Archive for the 'video' Category

15
May
22

Exhibition: ‘After August Sander: People of the 21st Century’ at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen

Exhibition dates: 28th January – 29th May 2022

Curator: Thomas Thiel

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der erdgebundene Mensch' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der erdgebundene Mensch (The earthbound human) / Peasant Woman, Westerwald
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

I am not sure any of these kinds of exhibition – supposed extrapolations on the work of an earlier famous photographer, in this case contemporary photographers responding in diverse ways to renowned German photographer August Sander (1876-1964), icon of 20th century photography – serve any kind of lasting useful purpose, other than perhaps to acknowledge the alleged and, in most cases, slight influence of the earlier photographer.

While the contemporary work is strong in its own right, too often it seems shoehorned into the concept of the exhibition, artistic positions exhibited in order to revitalise the work of August Sander both directly and indirectly. Sander does not need revitalising… nor do the contemporary artists need the prop of his fame nor his conceptualisation of German identity, family and life to succeed with their projects. Their changed views of life and new influences on the individual are cogent enough – clear, logical, and convincing – not to need a conceptual walking frame.

However, the exhibition does give us the ability to, once more, marvel at the apparent simplicity and directness of Sanders’ portraits and the monumentality of his project “People of the 20th Century”. Frontal, low depth of field, beautiful light, tightly framed photographs which portray individuals as true characters who have undeniable “presence” in the viewers eyes. When thinking about the human condition, nothing in the rest of the exhibition comes close to their insight and intensity…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

At second left, August Sander’s Pastry Cook 1928; at fifth left, Coal Delivery Man c. 1915; at seventh left, Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928; and at eighth right, Working-class Mother 1927

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

At left, Mother and daughter 1912; at third left, August Sander’s Village Band 1913; and at fourth left, Farmer on his Way to Church 1925-1926; and at right, Cretin 1924

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by August Sander, Portraits of People of the 20th Century, 1912-1932, printed 1961-1963
Contemporary Collection MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

With his collection of portraits, “People of the 20th Century”, August Sander (1876-1964) produced a monumental life’s work that not only made photographic history but went on to influence generations of artists. The photographer, who was born in Herdorf near Siegen, depicted professional groups and social classes for several decades. Altogether he collected more than 600 images in forty-five portfolios, organising them into seven categories: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesmen, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City (city dwellers), and The Last People, who were found on the fringes of society. A selection was first assembled in the publication “Face of Our Time” (1929). By working on a portrait of society during his time, Sander not only developed archetypal images but also aimed to study the nature of man in relation to his community.

“After August Sander” combines the work of the world-famous yet regionally-based photographer with a contemporary perspective of 13 artists. At the heart of the exhibition is a group of 70 large-format photographs that Sander compiled as late as the early 1960s, also for presentations in the Siegerland. As a gift from Barbara Lambrecht-Schadeberg to mark the MGKSiegen’s 20th birthday, these are now being shown here for the first time. Starting out from this important group of works, the exhibition directs attention towards portraits of people in the 21st century and initiates further examination of images showing contemporary types.

The artistic positions exhibited revitalise the work of August Sander both directly and indirectly. The deliberate leap in time of about 100 years visualises our changed views of life and new influences on the individual. Despite the historical reference, “After August Sander” does not stick exclusively to the medium of photography, but presents video installations and sculptures in a reflection of our times.

With contributions by August Sander, Mohamed Bourouissa, Alice Ifergan-Rey, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Hans Eijkelboom, Omer Fast, Soham Gupta, Sharon Hayes, Bouchra Khalili, Ilya Lipkin, Sandra Schäfer, Collier Schorr, Tobias Zielony and Artur Zmijewski.

Supported by Kunststiftung NRW

Text from the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen website

 

 

Rooms 1 and 2

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Mother and Daughter' 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Mother and Daughter
1912
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Village Band' 1913

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Village Band
1913
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Jungbauern' (Young Farmers) 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern (Young Farmers)
1914
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Coal Delivery Man' c. 1915

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Coal Delivery Man
c. 1915
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Polizeibeamter. Der Wachtmeister' (Police Officer) 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Polizeibeamter. Der Wachtmeister (Police Officer)
1925
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt' (Painter Anton Räderscheidt) 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt (Painter Anton Räderscheidt)
1926
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Zirkusartistin' (Circus performer) 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Zirkusartistin (Circus performer)
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Handlanger' (Bricklayer / Handyman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Handlanger (Bricklayer / Handyman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Pastry Cook' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Pastry Cook
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Boxers. Paul Röderstein and Hein Hesse. Köln' c. 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Boxers. Paul Röderstein and Hein Hesse. Köln
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)

The selection of large-format exhibition copies of People of the 20th Century being shown for the first time in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst was compiled from various portfolios by Sander himself in 1961/63. They were intended for presentations in the Siegerland region and printed by his son Gunther Sander under his own supervision. The occasion for this was provided by, amongst others, two exhibitions entitled Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), shown in Siegen in 1964 and in the fire station close to Herdorf town hall in 1965. Beyond its international significance, for several reasons August Sander’s work also has considerable regional identification value. Sander was born in Herdorf and spent his childhood between Siegerland and the Westerwald. Siegen-based photographers Friedrich Schmeck and Carl Siebel inspired the young Sander to take up photography. Photographs dating from before 1914 were taken in or near his hometown and were subsequently included in the well-known picture atlas. He frequently spent time in the Westerwald and moved his residence to Kuchhausen due to the war in 1942. This exhibition brings a circle to a close in the MGKSiegen. Works by August Sander can now be shown permanently and as part of the collection in Siegen for the first time since the museum’s opening in 2001.

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Cretin' 1924

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Cretin
1924
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Farmer on his Way to Church' 1925-1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Farmer on his Way to Church
1925-1926
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Working-class Mother' 1927

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Working-class Mother
1927
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Putzfrau' (Cleaning woman) 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Putzfrau (Cleaning woman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'The Industrialist' 1929

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Industrialist
1929
Gelatin silver print
Contemporary Collection, MGKSiegen
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022

 

 

Rooms 3 and 4

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen, Contemporary Collection MGKSiegen showing at left, a work by Sandra Schäfer Kontaminierte Landschaften, (2021); and at right, August Sander’s Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie (1912) from “People of the 20th Century”, 1912-1932
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; ©  VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (still)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung
2021
Still showing the cover of August Sander – Líchtbíldner folio Der Bauer (The farmer)
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Sandra Schäfer, Kontaminierte Landschaften' 2021 (installation view)

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Sandra Schäfer, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 2021, Courtesy the artist
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)

Sandra Schäfer’s artistic practice is concerned with the development of urban and geopolitical space and its history. Her works are often based on long-term research that involves a re-presentation of images, documents, and narratives. In her video installation Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung (2021), Schäfer – starting out from August Sander’s series of Westerwald farmers and rural labourers – deals with the transformation of the rural region in which she grew up, and by which she has been strongly influenced. Her great-greatgreat- aunt Katharina Horn, born Schäfer, and her husband Adam Horn, were also the famous farming couple that Sander photographed as early as 1912. The artist juxtaposes August Sander’s perspective with her own, contemporary view in the form of a double projection and two photographs. Schäfer shows how the landscape depicted and its agricultural use have changed over the course of time. She talks to relatives and farmers, as well as to photographic curators about Sander, his photos and the situation in the village of Kuchhausen. She is also interested in the value and varying attributions that the images have experienced in the art world and in private memories. The artist questions existing pictorial orders and narratives with her work, and so ventures her own personal search for home.

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (installation view not at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung (installation view not at Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen)
2021
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970) 'Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung' 2021 (still)

 

Sandra Schäfer (German, b. 1970)
Westerwald: Eine Heimsuchung
2021
Still
© Sandra Schäfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

Room 5

 

Hans Eijkelboom. 'Photo Notes' 1994-2022 (installation view)

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Hans Eijkelboom, Photo Notes, 1994-2022, Courtesy the artist
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln – August Sander Archiv; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)'

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)
2006
Courtesy the artist

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage)' (detail)

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 21, 2006 (Camouflage) (detail)
2006
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)

As early as 1981, Hans Eijkelboom realised an “Ode to August Sander” by asking and categorising citizens of Arnhem, where he lived at the time, on the basis of their distinguishing features and developing the results into a multi-part series of street photographs. Since the early 1990s, the artist has been taking photographs in the business districts of large cities around the world. Unnoticed, he analyses the pedestrians passing by and focuses on them according to formal criteria of their external appearance. Eijkelboom’s gaze – with a thoroughly benevolent sense of humour – falls on the people’s clothing. Fashion statements and similarities in behaviour interest him in formal terms, as uniform codes. He arranges his snapshot-like Photo Notes into groups according to the motif and date of the shot, and then presents them in wall-sized tableaus. Arranged in this way, the exclusively colour portraits direct the viewer’s attention towards the human need to distinguish oneself by means of external features and so underline one’s own identity. In Eijkelboom’s photographs, this striving for individuality is exposed as an illusion due to global trends and milieu-related codes.

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)'

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)
2015
Courtesy the artist

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949) 'Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed)' (detail)

 

Hans Eijkelboom (Dutch, b. 1949)
Photo Note October 23, 2015 (Hoed) (detail)
2015
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Room 6

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972) 'August' 2016 (still)

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)
August
2016
Still
Courtesy the artist
Photo: Stephan Ciupek/Filmgalerie 451

 

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)

In his films, Omer Fast frequently tells stories of trauma, war and relationships. His working method enables him to question current and historical events as well as the conventions of the cinematic narrator. The short film August (2016), shot in 3D, revolves around the life and work of August Sander, painting a fictional picture of his last days in the early 1960s. The cinematic flashbacks are oriented on biographical facts. In surreal dream sequences, Sander is haunted by memories: recalling his son Erich, who died as a victim of political persecution in a Nazi prison in 1944, as well as iconic motifs such as the Young Farmers or Workers hauling bricks. The film August shows both the visionary artist and the powerless man, scarred by personal loss and entangled in the political circumstances. Omer Fast deconstructs and at the same time contextualises the artist and man August Sander on the basis of his attitudes in an extremely difficult time politically, the late phase of the Weimar Republic and the transition to National Socialist Germany.

 

 

New Pictures: Omer Fast, Appendix exhibition video

This “New Pictures” exhibition [at the Minneapolis Institute of Art 2018] features two films by the Berlin-based Israeli artist Omer Fast (b. 1972), along with more than 20 portraits by the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) from his series People of the Twentieth Century, selected from Mia’s and Minneapolis-based collections. Through reflections of Sander’s portraits, including Young Farmers (1914) and Bricklayer (1928), Fast’s latest film, August (2016), portrays Sander at the end of his life, tracing the photographer’s career during the transition from the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany. Fast’s para-fictional (i.e., blending facts and fiction) film subverts the boundary between collective history and personal memory, questioning photography’s ability to tell the truth.

Text from the YouTube website

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972) 'August' 2016 (still)

 

Omer Fast (Israeli, b. 1972)
August
2016
Still
Courtesy the artist
Photo: Stephan Ciupek/Filmgalerie 451

 

 

Room 7

 

Jos de Gruyter (Belgium, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgium, b. 1966) 'Mondo Cane (The Town Crier)' 2019

 

Jos de Gruyter (Belgium, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgium, b. 1966)
Mondo Cane (The Town Crier)
2019
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Photo: Nick Ash

 

 

Jos de Gruyter (Beligian, b. 1965) and Harald Thys (Belgian, b. 1966)

Jos de Gruyter’s and Harald Thys’ works are devoted to the absurdity of the everyday. Their interest in the psychological state of societies leads them to create portraits of human existence both tragic and comical. The figures assembled here were part of the exhibition Mondo Cane (eng. Dog World) produced for the Belgian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. The presentation was conceived as a kind of folkloristic museum examining the human condition and its grotesque diversity. In the shape of partly mechanised, life-sized dolls, it gathered together simple artisans as well as madmen and outcasts. The doll heads were modelled on fictional characters as well as real people. Scattered throughout the exhibition rooms in Siegen we find a ventriloquist, a town crier, a Stasi spy and a French denunciator from the World War II era. As protagonists, they occupy the museum for the duration of the exhibition and interact with the other works. As representatives, the humorous and sinister characters refer to popular stereotypes as well as to historical attitudes and relationships within Europe.

 

 

Jos de Gruyter’s and Harald Thys’ work Mondo Cane (2019) at Biennale Arte 2019 – Belgium

 

Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. 'Madame Legrand' 2019

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Madame Legrand, 2019
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Micheline Szwajcer
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 8

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970) 'Ricerche: one' 2019 (still)

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970)
Ricerche: one
2019
Still
Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin

 

 

Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970)

Sharon Hayes’ videos, performances and installations address the complex processes of shaping public opinion on politics, history, identity and language. Her film series Ricerche (engl. Research) began in 2013 and now consists of five parts. Her starting point was the documentary film Love Meetings (1964, ital. Comizi d’amore) by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who travelled through Italy to ask people of different ages and social backgrounds explicit questions about love, sexuality, and morality. Hayes follows the structure of the film and the conceptual idea of interviewing people outdoors and in groups. The video diptych Ricerche: one (2019) portrays two age groups: 5-8 year olds and young adults. All the participants in the video, shot in Provincetown (Massachusetts, USA), are children of queer parents. Depending on their age, they give fragmented or detailed insights into their complex family structures. The artist mirrors social understanding of gender dominated by the norm, sexuality and family constellations. She shows how present conditions shape national, religious and ethnic identities.

 

 

Biennale Arte 2013 – Sharon Hayes

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Sharon Hayes, Ricerche: one, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton, Berlin
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 9

 

Mohamed Bourouissa and Alice Ifergan-Rey. 'Je vous raconte comment Mohamed Bourouissa a changé des chômeurs en sculpture dans un camion à Marseille' (I tell you how Mohamed Bourouissa changed unemployed people into sculpture in a truck in Marseille) 2019

 

Mohamed Bourouissa and Alice Ifergan-Rey
Je vous raconte comment Mohamed Bourouissa a changé des chômeurs en sculpture dans un camion à Marseille
I tell you how Mohamed Bourouissa changed unemployed people into sculpture in a truck in Marseille

2019
Still
© Mohamed Bourouissa /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022 and Alice Ifergan-Rey

 

 

L’Utopie d’August Sander, Mohamed Bourouissa, Alice Ïfergan-Rey

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Collier Schorr, Castle, 1994, Collier as Horst, 2021, Swimming Pool Eyes, 1996, A Possible Mutation, 1994, After Cindy Sherman, 1994
© the artist, Courtesy Stuart Shave/ Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Swimming Pool Eyes' 1996

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Swimming Pool Eyes
1996
Black and white photograph
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'A Possible Mutation' 1994

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
A Possible Mutation
1994
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)

Collier Schorr’s portraits can be positioned in the border area between documentation, staging and fiction. Her photographs explore the relationship between nationality, gender, and identity. For over 20 years, Schorr travelled to southern Germany every summer to visit the small town of Schwäbisch Gmünd. Her portraits of the town’s inhabitants taken against an authentic local backdrop reflect a fascination with a culture that was initially foreign to her. Collier Schorr places androgynous-looking teenagers in the German landscape, which she sees as pastoral. They are mostly male adolescents from her close environment, photographed in the garden, in front of and on trees, or in the forest. One of the main characters is Horst, and she adds a later self-portrait to this group: Collier as Horst (2021), wearing men’s underpants and gripping her crotch. These stagings, which dissolve gender boundaries by means of clothing, makeup and props, also include portraits of uniformed soldiers as pictorial subjects. In Matti at Attention (Durlangen) (2001), which shows a young man as a soldier in a forest clearing, the landscape takes on a symbolic charge and becomes a speculative space of remembrance. Aware of Sander’s photographic approach and the gaps in his reception, Schorr sets out to find her own Face of our Time that incorporates her Jewish origins and personal ideas of Germany.

 

After Horst

“I had these ideas about modern West Germany. It was silent. It was empty. The figures were small, or they were art students lined up in front of coloured squares of paper. Whatever I saw in the work of Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff was somewhat perfect, organised, static, airless. And frozen in time that looked like the 70’s. West Germany itself, a word I might see on a watch face or an Olympic memorial to the Israeli wrestlers killed by Palestinians in Munich. Somehow, I was there and not there. Dead, memorialised, alive and dead again.

I went to Germany in 1989. And again, for 20 summers. During the third summer I started taking photographs. I was convinced the German landscape held some truth other than the one I had seen in the large-scale imports I saw at 303 Gallery and Marian Goodman Gallery. Schwäbisch Gmünd was soft and pastoral. And the local boys seemed soft and pastoral. I would have never made photos in New York. Nan Goldin, Jack Pierson and Larry Clark already made them. But in Germany, I could take a figure of my imagination and place them in the landscape memorialised by the Düsseldorf School. And I could as they say now – queer the space. So I shot my girlfriend’s nephew Horst and a fusion of myself and him, of a young girl and of a young boy of a woman who looked like a boy. I wanted to make him suffer for his luxury… as if he knew he had this luxury which I can never know. Ultimately, it’s a simple proposition. An image of queerness in an open airfield, rather than a club or a closet or a tenement New York apartment or West Side street corner. One image is called After Cindy Sherman because of how I wished I could use myself to talk about myself. But to do that I would have to find my image bearable and I did not. I saw Germany as a very romantic place and I attacked it and was seduced by it every year. I took the one category in August Sander’s work that the Düsseldorf kids didn’t touch: the Nazi’s. I thought to myself, wow, they really left those soldiers out. Don’t they realise that’s the guts and the ghosts worth tearing apart? I began to enjoy the fact that my story about Germany, my Antlitz Der Zeit, was completely ignored. Too romantic, too gay but not authored by a gay male, too Jewish but not Jewish enough, too personal.

Now I look at Horst and I think about my own body naked on the cover of Frieze magazine and dancing in a ballet I’m making. And posing with Jordan Wolfson in Fantastic Man. The same face the same hair. Over 30 years difference. Suddenly acceptable. Perhaps because the queer figure has more presence agency representation. I still find Horst, with his Levis’s and sweat socks, the tropes of Christopher Street and his teenage girl make up somewhat radical. Because he looks like a living paper doll. Dressed and pasted into a landscape to disrupt the pristine crisis of a German photograph, transmounted, with a wide white border, expansive and somewhat toeing the line.”

Collier Schorr. “After Horst,” on the Modern Art website March 2021 [Online] Cited 02/04/2022

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'After Cindy Sherman' 1994

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
After Cindy Sherman
1994
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Wes Portrait' 2009-2018

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Wes Portrait
2009-2018
Black and white photograph
Courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London and 303 Gallery, New York

 

Room 10

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975) 'The Tempest Society' 2017

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975)
The Tempest Society
2017
Still
Courtesy mor charpentier, Paris
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

 

 

Bouchra Khalili (Moroccan-French, b. 1975)

In her films, photographs, installations and publications, Bouchra Khalili examines the effects of colonial history on migration and political self-image. She provides a voice for social minorities, repeatedly formulating the links between individual actions and collective history. For the video work The Tempest Society (2017), which was shown for the first time at documenta 14, a group of Athenians come together on the stage of a former factory to talk about Europe and their own homeland. It is a portrait of three people from different social backgrounds who joined together to form a theatre group called The Tempest Society. The title is homage to Al Assifa (arab: The Tempest), a project by North African workers and French students who founded an ensemble in Paris in the 1970s to address issues such as racism and social inequality. The individuals in Khalili’s The Tempest Society also address similar problems in contemporary society: Ghani, Katerina and Malek talk about their experiences as people living in Europe and share their stories with each other. At the same time, it is about sharing a collective space – both on stage and in life, and about how the European continent may provide a home.

 

 

Bouchra Khalili. The Tempest Society / Twenty-Two Hours 24. August – 21. Oktober 2018

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Bouchra Khalili, The Tempest Society, 2017, Courtesy the artist
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 11

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966) 'Dieter, Patricia, Ursula' 2007

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966)
Dieter, Patricia, Ursula
2007
Still
Courtesy the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warschau

 

 

Artur Żmijewski (Polish, b. 1966)

Artur Żmijewski is known for his works investigating historical as well as current social orders – often in a radical way, employing mechanisms of power and oppression. The human body is an essential means of expression in his provocative works, which are mainly interviews, documentaries or experimental settings. The trilogies Dieter, Patricia, Ursula (2007) and Katarzyna, Barbara, Zofia (2012) belong to a ten-part series, for which Żmijewski observed people in Germany, Italy, Mexico and Poland with his camera – each for over 24 hours, as they carried out a simple but often physically strenuous activity. In this case, he accompanies an excavator driver, a snack vendor, a tram driver and three cleaners in their everyday lives – from the moment they get up in the morning until they go to bed. From the footage, Żmijewski created a 15-minute portrait of each person, following the artist’s narrative structure alone, and simply showing what happens without any commentary. Routine and moments of repetition are common to all the portraits. Apparently individual, they are also representative of a group within society. The artist therefore functions, on the one hand, as a sociological catalyst of snapshots; on the other hand, the medium of documentary filming operates as an objective instance.

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
From left, work by Tobias Zielony, Selection of: Curfew, 2001, Ha Neu, 2003, Quartier Nord, 2003, Big Sexyland, 2006, The Cast, 2007, Trona – Armpit of America, 2008, Manitoba, 2009-2011, Jenny Jenny, 2013, Golden, 2018, Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin; and at right, Artur Żmijewski’s Dieter, Patricia, Ursula, 2007 (still), © the artist, Courtesy Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich and Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warschau
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

 

Room 12

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Ilya Lipkin, Untitled, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)

In his work, Ilya Lipkin breaks with the conventions of applied and artistic photography, moving playfully between fashion and art, studio and street photography. His work is characterised by a self-reflective approach incorporating contemporary trends and styles. The series Untitled (2019) assembles a number of photographs of young women, all taken in public places in various cities around the world, including on Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Photographed with a fast-focus digital camera in burst mode, the images have been retouched and edited according to the usual standards of fashion photography. In some cases, the background was removed and replaced with bright red or neutral white. This immediacy reveals a generation of girls and young women who are extremely conscious of their own image, but also influenced visually by the clichéd image conventions of social media channels. Quite intuitively, they seem to deny us any insight into their inner selves. By means of clothing, style and technology, they express their desire to please in a global society rather than in specific subcultures.

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982) 'Untitled' 2019

 

Ilya Lipkin (Latvian, b. 1982)
Untitled
2019
Courtesy the artist and Lars Friedrich, Berlin

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Tobias Zielony, Selection of: Curfew, 2001, Ha Neu, 2003, Quartier Nord, 2003, Big Sexyland, 2006, The Cast, 2007, Trona – Armpit of America, 2008, Manitoba, 2009-2011, Jenny Jenny, 2013, Golden, 2018, Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Jay' 2007

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Jay
2007
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Skandalous' 2007

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Skandalous
2007
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)

In his photographs and videos, Tobias Zielony directs artistic attention towards youth subcultures and marginalised groups in society. His image cycles, developed over a long period of time and drawing on various means of pictorial reportage, are always characterised by a special intimacy and direct proximity. Social, media and subcultural changes provide the thematic framework for these photographs. In his work, Zielony has dealt frequently with the significance of origins, fashion, and the representation of identity. For this exhibition and with a view to August Sander’s portfolio work, he has now assembled a first selection of portraits from the last twenty years. On view are single, double, and group portraits ranging from the early series Curfew (2001), depicting youths in Bristol, to a more recent series, Golden, featuring Riga’s queer underground scene. The presentation highlights strategies of portraiture, masking as well as the increased intermingling of social and visual codes in global, mediatised cultural development. Zielony’s fascination with the people photographed reveals a fundamental human interest in the Other in the sense of experiencing foreignness and vibrancy apart from traditional social categories.

 

Tobias Zielony (German, b. 1973) 'Two boys' 2008

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
Two boys
2008
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973) From the series 'Golden' 2018

 

Tobias Zielony (Germany, b. 1973)
From the series Golden
2018
Courtesy the Artist and KOW, Berlin

 

 

Room 13

 

'After August Sander', Exhibition view, MGKSiegen

 

After August Sander, Exhibition view, MGKSiegen
Work by Soham Gupta, Untitled, from the series Angst (2013-2017), Courtesy the artist
Photo: Philipp Ottendörfer

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)

As early as 10 years ago, Soham Gupta began photographing people he encountered in the darkness by Howrah Bridge in the Indian megacity, Calcutta. The bridge connects the two Indian cities of Calcutta and Howrah across the Hugli River. Nearby is Howrah Railway Station, one of the largest railway stations in India. His photographs in colour and black and white capture people across all age groups, who seem to belong to the lower class. The living spaces captured in the photographs leave no doubt about their poverty and their status as social outsiders, abandoned and cast out. While these snapshots – glaring flash images set against dark backdrops – have a certain fleeting character and convey the impression of spontaneous shots, they are in fact the partly staged results of a development in the relationship between the photographer and the respective sitter. These people – individuals, couples or small groups – look towards the camera, towards the artist or their bodies are angled in his direction. Sometimes, they assume poses that seem grotesque. The series Fear poses the question of the photographer’s ambivalent role between the apparent objectivity of documentary photography and the importance of a subjective perspective. In essence, Gupta’s photographs focus on the human condition and search for a connection with marginalised groups in a society.

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988) 'Untitled' from the series 'Angst' (2013-2017)

 

Soham Gupta (Indian, b. 1988)
Untitled
From the series Angst (2013-2017)
Collection Museum Folkwang Essen
Courtesy the artist

 

 

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13
Mar
22

Review: ‘Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2021 – 20th March 2022

Curator: Nathaniel Gaskell

Artists: Darogah Abbas Ali, Indu Antony, Felice Beato, Mitter Bedi, Jyoti Bhatt, Bourne & Shepherd, Samuel Bourne, Michael Bühler-Rose, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chunni Lall & Co., Lala Deen Dayal, Francis Frith & Co., Gauri Gill, Khubiram Gopilal, Hamilton Studios Ltd, Johnston and Hoffmann, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, William Johnson, John William Kaye and John Forbes Watson, Karen Knorr, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Steve McCurry, Saché & Murray Studios, Pushpamala N with Clare ARNI, Nicolas & Company (attributed), Norman Parkinson, Anoli Perera, Suresh Punjabi, Marc Riboud, John Edward Saché, Charles Scott, Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur, Edward Taurines (attributed), Waswo X Waswo, Wiele and Klein Studio, Wilson Studios Bombay

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne is at one and the same time, a fascinating, stimulating, frustrating, uplifting – and a little sad – overview of the history of the photography of India. I won’t say the history of Indian photography because most of the historical photographs are taken by European studios in India, and even an equal amount of the mid-twentieth century and contemporary photographs are taken by non-Indian born photographers residing in India or elsewhere. The title Visions of India is, therefore, undeniably apt – the exhibition being as much about how foreigners view the Indian continent, culture and people as how Indians picture themselves.

The fascinating, stimulating and sad elements of the exhibition are the “presence” of the historical photographs. These photographs range from the European architectural documentation of Indian temples through European colonial-ethnographic images which document Indian ethnic “types” – in the case of William Johnson montaging ethnic group portraits taken in the studio with appropriate views of actual buildings and scenes to picture oriental races and tribes – to European and Indigenous Indian photographers and ruling Indian princes’ photographs of themselves and their courtesans … taken in the European manner.

John Falconer in his book 2018 book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection observes, “A number of India’s princes became deeply interested in photography and both practiced and collected it, several also retaining state photographers… The portraiture of Indian royalty also proved a popular genre. Portraits posed in the setting of the European studio, but celebrating an oriental luxury of costume, jewellery and other accoutrements, were commissioned not only by rulers themselves but were also collected by Western customers, as the contents of many collections attest.”1

But by whoever they were taken – European photographer, Indian photographer or royal prince – these photographs are always taken from a position of power and authority by a male, either to reinforce through the male gaze their own splendour or to document their personal chattels, the tangible goods that they owned. For example, while texts by Mrinalini Venkateswaran (below) and Aparna Andhare argue that the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur are adept at revealing himself through his self-portraits “as a thoughtful person who intuitively understood the power of iconography and images,”2 and that he was adept at capturing the personalities of the heavily veiled inner circle of the zenana of the royal household, “that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types'”2 (at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view) … these observations belie the fact that it was he, the ruler, that found them “fit” subjects to be sitters.

And this is what I find particularly sad about these particular photographs – I don’t feel their personalities but I feel their pain. I look at their body language, the demurely clasped hands, the “dead” eyes as they stare at the camera (except one older women who stares defiantly), and the timidity of the body posture… some almost seem to cringe from the camera’s gaze, others look so alone and sad, as though they would wish to be anywhere but subject to (t)his intimidatory gaze – of the camera and the man. It’s disturbing, this feeling of vulnerability and betrayal, when compared to the majesty of Lala Deen Dayal’s photographs, his portrayal of male royal opulence and self-importance.

Pertaining to the Indigenous Indian uptake of photography John Falconer observes that, “[Samuel] Bourne may have viewed the western technology of the camera as yet another symbol of the dominance of European culture, but Indians had lost no time in embracing the new medium. Bourne himself had noted that Indian studios were not uncommon in the Calcutta of the early 1860s. But documentary evidence relating to the growth of an Indigenous photographic culture in India is at present frustratingly limited and has not been investigated with the same rigour as more easily accessible Western records. Even so, it is clear that photography was quickly taken up be sections of the Indian population, in general those who were in a position to associate with European society. …

The only Indian studio whose work has received similar attention and acclamation to that given to European contemporaries is that of Lala Deen Dayal. The success of the Dayal studio is comparable to that achieved by his English counterpart Bourne and Shepherd… The attention paid to Deen Dayal in recent years and his status as an Indian icon stands in marked contrast to the dearth of information available on the work of equally interesting contemporaries.”3

It is unclear in the essay in the book Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection from where this information and research has been gathered, as few Indian sources are quoted in the footnotes. While I am no expert on Indigenous Indian photography, it would seem logical that non-European research has been undertaken into historical, home grown photographic studios and published in the Indian, and not English, language. Perhaps the observations can be seen as another example of the ongoing Western-centric view of historical photographs of India.

.
We then move onto the frustrating element of the exhibition, the contemporary photographs. As many of you may know I am not a great fan of contemporary photography but there is some focused, too focused, work on view. The frustrating element of the contemporary smorgasbord is the constant devolution of subject matter, the constant deconstruction of the (historical) minutiae of India – the small, precise, or trivial details of something – in which we never get a feeling for the personality of the Indian country or its people. The contemporary photographs are all about snippets, fragments, and traces of then and now, as though contemporary India is only ever constructed in order to be deconstructed out of its past. This constant prodding and poking at the multiple strings of history and its inequity is tiring and tiresome to say the least but contemporary Indian photography is not alone in this: Australian contemporary photography suffers from the same dis/ease.

The cacophony of “noise” which emanates from the contemporary photographs (and here I will use a section of text which mirrors the form) – – – from grids of hairy male legs seen from a child’s perspective (childhood memories / male figure / Indian family / perspectives of a child) to incarnations of mythological figures that examine “the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries” to conventions of colonial-era ethnographic portrait photographs of women dictated by male notions of femininity disrupted by deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable”, paradoxically making legible faces into ill/legible citizens, disturbed and defiant “others” (BIG BREATH!) – – – belies my lack of feeling for ANY of the photographs displayed.

After writing on photography since the year 2008 I keep coming up short / banging on the same drum about contemporary photography: I feel almost nothing for any of these photographs even as I appreciate their historical re-“visions”, their self-awareness and self-reflexivity (as much about the photographer as the subject), their intellectual rigour and conceptual contortions. They leave me feeling like I have been playing Twister with too many hands and feet, my mind tied up in an infinite library of thoughts and ideas while ruminating on less than stimulating images.

.
And so to the glorious, uplifting denouement of the exhibition which are the dynamic photographs of Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh. I am in love with them.

Reminiscent of the photographs of Africans by Malike Sidibé (Malian, 1935-2016), Seydou Keïta (Malian, 1921-2001) and Sanlé Sory (West African, b. 1943), Punjabi’s visions of Indian life possess a vital energy unlike anything else in this exhibition, and get as close to capturing the spirit of the Indian people as anything I have ever seen from the continent. This is because, at the time, Punjabi’s photographs (like the photographs of Atget) were not considered art but were documents taken for a broad set of purposes: from wedding and family albums to passport photos, from administrative photos to personal souvenirs, from family groups to playful contexts. Through their lack of pretension (ah, there is the key!) “Punjabi’s photographs chronicle daily life in small-town India, a context that many photographic histories from the subcontinent often miss… These portraits are the result of a deeply personal and unique relationship between Punjabi and his clients…”

Punjabi’s clients were like family to him, and he wanted to photograph them in the best way possible, to picture them how they wanted to see themselves. Deceptively simple and formal in their pictorial construction, Punjabi’s photographs allow us to touch the aspirations of everyday Indians – with their hopes and dreams, their communion with family and friends, lost in the moment of dance or conversation, or crowded together in a small 10 x 20 feet studio with painted backdrop. “You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera.” Simply put, these “playfully intimate” and grounded photographs are a refreshing counterpoint to so many conceptual contemporary photographs which lead nowhere, for they have an immediacy and intimacy which touches us (through their palpable aura) as only the best photographs can. “He doesn’t really take pictures of people and things (or, God forbid, grind out endless examples of his own cleverness). He photographs feelings and relationships.” (U.S. Camera ’62)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, p. 35
  2. Aparna Andhare, Curator of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum quoted in “King’s Circle – Ram Singh & the Art of Intimate Portraiture,” on the Sarmaya website January 16, 2021 [Online] Cited 10/03/2022
  3. Falconer, op. cit., pp. 34-35

 

John Falconer. Under Indian Skies: 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection. Narayana Press, 2018, pp. 34-35.

.
Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the Monash Gallery of Art. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the Johnston & Hoffman photograph Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh (1915, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s) 'Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh' 1915

 

Johnston & Hoffman (founded 1882, dissolved 1950s)
Maharaja Sir Bhagwati Prasad Singh
1915
Hand-coloured albumen print
46.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The leading photography studio of Johnston & Hoffman was established at 22 Chowringhee Road, Calcutta around 1882 by Theodore Julius Hoffman and Peter Arthur Johnston. A branch was opened in Darjeeling in 1890 and Simla in the mid 1890s. There was also a Burma branch at 70 Phayre Street, Rangoon for a short period between 1889-90. Hoffmann took over the business on the death of Johnston – which was around 1886 and soon after the Calcutta business commenced. Theodore Hoffman died in Calcutta, India in December 1921. It was possibly the second largest commercial photographers in India after the studios of Bourne and Shepherd and were one of the first to publish postcards in Calcutta from at least 1898 onwards.

Anonymous text from the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) website Nd [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Photography in the colonial era

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur showing his self-portrait (c. 1860, centre, see below) and portraits of courtesans (c. 1860, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Informally called the ‘photographer prince of India,’ Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II was an avid photographer, creating over six thousand individual photographs and nearly two thousand glass plate negatives throughout his life. He is renowned for having photographed women residing in the zenana of the royal household – at a time when the women lived almost entirely out of public view – using modes of representation similar to traditional Victorian portraiture.

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The ‘zenana’ portraits [zenana: the part of a house for the seclusion of women], as they are often called, are among the most remarkable of these negatives. They show many individual South Asian women: some look away, others dress up and pose, and several stare down the photographer (and today’s viewer), challenging both to uncover their personalities and stories. That Sawai Ram Singh was able to achieve at least the former – that he was able to connect with, and portray, his sitters as individuals rather than ‘types’ – is one of the special qualities of his images. He seems not to have photographed any of his wives, but that he photographed so many women; that he found them ‘fit’ subjects to be sitters, is unusual for this period. Nothing comparable has emerged from any other contemporary Indian court. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure who all these women are – history is poor at remembering their names – but many were women at his court. Perhaps they were performers; some may have been paaswaans.

Mrinalini Venkateswaran. “How a 19th Century Jaipur Ruler Mastered Photography,” on the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ram Singh was passionate about art and photography; he captured (and developed) numerous photographs of women, junior functionaries (like tailors) and nobles of his court. It is believed that Ram Singh was introduced to a camera in 1864 when photographer T. Murray visited Jaipur. After learning how to photograph, he used to carry his camera on all his trips. When western visitors came to his court, he used to learn photography from them.

Many of the photographs taken by him were of elite women who so-far lived an entirely secluded private life in the zenanas of his palace; captured in an western artificial setting, consisting of elegant backdrops, Victorian furniture and Persian carpets. It has been since considered as a pioneer effort at portraying Rajput women behind the purdah. Prior to Ram Singh’s photographs, portraits of specific Rajput women were nearly unknown and artists mass-produced idealised representations of women based on a single model, to serve a variety of occasions, for centuries. Interestingly, the names of the photographed women were not mentioned and whether the Maharanis allowed themselves to be photographed is unknown.

Laura Weinstein, an acclaimed art curator argues that the photographs served as an important tool to engage in the widespread discourse about Indian women behind the purdah [the practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain] and they stood out as a rare group of photographs that did not mirror oriental conceptions of Indian domestic life. By appropriating the very European model of portrait photography – which emphasised the dignity and propriety of women, he infused dignity into the life of his photograph-figures unlike other concurrent attempts and refuted the colonial notion of the zenana-inhabitants being idle, unhygienic, superstitious, sexually deviant and oppressed. Rather than reforming the purdah system or associated woman issues, his photographs were modern tools that staunchly defended the tradition, much more than it breached, by portraying an apparent normalcy.

Ram Singh had also commissioned numerous self-portraits in a variety of poses ranging from a Hindu holy man to a Rajput warrior to a Western gentleman. Vikramaditya Prakash, an art-historian had described them as “self-consciously hybridised representations [which] straddle and contest the separating boundary – between coloniser and colonised, English and native – the preservation and reaffirmation of which was crucial for colonial discourse.”

The glass negatives that produced the portraits, the albumen print photograph collection and his own self-portraits are now displayed at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in Jaipur. He was also a life-time member of Bengal Photographic Society.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Portrait of a courtesan' c. 1860 (installation view)

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Portrait of a courtesan (installation view)
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880) 'Self-portrait' c. 1860

 

Sawai Ram Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur (Indian, 1833-1880)
Self-portrait
c. 1860
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the photographs of William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886) from the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay with at left, The Kulis of the West of India (1852-1855, below); at centre, Chambhars (1852-1855, below); and at right, Kharavas (1852-1855, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'The Kulis of the West of India' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
The Kulis of the West of India
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Chambhars' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Chambhars
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Four members of the Chambhar community, historically associated with leather work, pose for an outdoor portrait by William Johnson, co-author and photographer of two-volume collection of albumen prints The Oriental Races and Tribes, Residents and Visitors of Bombay. The photographs with letter-press description are largely considered to be the first published ethnographic study of Indian people to use photos as well as written descriptions.

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown - 1886) 'Kharavas' 1852-1855

 

William Johnson (English, date born unknown – 1886)
Kharavas
1852-1855
From the album The Oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay
Albumen print
23.0 x 17.7cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

William Johnson

 

William Johnson

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing in the bottom image at left and right, Wilson Brothers Bombay Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (both c. 1930, below); and at centre Hamilton Studios Ltd Portrait of Maharani Vijaya Raje Scindia (c. 1940, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. ‘Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarbae’ c. 1930 (installation view)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba (installation view)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd. 'Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia' c. 1940

 

Hamilton Studios Ltd
Portrait of Maharini Vijaya Raje Scindia
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Wilson Studios Bombay. 'Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba' c. 1930

 

Wilson Studios Bombay
Portrait of Maharani Kusum Kunwarba
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Chunni Lall & Co Portrait of a man (1860-1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer Portrait of a royal figure (1860-1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Chunni Lall & Co ‘Portrait of a man’ 1860-1880 (installation view)

 

Chunni Lall & Co
Portrait of a man (installation view)
1860-1880
Hand-coloured albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a royal figure' 1860-1980 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a royal figure (detail)
1860-1980
Hand-coloured albumen print
26.6 x 21.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) ‘A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda’ c. 1940 (installation view)

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda (installation view)
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970) 'A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda' c. 1940

 

Khubiram Gopilal (Indian, 1891-1970)
A family worshipping deity Shrinathji during the festival of Nanda
c. 1940
Gouache, gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Khubiram Gopilal was a painter, studio photographer and collagist who specialised in a style of portrait called Manorath paintings, made for pilgrims visiting the Shrinarhji temple in the town of Nathdwara in Rajasthan (in northern India). To make these pictures, he photographed his subjects, carefully cut out their faces and hands and then pasted them into painted templates, using a brush and paint to mask the difference between the two mediums, making the final result appear like a detailed painting.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing artworks (left to right) by Johnson & Hoffman, Lala Deen Dayal and Bourne & Shepherd (see below)
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Johnston & Hoffmann’s Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi (1887, below): and at right, four images by Layla Deen Dayal (c. 1880) from the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maha Rao of Kutch' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maha Rao of Kutch
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)

Raja Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल; 1844-1905; also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years), famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

He received the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1897.

 

Career

In 1866, Deen Dayal entered government service as head estimator and draughtsman in the Department of Works Secretariat Office in Indore. Meanwhile, he took up photography. His first patron in Indore was Maharaja Tukoji Rao II of Indore state, who in turn introduced him to Sir Henry Daly, agent to the Governor General for Central India (1871-1881) and the founder of Daly College, who encouraged his work, along with the Maharaja himself who encouraged him to set up his studio in Indore. Soon he was getting commissions from Maharajas and the British Raj. The following year he was commissioned to photograph the governor general’s tour of Central India. In 1868, Deen Dayal founded his studio – Lala Deen Dayal & Sons – and was subsequently commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. He established studios in Indore (Mid 1870s), Secunderabad (1886) and Bombay (1896).

In 1875-1876, Deen Dayal photographed the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales. In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

The next year he retired from government service and concentrated on his career as a professional photographer. Deen Dayal became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad in 1885. Soon afterward he moved from Indore to Hyderabad. In the same year he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India. In time, the Nizam of Hyderabad conferred the honorary title of Raja upon him. It was at this time that Dayal created the firm Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in Hyderabad.

Deen Dayal was appointed photographer to Queen Victoria in 1897. In 1905–1906, Raja Deen Dayal accompanied the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Palitana
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol' c. 1880

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
HH The Thakore Saheb of Dhrol
c. 1880
From the album Princes and Chiefs of India
Carbon prints
25.1 x 19.5cm (each)
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Johnston & Hoffmann. 'Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi' 1887

 

Johnston & Hoffmann
Maharao Raja Sir Ramsinghji, Bahadur of Bondi
1887
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A note with this striking portrait of Maharao Raja Ram Singh Sahib Bahadur, of Bundi, describes him as a “wild fellow”. This image was taken from a four-volume album of photogravure prints, the only other copy belonging to Queen Victoria.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Bourne and Shepherd Ranbir Singh Maharaja of Kashmir (1875, below); at centre right, Unknown photographer. Unidentified Maharaja (c. 1880, below); and at right, Unknown photographer. HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (c. 1870, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'Unidentified Maharaja' c. 1880 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
Unidentified Maharaja (installation view)
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown photographer. 'HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar' c. 1870 (installation view)

 

Unknown photographer
HH Maharaja Shrimant Sir Anandrao III Puar Sahib Bahadur, Maharaja of Dhar (installation view)
c. 1870
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s) 'Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir' 1875

 

Bourne and Shepherd (active 1864-1900s)
Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir
1875
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing three portraits of a courtesan (all 1874) by Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown) 'Portrait of a courtesan' 1874

 

Darogah Abbas Ali (Indian, dates unknown)
Portrait of a courtesan
1874
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at top left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (c. 1880, below); at top right, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Sacred tank (c. 1860); at bottom left, Nicholas & Company (attributed) Temple, Madurai (c. 1880); and at bottom right, Wiele and Klein Studio The Southern Gopura, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (1895)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed) 'Meenakshi Temple, Madurai' c. 1880

 

Nicholas & Company (attributed)
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing showing at left, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a woman carrying pots c. 1870; at centre, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a man c. 1860-1880; and at right, Unknown photographer. Portrait of a couple c. 1860-1880
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Willoughby Wallace Hooper (England, 1837-1912) The game brought into camp (c. 1880); and at right, Francis Frith & Co. Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam (c. 1880, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis Frith & Co. 'Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam' c. 1880

 

Francis Frith & Co.
Carved horses in the Sheshagirirayar Mandapa at the Ranganatha Temple of Srirangam
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at top left, Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown). Brahmins of Bombay (c. 1880, below); at bottom left, Charles Scott (attributed, dates unknown). Caves of Karlie – seven attendant musicians (c. 1855-1862) from the album Photographs of Western India; and at right, Unknown photographer. A group portrait of British officials (c. 1880)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown) 'Brahmins of Bombay' c. 1880

 

Edward Taurines (attributed, dates unknown)
Brahmins of Bombay
c. 1880
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing photographs by Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) with at left, Kaiser Bagh (1857); at centre, The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November (1858, below); and at right, Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate (1858)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A pioneer of war photography who worked extensively in the Mediterranean, Middle East and South and East Asia, Felice Beato’s photographs reveal the brutality and aftermath of the conflicts he photographed. His reportage on the Crimean War (1853-1856), for instance, contrasted from that of his predecessor, the early British war photographer Roger Fenton, who was more restrained in depicting the lasting impressions of violence. In 1858, Beato travelled to India, after hearing about the rebellion that had broken out the previous year, and applied a similar approach. With the help of military personnel, he traversed the north of the country, documenting its aftermath in cities like Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Kanpur, where his photographs often depicted bullet-ridden facades and desecrated battlefields.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
The Secundra Bagh, showing the breach and gateway, first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909) 'Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian, 1832-1909)
Gateway leading into the residency held by Captain Atkinson, 13th Native Infantry, commonly called the Bailee Guard Gate
1858
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882) 'Four ayahs from Naintal Region' 1865 (installation view)

 

John Edward Saché (Germany, b. 1824; America (dates unknown); India (dates unknown); died India 1882)
Four ayahs from Naintal Region (installation view)
1865
Albumen print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912) 'Taj Mahal, Agra' c. 1860

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)
Taj Mahal, Agra
c. 1860
Albumen print
16.0 x 20.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Samuel Bourne (British, 1834-1912)

Samuel Bourne (30 October 1834 – 24 April 1912) was a British photographer known for his prolific seven years’ work in India, from 1863 to 1870. Together with Charles Shepherd, he set up Bourne & Shepherd first in Shimla in 1863 and later in Kolkata (Calcutta); the company closed in June 2016. …

 

Work in India

He initially set up in partnership with an already established Calcutta photographer, William Howard. They moved up to Simla, where they established a new studio ‘Howard & Bourne’, to be joined in 1864 by Charles Shepherd, to form ‘Howard, Bourne & Shepherd’. By 1866, after the departure of Howard, it became ‘Bourne & Shepherd’, which became the premier photographic studio in India, and until it closed in June 2016 was perhaps the world’s oldest photographic business. Charles Shepherd evidently remained in Simla, to carry out the commercial and portrait studio work, and to supervise the printing and marketing of Bourne’s landscape and architectural studies, whilst Bourne was away travelling around the sub-continent.

Bourne spent six extremely productive years in India, and by the time he returned to England in January 1871, he had made approximately 2,200 fine images of the landscape and architecture of India and the Himalayas. Working primarily with a 10 x 12 inch plate camera, and using the complicated and laborious Wet Plate Collodion process, the impressive body of work he produced was always of superb technical quality and often of artistic brilliance. His ability to create superb photographs whilst travelling in the remotest areas of the Himalayas and working under the most exacting physical conditions, places him firmly amongst the very finest of nineteenth century travel photographers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, a group of work by Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan' 1972

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
An old woman making/drawing a mandana (Rangoli) design, Rajasthan
1972
Pigment ink-jet print
45.6 x 30.4cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)

Jyotindra Manshankar Bhatt (12 March 1934), better known as Jyoti Bhatt, is an Indian artist best known for his modernist work in painting and printmaking and also his photographic documentation of rural Indian culture. He studied painting under N. S. Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.), Baroda. Later he studied fresco and mural painting at Banasthali Vidyapith in Rajasthan, and in the early 1960s went on to study at the Academia di Belle Arti in Naples, Italy, as well the Pratt Institute in New York. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019.

 

Biography

Bhatt moved from a cubist influence in his early work to a lighthearted and colourful Pop art that often drew its imagery from traditional Indian folk designs. Though Bhatt worked in a variety of mediums, including watercolours and oils, it is his printmaking that ultimately garnered him the most attention. In 1966 Bhatt returned to M.S.U. Baroda with a thorough knowledge of the intaglio process that he had gained at the Pratt Institute at Brooklyn in New York. It was partially Bhatt’s enthusiasm for intaglio that caused other artists such as Jeram Patel, Bhupen Khakhar and Gulammohammed Sheikh, to take up the same process. Bhatt, and his compatriots at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, soon came to be known as “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Late in the 1960s, Bhatt was asked to take photographs of Gujarati folk art. Initially, this work was done for a seminar, but it soon became one of the artist’s passions to document traditional Indian craft and design work. The disappearing arts of rural Gujarat became a focus. Though Bhatt’s investigations into a village and tribal designs certainly influenced the motifs he used in his printmaking, Bhatt considers his documentary photographs to be an art form in themselves. His direct and simply composed photographs have become valued on their own merit.

Throughout Bhatt’s long career as a teacher at the M.S.U. Faculty of Fine Arts, he has photographed the evolution of the university, the artistic activities of its faculty and students, and the architecturally significant buildings of Baroda. This huge body of work is perhaps the best assembled photographic documentation that pertains to “The Baroda School” of Indian art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934) 'A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival' 1989

 

Jyoti Bhatt (Indian, b. 1934)
A Rajasthani (Meena community) woman decorating a bullock for Gordhan Pooja festival
1989
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 51.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at right in the bottom image, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Karen Knorr’s The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2010, below); and at right, A Place Like Amravati 2, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur (2011)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)

Karen Knorr HonFRPS is a German-born American photographer who lives in London.

Knorr was born in Frankfurt and raised in the 1960s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, she moved to Great Britain where she has lived ever since. Knorr is a graduate of the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), and has an MA from the University of Derby. She is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts.

Knorr’s work explores Western cultural traditions, mainly British society, with widely ranging topics, from lifestyle to animals. She is interested in conceptual art, visual culture, feminism, and animal studies, and her art maintains connections with these topics.

Between 1979 and 1981 Knorr produced Belgravia, a series of black and white photographs each accompanied by a short text, typically critical to the British class system of the time. Subsequently, she produced Gentlemen (1981-1983), a series consisting of photographs of gentlemen’s members clubs and texts taken from parliamentary speeches and news reports. In these series, Knorr investigated values of the English upper middle classes, comparing them with aristocratic values. In 1986, the series Connoisseurs was made in colour. The series incorporates staged events into English architectural interiors. Between 1994 and 2004, Knorr photographed fine art academies throughout Europe, which resulted in the series Academies.

In 2008, she traveled to Rajasthan and took a large series of photographs, predominantly showing Indian interiors, often with animals from Indian folklore inside. She subsequently became a frequent traveller to India, visiting the country 15 times between 2008 and 2014. She mentioned that most of the buildings in India were never photographed, and they are not less interesting than common tourist attractions.

From 2014 to 2015, one room of Tate Britain hosted an exhibition of her photographs of “posh west Londoners in domestic settings and portraits of members at a gentlemen’s club” (Belgravia series).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954) 'The Queen's room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur' 2010

 

Karen Knorr (American born Germany, b. 1954)
The Queen’s room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace, Udaipur
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer uses digital image manipulation to create scenes that critique upper caste Rajput culture and examine marginalisation, mythology and power.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at centre, two photographs by Gauri Gill (see below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar' 1948

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Muslim women praying at dawn in Srinagar
1948
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Darjeeling, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Darjeeling, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
24.0 x 36.5cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015) 'Benares, India' 1956

 

Marc Riboud (French, 1923-2015)
Benares, India
1956
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 36cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) announce the upcoming exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary featuring works from the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru. Since its invention in Europe in the 1840s, the genre of photography has played an integral role in the course of Indian art history. Although it is often quoted that India is the most photographed country in the world, the history of its representation is more complicated, and more political than initially meets the eye. Within just a few months of its invention, the camera arrived in the subcontinent at the height of British colonial rule. Photographs from the time typically served the colonial purpose of administration and control, and thus, often reflected colonial views. Over the subsequent few decades, and at an unprecedented scale, India – its landscapes, people, traditions and archaeological history – was catalogued for the colonial eye and transformed into a governable ‘object.’

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary will be the first major survey of Indian photography in Australia, and all artworks showcased will be from the collection of Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bengaluru, which is one of the most celebrated photographic collections in India. The exhibition will be on view at MGA until 20 March 2022.

‘While this exhibition takes the context of colonialism as an entry point – both chronologically and conceptually – the historical arc of photography in India extends far beyond this initial point of contact, encompassing a range of shifts in artistic, cultural and political attitudes, and other voices who exist outside the traditional canon. With this exhibition, we will uncover not only the primary history of the genre, but also the multiple parallel and lesser-known photographic practices in the subcontinent that re-emphasise the diverse and socially significant story of Indian photography.’ ~ Nathaniel Gaskell, curator

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One such narrative will be highlighted through a section looking at the work of Suresh Punjabi, the photographer and owner of the Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh, established in 1979. Punjabi made portraits for a broad set of purposes, from wedding and family albums to passport photos to personal souvenirs. Working at the time in a small 10 x 20 feet studio. His photographs chronicle the human drama of life in a small-town in the heart of India; a history told through faces and attest to the existence of vast and distinct photographic histories that extend beyond formal archives and institutions.

Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary offers a journey through one of the most complex and photographed countries in the world. This ground-breaking exhibition is curated by Nathaniel Gaskell from MAP’s unique photographic collection specifically for MGA. For many of our audience members, this may be their first encounter with these artists, their works and even with the history of India, while others may recognise places or feel resonance with their Indian cultural heritage. The exhibition draws together an array of unique and fascinating works from the earliest days of colonial India through to some of the nation’s most remarkable contemporary photographers, in the first survey of its kind in Australia.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Gallery Director

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The exhibition will begin its journey from 1860 onwards, displaying portraits of India’s ruling elite by pioneering photographers and studios of the time, such as Samuel Bourne, Francis Frith & Co., Felicé Beato, Willoughby Wallace Hooper, Lala Deen Dayal and Khubiram Gopilal, as well as looking at some more creative, non-commercial studios, such as that of Maharaja Ram Singh II, ‘The photographer Prince’ who had established a studio at his palace in Jaipur.

Entering the decades following India’s independence in 1947, the exhibition will showcase works by well-known mid-century European photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson to reveal how photography remained entrenched in orientalist ways of seeing, for the benefit of Western media. However, a number of Indian photographers, such as Mitter Bedi and Jyoti Bhatt, were also using photography to represent tradition, inequity and modernity in a changing world, responding to the industrialisation and the economic progress of the country.

The third section, featuring photographic practices from the 1990s onwards, will highlight themes of Western hegemony, postcolonialism, identity politics and the ethics of representation through the works of celebrated contemporary photographers, Pushpamala N and her collaborator Clare Arni, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Anoli Perera, and Michael Bühler-Rose, an American ordained Hindu priest who pledges spiritual allegiance to India whilst working from his studios in both Mysore and New York.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) with at left, Hindustan lever pipeline to success (1961, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985) 'Hindustan lever pipeline to success' 1961

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)
Hindustan lever pipeline to success
1961
Gelatin silver print
100.0 x 75.0cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The photographer’s shots of industrial subjects from a newly independent India aimed to represent the ideals of an economically self-reliant and rapidly mechanised country, in line with the vision of its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

Mitter Bedi (Indian, 1926-1985)

Mitter Bedi (26 January 1926 – 11 March 1985) was an Indian photographer, specialising in industrial photography, and a teacher. Prior to his interest in the field there was little photographic use in advertising and his images have become classic icons. He was a recipient of several awards and he had his own photographic agency in Bombay (now Mumbai), which became well known in Asia. …

 

Career

Bedi started his career by working for a printing press and the publicity department of a commercial firm and then took up a job in the film industry in 1947, the year of the partitioning of India and Pakistan into independent nations. At the start of his career in the early 1950s, his photographic assignments covered small events, mostly related to weddings and birthday celebrations or serving as the third or fourth assistant to a Bollywood film director. He frequented the airport to photograph passengers departing and arriving, which prompted his father-in-law B.N. Goenka, an industrialist, to suggest that Bedi change professions or travel abroad. However Bedi was firm in his resolve to continue in his chosen profession and said: “I am never going to leave the profession but bring it to the heights it deserves”. In 1959 his photographic assignments saw a drastic change when he met Arthur D’Arzian, who had specialised in photography of the steel and oil industry, during a social function of the Standard Oil Company in Bombay. Bedi then pursued engagements of Industrial photography, a new field just taking off in the country.

Bedi’s assignments covered public sector corporations and private enterprises. From 1960 to 1985, he traversed the industrial regions of India taking pictures. He took more than 2,000 photo shoots during the span of his career and covered projects from industries such as steel and oil, hospitality, mines, sugar, pharmaceuticals and many more. To propagate black-and-white photography as a profession in the country he wrote many articles and also established an academy in Bombay which is still operational under the direction of his family members. His photographs depicted a nation in which the factory and reactor dominated over the Indian people. He also worked as visiting professor in: K.C. College of Journalism, Bombay during 1974-1975; National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in 1976; in Rajednra Prasad Institute of Communication, Bombay in 1978; and in SNDT Women’s University, Bombay, 1978. His academy in Bombay was a prominent institution in photography which enrolled national and international students and teachers.

Bedi’s images have become classic icons of the industrialisation which was carried out in India under Nehru. In spite of the limiting aspects of photographs taken primarily for advertising, Bedi introduced shape, design and geometric planes to create artistic rather than simply functional images. His visual expressions and artistry were used by both the state and industrialists to drive national development. An oeuvre of his black-and-white photographs taken during the period 1960s to 1970s, was held at the Piramal Centre for Photography representing an Art Form in Mumbai.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Feather Indian/Dot Indian' 2008-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Feather Indian/Dot Indian
2008-2009
From the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4cm (each image)
Courtesy of the artist and Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Near-identical photographs place two “Indians” side by side. A double portrait framed in a leather case, made to appear as a traditional orotone. Matthew’s series An Indian from India addresses the historical identities of Indians and Native Americans, who – owing to Christopher Columbus’s erroneous identification on arriving in the Antilles in the late 15th century – have long been misidentified, and questions the nature of assimilation within and beyond the US.

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'Noble savage/savage noble' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
Noble savage/savage noble
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964) 'American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint' 2007-2009

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (British, b. 1964)
American Indian with war paint/Indian with war paint
2007-2009
from the series An Indian from India
Ink-jet prints on transparencies, metallic gold cards, leather case
14.5 x 9.4 cm (each image)

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Anoli Perera
Photo: Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art with in the bottom image, showing at left, three works by Anoli Perera (see below); at centre right, two photographs by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni. Returning from the tank (2001, below) and Lakshmi (2001, below); and at right, work by Pushpamala N with Clare Arni from the series Native women of South India (manners and customs) (see below)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series I
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Young women in 2010-2011 pose according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography with deliberately dishevelled hair as a symbol of defiance against the notion of out-of-place hair seen as “hysterical” or “uncontrollable.”

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016) 'I let my hair loose' 2010-2011

 

Anoli Perera (Sri Lankan, b. 1962; America 1988-1992; Sri Lanka 1992-2016; arrived India 2016)
I let my hair loose
2010-2011
From the Protest series IV
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Hair covers the face of a young woman who poses according to the conventions of colonial-era portrait photography. The Sri Lankan-born, Delhi-based artist is inspired not only by colonial-ethnographic images but also by portraits of women she saw as a child, often dictated by male notions of femininity. ‘Hair in its proper place is seen as a mark of beauty,’ she says. ‘Hair out of place is seen as significations of hysterical, uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable behaviour’.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Lakshmi' 2001

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Lakshmi
2001
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Pushpamala N with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Cracking the whip D-4' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Cracking the whip D-4
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

“In which the original Native Types characters perform as ethnographic objects”

Pushpamala N. (born 1956) is a photo and visual artist based in Bangalore, India. Born in Bangalore, Pushpamala formally trained as a sculptor and eventually shifted to photography to explore her interest in narrative figuration. Pushpamala has been referred to as “the most entertaining artist-iconoclast of contemporary Indian art”. Her work has been described as performance photography, as she frequently uses herself as a model in her own work. “She is known for her strongly feminist work and for her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. As one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India and a leading figure in the feminist experiments in subject, material and language, her inventive work in sculpture, conceptual photography, video and performance have had a deep influence on art practice in India.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clare Arni is a photographer whose work encompasses social documentary and cultural heritage. Clare’s body of work has been exhibited extensively, both in private galleries and cultural institutions. Her solo exhibitions document the lives of marginalised communities in some of the most remote regions of India and the disappearing trades of urban India.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Returning from the tank 1' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Returning from the tank 1
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Artist Pushpamala measures herself in front of a Lamprey grid, a dehumanising ethnographic tool deployed to standardise the photography of people during and after the late 19th century. By satirically re-enacting this form of subjugation, Pushpamala, in collaboration with fellow artist Arni, questions the colonial gaze and critiques its obsession with classification.

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962) 'Velankani F6-A' 2000-2004

 

Pushpamala N (Indian, b. 1956) with Clare Arni (Scottish, b. 1962)
Velankani F6-A
2000-2004
From the series Native women of South India (manners and customs)
Sepia-toned gelatin silver print
13.1 x 8.8cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) with at left, Tribal dreams (2008, below); and at right, Night prowl (2008, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Tribal dreams' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Tribal dreams
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Waswo X. Waswo first visited India in 1993; after several trips in the intervening years, he finally moved to India, renting a home and building a studio in Udaipur in 2006. This series is a comprises of Waswo’s hand-coloured work through a wide selection of photographs produced in his studio.

Playfully examining the genres of both the ethnographic photograph-as-document that is linked to the colonial era, as well as the fantasy-inspired make-believe that emanated from traditional Indian portrait studios in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Waswo creates a unique brand of contemporary photography that is an inspired mix of homage and critique. Ranging from shots of single figures to theatrically arranged tableaux, these photographs feature everyone from Gauri dancers to flower sellers, the incarnations of mythological figures, farmers and school children. In the tradition of pictorialism, Waswo’s carefully crafted images with their pastoral backdrops and hand-tinted processing resonate with a romantic sensibility, while yet remaining humorously self-aware and self-reflexive.

Anonymous text from the TARQ website Nd [Online] Cited 10/03/2022

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001) 'Night prowl' 2008

 

Waswo X Waswo (American, b. 1953; arrived India 2001)
Night prowl
2008
Pigment ink-jet prints
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980) 'Camphor flame on pedestal' 2010

 

Michael Bühler-Rose (American, b. 1980)
Camphor flame on pedestal
2010
Pigment ink-jet print
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) with at left, Madhu (2003, below); and at right, Revanti (2003, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Madhu' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Madhu
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In 2003 the non profit organisation Urmul Setu Sansthan organised a Balika Mela – or fair for girls, in Lunkaransar town, attended by almost fifteen hundred adolescent girls from seventy surrounding villages. The Mela had various stalls, food, performances, a Ferris wheel, magicians, puppet shows, games and competitions, similar to any other small town fair. Urmul Setu invited the photographer to “do something with photography” at the Mela.

“I created a photo-stall for anyone to come in and have their portrait taken, and later buy the silver gelatin print at a subsidised rate if they wished. I had a few basic props and backdrops, whatever we could get from the local town studio and cloth shop on a very limited budget, but it was fairly minimal, and since it can get windy out in the desert everything would keep getting blown around, or periodically struck down. The light was the broad, even light of a desert sky, filtered through the cloth roof of our tent. Many of the more striking props – like the peacock and the paper hats – were brought in by the girls themselves. Girls came in, and decided how and with whom they would like to be photographed – best friends, new friends, sisters, the odd younger brother who had tagged along, girls with their teachers, the whole class, the local girl scouts. Some of those who posed for the pictures went on to learn photography in the workshops that we started in May of that year, and two years later they photographed the fair themselves.”

Gauri Gill, 2009

Text from the Nature Morte website [Online] Cited 08/03/2022

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970) 'Revanti' 2003

 

Gauri Gill (Indian, b. 1970)
Revanti
2003
From the series Balika Mela
Pigment ink-jet print
161.2 x 106.6cm
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982) 'Uncle Had Hairy Legs' 2017

 

Indu Antony (Indian, b. 1982)
Uncle Had Hairy Legs
2017
From the series Vincent Uncle
Courtesy of the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A set of 21 similarly composed photographs depict the legs of men wearing mundus. In her 2017 series Vincent Uncle, Antony investigates childhood memories and comments on the male figure within the Indian family by portraying her subjects from the perspective of a child.

 

 

Installation view of the opening of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing at left, Suresh Punjabi’s Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman) (Nd, below)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“I was never lonely. Through these mute photographs, this town slowly started to become my family. We were having a conversation that needed no words.”

.
Suresh Punjabi

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' Nd (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman)
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two train porters, Behru Singh and his son Laxman by Suresh Punjabi. The owner and photographer of Suhag Studio in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh – one of thousands of photographers who opened studios in small towns after the 1950s – foregrounds the copper armbands synonymous with the sitters’ professions. These carried cultural and social capital, as evidenced by Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of the porter as a working-class hero in the 1983 Bollywood movie Coolie.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Visions of India: from the colonial to the contemporary at the Monash Gallery of Art showing the work of Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983-1984

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983-1984
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A farmer from near Nagda visits Punjabi’s studio to have his portrait made for the first time. While the purpose of the photo is unclear, the man’s wide-eyed stare suggests that the camera either caught him by surprise or that he was overly exerting himself in an attempt to pose appropriately. His all-white attire, turban and Punjabi’s use of a shallow depth of field add to the portrait’s intrigue.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Some of the earliest and perhaps most obvious drivers of Suhag Studio’s business were administrative portraits, which Punjabi’s clients requested frequently and for a number of reasons, from paperwork for school admissions to procuring disability benefits. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clientele, who appear to us as a mosaic of faces, registering the Indian bureaucracy’s efforts to account for them as formal and formally documented citizens.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

An older woman poses for a formal portrait at Suhag Studio. Like many of the other women photographed by Punjabi for this reason, this sitter too has a chunni (thin scarf) draped over her head, a convention that has since changed as the production of administrative photographs such as these has become increasingly standardised.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Unlike the other administrative images in Punjabi’s archive, this is a full-length portrait because the older man in it asked to be photographed on his crutches, so he could claim disability entitlements from the government. The evidentiary quality of the photograph meant it was an important tool for India’s expanding identification and welfare system. With three studio lights focused directly on the standing subject, the portrait highlights both the man and his condition, making Punjabi an important middleman in the way he is able to be ‘seen’ by the state.

 

Identification & Records

By the late 1970s, identity documents had embedded themselves deeply into Indian civic life. Standardised photographs became necessary for many administrative activities, from accessing food subsidies to completing job applications. Punjabi’s studio provided an essential administrative service – and for Nagda’s poor and working classes, it became one of the few ways in which the presence of India’s creaking bureaucracy was felt.

Most people interpreted these photographic services through their own needs. One man insisted on a full-length portrait showing his crutches in order to qualify for disability entitlements; another arrived in a crisp white shirt for a passport photograph. When juxtaposed, these images highlight the sheer diversity of Punjabi’s clients, who collectively appear as a mosaic of faces, registering the state’s efforts to make them ‘legible’ citizens.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Administrative portrait) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“Rooted to the hallowed tradition of studio photography that began in 19th-century India with pioneers like Samuel Bourne and Lala Deen Dayal, Punjabi was also a visionary entrepreneur-artist. When he stood before his sitters, the film of familiarity lifted from their faces, exposing their fondest dreams and desires. In a sense, Punjabi donned the mantle of a dream merchant, as the archivist of the Great Indian Dream. And to such dreams, he himself had also been susceptible. …

In the 1970s, the family business had started to dwindle, forcing Punjabi to move to Nagda, a small town, some 100 km away from Indore. There, he opened Suhag Studio – the name was meant to drawn in clients interested in taking matrimonial photographs – to help his family. It proved to be a lifelong move, indeed an obsession.

Punjabi’s archives, as Gaskell and Nayar indicate in their curation, could be divided into several segments, first of which is his administrative photographs, which cover almost 30% of his archives. These images are mostly mug shots of individuals, taken for the purpose of identification papers and bureaucratic documents. But even in these fairly generic images, the drama of the human face is dimly palpable. You can sense the presence of a humane vision behind the mechanical eye of the camera. Punjabi seems to avoid the vapid blandness of documentary studio photography, where the subject is usually leached of all character and presented sans expression for the unfeeling scrutiny of the state.

A man in crutches is photographed in full profile by Punjabi on his request, with the camera lights included in the frame. The image is meant to be evidentiary record of his disability. Another man in a turban stares back at the camera, his pupils dilated, like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of the Indian state. The incongruity of the carpeted studio floor, the sophisticated props (by the standard of those days) and the intensely ordinary attire of these people are starkly noticeable.

A woman dangles a bunch of grapes before her mouth, recreating the cliché of a lovestruck / lascivious heroine from the annals of Indian cinema. A man poses stiffly in tie and a pair of bell-bottoms, his hair neatly combed. Another one, in a vest, presents a study in contrasts, his hair stylishly long, a kerchief tied to his neck, a cigarette hanging from his lips. He rocks the archetypal mawali look to a T. You can sense the shadow of a slightly crumpled angry young man about his persona, modelled perhaps after Amitabh Bachchan, who was still the reigning hero in the galaxy of Bollywood cinema in the 1980s, when these photographs were taken.

If the influence of cinema shines through these compositions, more intriguing insinuations are made by some of the group photographs. In one, for instance, three men are seated close to one another, two of them locking fingers. The one in the middle stares at the camera, while the other two look in different directions.

These “playfully intimate” photographs, as Nayar calls them, are mementos of different kinds of bonds – filial, friendly, romantic – that were enacted inside the realms of the studio. Thus, Punjabi’s Suhag Studio opened up a space, where much more than plain documentation could be wagered. …

While each of these images stands boldly on its own – carrying its individual aura of distinction and enveloped by its unspoken narratorial arc – they also exist within an ecosystem of emotions that coursed through a nation during a certain phase of its development. With their thoughtful curation and textual notes, Gaskell and Nayar draw our attention to details that would otherwise have escaped our untrained eyes. They also make crucial connections between Punjabi’s work and those of Malike Sidibé’s (1935-2016) from Mali and Hashem El Madani’s (1928-2017) from Lebanon, among others. These photographers, legends in their own rights, also documented the seen and unseen faces of their nations with skill, complexity and exquisite artistry.

Extract from Somak Ghoshal. “Suresh Punjabi: The man who captured the Great Indian Dream,” on the Mint Lounge website 24/01/2021 [Online] Cited 03/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985-1986

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of two men) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985-1986
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Two friends, dressed rather stylishly, stand in a slight three-quarter profile while looking directly into the camera. Punjabi often offered props such as sunglasses and hats to his sitters, however the origin of the pieces of clothing featured here – including the flared trousers and blazers – remains unclear. One interesting clue, likely intended to be cropped, is the pair of slippers near the bottom left of the frame. Only one of the men is wearing shoes, suggesting that the shoes are props and the slippers belong to him.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full-length portrait of a man), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s childhood coincided with the waning years of the Golden Era of Hindi cinema, which he regularly drew inspiration from when developing his own visual style. Each of these images are largely inspired by the cultural lexicon of the times – outward expressions of heroism, villainy, aspiration, camaraderie, romance, and above all, personal style – and expresses a distinct style of playful formality, seemingly both rehearsed and improvised.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

On first meeting the man photographed here, Punjabi remarked how much he resembled the actor Amitabh Bachchan. In this portrait, the man’s long legs – much like Bachchan’s – appear even longer in his flared pants. The man’s distant stare, and the peeking studio lights on either edge of the frame, add further credibility to the fiction that this man is perhaps a body double preparing himself for an actual film scene. Being one of the most recognisable of Punjabi’s individual portraits, this image also appears on the cover of scholar Christopher Pinney’s book Artisan Camera: Studio Photography from Central India (2013).

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1986-1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of a family), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1986-1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Life in Nagda, like in many towns in India, moved along a network of overlapping social relationships – friends, lovers, community members, coworkers. As photography opened up new opportunities for self-representation, these relationships seeped into the studio as well. Punjabi worked to represent his sitters against the social contexts, resulting in images that show us packed families, impassive coworkers, bashful lovers, playful friends and various expressions of cultural and religious celebration; connections, seen and unseen, caught mid-pose.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of Punjabi’s most crowded compositions, a family of eight gathers into a tight frame for a group portrait. During this period, it was not uncommon for Punjabi to leave his studio (and sometimes Nagda as well) to photograph large families, often in front of their ancestral homes. In this case however, the family just about manages to squeeze into the indoor space. Accommodating all eight members also brings the studio’s ceiling into view, highlighting the limited, 10 x 20 feet space in which he worked during those years.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of four friends), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Full length portrait of three girls), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Although it’s difficult to say with certainty, the three young girls in this portrait are likely sisters who planned to have their photograph made on this day. Lending further credence to this assumption is the fact that two of the three girls are wearing identical patterns. At this time, especially in small and mid-sized towns in India, it wasn’t uncommon for households to have matching clothes stitched from the same piece of fabric, especially for siblings to wear. Another interesting aspect of this portrait, although not obvious at first glance, is that the girls on either side are far taller than the one in the middle, who must stand on a small stool – partly concealed by the other girls’ patterned clothing – to help retain a sense of continuity across the faces in the portrait.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man holding a bird), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

On entering Suhag Studio, the man in this portrait had one simple request for Punjabi: to be photographed with his beloved pet bird. In the resulting image, the man appears in flared trousers, thick-rimmed glasses and a rounded hat, leaning on a stool as his bird sits on his left index finger. In a bid to further accentuate the man’s lean, Punjabi tilts his camera to his right when taking the image, causing the painted background to appear slanted.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh 1979 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Seated portrait of three friends) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In this informal group portrait, the relationship between three male friends finds an intriguing physical manifestation. The man in the centre stares directly into the lens, deadpan, while holding the hand of the man to his right who, in turn, gazes at the third man on the very left, whose focus is caught by something beyond the frame. The language of eyes and hands gains an almost filmic intensity through Punjabi’s treatment, which highlights his enduring interest in capturing unseen and understated gestures in his portraits.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

While many came to Punjabi with the hope of enacting the role of a film hero, others brought in a different set of influences. Working outside Suhag Studio selling tea, this boy was photographed by Punjabi in a highly stylised way, mimicking the temperament of a cinematic villain. The sunglasses, scarf and unlit cigarette – likely all props – contribute to this overall effect and lend a certain swagger to the thin boy’s leaning posture.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams

This film tells the remarkable story of a photography studio in central India, established by Suresh Punjabi in the 1970s. Punjabi took tens of thousands of photographs over nearly half a century, documenting the lives and people of Nagda. The film forms part of an online exhibition of the same name, curated by Nathaniel Gaskell and Varun Nayar, for the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bangalore and has been directed by Naveed Mulki / Faraway Originals. Special thanks to Pratik and Suresh Punjabi and family, and to the people of Nagda who appear in the film.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1983

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Two men with a transistor radio), Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1983
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi’s sitters, two unnamed men, pose holding a smaller transistor radio – the first in Nagda – up to their ears.

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

While the language of Hindi cinema had a significant impact on Punjabi, it was part of a larger constellation of influences. His work also captured how people from Nagda – a fast-industrialising town that sat outside but was never delinked from India’s urban centres – articulated their evolving ambitions and self-conceptions; a context in which a particular posture or prop could reveal a host of personal preferences and worldviews.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a man posing with a telephone) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

A landline telephone makes an appearance in this individual portrait that features a slender young man pretending to be preoccupied for the camera. Apparent in the photograph is the sitter’s desire to associate himself with the sense of modernity and connectivity that the telephone – regardless of who is on the other side – symbolises.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985 (installation view)

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh (installation view)
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1985

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Man with a camera) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

Punjabi recalls this young man asking for a portrait that would make him look like a “smart, gentleman photographer.” The magazine, camera and tie featured in this image are all props, demonstrating Punjabi’s effort to meet his client’s expectations.

Magazines appear frequently in many of Punjabi’s portraits, where they express a certain urbane and sophisticated form of indulgence that was an important cultural signifier for India’s emerging middle class. Typically, this prop magazine was just whatever was lying around in the studio – often an issue of an entertainment magazine such as Bombay Screen or Mayapuri, from which Punjabi also drew visual inspiration.

The Japanese Yashica – presumably Punjabi’s – slung on this man’s shoulder was a pricey piece of equipment that didn’t typically circulate beyond urban markets. Its existence in this portrait speaks to the sitter’s desire for ‘smartness,’ expressing a degree of professional acuity as well as socioeconomic mobility and access.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Four men standing in front of a truck) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1985
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

There were times when Punjabi ventured out of his studio and into both nearby streets and remote villages, into temples and bars and through wedding processions and funerals. Having started out working weddings, Punjabi had become a keen-eyed and quick-footed photographer, rarely without a camera when the moment demanded it. These outdoor images provide a crucial bridge between the regulated and consciously arranged dream-world of his studio and the teeming human drama of everyday life just outside its doors.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

In one of many images Punjabi made outside his studio, a group of five men pose near a truck in Nagda, which is decorated with lights and flowers to commemorate Diwali. One of the men is hanging off the passenger side of the vehicle, though it is unclear whether he is its owner. Punjabi often ventured out into town with his camera and took photographs of everything from upturned vehicles for insurance claims to mass processions for funerals of important local figures.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1979

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Group portrait of men with cigarettes) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1979
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

In one of Punjabi’s more crowded outdoor photographs, made at a local wedding, a number of men huddle around a bench at night, exchanging cigarettes, gestures and conversation. Nearly all of them are dressed in white, leading one to believe that they may have all been at the same event prior to – or even during – the point at which this image was made. In the background of the image, written in large Hindi letters on the back of a small wooden shack are the words: “The country’s leader, Indira Gandhi.” The 1970s and early 80s were a tumultuous time for the nation, primarily due to Gandhi’s imposition of a state of emergency from 1975-1977. This image was made after the state of emergency and before Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1980

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (A man dancing during a wedding) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1980
Pigment ink-jet print
33.0 x 33.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) (Bengaluru)

 

 

The subject does not see the bright flash of Punjabi’s camera as he dances energetically alongside the wedding band and many guests at his friend’s wedding. A good wedding photographer must be invisible. Punjabi’s knack for framing an image inconspicuously and at the right moment reflects in a number of his outdoor photographs, especially of ceremonial events.

Text from the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) website [Online] Cited 09/03/2022

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams – The Business of Dreams Chapter 1, 1970s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

Suresh Punjabi’s Suhag Studio: The Business of Dreams Chapter 2, 1980s

The history of Studio Suhag in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh

 

 

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21
Nov
21

Exhibition: ‘Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’ at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2021 – 23rd January 2022

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader as a child' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader as a child
August 2, 1935
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

The future Justice Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933. Nicknamed “Kiki,” she grew up in Flatbush, a working-class neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents, Celia and Nathan Bader, rented a small first-floor apartment in a grey stucco row house. Many of her neighbours were immigrants or first- and second-generation Americans whose families had come from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe in search of a better life.

 

 

Hero

 

The courage of her love, intelligence and convictions.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the New-York Historical Society for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

The New-York Historical Society honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon – with a special exhibition. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organised by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans. Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artefacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles.

 

 

On what makes a meaningful life:

“If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself. Something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one’s community.”

On social change:

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

On being an advocate:

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

On relationships:

“Marty was most unusual. He was the first boy I ever met who cared that I had a brain. And he always thought I was better than I thought I really was.”

On speaking out:

“The number of women who have come forward as a result of the #MeToo movement has been astonishing. My hope is not just that it is here to stay, but that it is as effective for the woman who works as a maid in a hotel as it is for Hollywood stars.”

.
~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

 

 

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rare interview: ‘It’s not the best of times’ – BBC Newsnight

In a rare interview, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the US is “not experiencing the best of times” – but the “pendulum” will swing back. For Newsnight, she spoke to filmmaker Olly Lambert at the final dress rehearsal of Dead Man Walking at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Rathbun Visiting Fellow 2017, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, shares her vision for a meaning life while in conversation with The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life, on February 6, 2017 in Stanford Memorial Church. The Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life honours the late Stanford Law School Professor Harry Rathbun.

 

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Same-Sex Marriage, Women’s Rights, Health

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about efforts to improve women’s rights and the outlook for legalising same-sex marriage. Ginsburg, speaking with Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr and Matthew Winkler in Washington on Wednesday, also discusses the her career, health and relationship with President Barack Obama.

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at Cornell University in 1953, featuring Ruth Bader, class of 1954, pictured third from right standing in front of the porch' Published in 'The Cornellian' 1953

 

Unknown photographer
The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at Cornell University in 1953, featuring Ruth Bader, class of 1954, pictured third from right standing in front of the porch
Published in The Cornellian, 1953
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

 

“I got the idea that being a lawyer was a pretty good thing because in addition to practicing a profession, you could do something good for your society.” RBG began at Cornell University on a full scholarship in the fall of 1950. There, she began to view lawyers as vanguards against injustice.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth as a bride' June 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth as a bride
June 1954
Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection

 

 

Ruth Bader married Martin “Marty” D. Ginsburg (1932-2010) in 1954. Their marriage defied gender expectations of the period and embodied her belief that “men, women, and families are better when both partners share their lives and goals on equal footing.” For nearly 60 years, RBG and her husband worked as equals raising a family and practicing law. Marty was a passionate supporter of his life partner’s legal career and shared in child-rearing and household responsibilities long before men were expected to do so.

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty with their daughter, Jane' 1958

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty with their daughter, Jane
1958
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

In 1957, Marty was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The doctor prescribed radical surgery and radiation for six weeks. The prognosis was grim. RBG poured her heart into making sure he remained on track with his studies, staying up all night to type his papers and class notes. When Marty fell asleep around 2 am, RBG would begin her own work. Her hours with their daughter Jane before bed helped leaven the library time.

 

 

The New-York Historical Society honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon – with a special exhibition this fall. On view October 1, 2021 – January 23, 2022, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organised by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans.

“It is a great honour that we celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a native New Yorker whose impact on the lives of contemporary Americans has been extraordinary,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “Justice Ginsburg fought hard to achieve justice and equality for all, inspiring us with her courage and tenacity in upholding our fundamental American ideals. A special friend to New-York Historical, in 2018 she presided over a naturalisation ceremony in our auditorium. The exhibition is a memorial tribute to her achievements and legacy.”

Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artefacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles as student, wife to Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, mother, lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and internet phenomenon. Highlights include a robe and jabot from RBG’s Supreme Court wardrobe; the official portraits of RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor – the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court – on loan from the National Portrait Gallery; and QR-code listening stations where visitors can hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments, majority opinions, and forceful dissents in landmark Supreme Court cases on their own devices.

The exhibition also displays 3D re-imaginations of key places in RBG’s life – such as her childhood Brooklyn apartment; the kitchen in RBG and Marty’s home, with some of Marty’s favourite recipes and cooking utensils; and the Supreme Court bench and the desk in her chambers.

Personal materials range from home movies of RBG with Marty on their honeymoon and in the early years of their marriage to yearbooks from RBG’s academic life – from her Brooklyn high school to Harvard, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities – to a paper that she wrote as an eighth grader exploring the relationship between the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the recently formed United Nations Charter.

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation are remembrances from RBG’s visit to the Museum in 2018 to officiate a naturalisation ceremony of new citizens after she learned about New-York Historical’s Citizenship Project which teaches U.S. history and civics to green card holders, a video featuring a map and photographs of key places in her life as a New Yorker, and an overview of the memorials that cropped up around her hometown in the wake of her passing. As part of New-York Historical’s upcoming public program series, on December 8, Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse looks at where the courts stand following Justice Ginsburg’s death. Families can explore the exhibition with a specially created family guide, and themed story times will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.

After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country. After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston (March 2022) and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (September 2022).

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been coordinated at New-York Historical by Valerie Paley, senior vice president and Sue Ann Weinberg Director, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library; Laura Mogulescu, curator of women’s history collections; and Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History.

Press release from the New-York Historical Society

 

About Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933.

Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.

She received her BA from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LLB from Columbia Law School. Ginsburg served as a law clerk to Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1959 to 1961. She then became associate director of the comparative law project sponsored by Columbia University, where she studied the Swedish legal system and produced the first official English language book on the subject. In 1963 Ginsburg joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. In 1972 she was hired by Columbia Law School, where she taught until 1980. Ginsburg served as a fellow at the Center for Advance Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California, from 1977 to 1978. In the 1970s Ginsburg litigated sex discrimination cases from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and was instrumental in launching its Women’s Rights Project in 1973. She served as general counsel of the ACLU from 1973 to 1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974 to 1980. President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals from the District of Colombia Circuit in 1980. On June 14, 1993, Ginsburg accepted President Bill Clinton’s nomination to the Supreme Court and took her seat on August 10, 1993.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School
1972
Courtesy of Columbia Law School

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 is appointed the first female member of the Columbia Law School faculty in 1972. She had taught previously at Columbia in International Civil Procedure with Prof. Hans Smit ’58 LL.B. in 1961. She is the first female candidate to earn tenure at Columbia Law School.

In 1972, RBG become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, which she juggled with her responsibilities at the Women’s Rights Project. Almost immediately, the women at Columbia began contacting RBG for help. Did RBG know that Columbia employees didn’t have pregnancy coverage and that women got lower pension benefits and lower pay? Now that she did, RBG helped file a class-action lawsuit.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detail from 1972 Harvard Law School Yearbook' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detail from 1972 Harvard Law School Yearbook
1972
© Harvard Law School Yearbook Association, Courtesy of Harvard Law School Library, Historical and Special Collections

 

 

RBG strongly preferred the prefix “Ms.” to “Mrs.” However, there is no information about how she felt when this 1972 Harvard Law School yearbook misidentified her as “Mr. Ginsburg.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty taking a break from work' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty taking a break from work
1972
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

With the same fondly amused grin he usually wore, Marty (1932-2010) would portray himself as the lucky guy who came along for the ride of a lifetime, who moved to Washington when his wife got a “good job.” In fact, Marty was a superstar in his own right, whose tax law chops earned him clients like Ross Perot, the adulation of his peers, and millions of dollars. But he was proudest of the accomplishments of his wife, saying, “I think that the most important thing I have done is enable Ruth to do what she has done.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG as a federal appeals court judge' 1980

 

Unknown photographer
RBG as a federal appeals court judge
1980
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

President Jimmy Carter nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 14, 1980. RBG saw the role of an appeals court judge as fundamentally different than her old job at the ACLU; she was to follow precedent, not try to change it. As a judge, she looked for consensus.

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty travel to Paris' 1988

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty travel to Paris
1988
Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG riding an elephant' 1994

 

Unknown photographer
Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG riding an elephant
February 1994
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

Some liberals found the Scalia-Ginsburg friendship hard to grapple with. Even their clerks were mystified by the relationship. But clerks work at the court for only a year. Justices work there for life. Whatever their disagreements, they stuck together. The two shared a love of opera, and RBG liked people who could make her laugh.

 

Everett Raymond Kinstler (American, 1926-2019) 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg' 1996

 

Everett Raymond Kinstler (American, 1926-2019)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
1996
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Everett Raymond Kinstler
© 1996 Everett Raymond Kinstler

 

 

RBG wasn’t President Bill Clinton’s first choice for the Supreme Court in 1993 – he came close to offering the position to several men. But RBG had the backing of key women in the administration and a tireless lobbying campaign by her husband in her favour. Above all, she dazzled the president in their first meeting. “She got the actual human impact of these decisions,” Clinton later recalled.

 

Frank Chi and Aminatou Sow. 'Can't Spell Truth Without Ruth' 2013

 

Frank Chi and Aminatou Sow
Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth
2013
Poster

 

 

In July 2013, after a flurry of important SCOTUS decisions, along with dissents authored by Justice Ginsburg, Chi and his friend Aminatou Sow created a poster, “Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth,” celebrating Ginsburg. They shared it online, where Shana Knizhnik – who created the blog “The Notorious RBG” (and who would go on to coauthor a New York Times best-selling book of the same title) – saw the poster and wrote about it, and then the internet did its thing. The three artists, who became friends, gifted a print of the poster to Justice Ginsburg in December 2014, when she invited them to the Supreme Court. “The internet brought it together into this meme, initially, and then into something that became a phenomenon,” said Chi. “And, Justice Ginsburg embraced it. If she hadn’t, ‘Notorious RBG’ would’ve been something that was cool on the internet for a few months. That’s what I think is amazing – she had such a long, celebrated career, and she finally got to be the presence she was obviously comfortable being, and the internet allowed that to happen.”

Anonymous text. “More than a Meme,” on the Bowdoin Magazine website, November 17, 2020 [Online] Cited 29/10/2021

 

Art Lien. 'Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg's dissent in Shelby County v. Holder' June 25, 2013

 

Art Lien
Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder
June 25, 2013

 

 

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the provision was no longer needed. “Any racial discrimination in voting is too much, but our country has changed in the last 50 years,” he declared. In her dissent, which inspired the nickname Notorious RBG, RBG compared getting rid of the provision to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.”

 

In 2013 RBG wrote a fiery response (officially known as a dissent) disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. This bold dissent (and a few others made around the same time) earned her the nickname “Notorious RBG” in reference to the Brooklyn-born rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as “The Notorious B.I.G.” and “Biggie Smalls.”

With Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court decided to end part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This Act prohibited states from having laws that made it harder for Black Americans to vote. The Voting Rights Act also made it harder for states with a history of racial discrimination to make future changes to their voting laws–but Shelby County v. Holder reversed that.

RBG felt strongly that this ruling could lead to more restrictions in voting, negatively impacting Black and minority communities.

 

In her ringing dissent, RBG compared getting rid of pre-clearance to “throwing away your umbrella in a rain storm because you’re not getting wet.” She quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dictum, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and added, “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion. That commitment has been disturbed by today’s decision.” We have seen the destructive swath strewn across our electoral process in almost every election since, which of course was the intent of the decision. Yes, there is election fraud in this country, and it comes directly from the highest court in the land!

Erica A. Gordon. “The glorious, notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a traveling exhibition,” on the Peoplesworld Social Media website, Oct 30, 2018 [Online] Cited 28/10/2021

 

Steve Petteway (American) 'Official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg' 2013

 

Steve Petteway (American)
Official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg
2013
Courtesy Steve Petteway
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

At the age of 80, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was reborn as the “Notorious RBG.” She earned the admiring, tongue-in-cheek nickname after a series of fiery, record-breaking dissents she gave from the Supreme Court bench in 2013 on voting rights, affirmative action, and workplace discrimination. Behind the nickname was a woman with a lifelong commitment to equality, justice, and the ideals of American law.

 

Adam Johnson (American) (illustrator) 'Notorious RBG' book cover illustration 2015

 

Adam Johnson (American) (illustrator)
‘Notorious RBG’ book cover illustration
2015
Courtesy of HarperCollins
Photos: Crown © by Hurst Photo/Shutterstock; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

RBG became an icon to millions of people around the globe. All this is – to use the court’s language – without precedent, especially in a society that tends to dismiss the contributions of women as they age. Bestselling books about RBG for all age groups – including the 2015 book Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that inspired the exhibition – could fill a bookshelf.

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American) 'Dissent Collar #9' 2016

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American)
Dissent Collar #9
2016
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The signature dissent collar, a glinty Banana Republic affair she got in a Glamour Women of the Year gift bag, came in 2012. She broke the record for dissenting from the bench – the once rare act of making everyone at the opinion announcements listen to your protest – and a thousand memes were born.

Moved by her anger over the 2016 presidential election, Roxana Alger Geffen created a series of imaginative jabots in honour of RBG. Geffen was inspired by RBG’s choice to wear her famous dissent collar the day after the election.

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American) 'Dissent Collar #13' 2016

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American)
Dissent Collar #13
2016
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

Washington National Opera: The Daughter of the Regiment – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s first appearance

RBG was known to be a major opera fan. In 2016 the Washington National Opera surprised its audience by featuring her in a cameo appearance as the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment at the Kennedy Center.

At the top of Act 2, the Duchess of Krakenthorp meets with the Marquise of Berkenfield to arrange the marriage of the opera’s heroine Marie with the Duke of Krakenthorp. Ruth Bader Ginsburg plays the non-singing role of the Duchess, and mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel is the Marquise.

 

Ari Richter (American, b. 1983) 'RBG Tattoo II' 2018

 

Ari Richter (American, b. 1983)
RBG Tattoo II
2018
Pigmented human skin on glass
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

RBG’s life and work have inspired unending creativity, including literally thousands of examples of fan-created RBG memorabilia. You can find RBG’s likeness on T-shirts, nail decals, and even as tattoos.

 

Nelson Shanks (American, 1937-2015) 'The Four Justices' 2012

 

Nelson Shanks (American, 1937-2015)
The Four Justices
2012
Oil on canvas
216.0 x 169.2cm
Ian and Annette Cumming Collection, on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

 

 

Counterclockwise from bottom left: Sandra Day O’Connor born 1930; Ruth Bader Ginsburg born 1933; Elena Kagan born 1960; and Sonia Sotomayor born 1954

In 1880, Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. Distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Supreme Court in the 1940s, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination. It was not until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Over ten years later, in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated by President Clinton. Today, Ginsburg serves alongside Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who were nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The Cummings commissioned this portrait to recognise the accomplishments of all four justices. Justice O’Connor’s office arranged their busy schedules so that they could pose at the same time for Nelson Shanks and his camera. The artist drew on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Installation view of Nelson Shanks’ The Four Justices (2012)

 

 

A major step in women’s struggle for equality came on March 3, 1879, when Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. In the 1940s, distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Court, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination.

In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor (born 1930) became the first woman to serve on the Court. O’Connor, a graduate of Stanford Law School, was serving on the Arizona Court of Appeals when President Ronald Reagan nominated her as an associate justice. O’Connor retired from the Court in 2006.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933) graduated from Columbia Law School. She was serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia when President Bill Clinton nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1993.

Sonia Sotomayor (born 1954) received her J.D. from Yale Law School. She was serving on the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, when President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice in 2009. She became the first Latino to sit on the Supreme Court.

Elena Kagan (born 1960) graduated from Harvard Law School. She was President Obama’s solicitor general when the president nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2010.

Nelson Shanks was commissioned to create this portrait to recognise the accomplishments of all four justices. He has drawn on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture for his composition, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

 

“Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for me and so many other women in my generation. Their pioneering lives have created boundless possibilities for women in the law. I thank them for their inspiration and also for the personal kindnesses they have shown me.”

~ Elana Kagan, June 28, 2010, in her opening statement at her confirmation hearing

 

 

 

 

The Four Justices: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was interviewed by Jan Smith, for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Justice Ginsburg is depicted in the “The Four Justices” painting by artist Nelson Shanks, along with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

On October 28, 2013, the National Portrait Gallery celebrated the arrival of Nelson Shanks’s “The Four Justices,” a tribute to the four female justices who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The work is monumental; it measures approximately seven feet by five-and-a-half feet (in its custom-made frame it is almost nine-and-a-half feet by eight feet) and holds the west wall of the National Historic Landmark Building’s second-floor rotunda. Of the work, NPG Chief Curator Brandon Fortune noted, “The National Portrait Gallery is honoured to have such an ambitious group portrait on loan to the museum.”

The work is based on sittings the justices had with Shanks; the two senior justices are seated and the recent appointees standing. Although the logistics of bringing three active and one retired justice into his studio was challenging, Shanks prefers to draw from life, which he feels brings each sitter’s distinct presence into his work. “If you can imagine a painting – no matter how facile – that doesn’t show character, something is missing,” Shanks noted in an interview with NPG. “Representation of character is really what counts to me.”

Only men had sat on the bench of the Supreme Court until President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. After O’Connor, the next woman to receive an appointment was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a nominee of President Bill Clinton in 1993. President Barack Obama appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan are still on the bench; O’Connor retired in 2006.

 

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly. 'RBG image projected onto New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan' September 19, 2020

 

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
RBG image projected onto New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan
September 19, 2020
Courtesy Reuters/Andrew Kelly/Alamy Photo

 

 

An image of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg is projected onto the New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. after she passed away September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t just a titan whose life and career revealed many of the legal and historical developments of the 20th century. She also was a New Yorker. Her hometown viscerally felt her loss upon her death in September 2020.

 

Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan. '50th Street subway stop altered in tribute to RBG' 2020

 

Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan
50th Street subway stop altered in tribute to RBG
2020
Courtesy Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan

 

 

The 50th Street ACE subway station sign in Manhattan was famously altered with a tribute sticker by Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan on the day RBG passed.

 

Jennifer M. Mason (American) 'Fearless Girl with jabot' September 22, 2020

 

Jennifer M. Mason (American)
Fearless Girl with jabot
September 22, 2020
Courtesy Jennifer M. Mason / Shutterstock.com

 

 

The memory of the justice’s life and work fuelled activism during the ensuing presidential election season across the city and beyond. The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue by Kristen Visbal in front of the New York Stock Exchange wearing a lace collar in tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

Cristian Petru Panaite (American) 'RBG memorial outside Columbia University' 2020

 

Cristian Petru Panaite (American)
RBG memorial outside Columbia University
2020
Courtesy of Cristian Petru Panaite

 

 

Memorials sprung up spontaneously and organically across the city.

 

 

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Thursday, Saturday – Sunday: 11am – 5pm
Friday: 11am – 8pm
Monday – Tuesday: CLOSED

New-York Historical Society website

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15
Aug
21

Review: ‘William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen’ at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane

Exhibition dates: 27th March – 22nd August 2021

Curator: Rosie Hays, Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

 

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Golden Summer' 1987/2016

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Golden Summer
1987/2016
Inkjet print, gold leaf on Innova Softex paper
40 x 30cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) ''Allan' from the monologue 'Sadness'' 1992

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
‘Allan’ from the monologue ‘Sadness’
1992
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

The Family of Yang

Let me tell you a story… a story made up of many smaller tales, told to me by a chronicler, diarist, writer, performance artist and filmmaker; socio-documentary photographer and historian; master of oral history and storytelling – Chinese-Australian artist William Yang.

Voluminous amounts of text have been written about Yang’s art practice and for this reason I only offer here a brief precis of his fifty year career as an artist. Indeed, it is impossible to cover such an expansive career in performance, film, text and photographs in one posting. After the precis I offer some thoughts and insights into Yang’s work.

Yang was born in 1943 into a family of Chinese immigrants in Far North Queensland. After moving to Brisbane in the mid-1960s to study architecture, he journeyed to Sydney in 1969 where he helped produce plays. Yang picked up a camera and started taking photographs of his friends, celebrities, parties and the gay scene in Sydney, Australia in the early-mid 1970s. His first exhibition Sydneyphiles at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Photography in 1977 set him on his way. Personal reflections were written directly on the mounts around his photographs something that he was to adapt further, inscribing his stories directly on the photographs in later bodies of work (“an oral tradition of storytelling transferred to the physical medium of the photograph”). In 1989, Yang began performing monologues with slide projections in theatres, integrating his skills as a writer and a visual artist.

As can be heard in the exhibition curator Rosie Hays’ video talk below, Yang’s first period was as a social life photographer / commercial photographer, earning a living selling his photographs to gay newspapers; his second period encompassed investigations into marginalised communities: queer community, Australian-Chinese community, Indigenous communities and telling alternative histories of Australia including the history of his Chinese-Australian heritage; and in the third period, Yang’s work has become more reflective, interested in ordinary things, interested in the life of the human embodied in the landscape.

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As a documentary photographer and performance artist, Yang’s work has examined numerous linked themes. The artist investigates the intimate connections between dystopian and utopian worlds – for example, between the body racked by AIDS and the body beautiful (see above), or between the racism of his childhood and the acceptance of his Chinese heritage – as he probes the paradoxes of existence, those parallels streams of life and death, where one person looks death in the eye and the other doesn’t even know it exists… in that moment. And then proposes a reconciliation between past and present, personal and private, between the margins and the centre. Through his personal stories he exposes himself in the act of making his art, transcending his life in art. Ego drops away and he becomes entirely his own person, entirely himself, when he performs in his inimitable, self-deprecating style.

I have a suspicion, and I could be entirely wrong here, that at heart the young Yang was a very shy and insecure person. From personal experience I know that many introverts hide their shyness through extrovert behaviour, wanting to belong, wanting to be in with the in crowd, to be the life of the party. Yang was always there at any event opening or party, never without a camera, always ready to capture what life put before him because he wanted to belong. Then, to his great credit, instead of getting caught in a rut as many artists do repeating the same thing over and over again, he had the intelligence, will and creativity to push himself further, to take those next steps in his development as an artist and human being… to take those steps that descend, in metaphor, to the centre of the earth, to the centre of his existence. He was on that golden path of self discovery, another step in the evolution of himself. He wanted to know how he, and others, fitted into the great scheme of life. As a chronicler of moments, a chronicler of history, he speaks aloud the thoughts of his own becoming.

While photography is about capturing a moment and being a vehicle for storytelling, it is so much more than that. It can be about the relationship between the photographer and the subject and how that relationship evolves from a personal engagement to a universal engagement. It is the artist’s view of the world through the camera lens turned from a personal story into a universal story to which any human being can relate. Here we have empathy and humanity, diversity and racism, voyeurism and performance, public and private, bigotry and poofdom, decadence and death. The artist tells those stories, where personal is universal.

Yang is an national treasure, a living legend. People relate to William Yang. They reveal themselves to him because they feel comfortable in his presence, comfortable in his spirit and energy. He draws people to him, he is a sage – from the Latin sapere ‘be wise’ – who loves documenting people and their interactions with each other and with himself. He draws people into his orbit… and creates magical stories and intimate photographs about human existence. There is an undeniable virtu to the person and his work. All the subjects of his art are his family. Whether a celebration of life, an investigation into community, in joy and in sadness, we are all, always, part of the Family of Yang.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Queensland-born, Sydney-based photographer William Yang’s significant contribution to Australian photography spans five decades. Known for his reflective and joyous depictions of Australia’s LGBTIQ+ scene in the late 70s and 80s through to the present. Yang’s photography is informed by the cultural and political pressures of growing up as a gay man from a Chinese immigrant family in north Queensland.

This exhibition is a major survey of Yang’s work, which traces his career from documentary photography through to explorations of cultural and sexual identities and his depictions of landscape. Yang integrates a photographic practice with writing, video and performance. The exhibition includes Yang’s prolific social portraiture which features prominent creative identities from theatre, film, art and literature such as Patrick White, Brett Whiteley and Cate Blanchett, his revelatory insights into the LGBTIQ+ community, and insightful images of the Australian landscape.

Seeing and Being Seen also includes early social photographs of Sydney’s arts scene as well as the artist’s long exploration of his family and childhood experience in North Queensland which interrogate and celebrate his Chinese-Australian identity, Yang’s identity as a Chinese-Australian, a gay man and artist informs his marginalised experience.

While the stories and images included in the exhibition are quite specific to Yang’s life, the emotions underpinning them are instantly recognisable and acutely relatable. There is confession and courage in his storytelling – his most well-known works are often deeply personal and represent the means by which he reckons with his past, his relationships, and his experience outside the mainstream.

Text from the QAGOMA website

 

 

“Yang’s generation is not life as reported in the newspapers but ‘as I saw it’: a personal account summed up as a litany of parties, of innocence lost and worldliness gained, a continuum of his search for contact and meaning. Like his contemporaries Rennie Ellis or Michael Rosen, William Yang is a social photographer, a recorder of life. His strength lies in creating a living testament, and his medium’s strength is that it is necessarily shared. He offers no moral tale, nor any notion of karma to underscore the events: just the three basic but vital stories – birth, love and death.”

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Michael Desmond, Senior Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

 

“For me, seeing William’s images of men, swaddled in their desire, affection and easy love for one another, continues to disentangle something that’s been knotted up inside me for as long as I can remember. Asian men occupy a very specific idea in the Australian imagination – of being non-sexual, and therefore, undesirable – that we all inevitably internalise. The raw, unashamed sensuality of William’s imagery – of his unabashed desire for the men he captures, and the framing of Asian male beauty itself – is such a potent corrective. His images remind us that desire isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and that Asian men are desirable too.”

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Benjamin Law. ‘Bearing witness in the church of William Yang’ 2021

 

“I was a photographer, which means that I was a voyeur.”

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William Yang

 

“It was difficult to make ends meet as a playwright, so I became a photographer as a way of making money. I was attracted to the glamorous world. I wanted to be a part of it. One way of doing this, I thought, was to be a fashion photographer but i was terrible at it – I couldn’t cover up the flaws. I was better at covering parties and events.”

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William Yang, 1993

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing at left, Stand Palm Beach (1981); at middle, The Pool at Bondi #3 (1987); and at right, Golden Summer (1987/2016, above)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Tamarama Lifesavers' 1981

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Tamarama Lifesavers
1981
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl
39 x 70cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen / Exhibition walk-through

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Life Lines #3 – Self portrait #2 (1947)' 1947/2008

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Life Lines #3 – Self portrait #2 (1947)
1947/2008
Photographer: Unknown
Inkjet print on Innova Softex paper, ed. 2/30
100 x 70cm
Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2010
Photo: Carl Warner Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Alter ego' 2001

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Alter ego
2001
Digital inkjet print on rag paper
68 x 88cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing the artist standing in front of his photograph Life Lines #11 – William in scholar’s costume (1984) (1984/2009, below)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Life Lines #11 – William in scholar's costume (1984)' 1984/2009

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Life Lines #11 – William in scholar’s costume (1984)
1984/2009
Inkjet print on Innova Softex paper, ed. 1/20
94.6 x 61.6cm
Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2010
Photo: Carl Warner Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Self Portrait #5' 2008

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Self Portrait #5
2008
Inkjet print on Innova Softex paper
42 x 65cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

An exhibition of more than 250 works by Australian photographer and performance artist William Yang opens at the Queensland Art Gallery from tomorrow until 22 August, 2021. William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen spans the artist’s five-decade career and is the first major survey of his work to be presented by an Australian state gallery.

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Director Chris Saines said Seeing and Being Seen referred to the artist’s view of the world through the camera lens. ‘Yang captures people across all walks of life, including celebrity artists, alongside photographic explorations that throw light onto subcultures and marginalised groups, and he does not turn away from unsettling narratives or uncomfortable truths,’ Mr Saines said. ‘We are thrilled to be presenting this major exhibition encompassing every aspect of Yang’s practice and highlighting his life-long fascination with people and storytelling. We are also premiering his major new performance ‘In Search of Home’ at GOMA.’

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said QAGOMA continued to take a leading role in showcasing Queensland-born artists, such as William Yang.

‘William Yang is a noted writer, performer and visual artist with an international profile and this exhibition is an important survey of his work, celebrating inclusivity and diversity,’ Minister Enoch said. ‘The Queensland Government’s support for QAGOMA helps ensure the Gallery will continue its legacy of celebrating Queensland artists and sharing works that tell our stories.’

The exhibition includes Yang’s prolific social portraiture which features prominent creative identities from theatre, film, art and literature such as Patrick White, Brett Whiteley and Cate Blanchett, his revelatory insights into the LGBTIQ+ community, and insightful images of the Australian landscape. Seeing and Being Seen also includes early social photographs of Sydney’s arts scene as well as the artist’s long exploration of his family and childhood experience in North Queensland which interrogate and celebrate his Chinese-Australian identity.

Rosie Hays, Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA and curator of Seeing and Being Seen said Yang’s identity as a Chinese-Australian, a gay man and artist informs his marginalised experience.

‘While the stories and images included in the exhibition are quite specific to William’s life, the emotions underpinning them are instantly recognisable and acutely relatable,’ Ms Hays said. ‘There is confession and courage in William’s storytelling. His most well-known works are often deeply personal and represent the means by which he reckons with his past, his relationships, and his experience outside the mainstream.’

Born in North Queensland in 1943, Yang grew up with little knowledge of his Chinese heritage. Even though his parents were second-generation Chinese-Australian, Cantonese was not spoken at home. After coming to Brisbane in the mid-1960s to study architecture at the University of Queensland, he moved to Sydney in 1969, and has lived and worked there ever since.

A major hard-cover publication accompanying the exhibition features essays by William Yang, curator Rosie Hays, Professor Susan Best and Benjamin Law.

Press release from the GOMA website

 

 

 

William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen / Illustrated Curator’s Talk

Exhibition curator Rosie Hays (Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA) traces William Yang’s reflective and joyous career, delving deeper into the artworks and themes addressed in Seeing and Being Seen.

 

 

 

Artist William Yang’s slideshow performance with stories and eyewitness images from Sydney’s thrilling and turbulent gay scene from the 1970s until now.

Yang is one of Australia’s greatest storytellers, a prolific photographer and a performer of monologues with slide projections. His stories describe the experience of coming to terms with his identity as a gay Chinese Australian. Yang’s work presents a rich and celebratory visual record of this journey, from Gay Liberation in the seventies, to the emergence of the Mardi Gras and a gay subculture in the eighties, to AIDS in the nineties.

 

 

William Yang. Families and Fictions: Contemporary Photography from the Collection: Artist Talk, Queensland Art Gallery, 2005

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) '"Mother Standing" Brisbane' 1981

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
“Mother Standing” Brisbane
1981
Gelatin silver photographs, ed. 2/10
51.3 x 61.1cm
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant purchased 2004
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
© William Yang

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) '"Mother Standing" Brisbane' 1981

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
“Mother Standing” Brisbane (detail)
1981
Gelatin silver photographs, ed. 2/10
51.3 x 61.1cm
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant purchased 2004
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
© William Yang

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing photographs for Yang’s ‘About my mother’ portfolio

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Mother. Graceville. 1989' 1989

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Mother. Graceville. 1989
1989
From ‘About my mother’ portfolio 2003
Gelatin silver photograph ed. 2/10
51.3 x 61.1cm
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant purchased 2004
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery│Gallery of Modern Art
© William Yang

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing in the top image, Dawn, Central Australia #3; and in the bottom image at centre top, Doris Fish (1988, below)

 

William Yang. 'Doris Fish' 1988

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Doris Fish
1988
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'The morning after' 1976

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
The morning after
1976
Gelatin silver print
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

Morning sun raking through a window gently lights William Yang’s photograph of sleeping bodies and cast-off clothing, portraying ‘the morning after’ with the intimacy of the dawn. Yang photographed Sydney’s social scene of the 1970s and 80s, capturing wild times at discos, nightclubs and parties. Yang also captured the revellers at rest, photographing the supine forms of his naked lovers, night-clubbers passed out on city pavements and benches, and friends sharing makeshift beds on lounge-room floors.

Yang’s first solo exhibition in 1977, Sydneyphiles, was a frank depiction of the Sydney party scene and the emerging gay community. In their unposed realism, his photographs avoid any air of glamour, focusing instead on the unguarded moment and the spontaneous interactions between friends. The scrupulous honesty of his black-and-white documentary style is offset by his poignant and affectionate portrayals of those people and places familiar to him. His photographs are taken from the position of a participant in the worlds they depict, collectively describing the experience of coming to terms with his identity as a gay Chinese Australian. Yang’s visual stories are infused with a gently wry tone, mixing self-deprecating humour with insightful reflections on cultural identity. Here Yang has created images of the aftermath of intimate encounters, apparent in crumpled sheets and the shapes of sleeping bodies.

Text from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney website

 

William Yang. 'Synthetic Diamonds at Paddington Town Hall' 1977

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Synthetic Diamonds at Paddington Town Hall
1977
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Alpha' late 1960s

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Alpha
late 1960s
Gelatin silver photograph with fibre-tipped pen on fibre-based paper, ed. 6/10
26.7 x 40.2cm
Collection: The University of Queensland purchased 2001
© William Yang

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Ben Law. Arncliffe' 2016/2020

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Ben Law. Arncliffe
2016/2020
Inkjet print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Cotton Rag
30 x 50cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'The Story of Joe' 1979/2020

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
The Story of Joe
1979/2020
Inkjet print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Cotton Rag; single-channel video
Print: 40 x 60cm
Video: 16:9, 3:50 minutes, colour, sound; installed dimensions variable
Writer/Performer: William Yang; Director/Producer: Ben Latham Jones
Co-Director/ Co-Producer: Sophie Georgiou
Camera Operator/Editor: Dean Lever; Auslan
Consultant: Sue Jo Wright
Technical Assistant: Jack Okeby
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang. 'Bondi Beach' 1970s

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Bondi Beach
1970s
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang. 'Splashproof #1' 1994

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Splashproof #1
1994
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

William Yang, like many of his fellow Australian photographers, cannot help but be fascinated with the beach. In 1969, Yang left Brisbane for the bright lights of Sydney, and he fell in love with the city. At a distance from his family and Queensland’s conservatism, Sydney provided an opportunity for reinvention.

It was here that he combined his two photographic passions – landscape and people. Yang embraced the bleached allure of the city’s eastern beaches and took many iconic photographs of Bondi, Tamarama and Clovelly. …

Yang’s beach images present a refreshingly different framing of the typical Australian beach scene. The usual shots of bronzed female bodies or recreational pursuits take a backseat. Instead, Yang takes immense joy in the male figure, and his works represent a desirous male gaze on desirable male bodies.

The beach captured Yang’s eye from early in his career. At the time he started exploring the beach in his new Sydney home, Yang was also a jobbing social photographer, capturing celebrities and the ‘beautiful people’ behind the scenes at A-list parties for magazines. His approach to this work was in the photo-journalist style of capturing the unguarded moment.

Of his passion for taking images of the beach, Yang is a romantic at heart and has said:

“There’s an impulse in me that makes me go for the runny make-up, the unguarded moment, the Freudian slip. I mean I could photograph the plastic bags in the water, the rolls of fat, but the beach brings out the romantic in me. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of it – the space, the surf, the sand and all that flesh. I’ve never gotten beyond the obvious.”

Rosie Hays. “William Yang: The Beach,” on the QAGOMA website 17 June, 2021 [Online] Cited 10/08/2021

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Great Wave off Clovelly' 2005/2016

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Great Wave off Clovelly
2005/2016
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl
40 x 40cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang. 'Lifesaver Double' 1987/2017

 

William Yang (Born 1943, Mareeba, Qld Lives and works Sydney, NSW)
Lifesaver Double
1987/2017
Digital print
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Lifesavers #3' 1987

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Lifesavers #3
1987
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle Fie Art Metallic Pearl
32 x 49.5cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

“A prolific documentary photographer, storyteller and performer, William Yang creates works that tell an intimate, autobiographical story. Yang draws on his extensive archive of images, memories and sensual experiences, showing the unique atmosphere of freedom that prevailed on Sydney beaches in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Taken around Bondi and Tamarama, Yang has captured the joy of an era and the beauty of the elements with humour and generosity. More than reminiscence or exposé, Yang’s images reveal sensitive connections and insightful reflections about cultural identity.”

.
Text from the ‘Under The Sun’ exhibition 2017

 

 

William Yang 'Checking Out Bondi' 1981/2017

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Checking Out Bondi
1981/2017
Digital print
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

The Power of Being Seen

William Yang’s work, intimate and considered, draws on the artist’s own lived experience. Yang’s personal stories inform his spoken-word performances and photography, and he often scribes these stories directly onto his photographic prints. Drawn to people, Yang’s work reveals unsettling narratives in his own life, in the lives of his subjects, and in society. Adept at uncovering the unvarnished beauty and hidden foibles of our lives, storytelling is intrinsic to his practice. The artist spoke with exhibition curator Rosie Hays.

Rosie Hays: Are there stories you feel must be told? What draws you to the stories you tell from your own life?

William Yang: I [was] brought up as an assimilated Australian. Neither my brother, Alan, or my sister, Frances, or I learned to speak Chinese. Partly because my father’s clan was the Hakka, so he spoke Hakka, whereas my mother’s clan was the See Yap, and she spoke Cantonese, so English was their common language and that was what we spoke at home. My mother could have taught us Cantonese as it was generally left up to her to do that sort of thing, but she never did. She thought being Chinese was a complete liability and wanted us to be more Australian than the Australians. So, the Chinese part of me was completely denied and unacknowledged until I was in my mid-30s and I became Taoist. It was through my engagement with Chinese philosophy that I embraced my Chinese heritage. People at the time called me Born Again Chinese, and that’s not a bad description as there was a certain zealousness to the process, but now I see it as a liberation from racial suppression, and I prefer to say I came out as a Chinese.

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Chinese New Year Party Year of the Rabbit' 1999

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Chinese New Year Party Year of the Rabbit
1999
Gelatin silver print
51 x 61.5cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

My first big success was my show ‘Sydneyphiles’ at the Australian Centre for Photography in 1977. It was mainly about my social life in Sydney, with portraits of people I had met. Besides my own set of artistic types (I knew Brett Whiteley, Martin Sharp, Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson), I brushed with celebrities on the social rounds working for magazines. The exhibition caused a sensation. I knew then that people were my subject. I found that they wanted to see themselves on the gallery walls, they wanted representation. A compromising photo might cause annoyance, but it was better than being left out. There has always been an appetite for celebrities, well, that was to be expected. A vicarious interest in celebrity life still fuels the media. But I showed many photos of the emerging gay community as well. Australian photos of this type had not been shown in institutions before and it got a mixed reaction. Some said that these works shouldn’t be shown at a public institution, but mostly the pictures were accepted, especially by the gay community. A few were angry with me for outing them, but mostly I was hailed as a hero and was metaphorically given the keys to Oxford Street. I sensed that the mood of the gay community at the time was this: throughout history our community has been invisible. These photos may not be pretty, but we recognise them, and we accept them. We want our stories told.

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Four film directors' 1981

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Four film directors
1981
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
53 x 80cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Brett Whiteley, Martin Sharp, Wirian' 1982

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Brett Whiteley, Martin Sharp, Wirian
1982
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Party at the Whiteleys', Lavender Bay' 1982

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Party at the Whiteleys’, Lavender Bay
1982
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
65 x 110cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing at centre right, Brett Whiteley, Lavander Bay, Sydney (1975, below); and directly below this, Cate Blanchett: The star in her dressing room. After “Hedda Gabler.” Wharf Theatre. Sydney (2004, below)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Brett Whiteley, Lavender Bay, Sydney' 1975

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Brett Whiteley, Lavender Bay, Sydney
1975
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Cate Blanchett: The star in her dressing room. After "Hedda Gabler." Wharf Theatre. Sydney' 2004

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Cate Blanchett: The star in her dressing room. After “Hedda Gabler.” Wharf Theatre. Sydney
2004
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
54 x 80cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

These days I don’t take as many photographs. I’m sorting through my collection, trying to get it into some sort of order, and trying to digitise the negatives and the colour transparencies […]. I don’t want to be a photographer who dies leaving a pile of mouldy negatives for someone else to sort out […]. Every time I look through my collection, I am surprised because I have largely forgotten what happened in the past. Photography is a major aid to memory and the photographer a witness to the past. A photograph captures a moment in time. You don’t have to do anything special for this to happen, just press the shutter. There is something in the nature of the camera to freeze these moments in time, and there is something in the nature of the world to change and move on, so these moments never occur again.

In the early 1980s I started to do slide projection. It started off as a way to show my colour photography. At the time the colour printing process, Cibachrome, was expensive, and projection was a cheaper way showing my colour images. In 1980 in Adelaide, I met Ian de Gruchy, who did slide projection as his main art form. I was interested in his dissolve unit – a device using two projectors where the projected images dissolved into each other. Music was used, usually minimal music, and the result was known as an audio-visual. When one projects slides, as in a living room slide show, there is a tendency to talk with the slides, explaining them, and I started to do that. I worked with audio-visuals for seven years during the 80s until I had nine photographic essays, or short stories, to string together into a one man show. It was called ‘The Face of Buddha’ and I presented it at the Downstairs Belvoir Street Theatre in 1989. I lost money on that show, but still consider it a success. Everyone liked the form, story-telling with images and music.

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) "William Yang performing Sadness" Sydney 1992

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
“William Yang performing Sadness”
Sydney 1992
Photo: Peter Elfes (from ‘About my mother’ portfolio 2003)
Gelatin silver photograph, ed. 2/10 / 51.3 x 61.1cm
Purchased 2004
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
© William Yang

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Production still from Sadness' 1999

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Production still from Sadness
1999
Director: Tony Ayres
Image courtesy: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia and William Yang

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) ''Allan' from the monologue 'Sadness'' 1992

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
‘Allan’ from the monologue ‘Sadness’
1992
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

“Allan was a landmark for Yang and for Australian documentary photography. The combination of simple, unadorned portrait photos and diaristic, handwritten commentary made each viewer feel intimately acquainted with the subject. The step-by-step progress towards death puts us on the alert for every passing emotion in Allan’s face – he is sad, stoical, cheerful, grim, frivolous and heroic by turns. At the end of his life he has become an empty husk. It’s a devastating slice of reality smuggled into an art gallery, a piece that stops viewers in their tracks every time it’s shown.”

.
Extract from John McDonald. “Devastating and intimate: the landmark photos that stop viewers in their tracks,” on the Sydney Morning Herald website April 1, 2021 [Online] Cited 09/08/2021

 

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) ''Allan' from the monologue 'Sadness'' 1992

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
‘Allan’ from the monologue ‘Sadness’
1992
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

The most popular story was called ‘About My Mother’. I told the story about my mother’s family, how they came to Australia in the 1880s from Guang Dong province in China. My mother’s sister, my Aunt Bessie, married a rich landowner, William Fang Yuen, who was murdered by the white manager on his cane farm at Marilyan in north Queensland in 1922. I got an Australia Council grant to do my third performance piece, ‘Sadness’, in 1992. There were two themes: the first involved the AIDS pandemic in Sydney where many gay men, some of them my friends, were dying; and the second was a trip I took to north Queensland to talk to my relatives about William Fang Yuen’s murder. The two themes formed a powerful story about death and legacy. It was an immediate hit and toured Australia and the world. International entrepreneurs wanted my performance pieces, which they considered unique, not my exhibitions, so I kept doing more performance pieces and they became my main artistic expression.

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'William in Cane Fields' 2008

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
William in Cane Fields
2008
From ‘My uncle’s murder’ portfolio 2008
Inkjet print on Innova Softex paper
59 x 91cm
© William Yang
Photograph: Jenni Carter
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Self Portrait, Listening' 2017

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Self Portrait, Listening
2017
Inkjet print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Cotton Rag
38 x 60cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

The performance pieces changed my photographic practice. Before the 1990s, I made my living from freelance work. I would do whatever jobs people would pay me money to do. Then I found I could make a living doing my performance pieces, so I didn’t have to work for other people. I was able to channel all my energy into my own work and I became more productive. My performance pieces were about stories and I realised that many of my photos had stories behind them. I started writing the text directly onto the photo with a pen. My first series was about men with whom I had had encounters. All those photos had good stories. I have continued to do written works, as I call them, and the pictures with my handwriting have become the signifier of my work. Now I often choose images because they have a story.

Rosie Hays: Do you ever feel you’re telling other people’s stories, or are they your stories that happen to intersect with other people?

William Yang: When I ran out of my own stories, I wanted to tell an Aboriginal story because I felt the Chinese and the Aboriginal people had something in common: both had suffered under British colonialism. In my commissioned piece ‘Shadows’, I tried to tell an Aboriginal story about a community in Enngonia in north-western New South Wales, and it was successful in that I made myself part of the story, but I felt a little uncomfortable telling their story. Later I found someone, Noeline Briggs-Smith, who could tell her own story, and we did a story-telling duet on stage [called] ‘Meeting at Moree’, where we told alternating chapters of our stories on stage. She […] had a much stronger story than me. She had suffered more and worse injustices than I had, but there were interesting intersections in our stories.

Rosie Hays: Something we highlight in the exhibition is your connection to landscape. How would you describe your relationship to nature / the landscape, and has it changed over time?

William Yang: Most photographers have a go at nature. Everyone has photographed a sunset. I had my first serious encounter with photographing nature when I was recovering from a bad case of hepatitis at Frogs Hollow, Maleny, in 1979. I felt fragile from the illness and taking photos made me feel I could still do things. Looking at the photos now, the pictures are a beginner’s view. That’s the thing about nature: it’s been done a billion times before, and it’s difficult [to] escape cliché, but I had to start somewhere and I got a few good ones.

When I became Taoist, I took on a whole new philosophy. I came to appreciate nature, in the form of landscape, as a source and a driving force behind everything that exists. It was constantly changing and renewing itself. Everything about nature was beautiful because it was essentially always itself. I found I could apply a concept of beauty to nature, at least compared to the human nature I was photographing at the time. Later I began to see nature as a titanic struggle for survival […].

I came to realise that the landscape which moved me the most was the country around Dimbulah in north Queensland (on the Atherton Tableland), where I had grown up. It was part of my identity, part of my idea of home. I had absorbed it, it had imprinted itself upon me, and, although I did not realise it at the time – this was before I had articulated an artistic consciousness – it was there in my consciousness and I could draw upon it. So, in the early 90s, I made several trips up to Dimbulah, checking out the country that I remembered from my childhood. Nothing quite fitted my memories, but perhaps that’s a thing about childhood and memory. Nevertheless, I photographed a series on a medium format camera, trying to recapture memories. Now I enjoy returning to Dimbulah and seeing the landscape. It still triggers off emotions, but I feel they have become more distant. This text is from my print William at Thornborough, 2006:

“I have left these places and I have changed. These places still hold me but I move around these hills like a ghost. It is the motherland which formed and nourished me, from where I came, but to which I can never return.”

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Climbing Huang Shan' 2005

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Climbing Huang Shan
2005
Inkjet print on Innova Softex paper
41 x 48cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing Return to the place of childhood. Dimbulah (2016, below)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Boranup Karri Forest #1' 2018

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Boranup Karri Forest #1
2018
Inkjet print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Cotton Rag
50 x 150cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Return to the place of childhood. Dimbulah' 2016

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Return to the place of childhood. Dimbulah
2016
Inkjet print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Cotton Rag
50 x 150cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen' at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) showing at lower left, Boranup Karri Forest #1 (2018, above)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Earth Below, Heaven Above' 2020 (still)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Earth Below, Heaven Above (still)
2020
Two-channel video, 16:9, 5:36 minutes, colour, sound
Editor: Jack Okeby
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

Rosie Hays: What are your aspirations as an artist? What is the aim for your work in the larger sense?

William Yang: Two of my most important realisations were, firstly, that I was not white but Chinese, and secondly, that I was not straight, but gay. I probably realised these at an early age, but it took me a long time to articulate the condition and to come to terms with it. Personally, I suffered more pain being a closeted gay than being Chinese. These are both big themes in my work. When I started including gay work in my exhibitions, some photographers told me it [was] a phase I was going through and I’d be better off dealing with universal issues. They were right, in a way, because by continuing to deal with marginalised issues, my audience base is much smaller. I would probably have made more money sticking with celebrity lives and continuing the status quo, but it is important for me to talk about being gay and to talk about racial difference, even if they are commercially unpopular subjects. Nowadays, there is more acceptance of being gay here in Australia, and likewise, there is more awareness of racial difference, but in the wider world this is not always the case. It is a cause worth pursuing, and documentary photography with a personal story thrown in is a good way of doing it. I want to acknowledge the activists around the world that have made social change happen.

I want my work to embrace my life. I’ve managed to live to a mature age – I was fortunate not to die young as many of my colleagues did during the AIDS pandemic. One lives a life, and I am not the same person as I was when I was younger. Then I had more energy, had more opinions, some of them obnoxious – in short, I had many of the traits of a young person that old people like to complain about. But one learns from life, and I have lived to this age and can see there is a shape to one’s life. It has to do with the things you believe in and the choices you make (I always knew being an artist would be a hard road), it is shaped by external forces beyond your control, and it is also shaped by luck. Still, I consider my life a fortunate one.

I think I like stories because they are about people and the world. They somehow embrace humanity. I would like my art to convey feelings, emotions, what it is like to be a sentient human: experiencing joy, laughter and sadness, to realise we are vulnerable, that we have our failings, we do bad things, but we are capable of forgiveness, kindness and love.

Rosie Hays is Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA She spoke with the artist in 2020.

This is an edited excerpt of the original interview, which appears in the exhibition publication William Yang: Seeing and Being Seen, available at the QAGOMA Store

 

William Yang. 'Deposition. Innisfail Court House. 1922' 1990

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Deposition. Innisfail Court House. 1922
1990
From ‘About my mother’ portfolio 2003
Gelatin silver photograph on paper
51.3 x 61.1cm (comp.)
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art purchased 2004
© William Yang

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Self portrait #1' 1992, printed 2013

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Self portrait #1
1992, printed 2013
Inkjet print on paper
87 x 119cm (comp.)
Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Grant
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art purchase 2013
© William Yang

 

 

William Yang Self portrait #1 / A Director’s Perspective

Join QAGOMA Director Chris Saines CNZM as he discusses William Yang’s Self portrait #1 1992 (printed 2013)

 

 

William Yang’s work, intimate and considered, draws on the artist’s own lived experience. Yang’s personal stories inform his spoken-word performances and photography, and he often scribes these stories directly onto his photographic prints. Drawn to people, Yang’s work reveals unsettling narratives in his own life, in the lives of his subjects, and in society. Adept at uncovering the unvarnished beauty and hidden foibles of our lives, storytelling is intrinsic to his practice.

 

Self Portrait #1

Yang’s unflinching photographic gaze draws from the documentary tradition. Since the 1980s, Yang has displayed an unyielding persistence in unearthing stories that society, or even his subjects, might prefer to remain hidden. His instinct and passion is to present the whole, flawed story, not just the glossy surface.

With stories such as his uncle’s murder, Yang courts his family’s disapproval by airing hidden family stories, balancing potential indiscretions with the importance of telling real stories that reveal experiences or communities often left out of public discourse.

In the mid 1980s, Yang met Yensoon Tsai, a young Taiwanese woman who would become a close friend. Tsai taught Yang the tenets of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which led him to explore his Chinese-Australian identity.

Throughout the late 1980s and 90s in Australia, multicultural stories emerged across various art forms. Yang was part of this wave of artists rejecting a suppression of their cultural histories, and who instead wanted to highlight and celebrate diversity. Yang travelled throughout regional and urban Australia documenting the lives of Chinese-Australians, and the landscapes reflecting the legacy of the Chinese in Australia, such as religious shrines and mining sites.

Self Portrait #1 is a landscape work (in the way Yang talks about landscape which is often rooted in people and place and memory) as much as it a portrait work. Capturing the landscape is part of Yang’s somewhat diaristic approach to processing his social and physical environment.

When Yang returns to the Queensland landscape from his childhood, he characterises it as a site to escape from. He needed to escape from racist school bullying, constrictive family expectations, and the dread that his sexuality may be met with disapproval. Yang revisits his childhood home regularly, and some of his most potent performances and photographs come from connecting family and place. The series ‘My Uncle’s Murder’ – and its recounting of an injustice borne of racism dating from 1922 – resulted from such a trip. In his later works, he makes an uneasy peace with these past experiences that are embedded in the landscape of his youth.

Rosie Hays. “William Yang’s work reveals unsettling narratives in his own life,” on the QAGOMA website 4 October, 2020 [Online] Cited 10/08/2021

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Waiting for the Parade to Start' 2019

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Waiting for the Parade to Start
2019
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
56.5 x 85cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Jac Vidgen and Akira Isogawa, Sweatbox Party' 1989

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Jac Vidgen and Akira Isogawa, Sweatbox Party
1989
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Patrick White #1, living room, Martin Road' 1988

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Patrick White #1, living room, Martin Road
1988
Gelatin silver photograph, ed. 2/10
45.6 x 36.4cm
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant purchased 1998
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'My Generation (Brett Whiteley)' 1975 (detail)

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
My Generation (Brett Whiteley) (detail)
1975
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

My Generation

Queensland-born, Sydney-based artist William Yang describes a moment in Sydney when a number of creative groups came together to generate an artistic wave that swept across Australian society.

The intersections of the tight literary circle of Nobel award winner Patrick White and his partner, Manoly Lascaris, with the theatrical circle, their friends Jim Sharman and actress Kate Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, in turn, models frocks in the exuberant fashion parades organised by designers Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee, while artists Peter Tully and David McDiarmid extend the tongue-in-cheek Australiana of the two fashionistas’ outfits with witty accessories. Their parades and parties at retail outlet Flamingo Park, a magnet for influential people in business, politics and the arts, determined the look of the 1970s and early 1980s. Tully and McDiarmid used their bravura visuals to jump start the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, giving the event its unique and unforgettable style. The pair lived out a parallel lifestyle that might epitomise the Australian story of gay liberation, with its heady rush unfolding into aching tragedy.

Golden couple Brett and Wendy Whiteley enjoyed the creative atmosphere of the swinging ’60s and the plunge into a riotous world of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Yang shows Brett painting, smoking and partying with the beautiful people, and his eventual deterioration as heroin took a fearful hold. The early death of their beautiful daughter, Arkie, was another aspect of this fated family history. Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee eventually split; Kee takes Danton Hughes, the son of Robert Hughes, as a lover; Danton suicides; Kee takes up Buddhism. Yang portrays lives that unfold, flower or wither: lives lived.

Yang’s generation is not life as reported in the newspapers but ‘as I saw it’: a personal account summed up as a litany of parties, of innocence lost and worldliness gained, a continuum of his search for contact and meaning. Like his contemporaries Rennie Ellis or Michael Rosen, William Yang is a social photographer, a recorder of life. His strength lies in creating a living testament, and his medium’s strength is that it is necessarily shared. He offers no moral tale, nor any notion of karma to underscore the events: just the three basic but vital stories – birth, love and death.

Extract from Michael Desmond. “William Yang: My Generation,” in Artlines 1-2009 in “William Yang: Portraits,” on the QAGOMA website 22 September, 2017 [Online] Cited 10/08/2021.

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'David Gulpilil' 1978

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
David Gulpilil
1978
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee' 1979

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee
1979
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Richard Neville and Bob Geldof at Wirian' 1980

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Richard Neville and Bob Geldof at Wirian
1980
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

In order to make a living as a photographer, Yang began his career taking candid shots of ‘beautiful people’ at parties and events for the social pages of newspapers and magazines. Yang rubbed shoulders with celebrities, artists and performers, and discovered that the camera was an entry pass to an exclusive backstage world populated by kindred spirits, with whom he formed close bonds.

Yang’s prolific social portraiture includes some of the most prominent people in Australian theatre, film, art and literature, with more than a few international cameos. A much-loved and trusted figure who is embedded into Sydney’s social fabric, Yang’s images are taken with the razzle-dazzle of celebrity, but little of its conceit.

Within the show is a salon hang ‘social wall’ which long predates Instagram. The selection of faces is reflective of Yang’s friendships and his abiding passion for the arts – they embody both the glamour of celebrity and provide behind-the-scenes insights into the lives of artists from a range of backgrounds. With a camera around his neck, Yang came to understand that he could ask his subjects a series of personal questions, and they would reveal more of themselves than they would during the course of casual conversation.

Representing only a fraction of Yang’s social photography, these images capture the almost compulsive nature of his passion for recording people and places. His gift for eliciting the essence of his subjects through portraiture – whether candid or posed – has been apparent his entire career.

Rosie Hays. “William Yang: Celebrity and Portraiture,” on the QAGOMA website 7 May, 2021 [Online] Cited 10/08/2021.

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Rainbow Angel Wings' 2003

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Rainbow Angel Wings
2003
Inkjet print on solid substrate Kapaplast
27 x 40cm
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943) 'Marriage Equality, Mardi Gras' 2013

 

William Yang (Australia b. 1943)
Marriage Equality, Mardi Gras
2013
© William Yang
Courtesy: The artist

 

 

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Stanley Place, South Brisbane
Queensland 4101, Australia
Phone: +61 (0)7 3840 7303

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31
Jan
21

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

.
Destiny Deacon

 

 

Embodied Ab/origin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Abi see da classroom

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Blak lik mi

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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