1cm  (7 3/4 x 11 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1970s-90s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-90s
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Late work (1980s)

Giacomelli conceived many of his series as sequences that tell the stories of individuals in a particular time and place. He interspersed portraits with landscapes, but he also merged these genres in double exposures or by experimenting with slow shutter speeds and moving his camera during exposure to blur the lines between figure and ground. And once again, he often repurposed an image made for one series in another series, reinforcing the sense of fluidity that connects all of his work. Several of these sequences were inspired by poems, not in an attempt to illustrate them, but to create parallel narratives.

Although the photographs in this section derive from several different series, they share a sense of setting the location or mood. Most easily categorised as landscapes, they mark a noticeable shift from Giacomelli’s earlier position of critiquing the slow degradation of the land to one that sets the stage for a more metaphysical contemplation of the interconnectivity of space, time, and being. The majority were made in the 1980s, when Giacomelli was reflecting on the loss of his mother (who died in 1986), his growing international reputation as a photographer, and his own mortality.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Sea of My Stories' (Il mare dei miei racconti) 1984, printed 1990

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1984, printed 1990
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm  (11 15/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Sea of My Stories' (Il mare dei miei racconti) 1983-87

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1983-87
Gelatin silver print
27.6 × 34.9cm  (10 7/8 x 13 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Sea of My Stories (1983-87)

Giacomelli noted that the sea referred to in the title of this series was that of his childhood, the Adriatic, but in fact it was the sea of his entire lifetime. He made his first photographs along Senigallia’s shore after purchasing a camera in 1953. Some thirty years later, curiosity about how an aerial perspective might transform people’s appearance led him to hire a friend who owned an airplane to fly him above the region’s beaches. The resulting compositions create abstract patterns from the shapes and shadows of bathers, deck chairs, umbrellas, and boats against the sand.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.1 × 29.5cm  (8 11/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.4 × 30.2cm  (8 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

I Would Like To Tell This Memory (2000)

The poetic title of this series reflects the increasingly pensive mood of Giacomelli’s late work. We occasionally glimpse the photographer himself as he engages with an odd assortment of props, including stuffed dogs and birds, a mannequin and mask. His abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, and painting or scratching of areas on the negative introduce elements of the absurd or surreal as means to confront the inevitability of his own mortality. The series, one of his last, is a meditation on melancholy, loss, and the passage of time.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-84
Gelatin silver print
24.2 × 31.2cm  (9 1/2 x 12 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-84
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.4cm  (11 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Reflecting on Giacomelli

Giacomelli died in November 2000 after a long illness. He had continued working on several photographic series until his final days, with the poignantly titled I Would Like to Tell This Memory attesting to his deeply introspective temperament. From his unpromising beginnings as an impoverished, poorly educated boy, Giacomelli redirected the course of his life, maintaining a successful printing business that provided financial security and dedicating himself to the arts as a means of self-expression. Though he was self-taught in poetry, painting, and photography, it was with this last medium that he created a sense of continuity and fluidity throughout his life. He gained international acclaim as one of Italy’s most prominent photographers despite having made the majority of his photographs in his hometown of Senigallia and the neighbouring Marche region.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1955; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1955; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1956; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1956; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Collecting Giacomelli

Between 2016 and 2020, Los Angeles-based collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser donated 109 photographs by Mario Giacomelli to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Their collection covers broad swaths of Giacomelli’s oeuvre, from some of his earliest images to those made in the final years of his life. Drawn from their donations, this exhibition is conceived not as a comprehensive retrospective but as an opportunity to consider the collectors’ vision in assembling these holdings over a period of twenty years, teasing out what they perceived to be key concerns of Giacomelli’s practice: people (la gente) and the landscape (paesaggio), as well as people in the landscape – the “figure/ground” relationship of the exhibition’s subtitle.

The Getty Museum also acknowledges the Mario Giacomelli Archive, based in Senigallia, Sassoferrato, and Latina, Italy, for assistance in confirming titles and dates. Throughout his career, Giacomelli returned to individual images, rethinking and reworking them for subsequent series, often complicating the task of assigning definitive titles or dates. Thanks as well to Stephan Brigidi of the Bristol Workshops in Photography for providing information about the artist’s 1981 portfolios, La gente and Paesaggio. The portfolio prints are interspersed throughout the four galleries of the exhibition, presented in shallower frames with a slightly wider face.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Painter Mauro Marinelli' Negative 1960; print probably 1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Painter Mauro Marinelli
Negative 1960; print probably 1966
Gelatin silver print
36.2 × 24cm (14 1/4 × 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) had a poet’s eye for the startlingly abstract order man can impose on nature and a poet’s understanding of the great disorder that is the human condition.

Giacomelli became an apprentice in typography when he was 13. As a young man, he worked as a typographer, painting on weekends and writing poetry. Inspired by the wartime movies of filmmakers like Fellini, Giacomelli taught himself still photography. He found his art in the generally impoverished countryside around Senigallia, a small town on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, where he lived all his life and whose farmlands and people were the subjects of his spare, often darkly expressionist work.

In 1954, Giacomelli began to photograph the home for the elderly where his mother had worked, completing the series in 1983. Empathetic but grittily unsentimental, the pictures show many women seemingly marooned in the sea of old age. In 1985-87, Mr. Giacomelli revisited the subject for his series Ninna Nanna, which means lullaby. This time, the deeply lined, gaunt faces of the aged are a bleak counterpoint to the bold lines and patterns found in the fields and on the sides of houses.

Giacomelli’s overhead views of mystifyingly abstract, horizonless landscapes, which he took from the time he snapped his first pictures, in late 1952, through the 1990’s, place him in the company of photographers like William Garnett and Minor White. Giacomelli’s 1970s images of geometric patterns in the fields of his hometown, Senigallia, bear striking parallels to Aaron Siskind’s contemporaneous photographs of wall abstractions.

Adapted from the artist’s New York Times obituary

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Children at the sea' (Bambini al mare) 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Children at the sea (Bambini al mare)
1959
Ferrotyped gelatin silver print
24.2 x 39.4cm (9 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Tobacco' 1955-56, printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Tobacco
1955-56, printed 1980
35.9 x 26.7cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

'Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground' book cover

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground book cover

 

 

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03
Oct
21

Text/Exhibition: ‘Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist’ at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Acton, Canberra ACT

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 4th October 2021

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Girl pours tea, Burnt Bridge' 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Girl pours tea, Burnt Bridge
1988
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 40.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

In our sight, in our mind

Can you imagine, please, being the first person to step foot on the moon. Or the first person to discover radium. Now imagine being the first Indigenous Australian photojournalist, for the very first time taking photographs of your culture from the inside, photographs that picture the ongoing suffering of Indigenous people but also, as importantly, their strength and joy. Such was the calling of that legend of Australian photography, Mervyn Bishop.

Bishop was the first in a long line of Indigenous photographers who unearth, investigate, picture and honour their community, although interestingly none of the later photographers are photojournalists. Artists such as Tracey Moffatt, Michael Riley, Ricky Maynard, Lisa Bellear, R e a (rea saunders), Michael Cook, Brook Andrew, Bindi Cole and Christian Thompson) follow in his footsteps. Indeed in this posting, there is a photograph by Bishop presumably of the father of the photographer Ricky Maynard, Eric Maynard cleaning a mutton bird, Great Dog Island, Tasmania (1975, below), followed by a photograph by Maynard himself of muttonbirding on Dog Island from his series Portrait of a Distant Land. The songlines of place and ancestors are strong in Aboriginal culture, and “show the connectedness between places and the Creation events and ceremonies associated with those places. People born in that country are forever tied to the creation history of their birthplace and have custodial obligations to that place.”

The stories Bishop shares through his images are different from the colonial ones of yesteryear because they come from within the spirit and soul of the communities he is photographing. Less than 20 years before Bishop’s first photographs things were very different. The Australian journalist and writer Stan Grant observes that, “…there are images in our history, of Aboriginal people in chains. Aboriginal people tied together, with armed police standing either side of them.” In an article on The Guardian website we learn that “Neck chains were still being used on Aboriginal people in Western Australia in 1958. Witnesses at Halls Creek in the Kimberley reported seeing Aboriginal prisoners chained to a veranda post of the police station for weeks at a time… At peak periods, from the 1880s to the 1940s, hundreds of Aboriginal people were chained for alleged cattle theft, and marched out of their country, some for up to 400km. Each neck piece weighed 2.4kg.”1 Even in Dawn – A Magazine for the Aboriginal People of N.S.W. created by the New South Wales Aboriginal Welfare Board and aimed at Aboriginal Australians (running monthly from January 1952 until December 1968) – in which there was an article in February 1965 on a young Mervyn Bishop training to become a photographer (see below) – the forces of colonial assimilation were hard at work, as can be seen on the back cover of the Dawn October 1965 issue, where Leslie Ryan makes her debut at a “Deb” Ball for kindergarten children, where she “seems to be getting a better deal out of life now that (s)he has love and attention.” Now that she has love and attention. Just let that sink in. Today, the dripping irony and sadness of this photograph in relation to what is now known as “The Stolen Generation”2 is apparent, the two young children taken from their families, taken from their culture, dressed to the nines in formal Western attire at such a young age. Remember, this is less than 60 years ago.

As much as Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) was a working photographer making “Documents pour artistes,” declaring his modest ambition to create images for other artists to use as source material, so Bishop was a working photographer who created “Documents for people” at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra from 1974 onwards, where he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. As Mervyn himself says, “Photography has been my life, my passion for 60 years: the art and technique, the stories I’ve witnessed and captured. I’m glad to be able to share my life’s work with the public.” There it is in a nutshell… an intimate understanding of the the art and technique of photography (the construction the image plane, lighting, point of view, scale, printing, etc… ) and the stories he wanted to tell. And he tells those stories straight down the line, with no bullshit. When asked in an audio recording in this posting about why his award winning photograph Life and death dash (1971, below) was misunderstood, he says “it has nothing to do with blackfellas, put it that way… people say it’s a nun running away with a little black kid, the Stolen Generation – nothing to do with it! Not a bloody thing! … people interpret their own way. Who would know that I was black? People still go on about it but people are talking through their … whatever… so, you don’t know what your talking about.” There you have it.

Like his personality, Bishop’s wonderful photographs are strong and direct, informed and understanding of the work of Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange. In Girl pours tea, Burnt Bridge (1988, above), an Aboriginal mother sits at a kitchen table in a corrugated iron shack and pours tea from a large battered teapot into enamel mugs, one for herself and one presumably for the photographer. Light pours through a hole in the roof. The table is covered in a floral probably plastic table cloth. There are plastic flowers set upon it. The chairs are vinyl. Behind her is an old kitchen unit from the 1950s with a wire screen at eye level, used to keep flies out. To the right are boxes and detritus while to the left a plastic bucket sits on the battered sink. Her child plays next to her oblivious of the camera flash while she stares directly at the camera. Much as Lange’s Migrant Mother, this women possesses her own inner dignity which Bishop captures so well: an unexpected intimacy with the subject in which we confront uncomfortable truths.

Other photographs, such as Children playing in river, Mumeka (1975, below) capture the pure joy of Aboriginal life, or the resoluteness of a people having to survive the trauma of cultures and societies and their complex histories (Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour 1988, below). But let us be clear… this is not a vanishing race, nor an assimilated race but a proud, creative and intelligent race now picturing its own history and future. As Ricky Maynard states, “The contest remains over who will image and own this history. We must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose, as well as the tools used for the telling of this.” Bishop was at the very beginning of this imaging and ownership of Aboriginal history, not by colonial photographers of the past, but from within the community itself, in the present. His photographs are about speaking up about injustice and making sure that Indigenous perspectives were heard and not railroaded by non-indigenous people – Bishop was at the beginning of this – and about how the image speaks truth to power (a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy),

Towards the end of the documentary “The Bowraville Murders”, Stan Grant observes that Aboriginal people are kicked every day… [and this remains] out of sight, out of mind. He reminds us that between 1991 and 2021 there have been more than 470 Aboriginal deaths in custody… and not a single conviction. Out of sight, out of mind. Indeed, “fluidity of memory and a capacity to forget is perhaps the most haunting trait of our species. As history confirms, it allows us to come to terms with any degree of social, moral, or environmental degradation.”3 And this is what we all do. That is, until a photographer and artist like Mervyn Bishop comes along and reminds us through his photographs of the integrity, vitality and presence of Aboriginal people, spirit that stretches back thousands of years – despite our capacity to forget the trauma that Indigenous Australians have endured. This is the purpose of Bishop’s photographs … they bring to the forefront of our knowledge and imagination an understanding of the history and future of Aboriginal people. They remain, in our sight, in our mind.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

    1. Chris Owen. “How Western Australia’s ‘unofficial’ use of neck chains on Indigenous people lasted 80 years,” on The Guardian website Sun 7 March 2201 [Online] Cited 03/10/2021.
    2. The Stolen Generations refers to a period in Australia’s history where Aboriginal children were removed from their families through government policies. This happened from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.In the 1860s, Victoria became the first state to pass laws authorising Aboriginal children to be removed from their parents. Similar policies were later adopted by other states and territories – and by the federal government when it was established in the 1900s. For about a century, thousands of Aboriginal children were systematically taken from their families, communities and culture, many never to be returned. These children are known as the Stolen Generations survivors, or Stolen Children.These children were taken by the police; from their homes; on their way to or from school. They were placed in over 480 institutions, adopted or fostered by non-Indigenous people and often subjected to abuse. The children were denied all access to their culture, they were not allowed to speak their language and they were punished if they did. The impacts of this are still being felt today.There are currently more than 17,000 Stolen Generations survivors in Australia. Over one third of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are their descendants. In Western Australia almost half of the population have Stolen Generation links.Anonymous. “Who are the Stolen Generations?” on the Healing Foundation website [Online] Cited 03/10/2021.
    3. Wade Davis. “The Unraveling of America,” on the Rolling Stone website August 6, 2020 [Online] Cited 03/10/2021.

.
Many thankx to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The contest remains over who will image and own this history. We must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose, as well as the tools used for the telling of this.”

.
Ricky Maynard, 2007

 

“Australia in many ways is a crime scene. And the first crime is Captain Cook ordering his men to shoot at Aboriginal people. That’s the shot that we still hear all around Australia. And of course, there are images in our history, of Aboriginal people in chains. Aboriginal people tied together, with armed police standing either side of them. This is what has happened in our country, so it isn’t a great step to go from frontier attitudes of violence to deaths of three children in Bowraville. Because for us, it’s the same thing. It’s a killing that never stops.”

.
Stan Grant quoted in the documentary “The Bowraville Murders” directed by Allan Clarke on SBS on Demand, Australia, 2021

 

 

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia will celebrates Mervyn Bishop, one of Australia’s most prolific and influential photographers, with a new exhibition 5 March – 4 October 2021.

Mr Bishop’s images of culture, politics and people have significantly influenced our collective understanding of Australia’s history. This exhibition is drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection, the artist’s private archive, and enriched by sound and moving image from the NFSA.

Mervyn Bishop features iconic photographs that derive from his career as a photojournalist, alongside personal images of family and friends and intimate portraits of members of the Aboriginal community. Spanning the past 60 years, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into Bishop’s life and work.

 

In 1963 Mervyn Bishop left his hometown of Brewarrina, venturing to Sydney, where he successfully applied for a cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald. He became Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer and in 1971 won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph Life and Death Dash, 1971.

Bishop went on to work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1974 where he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. This included his iconic image from 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]
Nd

 

Indigenous Australians in neck chains

 

Indigenous Australians in neck chains. Historical records say they had been chained after killing an animal. Neck chains were used by police across Western Australia from the 1880s to the late 1950s. Photograph: State Library of Western Australia

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory' 1975, printed 1999

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory
1975, printed 1999
Type R3 photograph
30.5 x 30.5cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop/ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Gurindji strike (or Wave Hill Walk-Off) led by Vincent Lingiari

On 23 August 1966 200 Gurindji stockmen, domestic workers and their families walked off Wave Hill station in the Northern Territory and refused to keep working for the station owners. The disagreement over wages and land ownership lasted for seven years. In 1974 some of the Gurindji people’s homelands were returned to them. This influenced the first legislation, passed in 1976, that allowed Aboriginal people to claim land title. In September 2020 the Gurindji claim for native title to Wave Hill station was granted, 54 years after the walk-off that helped to spark Australia’s Indigenous land rights movement.

 

Why did the Gurindji people strike?

In the 1960s Wave Hill station was owned by an international company called Vestey Brothers. Vestey Brothers paid the Gurindji people working on the station very low wages. On 23 August 1966 the Gurindji people stopped working and walked off Wave Hill station in protest. They were led by elder Vincent Lingiari.

In 1967 the Gurindji set up a camp at Daguragu (also known as Wattie Creek). It soon became clear that the Gurindji did not simply want fair wages. More importantly they wanted the government to return some of their land. For seven years the Gurindji stayed at Daguragu and sent letters and petitions to the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Government asking that their land be returned to them.

How was the dispute resolved?

In 1972 the Labor Party led by Gough Whitlam came to power. The Whitlam government was interested in establishing Aboriginal land rights. Around the same time, Vestey Brothers finally agreed to hand over a small section of Wave Hill station around Daguragu to the Gurindji people.

In 1975 Prime Minister Whitlam visited Daguragu and in a ceremony he returned the land to the Gurindji people. Whitlam famously poured a handful of soil through Vincent Lingiari’s hand and said, ‘Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people’. …

The Gurindji strike helped to make the Australian public aware of Aboriginal land ownership claims. It also influenced the first legislation in Australia that allowed Aboriginal people to apply for ownership of their traditional lands, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

Text from the National Museum of Australia website [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

 

“I bin thinkin’ this bin Gurindji country. We bin here longa time before them Vestey mob.”

.
Vincent Lingiari, 1966

 

“We originally took the picture under the shade of a bough shed and it didn’t have a nice look about it.”

.
Mervyn Bishop

 

 

What’s the backstory to your famous land rights photograph?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

 

An historic handful of dirt: Whitlam and the legacy of the Wave Hill Walk-Off

On the prime ministerial jet that morning, public servant turned Aboriginal affairs adviser H.C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs urged Whitlam to keep his speech short and invest the day with a sense of ceremony.

Coombs recounted a story told by anthropologist Bill Stanner: how Wurundjeri elders had formalised their people’s 1835 land treaty with encroaching settlers at Port Phillip by placing soil into the hand of explorer John Batman. Hearing Coombs’ suggestion that the PM might reverse the gesture with Lingiari, Whitlam revised his performance plan for Daguragu on the spot.

When it came to his turn to speak, Whitlam congratulated the Gurindji and their supporters on their victory after a nine-year “fight for justice”. Promising that the Australian government would “help you in your plans to use this land fruitfully”, his speech concluded with the words:

Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people, and I put into your hands this piece of the earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever.

.
In finishing, Whitlam handed Lingiari the new deeds to the Gurindji’s land, now officially dubbed NT Pastoral Lease 805. Then, to the joy of assembled photographers, he stooped down, grabbed a handful of red earth, and poured it into Lingiari’s open palm. …

Lingiari – who according to one reporter was struck with a case of nerves – responded to Whitlam and the crowd in his own language:

The important white men are giving us this land ceremonially… It belonged to the whites, but today it is in the hands of us Aboriginals all around here. Let us live happily as mates, let us not make it hard for each other… They will give us cattle, they will give us horses, and we will be happy… These important white men have come here to our ceremonial ground and they are welcome…

You (Gurindji) must keep this land safe for yourselves, it does not belong to any different Welfare man. They took our country away from us, now they have bought it back ceremonially.

.
After Whitlam gave the old man even more dirt for the benefit of the press, photographer Mervyn Bishop’s images of the “handover” became some of the most recognised in Australian political history. The power of the photos rested in the symbolism of Whitlam’s gesture, made on behalf of millions concerned by Aboriginal dispossession.

The handover implicitly acknowledged the moral rightfuness of the Gurindji’s stand, and the historical injustices done to them by the Europeans on their country. It was by dint of the Gurindji’s hard slog at Wattie Creek that they had successfully brought all this to the nation’s attention. The handover day was the old Gurindji men’s finest hour, and their victory.

Charlie Ward. “An historic handful of dirt: Whitlam and the legacy of the Wave Hill Walk-Off,” on The Conversation website August 21, 2016 [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

 

 

Mervyn Bishop: pioneer, artist, and source of inspiration

Hear from National Film and Sound Archive of Australia curator Tara Marynowsky as she describes the ‘insider’s knowledge’ visitors to the Mervyn Bishop exhibition will receive, and how his story brings together those of the famous faces he captured.

 

 

In this excerpt from ABC series art+soul curator Hetti Perkins talks with artist photographer Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), Canberra
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA 1 - Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), Canberra
Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition entrance

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition entrance
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA - Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA
Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA, featuring images and footage of boxer Lionel Rose. See Bishop’s photograph Lionel Rose at his press conference (1968, below)
Photographs by Grace Costa

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lionel Rose at his press conference' 1968

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Lionel Rose at his press conference
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 30.1cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

Mervyn Bishop cameras

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing some of his cameras
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop with camera

 

Mervyn Bishop with camera
Courtesy NFSA

 

 

Teenage Mervyn had already in a sense begun his career in the mid 1950s. He started to take documentary family snaps on his mother’s Kodak 620, followed by a more expensive fifteen pound Japanese 35mm of his own in 1957. He was encouraged by with the help of a Church of England Bush Brother [priest] Brother Richard and Vic King a local photographer who had a dark room that Merv frequented. He then began to hold backyard slide nights of his family and neighbourhood snaps.

By the beginning of the 1960s the search for the exotic authentic had shifted from the south-east to northern Australia. Although Australian painters such as Russell Drysdale and Arthur Boyd had created images from their trips to western NSW post WWII, photographer Axel Poignant and US Life magazine photographer Fritz Gorro both visited Arnhem Land in the 1950s to document and ‘compose’ their subject matter. …

‘Merv Bishop Graduates from Photographers’ Course’, Dawn magazine’s headline said. After leaving Dubbo High in 1962 he spent a year as a clerk with the ABC before starting as a cadet photographer at the Sydney Morning Herald in 1963, (the first Aboriginal photographer ever hired by the paper) and entered the first photographic course at the Sydney Technical College, Broadway Sydney, graduating in 1966, Next year was the important year of the referendum concerning Aboriginal people and ‘the state’…

Djon Mundine. “Brewarrina Boy,” on the Australian Museum website 12/07/2021 [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

Mervyn Bishop media call 4 March 2021 - Curator Coby Edgar and Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop media call 4 March 2021 – Curator Coby Edgar and Mervyn Bishop
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop in a recreation of his darkroom at the exhibition media call

 

Mervyn Bishop in a recreation of his darkroom at the exhibition media call
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA - Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop at NFSA
Photo by Madeleine Stevens, Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing at left, Pool game, Burnt Bridge (1988, below); at second left, Save the children pre-school, Nambucca Heads (1974, below); at centre Woman standing near electric power cord in water, Burnt Bridge (1988, below); and at right, Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour (1988, below)
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Pool game, Burnt Bridge' 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Pool game, Burnt Bridge
1988
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Save the children pre-school, Nambucca Heads' 1974

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Save the children pre-school, Nambucca Heads
1974
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

“I don’t think there were even Indigenous journos in those days. As my friend said: ‘You were the lone ranger'”

.
Mervyn Bishop

 

 

How diverse was your photographic subject matter?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Woman standing near electric power cord in water, Burnt Bridge' 1988, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Woman standing near electric power cord in water, Burnt Bridge
1988, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
40.0 x 30.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour' 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Couple on veranda, Coffs Harbour
1988
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing at middle, Elders, Amata (1977, below); and at right, ‘Bob’s catch’ Shoalhaven Heads (1974, below)
Courtesy NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Elders, Amata' 1977, printed 1991

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Elders, Amata
1977, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
29.9 x 40.5cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) ''Bob's catch' Shoalhaven Heads' 1974, printed 1991

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
‘Bob’s catch’ Shoalhaven Heads
1974, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30.1cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA showing in the bottom photograph, Life and death dash (1971, below)
Courtesy NFSA

 

 

“People say it’s about the stolen generations, but it’s got nothing to do with that – not a bloody thing.”

.
Mervyn Bishop

 

 

Why is ‘Life-and-death dash’ misunderstood?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Life and death dash' 1971

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Life and death dash
1971
Gelatin silver photograph
40.4 x 30.1cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Far West Children's health clinic, Manly' 1968

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Far West Children’s health clinic, Manly
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Alan Judd, ABC trainee radio announcer, Sydney' 1968

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Alan Judd, ABC trainee radio announcer, Sydney
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lois O'Donoghue CBA, AM, and Oodgeroo Noonuccal' 1974

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Lois O’Donoghue CBA, AM, and Oodgeroo Noonuccal
1974
Gelatin silver photograph
30 x 30.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Lowitja Lois O’Donoghue Smart, AC, CBE, DSG (born Lois O’Donoghue; 1 August 1932) is an Aboriginal Australian retired public administrator. In 1990-1996 she was the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) (dismantled in 2004). She is patron of the Lowitja Institute, a research institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (/ˈʊdɡəruː ˈnuːnəkəl/ UUD-gə-roo NOO-nə-kəl; born Kathleen Jean Mary Ruska, later Kath Walker (3 November 1920 – 16 September 1993) was an Aboriginal Australian political activist, artist and educator, who campaigned for Aboriginal rights. Noonuccal was best known for her poetry, and was the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of verse.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Photography cadets with model, Sydney Morning Herald' 1967

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Photography cadets with model, Sydney Morning Herald
1967
Gelatin silver photograph
29.8 x 40.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Cousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina' 1966

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Cousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
30 x 40cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Roslyn Watson' 1973

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Roslyn Watson
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
40 x 30cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Children playing in river, Mumeka' 1975

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Children playing in river, Mumeka
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 29.9cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Children playing in river, Mumeka' 1975 (detail)

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Children playing in river, Mumeka (detail)
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
30.1 x 29.9cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled. 2 Boys posing, Tony Mundine's gym, Redfern' Nd

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled. 2 Boys posing, Tony Mundine’s gym, Redfern
Nd
35mm black and white slide
2.5 x 3.5cm
Mervyn Bishop Archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'H Thomas, C Dixon, K Smith ACT' 1976

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
H Thomas, C Dixon, K Smith ACT
1976
35mm colour slide
2.5 x 3.5cm
Mervyn Bishop Archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Murray Island' 1977

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Murray Island
1977
35mm colour slide
3.5 x 2.5cm
Mervyn Bishop archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Exhibition dedicated to photographer Mervyn Bishop opens in Canberra

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) to showcase work of award-winning artist from 5 March – 1 August 2021.

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) is celebrating Mervyn Bishop, one of Australia’s most prolific and influential photographers, with a new exhibition opening in Canberra tomorrow Friday 5 March. Mr Bishop himself will present a floor talk on opening day, at 12pm.

Mr Bishop’s images of culture, politics and people have significantly influenced our collective understanding of Australia’s history. This exhibition is drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) collection, the artist’s private archive, and enriched by sound and moving image from the NFSA.

Mervyn Bishop features iconic photographs that derive from his career as a photojournalist, alongside personal images of family and friends and intimate portraits of members of the Aboriginal community. Spanning the past 60 years, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into Bishop’s life and work.

NFSA Acting CEO Nancy Eyers said: ‘We are pleased to bring the work of Mervyn Bishop to Canberra and share his story with our audiences. Mr Bishop’s photographs present us with a wonderful combination of history, artistic excellence, and self-representation. In addition to the striking prints from the AGNSW, the NFSA’s audiovisual collection will bring a new dimension to the exhibition.’

‘This comprehensive exhibition was developed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), but there are new additions from the NFSA collection for Canberra audiences. It’s been fantastic working with them; there are not many exhibitions that combine photography with mixed media, and I think visitors will be amazed by this combination.’

AGNSW Curator Coby Edgar added: ‘Working with Mervyn Bishop and the NFSA to build this show has been a truly collaborative process with the aim to present Australia through Mervyn’s eyes. He has captured many of our country’s most pivotal moments politically and socially, and this exhibition is a celebration of his life and practice and the Australian peoples and cultures that he has documented.’

In 1963 Mervyn Bishop left his hometown of Brewarrina, venturing to Sydney, where he successfully applied for a cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald. He became Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer and in 1971 won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph Life and Death Dash 1971. Bishop went on to work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1974 where he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. This included his iconic image from 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner. Bishop’s childhood, his life experiences and career will be explored by former Reuters journalist Tim Dobbyn in an upcoming biography tentatively titled A Handful of Sand.

Mervyn Bishop said: ‘Photography has been my life, my passion for 60 years: the art and technique, the stories I’ve witnessed and captured. I’m glad to be able to share my life’s work with the public.’

An AGNSW touring exhibition, presented in collaboration with NFSA.

 

About Mervyn Bishop

Born and raised in Brewarrina, New South Wales, Mervyn Bishop was encouraged by his mother to take his first photograph. After witnessing the ‘magic’ of the developing process, he became passionate about photography. In 1963 he successfully applied for a four-year cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald and completed a Photography Certificate Course at Sydney Technical College during these years. Bishop continued to work for The Sydney Morning Herald and was Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer. In 1971 he won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph, Life and Death Dash, 1971.

Bishop started work at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra in 1974, in the early years of an important era in Indigenous self-determination. Here he covered the major developments in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, including the historical moment in 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner. This image – representing the Australian government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights – became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography. In 1989 Bishop received his Associate Diploma in Adult Education at Sydney College of Advanced Education and went on to teach photography at Tranby Aboriginal College in Glebe, Sydney and the Eora Centre TAFE (Technical and Further Education) in Redfern, Sydney.

Bishop’s diverse career, combining journalistic and art photography, was celebrated in 1991 in his solo exhibition and accompanying monograph, ‘In Dreams: Mervyn Bishop Thirty Years of Photography 1960-1990’. This important exhibition was curated by Tracey Moffatt and opened at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, before touring nationally and internationally. The timely and intimate photographs celebrate Bishop’s contribution to Australian art and photojournalism. In 2000, Bishop was presented with the Red Ochre Award from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council, in recognition of his pioneering work and ongoing influence.

Biography by Jonathan Jones, first published in ‘Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014.

 

Mervyn Bishop’s journey to be one of Australia’s best-known photographers is paved with triumphs, setbacks and tragedy. Bishop left Canberra in 1979 to return to The Sydney Morning Herald in a career choice that ended with his departure in 1986. While looking for work he was befriended by people from the Sydney arts scene, leading to his first solo exhibition in 1991, the In Dreams show. But this victory is forever linked to the death of his wife Elizabeth on the same day as the exhibition’s opening. His later work is dominated by portraiture that demonstrates his ability to put people at ease and a sympathetic appreciation for the human condition.

Synopsis from the upcoming biography A Handful of Sand, by author Tim Dobbyn.

Press release from the NFSA

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Fisherman Charlie Ardler, Wreck Bay' 1975, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Fisherman Charlie Ardler, Wreck Bay
1975, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 30.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Womenfolk, Bowraville' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Womenfolk, Bowraville
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 30.4cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

What is your legacy? And whose work do you admire?

 

 

Conversation between Guardian Australia picture editor Jonny Weeks and the photographer Mervyn Bishop in the article by Jonny Weeks and Miles Martignoni. “Great Australian photographs: Mervyn Bishop’s symbolic shot – an audio essay,” on the Guardian Australia website Mon 5 Jun 2017 [Online] Cited 14/9/2021.

 

 

Additional images not in exhibition

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) "Aborigine Trains as News Photographer," 'Dawn' magazine, February 1965

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) "Aborigine Trains as News Photographer," 'Dawn' magazine, February 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher)
Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975)
Aborigine Trains as News Photographer
Dawn magazine, February 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) "Your Career – Photography," 'Dawn' magazine, October 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher)
Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975)
Your Career – Photography
Dawn magazine, October 1965

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher) Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975) "Untitled [Deb Ball]" Dawn magazine, October 1965 back cover

 

Aboriginal Protection Board (1952-1969) (publisher)
Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare (1970-1975)
Untitled [Deb Ball]
Dawn magazine, October 1965 back cover

 

 

Dawn – A Magazine for the Aboriginal People of N.S.W.

Dawn was an Australian magazine created by the New South Wales Aboriginal Welfare Board and aimed at Aboriginal Australians. It ran monthly from January 1952 until December 1968. Two issues were published in 1969 before the disbanding of the Aboriginal Welfare Board led to the publication ceasing. The magazine was relaunched in April 1970 under the title New Dawn, published by the New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare. It continued to be produced on a monthly basis; production slowed in 1974 and a final issue was published in July 1975.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Aboriginal children, cousin Helen Bishop, Gibbs children, Brewarrina, New South Wales' 1965, printed 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Aboriginal children, cousin Helen Bishop, Gibbs children, Brewarrina, New South Wales
1965, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bishop Town picnic, Brewarrina' 1966, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Bishop Town picnic, Brewarrina
1966, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lil and Larry Cargill at the rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales' 1967, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Lil and Larry Cargill at the rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales
1967, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'A woman drinks a pint of beer in a Glebe pub on the eve of its closing' 1967

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
A woman drinks a pint of beer in a Glebe pub on the eve of its closing
1967
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30.3cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Patrons drinking at a pub on the eve of its closure, Glebe, New South Wales' 1967, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Patrons drinking at a pub on the eve of its closure, Glebe, New South Wales
1967, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30.3cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

''YES' for Aborigines pamphlet' 1967

 

‘YES’ for Aborigines pamphlet
1967
Donated by Janelle Marshall, the child pictured on the pamphlet
National Museum of Australia

 

 

It is 1967.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are citizens, can vote and are as entitled to government pensions as all other Australians.

But they are not formally counted in census returns, and the Australian Government does not have the power to make laws for their benefit.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are subject to individual state controls and laws, rather than uniform national ones, and in several cases the states are not legislating for the benefit of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inhabitants.

To change this situation there needs to be a change to the Constitution, by a referendum, a national vote.

Text from the National Museum of Australia website

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'The Murai tree at the Rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales' 1969, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
The Murai tree at the Rocks, Brewarrina, New South Wales
1969, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30.3 x 30.3cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Guests at Lorraine Taylor's wedding at Terrigal, New South Wales' 1973, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Guests at Lorraine Taylor’s wedding at Terrigal, New South Wales
1973, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Warning sign 30 kilometres from Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Warning sign 30 kilometres from Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27.3 x 40.2cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

 

“Do not take picture with camer. If someone take it? The law said, please, when coming in here, take only the park painting, no money, but someone else body is ten dollars and countrie is eleven dollars. This is going all over the world to white men and blacks.”

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'School bus, Yarrabah' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
School bus, Yarrabah
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'The bus stop, Yalambie Reserve, Mt Isa' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
The bus stop, Yalambie Reserve, Mt Isa
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Sawmill workers, Cherbourg' 1974

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Sawmill workers, Cherbourg
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27.3 x 40.2cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Pay day, Hooker Creek, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27.3 x 40.2cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Aboriginal man beside humpy, Yuendumu, Northern Territory' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Aboriginal man beside humpy, Yuendumu, Northern Territory
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Woman attend home management course at Yuendumu' 1974, printed 2008

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Woman attend home management course at Yuendumu
1974, printed 2008
Gelatin silver print
30.0 x 40.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

 

Yuendumu is a town in the Northern Territory of Australia, 293 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs on the Tanami Road, within the Central Desert Region local government area. It ranks as one of the larger remote communities in central Australia, and has a thriving community of Aboriginal artists.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Melba Saunders surrounded by stuffed koalas at an Aboriginal craft shop, Brisbane' 1974, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Melba Saunders surrounded by stuffed koalas at an Aboriginal craft shop, Brisbane
1974, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 27cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'John Nykamula treating patient Gurrumuru Mala, Arnhemland, Northern Territory' 1975, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
John Nykamula treating patient Gurrumuru Mala, Arnhemland, Northern Territory
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bishop and Gurindji men outside the Murramulla Social Club' 1975

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Bishop and Gurindji men outside the Murramulla Social Club
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'An Aboriginal school teacher and two children, Maningrida community, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory' 1975, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
An Aboriginal school teacher and two children, Maningrida community, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30 x 29.8cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Eric Maynard cleaning a mutton bird, Great Dog Island, Tasmania' 1975, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Eric Maynard cleaning a mutton bird, Great Dog Island, Tasmania
1975, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30.2 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953; Trawlwoolway) 'Coming Home' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953; Trawlwoolway)
Coming Home
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver print
33.8 x 52.0cm
© Ricky Maynard

 

 

Shearwaters, a type of muttonbird, also called yolla or moonbird, are harvested for food (the meat tastes like mutton), feathers for mattress fill, and the omega-3 rich oil, which is squeezed out of the birds’ guts, for medicinal use. Harvesting is a confronting job to outsiders: chicks are pulled from their burrows and their necks are quickly snapped. …

Indigenous people have been catching muttonbirds for thousands of years. “Millennia,” Maynard emphasises. “It’s just evolved. Our old fellas used to go to the rookeries, and get these birds when they were there because they were a great food source; a seasonal tucker.”

Dog Island, where the muttonbirds are harvested in Maynard’s play, is named for Great Dog or Big Dog Island: a 354-hectare granite isle filled with tussock grassland, off the south coast of Flinders Island in Bass Strait, where commercial birding operations have existed for more than 200 years. Maynard’s father didn’t take him muttonbirding on Big Dog, his family’s “spiritual home”, until he was 15, because birding season, which runs late March through late April, clashed with the school term. Maynard, though, takes his eight-year-old son each year.

Maynard is a Trawlwoolway man and descendant of Mannalargenna, a leader of the north-east Tasmanian Indigenous peoples, who led resistance against British soldiers in the early 19th century.

In 1995 the Tasmanian government handed back several sites, including Great Dog and Babel islands, to Indigenous people in an acknowledgement of Aboriginal dispossession.

Steve Dow. “‘I wanted something to celebrate’: Indigenous playwright tackles tradition in ‘The Season’,” on The Guardian website Wed 14 Dec 2016 [Online] Cited 14/09/2021

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Three Aboriginal women holding cakes, Mungundi, New South Wales' 1976, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Three Aboriginal women holding cakes, Mungundi, New South Wales
1976, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Charles Perkins shaking hands with members of the National Aboriginal Congress, Canberra' 1978, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Charles Perkins shaking hands with members of the National Aboriginal Congress, Canberra
1978, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
30 x 30cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

 

Charles Perkins (Australian, 1936-2000; Arrernte; Kalkadoon)

Charles Nelson Perkins AO, commonly known as Charlie Perkins (16 June 1936 – 19 October 2000), was an Australian Aboriginal activist, soccer player and administrator. He was the first Indigenous Australian man to graduate tertiary education, and is known for his instigation and organisation of the 1965 Freedom Ride and his key role in advocating for a “yes” vote in the Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals). He had a long career as a public servant.

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled (Bellbrook NSW, man leaning on fence)' 4 May 1988

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled (Bellbrook NSW, man leaning on fence)
4 May 1988
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Mervyn Bishop
Photo: AGNSW

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Children floating on board, Yirrkala, Northern Territory' 1989, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Children floating on board, Yirrkala, Northern Territory
1989, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
27 x 40cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945) 'Aboriginal Australian Gerard Rice at the Rally, Sydney' 1989, reproduction 2014

 

Mervyn Bishop (Australian, b. 1945)
Aboriginal Australian Gerard Rice at the Rally, Sydney
1989, reproduction 2014
Gelatin silver print
40 x 27cm
National Library of Australia
© Mervyn Bishop

 

 

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
McCoy Circuit, Acton ACT 2601

Opening hours:
Daily 10am to 4pm

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia website

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23
Sep
21

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

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 3rd October 2021

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

 

 

Dawoud Bey: An American Project

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

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

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

 

Room 800 Introduction

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

1

.
Harlem, U.S.A.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

2

.
Syracuse, NY

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Ask a Curator: Dawoud Bey: An American Project

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

3

.
Type 55 Polaroid Street Portraits

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

4

.
20 × 24 Polaroids

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

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

 

Room 804 Lorna, New York, NY

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

5

.
Class Pictures

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Room 805 Omar, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

6

.
The Birmingham Project

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Room 103 Mathis Menefee and Cassandra Griffin

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

7

.
Harlem Redux

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Room 801 Girls, Ornaments, and Vacant Lot

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

8

.
Night Coming Tenderly, Black

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Room 806 Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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19
Sep
21

Exhibition: ‘Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 8th May – 26th September 2021

Curators: Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, with Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistant, Robert B. Menschel Department of Photography

 

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967) 'Angles' ( Angulos) 1951

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967)
Angles (Angulos)
1951
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Courtesy Fernanda Feitosa and Heitor Martins

 

 

While we can’t travel around the world physically, it’s fantastic to virtually discover these hidden gems of photographic history – this time “men and women who joined São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB) [who] bonded over their passion for photography: the club was instrumental to their individual artistic development and their esteemed reputation across a dynamic international circuit of amateur photo salons.”

My favourite photograph in the posting is Marcel Giró’s Light and Power, for its modernist, abstract form and beauty, for the light, and for its intonation… staves of music, birds on the wire.

Marcus

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

 

The Museum of Modern Art announces Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964, the first museum exhibition of Brazilian modernist photography outside of Brazil. On view May 8 – September 26, 2021, the exhibition will focus on the unforgettable creative achievements of São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante, a group of amateur photographers widely heralded in Brazil, but essentially unknown to European and North American audiences. Fotoclubismo is comprised of over 60 photographs drawn generously from MoMA’s collection; together, they bring forward the extraordinary range of achievements of this group, provide valuable insight into the way photographic aesthetics were framed in the 1950s, and afford opportunities to reflect on the significance of amateur status today.

The exhibition is divided into thematic categories: Simplicity, Gertrudes Altschul, Abstractions from Nature, Texture and Shape, Geraldo de Barros, Experimental Processes, Daily Life, and Solitude.

 

 

The exhibition not only showcases the groundbreaking experimental and aesthetic sensibilities of FCCB, but it also invites the viewer to question the status of the amateur photographer.

Meister has positioned Fotoclubismo within the history of contemporary photography. Along with their stylistic merits, FCCB’s photos allow the viewer to reflect on the ways race, gender, and status affect how photography is consumed by the public.

“I’m particularly excited not only because I know that the work is going to resonate with audiences,” she [curator Sarah Meister] said, “but because it’s this wonderful opportunity to think, ‘what else can we do as curators or as museums to reflect and recuperate other elements of our history that have been overlooked and neglected?'” she told Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

.
Meka Boyle. “MoMA is the First Museum Outside of Brazil to Put the Spotlight on Brazilian Modernist Photography,” on the ‘Art Dealer Street’ website May 28 2021 [Online] Cited 26/08/2021

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

 

FCCB members on an excursion to Paquetá Island to visit the Sociedade Fluminense de Fotografia

 

FCCB members on an excursion to Paquetá Island to visit the Sociedade Fluminense de Fotografia. Boletim foto-cine 17 (September 1947): 3. Image and annotations courtesy Rubens Fernandes Junior

 

FCCB members on an excursion to Paquetá Island to visit the Sociedade Fluminense de Fotografia (detail)

 

FCCB members on an excursion to Paquetá Island to visit the Sociedade Fluminense de Fotografia, with some of the women photographers singled out. Boletim foto-cine 17 (September 1947): 3. Image and annotations courtesy Rubens Fernandes Junior

 

 

The men and women who joined São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB) bonded over their passion for photography: the club was instrumental to their individual artistic development and their esteemed reputation across a dynamic international circuit of amateur photo salons. The works on view in Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 highlight the achievements of more than 20 club members with unforgettable prints that traveled extensively along these networks. These are not intimate snapshots of family gatherings intended for the album page (a slightly different twist on the photographic amateur) but works of ambition and originality that had and continue to have a commanding presence on the walls of salons and museums. FCCB members’ success owes much to their distinctive blend of camaraderie and competition, nurtured in part by their frequent excursions.

Beginning in 1946 the FCCB published a small (often monthly or bimonthly) magazine, the Boletim foto-cine, which was given free to members and sold in local photo shops. Its modest scale belied its scope and seriousness: it won special awards for editorial content in the Photographic Society of America’s International Competition in 1949 and 1951. (It should be noted the Boletim was published exclusively in Portuguese, so perhaps the PSA was influenced by the fact that its own members and their writing – in translation – appeared frequently.)

The Boletim played a central role in advertising a social environment that drew people to the club, and also encouraged the competitive atmosphere within it. For many years, the Boletim published each new member’s name, birthday notices, wedding announcements, and snapshots from excursions, openings, and holiday celebrations at the club headquarters (Santa’s annual visit was a recurring feature). These personal touches served as a counter-balance to the equally prominent presence of club rankings: charts and accounts of prizes won and accolades received both domestically and around the world. One might conclude the social niceties were instrumental in fostering an environment in which critical feedback was possible, which in turn contributed to the club’s capacity for creative innovation.

Geraldo de Barros is arguably the best known member of the FCCB. He earned a living at the Banco do Brasil, but his creative spirit was not squelched by his day job. His satirical cartoons are peppered throughout the Boletim. This one betrays the anxiety of those whose work is being judged: three diminutive members, one waving a white flag, are menaced by others wielding a gun, a bomb, and a knife. He experimented with collage, montage, multiple exposures, and other interventions in his photographs, he was a founding member of the Grupo Ruptura, an inventive association of painters, and he later pursued a successful career in furniture design. The Museum of Art of São Paulo held a one-person exhibition of his photo-based work in January 1951, which was so confounding to his fellow FCCB members (some photos were rendered as sculptures on pedestals; all played fearlessly with conventions of representation) that this major accomplishment went unmentioned in the Boletim. Despite occasional moments of misunderstanding, de Barros was a principal force in the presentation of work by FCCB members in the second São Paulo Bienal in 1953-54, by which time even the club’s leadership had embraced the spirit of innovation de Barros had championed for years.

The excursions were not merely social outings: they were opportunities to learn alongside fellow members in the field, and to attempt to capture the “best” view of a particular subject. In one view of this distinctive building, German Lorca has accentuated the contrast between the corrugated roof and the adjacent shadows; in another, José Yalenti chose to frame the angular structure against the undulating form of a nearby building; in a third (noted in the Boletim as having been submitted to the club’s internal contest), Euclides Machado offered a study of texture, tone, and form. Although the club used “scorecards” to judge the relative strengths of images such as these, many of the attributes being judged were grouped within the category “factor psicológico” (psychological factors), which are surely more challenging to rank objectively. Then and now, it can be useful to acknowledge the ways in which something as invisible and inescapable as taste influences our judgment of a work of art.

Extract from Sarah Meister. “The Ambition and Originality of Fotoclubismo’s Amateur Photographers,” on the MoMA magazine website May 7, 2021 [Online] Cited 25/08/2021.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation views of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing in the bottom image the sections Daily Life and German Lorca with third right bottom, German Lorca’s Every Day Scenes (1949, below); at second right, German Lorca’s Rascality (Malandragem) (1949, below) and at right, Lorca’s Apartments (Apartamentos) (1950-51, below)
Photos: Jonathan Muzikar

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021) 'Everyday Scenes' (Cenas quotidianas) 1949

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021)
Everyday Scenes (Cenas quotidianas)
1949
Gelatin silver print
11 × 15″ (27.9 × 38.1cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Committee on Photography Fund
© 2021 German Lorca

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021) 'Rascality (Malandragem)' 1949

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021)
Rascality (Malandragem)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 3/4 × 12 3/4″ (27.3 × 32.4cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Richard O. Rieger
© 2021 German Lorca

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021) 'Apartments (Apartamentos)' 1950-51

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021)
Apartments (Apartamentos)
1950-51
Gelatin silver print
15 1/16 × 10 1/8″ (38.3 × 25.7cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Ernesto Poma through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund
© 2021 German Lorca

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021) 'White Roofs' (Telhados brancos) 1951

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021)
White Roofs (Telhados brancos)
1951
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Courtesy Fernanda Feitosa and Heitor Martins
© 2021 German Lorca

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing the work of German Lorca with at fourth from right, Congonhas Airport (1961, below); at third from right Open Window (1951); at second from right, Eating an Apple (1953); and at right, Solarized Portrait (c. 1953)
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021) 'Congonhas Airport, São Paulo' 1961

 

German Lorca (Brazilian, 1922-2021)
Congonhas Airport, São Paulo
1961
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 × 15″ (26.7 × 38.1cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of the artist
© 2021 German Lorca

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing Geraldo de Barros’ photographs – at top left, Untitled (1948-50, below); at bottom left, Abstraction (1949, below); at second left, Geraldo de Barros’ Self-Portrait (Autorretrato) (c. 1949, below); and at fourth left, Fotoforma (c. 1949)
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998) 'Untitled' 1948-50

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998)
Untitled
1948-50
Gelatin silver print
9 × 14 15/16″ (22.8 × 37.9cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Agnes Gund
© 2021 Luciana Brito Galeria

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998) 'Abstraction' (Abstração) 1949

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998)
Abstraction (Abstração)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 3/4 × 14 3/4″ (27.3 × 37.5cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Latin American and Caribbean Fund
© 2021 Luciana Brito Galeria

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998) 'Self-Portrait' (Autorretrato) c. 1949

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998)
Self-Portrait (Autorretrato)
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print
15 7/16 × 11 1/2″ (39.2 × 29.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Christie Calder Salomon Fund
© 2021 Luciana Brito Galeria

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998) 'Fotoforma' 1952-53

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998)
Fotoforma
1952-53
Gelatin silver print
11 13/16 × 15 1/8 in. (30 × 38.4cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of John and Lisa Pritzker
© 2020 Arquivo Geraldo de Barros. Courtesy Luciana Brito Galeria

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998) 'Fotoforma' c. 1949

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998)
Fotoforma
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print
14 13/16 × 10 11/16″ (37.7 × 27.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Latin American and Caribbean Fund
© 2021 Luciana Brito Galeria

 

 

Geraldo de Barros (Brazilian, 1923-1998)

Geraldo de Barros (February 27, 1923 – April 17, 1998) was a Brazilian painter and photographer who also worked in engraving, graphic arts, and industrial design. He was a leader of the concrete art movement in Brazil, co-founding Grupo Ruptura and was known for his trailblazing work in experimental abstract photography and modernism. According to The Guardian, De Barros was “one of the most influential Brazilian artists of the 20th century.” De Barros is best known for his Fotoformas (1946-1952), a series of photographs that used multiple exposures, rotated images, and abstracted forms to capture a phenomenological experience of Brazil’s exponential urbanisation in the mid-twentieth century.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation views of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing the section Abstractions from Nature showing at middle top, Thomaz Farkas’s Rushing Water Number 2 (c. 1945, below); beneath that his Rushing Water Number 1 (c. 1945); at bottom left of the group Dulce Carneiro’s Oneiric (Onírica) (c. 1958); and at centre right, three sand photographs by José Yalenti (see below)
Photos: Jonathan Muzikar

 

Abstractions from Nature

Thomaz Farkas (Brazilian, born Hungary. 1924-2011) 'Rushing Water Number 2' c. 1945

 

Thomaz Farkas (Brazilian, born Hungary. 1924-2011)
Rushing Water Number 2
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
11 7/8 × 15 3/4″ (30.2 × 40cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of the artist
© 2021 Thomaz Farkas Estate

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967) 'Sand' (Areia) c. 1950

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967)
Sand (Areia)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
11 7/8 × 15 3/4″ (30.1 × 40cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Committee on Photography Fund
© 2021 José Yalenti

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967) 'Sand' (Areia) c. 1950

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967)
Sand (Areia)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 15 3/8″ (28.3 × 39cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Committee on Photography Fund
© 2021 José Yalenti

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967) 'Sand' (Areia) c. 1950

 

José Yalenti (Brazilian, 1895-1967)
Sand (Areia)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
15 3/4 × 11 7/8″ (40 × 30.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund
© 2021 José Yalenti

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation views of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing the sections Daily Life, German Lorca and Solitude with in the bottom image at bottom right, Ademar Manarini’s Untitled [Várzea do Carmo housing complex, São Paulo] (c. 1951, below)
Photos: Jonathan Muzikar

 

Ademar Manarini (Brazilian, 1920-1989) 'Untitled [Várzea do Carmo housing complex, São Paulo]' c. 1951

 

Ademar Manarini (Brazilian, 1920-1989)
Untitled [Várzea do Carmo housing complex, São Paulo]
c. 1951
Gelatin silver print
11 11/16 × 14 9/16″ (29.7 × 37cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Richard O. Rieger
© 2021 Estate of Ademar Manarini

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing Marcel Giró’s photograph Light and Power (c. 1950, below)
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

 

Marcel Giró (Spanish, 1912-2011) 'Light and Power' (Luz e Força) c. 1950

 

Marcel Giró (Spanish, 1912-2011)
Light and Power (Luz e Força)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
13 1/16 × 20 3/16″ (33.1 × 51.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Richard O. Rieger
© 2021 Estate of Marcel Giró

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing the sections Texture and Shape and Geraldo de Barros, with at third from left top, Maria Helena Valente da Cruz’s The Broken Glass (O vidro partido)
(c. 1952, below); at fourth from left top, Palmira Puig-Giró’s Untitled (c. 1960, below); at bottom left Marcel Giró’s Texture 2 (c. 1950, below); and at bottom centre, his Composition (Composição) (c. 1953)
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

 

Texture and Shape

Maria Helena Valente da Cruz (Portuguese, b. 1927) 'The Broken Glass' (O vidro partido) c. 1952

 

Maria Helena Valente da Cruz (Portuguese, b. 1927)
The Broken Glass (O vidro partido)
c. 1952
Gelatin silver print
11 7/8 × 11 1/2 in. (30.2 × 29.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Donna Redel
© 2020 Estate of Maria Helena Valente da Cruz

 

Palmira Puig-Giró (Spanish, 1912-197) 'Untitled' c. 1960

 

Palmira Puig-Giró (Spanish, 1912-197)
Untitled
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
15 3/8 × 11 1/16 in. (39.1 × 28.1cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
© 2020 Estate of Palmira Puig-Giró

 

Marcel Giró (Spanish, 1912-2011) 'Texture 2' (Textura 2) c. 1950

 

Marcel Giró (Spanish, 1912-2011)
Texture 2 (Textura 2)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
12 1/8 × 15 3/4″ (30.8 × 40cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Committee on Photography Fund
© 2021 Estate of Marcel Giró

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation views of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing the sections Simplicity and Gertrude Altschul, with at top left, Thomaz Farkas’ Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação) [Rio de Janeiro] (c. 1945, below); and at right, Gertrudes Altschul’s Lines and Tones (Linhas e Tons) (c. 1953, below)
Photos: Jonathan Muzikar

 

Thomaz Farkas (Brazilian, born Hungary. 1924-2011) 'Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação) [Rio de Janeiro]' c. 1945

 

Thomaz Farkas (Brazilian, born Hungary. 1924-2011)
Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação) [Rio de Janeiro]
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
12 13/16 × 11 3/4 in. (32.6 × 29.9cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of the artist

 

Gertrude Altschul

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962) 'Lines and Tones' (Linhas e Tons) c. 1953

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962)
Lines and Tones (Linhas e Tons)
c. 1953
Gelatin silver print
14 7/8 x 11″ (37.8 x 27.9cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Amie Rath Nuttall

 

 

Gertrudes Altschul was born in Germany in 1904 and, like many Jews in the 1930s, she was forced to leave the country under the threat of Nazism rise. Thus, in 1939, together with her husband Leon Altschul, she went into exile in Brazil and settled in the city of São Paulo, at the end of that year. She and her husband ran a business selling handmade decorative flowers for hats in São Paulo, Brazil.

See more Gertrudes Altschul photographs on the Isabel Amado Fotografia website.

 

A little over a year after joining the Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB), an amateur camera club in São Paulo, Gertrude Altschul had already secured a spot for her work on the cover of its monthly bulletin. By September of 1953, her photograph Linhas e Tons (Lines and Tones) [above] was circulated to hundreds of fellow practitioners throughout Brazil. Lines and Tones reveals the urbanisation and precipitous vertical growth taking place in downtown São Paulo at midcentury; Altschul’s simple title strips away local context and persuades us to experience the image through its soaring curves and lines. This ability to reduce complex objects to their most elemental and visually striking forms would become a hallmark of her work.1

By the time Altschul joined the FCCB, the organisation had already been in operation for 13 years. During that time it succeeded in nurturing a passion for photography across a wide network of Paulistas (São Paulo residents), many of whom were recent European emigrés working as lawyers, doctors, accountants, or entrepreneurs. Altschul’s background was no different: after fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, she settled in Brazil in 1939. With her husband, she ran a business making handmade decorative flowers for women’s hats and blouses. Her interest in botanical motifs found its way into her photographic work, resulting in dozens of lush vegetal prints.

Though Altschul belonged to a small contingent of women artists within the FCCB, her experimental ambitions rivaled those of her male peers. She photographed a diverse range of subjects, from urban landscapes to natural forms to still lifes. The resulting prints were routinely reproduced in the club’s monthly bulletin, mailed out for consideration by salons, and chosen for display in exhibitions. Between 1956 and 1962, Altschul was encouraged to submit Filigrana (Filigree) to no fewer than 18 different national and international salons, receiving an impressive eight acceptances.2 Despite its worldwide circulation, this photograph portrayed a thoroughly Brazilian subject: a papaya leaf, delicately transcribed into lattice-like veins.

Altschul fell ill in the late 1950s and, starting in 1957, her participation in the club waned. Following her death in 1962, the FCCB bulletin featured Filigree alongside her obituary, where it was praised as one of the first successful works of her brief but distinguished career.3

Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, 2020

 

  1. The supporting research for this biography was provided by Abigail Lapin Dardashti, former Museum Research Consortium Fellow. For more, see Abigail Lapin Dardashti, “Gertrudes Altschul and Modernist Photography at the Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante,” on Medium, MoMA: Features and perspectives on art and culture, The Museum of Modern Art, June 7, 2017.
  2. Paula Kupfer, “Gertrudes Altschul: An Adopted Brazilian Photographer in São Paulo,” on post: notes on art in a global context, The Museum of Modern Art, May 2, 2018, https://post.moma.org/gertrudes-altschul-an-adopted-brazilian-photographer-in-sao-paulo/
  3. Ibid.

 

 

 

In Black and White: Photography, Race, and the Modern Impulse in Brazil at Midcentury

Live stream of the keynote panel from In Black and White: Photography, Race, and the Modern Impulse in Brazil at Midcentury (May 2, 2017, The Museum of Modern Art).

Join us for a conversation on Brazilian modernist photography, its relationship to race, and its place within a dynamic international network of images and ideas, moderated by Edward Sullivan, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Guest speakers: Helouise Costa, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Universidade de São Paulo Roberto Conduru, Rio de Janeiro State University Heloísa Espada, Instituto Moreira Salles, São Paulo Sarah Hermanson Meister, The Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York showing the section Gertrude Altschul with at centre left Untitled (c. 1955, below); at centre right, Untitled (c. 1955, below); at fourth right her Filigree, (Filigrana) (1953, below); and at top right, Untitled (c. 1955, below)

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962) 'Untitled' c. 1955

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962)
Untitled
c. 1955
Gelatin silver print
10 13/16 × 15 1/4″ (27.5 × 38.7cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of David Dechman and Michel Mercure
© 2021 Estate of Gertrudes Altschul

 

 

Like almost every member of Sáo Paulo’s famed Foto Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB), Altschul was an amateur, meaning she pursued photographic activity without any professional affiliation or ambition. She began attending workshops with the FCCB in the late 1940s and became a member in 1952. There are no written records of her creative intent, leaving only the visual evidence of her achievement: experimentations with process and form, and inventive compositions discovered within everyday life. These large-scale prints were made for the active circuit of contemporary salons and exhibitions that traveled throughout Brazil and internationally in this period.

Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 – August 13, 2017.

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962) 'Untitled' c. 1955

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962)
Untitled
c. 1955
Gelatin silver print
15 1/16 × 11 1/2″ (38.3 × 29.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
John Szarkowski Fund
© 2021 Estate of Gertrudes Altschul

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962) 'Filigree' (Filigrana) 1953

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962)
Filigree, (Filigrana)
1953
Gelatin silver print
13 5/8 × 11 5/8″ (34.6 × 29.5cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Amie Rath Nuttall
© 2021 Estate of Gertrudes Altschul

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962) 'Untitled' c. 1955

 

Gertrudes Altschul (Brazilian born Germany, 1904-1962)
Untitled
c. 1955
Gelatin silver print
11 13/16 × 15 1/2″ (30 × 39.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
John Szarkowski Fund
© 2021 Estate of Gertrudes Altschul

 

 

Fotoclubismo explores the unforgettable creative achievements of São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB), a group of amateur photographers whose ambitious and innovative works embodied the abundant originality of postwar Brazilian culture. Although their work was heralded around the world in the 1950s, it subsequently faded from view. This is the first museum exhibition to present this fascinating moment in photography’s history to audiences outside of Brazil.

Photography was a hobby for most FCCB members: on weekdays, group members – many of whom were women – went to their jobs as businessmen, accountants, journalists, engineers, biologists, and bankers. On weekends, they often traveled to photograph together. They were nonetheless quite serious about their artistic ambition, not unlike millions of people on Instagram today. Their pictures assumed many forms – from inventive experiments to distillations from everyday life – and their attentiveness to abstraction evolved in dialogue with leading critical thinkers and peers in design, painting, and film.

More than 60 photographs, drawn almost exclusively from MoMA’s collection, demonstrate the group’s extraordinary range. Their absence from international histories of the medium provide a valuable opportunity to reflect on the biases that led to these exclusions, and invite us to reflect on the status of the amateur today. Organised by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, with Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistant, Robert B. Menschel Department of Photography.

 

Introduction

The members of São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB), established in 1939, were doctors and lawyers, civil servants and businessmen, accountants and students. Though they pursued photography as a hobby, their work attests to the seriousness and skill with which they approached the medium. Their innovations were advanced by camaraderie as well as a competitive spirit: submissions to monthly internal contests were judged publicly, with points awarded accordingly. This installation is structured in constellations based on the themes of these contests, punctuated by focused presentations of the work of three key figures.

Bandeirante alludes to a colonial-era group of explorers and fortune hunters based in the São Paulo region, whom the FCCB celebrated for their pioneering spirit, overlooking their role in the enslavement of Indigenous people and the expansion of territory under Portuguese control. Though its identity was thus firmly anchored in the local, the club was an integral part of a dynamic international network of amateurs: the FCCB was widely heralded and its members’ work awarded prizes in salons on six continents. The club’s position in the Global South, and a bias against the amateur and its association with pictorial clichés, begin to explain its absence from international histories of the medium.

The dates that bracket this exhibition correspond to artistic and political realities in Brazil: the FCCB first published its monthly magazine (the Boletim foto-cine) in 1946, the year a new constitution restored democracy following a repressive regime. On the other end, 1964 marked the beginning of a brutal dictatorship, which contributed to the closing of an extraordinarily fertile chapter for photography in Brazil – one that has been, until now, largely overlooked beyond the country’s borders.

Text from the MoMA website

 

Julio Agostinelli. 'Circus' (Circense) 1951

 

Julio Agostinelli (Brazilian, b. 1919)
Circus (Circense)
1951
Gelatin silver print
11 7/16 × 15″ (29 × 38.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Richard O. Rieger
© 2020 Estate of Julio Agostinelli

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art opened Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964, the first museum exhibition of Brazilian modernist photography outside of Brazil. On view May 8 – September 26, 2021, the exhibition focuses on the unforgettable creative achievements of São Paulo’s Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante, a group of amateur photographers widely heralded in Brazil, but essentially unknown to European and North American audiences. Fotoclubismo is comprised of over 60 photographs drawn generously from MoMA’s collection; together, they bring forward the extraordinary range of achievements of this group, provide valuable insight into the way photographic aesthetics were framed in the 1950s, and afford opportunities to reflect on the significance of amateur status today. The exhibition is organised by Sarah Meister, Curator, with Dana Ostrander, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

The vast majority of Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante members were amateurs, meaning they pursued photographic activity without any professional motive or affiliation. The club’s longtime president, Eduardo Salvatore, earned his living as a lawyer, and the list of professions on the membership cards includes businessmen, accountants, journalists, engineers, biologists, and bankers. While photography was an activity pursued outside their day jobs, FCCB members were nonetheless quite serious about their artistic ambition, as evidenced by the striking innovation of their photographs. Works such as Geraldo de Barros’s Fotoforma, São Paulo (1952-53), Thomaz Farkas’s Ministry of Education and Health, Rio (c. 1945), or Gertrudes Altschul’s Filigree (Filigrana) (c. 1952), for example, represent a few of their radical experimentations with process and form and underscore the discovery of imaginative compositions within everyday life. FCCB members responded to the abundant originality of contemporary Brazilian architects, and their attentiveness to the fertility of abstraction as a creative strategy emerged alongside peers in design, painting, and literature. Considering these works together provides a compelling context through which to explore the complex status of the amateur, evolving biases of taste or judgment, and local dynamics of race and gender.

Beyond creating photographs, a critical aspect of the club’s activity was their monthly Concursos Internos (internal contests) and Seminarios, in which photographs were submitted for peer review and discussed in public and private forums.

As with most amateur photo clubs around the world, the FCCB fostered a collegial environment that tolerated a wide range of artistic approaches. Yet it was also a competitive one, where critical judgment and artistic ambition were central to the club’s identity (and contributed to the enduring quality of the work). The annual salon they hosted and Boletim, a monthly magazine published by the FCCB, both demonstrate the breadth of activity pursued under the aegis of the club and highlighted the club’s achievements to the international circuit of salons in which they participated, including Otto Steinert and his fellow “Subjective” photographers in Germany, the Groupe des XV in Paris, La Ventana in Mexico City, and the Carpeta de los Diez in Buenos Aires.

Fotoclubismo has been installed along two intertwined, complementary threads within the galleries: monographic and thematic. Of the display’s three sections, each is anchored by a focused monographic presentation of an individual member: Geraldo De Barros, German Lorca, and Gertrudes Altschul. These sections begin and end with thematic groupings that suggest the breadth of the photographic community active in São Paulo at that time and offer additional context for the individual achievements. Each theme is derived from the monthly Concursos Internos held at the FCCB, which prompted members to respond to a certain theme, often awarding the winner with full-page reproductions and cover features. Two paintings from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros gift and a generous selection of the FCCB’s monthly Boletim, recently acquired by the Museum Library, will expand the context for the photographs on view.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with 140 plates from the Museum Collection and a number of important public and private collections in São Paulo, presenting Brazilian modernist photography to an international audience for the first time. The book situates these achievements within the broader contemporary art scene in Brazil as well as within a dynamic network of photographers around the world, and offering fresh insight into the status of the amateur in the postwar era.

Press release from the MoMA website

 

José Medeiros (Brazilian, 1921-1990) 'Pedra da Gávea, Morro Dois Irmãos and the Beaches Ipanema and Leblon, Rio de Janeiro' 1952

 

José Medeiros (Brazilian, 1921-1990)
Pedra da Gávea, Morro Dois Irmãos and the Beaches Ipanema and Leblon, Rio de Janeiro
1952
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

 

André Carneiro (Brazilian, 1922-2014) 'Rails' (Trilhos) 1951

 

André Carneiro (Brazilian, 1922-2014)
Rails (Trilhos)
1951
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 × 15 9/16 in. (29.6 × 39.6cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of José Olympio da Veiga Pereira through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund
© 2020 Estate of André Carneiro

 

Aldo Augusto de Souza Lima (Brazilian, 1920-1971) 'Vertigo' (Vertigem) 1949

 

Aldo Augusto de Souza Lima (Brazilian, 1920-1971)
Vertigo (Vertigem)
1949
Gelatin silver print
11 × 14 3/4 in. (28 × 37.5cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of James and Ysabella Gara in honor of Donald H. Elliott
© 2020 Estate of Aldo Augusto de Souza Lima

 

Roberto Yoshida. 'Skyscrapers' (Arranha-céus) 1959

 

Roberto Yoshida
Skyscrapers (Arranha-céus)
1959
Gelatin silver print
14 9/16 × 11 9/16 in. (37 × 29.3cm)
Collection Fernanda Feitosa and Heitor Martins
© 2020 Estate of Roberto Yoshida
Reproduction of the photographic collection by Hélio Martins

 

 

Boletim was pivotal for showcasing FCCB’s progress and attracting new members. The club held monthly photo competitions and listed the winners in each issue. The magazine fostered a healthy competition between members and provided an incentive to capture the “best view.”

Each issue there were internal competitions where photos were judged by visual qualities as well as psychological factors. Editors would list the winners’ names along with birthday announcements, weddings, and group photos. Recording the names of the members served as a way for FCCB to seal their place in history lest the world forgot.

And for a while, the world did forget.

It wasn’t until years after the club closed their doors that Helouise Costa, professor at University of São Paulo and curator of Museum of Contemporary Art, discovered FCCB in the eighties after applying for a grant at University of São Paulo meant to encourage academics to explore Brazilian photography.

Soon into her research, Costa came across works by members of FCCB and quickly realised that the group was the most influential photo collective in its time in both scope and skill.

Costa studied the club’s magazine and reached out to all the names listed in the pages. What she discovered was an entirely forgotten archive of some of the most influential mid century Brazilian photography. Costa was the first person to look at many of these prints in decades: many former members had been sitting on these negatives since the 50’s.

This discovery catapulted FCCB into national fame, although it wasn’t until another twenty plus years before the club’s legacy started to make a buzz internationally.

Meka Boyle. “MoMA is the First Museum Outside of Brazil to Put the Spotlight on Brazilian Modernist Photography,” on the Art Dealer Street website May 28 2021 [Online] Cited 26/08/2021

 

Cover of the exhibition catalogue 'Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography and the Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante, 1946-1964', published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2021

 

Cover of the exhibition catalogue Fotoclubismo: Brazilian Modernist Photography and the Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante, 1946-1964, published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2021.

 

 

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12
Sep
21

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Protest’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 10th October, 2021

Curator: Mazie Harris

 

 

David Wojnarowicz in 1988

 

David Wojnarowicz in 1988
Please note, this photograph is not in the exhibition

 

 

Speaking up when others are silent

This one-room exhibition seems like a missed opportunity.

I note the observation of Anne Wallentine: “In Focus: Protest, a one-room exhibition at the Getty Center, focuses on palatable images of protest. There are no disturbing images of the police’s violent attacks on protesters during the June 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, for example, or of self-immolations protesting the Vietnam War. On the one hand, we don’t need to see violence to understand injustice. But this subject deserves a much deeper and broader show to explore the important power dynamics of protest – and of documenting it – than the Getty’s somewhat muddled march through the lowlights of American history.”1

.
Although I haven’t seen the exhibition I have been able to gather together numerous photographs from installation shots of the show. The exhibition focuses heavily on the civil rights photographs of the 1960s with sporadic abortion, women’s lib, Vietnam War, contemporary Black Lives Matter and metaphorical images standing in for actual protest photographs (such as the photographs of Robert Frank). As Wallentine observes, the subject deserves a much deeper and broader show to explore the important power dynamics of protest, and of documenting it.

America has a long history of protest stretching back to its very beginning, such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773. But thinking about the photography of protest in America – where are the cartes de visit of slavery abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth or Frederick Douglass, the photographs of protests for women’s suffrage, after the Stonewall Riots, against the lack of funding for HIV/AIDS, for gun legislation, photographs of protests for Native American enfranchisement, marches for equal rights, anti-nuclear protests, Iraq War protests,