Posts Tagged ‘American social documentary photographs

22
Jan
21

Photographs: Walker Evans. ‘Subway portraits 1938-41’

January 2021

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Unguarded moments

“Tell those friends with cameras for eyes”

 

It’s going to be really hot in Melbourne for the next few days so I won’t be able to get into the computer room to work – so a posting today, Friday 22 January, and the next one on Wednesday next week.

These iconic Walker Evans New York subway portraits of anonymous travellers (both physically and mentally) are remarkably unprepossessing. They just are. They exist. Taken with a hidden 35mm camera, they picture human beings in (allegedly) unposed, unguarded moments, unaware that they are being photographed. But un/aware in another sense – un/aware of their surroundings, the person opposite them, or the time, un/aware of their dreams – of past, present and future. Engrossed in reading, staring vacantly into space, deep in thoughtful repose, or possessing a sadness beyond belief, now, they impinge on our consciousness through their very facticity.

You could make up stories about their lives: the boy above in his postal cap(?), gay, nervous, lonely in the big city; the man with the spectacles staring down at his paper, an accountant, or a watchmaker, working all his life to support his family. The black man with his immaculate dress, coat, scarf and Fedora battling for his place in society; and the two woman together, polar opposites, she, clasping her bag, possibly an immigrant arrived through Ellis Island from Eastern Europe, and she, fur edged coat and steepling hat, severe, dour, rich, matronly.

Here they are, this panoply of archetypes, clothed in complete protection for spiritual warfare. Unguarded moments to the photographer they may be, but the mask is definitely not off. In my observation, human beings on public transport are always un/guarded, always protecting themselves from the stranger next to them, the unknown threat, or wandering off in daydreams to another time and place, absenting themselves so that only the shell, the husk, is left. Here and there, present but absent, absent but present, these creatures of the underground still roam the corridors of human consciousness.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs are used under fair use conditions for the purpose of educational research and informed comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“Although the setting was public, he found that his subjects, unposed and lost in their thoughts, displayed a constantly shifting medley of moods and expressions-by turns curious, bored, amused, despondent, dreamy, and dyspeptic. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he remarked. “Even more than in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors), people’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.””

Anonymous text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 22/01/2021

 

 

 

The Unguarded Moment  ~ The Church

 

So hard finding inspiration
I knew you’d find me crying
Tell those girls with rifles for minds
That their jokes don’t make me laugh
They only make me feel like dying
In an unguarded moment
So long, long between mirages
I knew you’d find me drinking
Tell those men with horses for hearts
That their jibes don’t make me bleed
They only make me feel like shrinking
In an unguarded moment
So deep, deep without a meaning
I knew you’d find me leaving
Tell those friends with cameras for eyes
That their hands don’t make me hang
They only make me feel like breathing
In an unguarded moment

 

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) '35mm negative strip of Subway Portraits' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
35mm negative strip of Subway Portraits
1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

As photographic technology advanced – cameras became more portable and film more sensitive to light, requiring shorter exposure times – people were no longer required to stay still for pictures. Walker Evans was among the photographers who capitalised on this flexibility. Between 1938 and 1941, he took his camera underground, where he photographed subway riders in New York City. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he wrote, “even more than when in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors). People’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.” (Walker Evans, quoted in Belinda Rathbone. Walker Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995, 170-71)

In order to discreetly capture these candid Subway Portraits, Evans came up with an undercover method of taking photographs. He concealed his 35-millimeter Contax camera by painting its shiny chrome parts black and hiding it under his topcoat, with only its lens peeking out between two buttons. He rigged its shutter to a cable release, whose chord snaked down his sleeve and into the palm of his hand, which he kept buried in his pocket. For extra assurance, he asked his friend and fellow photographer Helen Levitt to join him on his subway shoots, believing that his activities would be less noticeable if he was accompanied by someone. With these methods, Evans managed to capture people immersed in conversation, reading, or seemingly lost in their own thoughts and moods. His subjects’ faces display a range of emotions. He also succeeded in accomplishing a difficult challenge in making truly unposed portraits.

Anonymous text from the MoMA website [Online] Cited 22/01/2021

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

Walker Evans’ book Many Are Called is a three-year photographic study of people on the New York subway. Using a camera hidden in his jacket and a cable release running down his sleeve, Evans snapped unsuspecting passengers while they traveled through the city. Evans said that these photographs were his “idea of what a portrait ought to be,” he wrote, “anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind.” As photographic technology advanced – cameras became more portable and film more sensitive to light, requiring shorter exposure times – people were no longer required to pose for pictures. In an effort to capture candid images of people in public places, Walker Evans affixed a right angle viewfinder to his camera to make it look as if he was pointing it off to the side rather than directly at his subjects. For his Subway Portraits, he went even further and concealed his camera by painting its shiny chrome parts black and hiding it under his topcoat, with only its lens peeking out between two buttons. He rigged its shutter to a cable release, whose chord snaked down his sleeve and into the palm of his hand, which he kept buried in his pocket. As a result, these portraits show people in unguarded moments.

Text from ‘Seeing Through Photographs’ online course, Coursera, 2016.

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway portrait' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway portrait
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Passengers, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Passengers, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
View Down Subway Car with Accordionist Performing in Aisle, New York City
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

 

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20
Dec
20

Exhibition: ‘Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang’ at Cleveland Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2020 – 28th February 2021

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

For a few brief moments, rebels with a cause

This is one of my favourite photo essays of all time. The story Davidson tells of this male-orientated Brooklyn gang and its culture through his photographs is one of brotherhood, friendship, rivalry, love, longing, agony, depression and death at a time of utter poverty and rock ‘n roll rebellion. He produced “unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.” Now, all these years later, the photographs possess a powerful nostalgia for the era mixed with the desolation of destroyed lives and lost youth.

Davidson gets under the skin of his subjects, embeds himself firmly in their milieu. The subjects allow him to photograph their most intimate moments, seemingly free from worry or anxiety. There is an insouciance to their attitude, a knowing insouciance. In one photograph inside Helen’s Candy Store, Bob Powers stares directly and disarmingly at the camera while the girl playing with the yo-yo and the youth in the background also stare directly into the lens, forming a strong compositional triangle of the gaze. Powers said he was voted “most likely to die before I was 21 years old.” He lived with his seven siblings and alcoholic parents in a three-bedroom apartment that had a coal-powered cookstove and no hot water or central heating.

There is a dark undertone to the narrative. While there are moments of joy and happiness, you can sense the isolation and despair of these disaffected youths. Cathy O’Neal, seen in front of a cigarette machine at Coney Island, committed suicide by shotgun. Jimmie and his family were wiped out by drugs. Junior Rice became a heroin dealer. Lefty od’d in bed at 19. “He was the first in the group to die from a drug overdose… within a few years, drugs would claim the lives of many in the gang and in the neighbourhood.” In picturing their lives, the photographs gather moments (in time), enunciating how the gang members railed against the conformity and materialism of 1950s America whilst imbibing its rebellious iconography. Only occasionally does the artist pull back to show us the wider picture, the context of the action, with photographs of New York skyscrapers seen in the distance and the Statue of Liberty.

Davidson does not let his spontaneity slip. He is informed, aware, absent (but present) in all of these photographs waiting for that special moment. In the photograph above, a bird-like creature swoops down on something invisible on the ground. In informal yet tightly focused photographs – of sunbathing or walking the boardwalks of Coney Island, gang members fixing their hair, rolling up their sleeves, dead beat(s) in the back of the bus, making out in the back seat of a car, walking in the park or hooning around on the Metro – Davidson is there to capture the off-beat moments of gang existence and the members relationship to each other.

Through a superb eye, a feeling, a sensibility and connection towards the gang members desperation and isolation, universally acknowledged by the photographer himself, Davidson sets them all on the path to immortality. Do not forget, these photographs seem to be saying. For a few brief moments these people did exist, their lives were valuable, these rebels with a cause.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

One of Davidson’s best-known series, Brooklyn Gang was inspired by a news story he read about a teenage gang called the Jokers.

Davidson contacted the Jokers, one of Brooklyn’s roughest gangs, through their social worker. In the summer of 1959, Davidson roamed the streets of New York with these teens, loitered in stores that the Jokers called their own, and sunbathed with them on the beach at Coney Island. Eventually they allowed him to photograph even their most intimate, private moments. He responded by producing unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.

Gang membership was exclusively male, but the members’ girlfriends appear frequently in Davidson’s photographs. Some of the pictures depict the teenagers exploring lust and love and the boys struggling to define and prove their masculinity. Looking back at the series in 1998, Davidson said that he felt “the reason that body of work has survived is that it’s about emotion. That kind of mood and tension and sexual vitality, that’s what those pictures were really about.”

 

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The pleasures and agonies of teenage romance are captured in Bruce Davidson’s photographs of the gang’s dance parties, which were held variously in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a neighbourhood school, and in members’ homes. The basement wallpaper seen here – with its fairy-tale figures, including horses, queens, knights, marionettes, and jokers – suggests a domestic setting. The event could have been a farewell party for an older gang member going off to join the army, which was a common occurrence.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 x 23.9cm (6 5/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
Paper: 20.3 x 25.2cm (8 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

This rooftop view in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was taken from a building in the gang’s “turf,” which was a block anchored by the intersection of 17th Street and 8th Avenue. Davidson spent the summer hanging out with the gang and photographing them. Describing his process, the artist said, “I stay a long time. … I am an outsider on the inside.” Park Slope, now one of New York’s most desirable neighbourhoods, was then a poor, mostly Irish area.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.9 x 14.6cm (8 5/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
Paper: 25.1 x 20.2cm (9 7/8 x 7 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Davidson contacted the Jokers, one of Brooklyn’s roughest gangs, through their social worker. In the summer of 1959, Davidson roamed the streets of New York with these teens, loitered in stores that the Jokers called their own, and sunbathed with them on the beach at Coney Island. Eventually they allowed him to photograph even their most intimate, private moments. He responded by producing unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The pleasures and agonies of teenage romance are captured in Bruce Davidson’s photographs of the gang’s dance parties, which were held variously in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a neighbourhood school, and in members’ homes.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.1 x 24.1cm (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.2 x 25.3cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Childhood pastimes like playing yo-yo were a thing of the distant past for 15-year-old Bob Powers, a Joker seen here leaning against a fixture in Helen’s Candy Store. He had already been in and out of the court system numerous times by 1959. Powers stabbed someone when he was 12 and had been incarcerated for bringing zip guns (homemade firearms) and chains to school, where, Powers said, he was voted “most likely to die before I was 21 years old.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang members, most of whom were 15 or 16 years old, thought tattoos made them look older and might help them get served at bars. Tattoos were also a demonstration of masculinity and a rite of passage. Bob Powers, seen here at age 15 displaying his first tattoo, recalled years later that “the first time you get a tattoo it’s scary. I was sitting back with a cigarette like it’s nothing. Meanwhile, it was killing me. … I got ‘Bobby’ with stars around it. … They said, ‘Get your name.’ … I hated it forever.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

One of the gang members – Bob Powers – suggested that Davidson follow him to a rooftop on the gang’s block. “I remember thinking,” said Davidson, “‘This kid’s going to throw me off the roof and then rob me,’ but he’s pointing down at the stickball game (an informal form of baseball played in the street) and saying, ‘Get that,’ and saying: ‘Oh, there’s the Statue of Liberty. You can see it through all these television antennas.'”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang members were very concerned with their appearance, although they did not have much money to spend on grooming or clothes. “If you see a picture of me,” said former gang member Bob Powers, “the broken tooth, my teeth were green because I didn’t go to the dentist. We never had any money even though my father worked. … We used Vaseline petroleum jelly to make our hair stick like iron in a pompadour. We combed our hair constantly, wore sunglasses, and all thought we were Marlon Brandos.”

The Jokers’ slicked-back pompadours … and their clothing echoed the greaser style, a rebellious youth subculture that was promoted by cinematic antiheroes of the era. Role models included Marlon Brando’s portrayal of a motorcycle gang member in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean as a troubled teen in Rebel without a Cause (1955). The “bad boy” image flouted the aspirational role model of the time, the upwardly mobile white-collar worker in a business suit and short haircut.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Petey, a Jokers member who looks out the second-story window here, was injured in that fight. Petey’s best friend, fellow Jokers member Bob Powers, walks by the house. Housing in the gang’s neighbourhood, the then-impoverished Park Slope, Brooklyn, was overcrowded and rundown. Powers lived with his seven siblings and alcoholic parents in a three-bedroom apartment that had a coal-powered cookstove and no hot water or central heating.

 

 

One of the most highly respected and influential American documentary photographers of the past half century, Bruce Davidson spent several months photographing the daily lives of a teenage street gang for his 1959 series Brooklyn Gang. A new exhibition in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Gallery, Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang features 50 black-and-white photographs from that series, which are part of a recent anonymous gift to the museum of extensive selections from the artist’s archives. The exhibition is on view now through February 28, 2021.

Brooklyn Gang was Davidson’s first major project after joining the distinguished photo agency Magnum and was the fruit of several months spent immersing himself in the daily lives of the Jokers, one of the many teenage street gangs worrying New York City officials at the time. He recorded the teenagers’ pleasures and frustrations as they attempted to define masculinity and mimic adult behaviour. The photographs reflect the group’s camaraderie but also their alienation from societal norms. While many officials and commentators at the time saw the gangs as evidence of social deterioration resulting from poverty, others regarded them as the most visible manifestations of a socially disengaged generation of males – rebels without a cause.

“Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang presents an intimate portrayal of the teens’ lives,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Davidson was an outsider, but one who spent so much time with the gang that he became, as he liked to say, ‘an outsider on the inside.’ Davidson offered an independent look at the lives of these disadvantaged youths; this view of society was quite different from the age of visual and social homogenisation of the 1950s presented in mainstream magazines such as Life and Look and predicts the social turmoil of the 1960s.”

The images reflect the time Davidson spent with the teens hanging out on street corners and in the local candy store and accompanying them to the beach at Coney Island with their girlfriends. Included are several sets of variant images, affording a rare glimpse into Davidson’s working process.

“Despite a more than ten-year age difference, Davidson describes recognising his own repression in his subjects and feeling a connection to their desperation,” said Barbara Tannenbaum, the CMA’s chair of prints, drawings, and photographs and curator of photography.

Press release from the Cleveland Museum of Art

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The museum owns several groups of images from the series taken during the same shoot at Coney Island. They provide a rare glimpse of the artist’s selection process (see 2018.688, 2018.696, 2018.697, 2018.701, 2018.706, and 2018.735). The size of these prints, and the fact that the artist printed them long after they were shot, suggest he considered all four images worthwhile. In an exhibition print, the white marks on the woman’s cheek here, made by dust on the negative, would have been covered up with ink or dye, a process known as spotting. This may be a work print, made to aid in decisions on exactly how to print this picture. It has become one of the better-known images from Brooklyn Gang.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

In this photograph, gang member Bob Powers talks with friends in one of the many Coney Island bathhouses where people could change, shower, or swim in pools. “We’d come down on a Friday and sometimes we’d stay the whole weekend till Monday, down on the beach, me, Lefty, Junior,” Powers recalled. “The girls would stay too… We would light fires and bury all the cans of beer. I remember stealing cars and driving down there. We’d drive the car under the boardwalk and bring it right onto the bay and leave it there.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 50.8 x 61cm (20 x 24 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Shown here on the Coney Island boardwalk, from left to right, are gang members Junior Rice, Bob Powers, and Lefty, who “was a pretty tough guy in the gang and then he went to jail for about a year,” according to Powers. “He came out and he just lost it. He wasn’t the same guy. Something happened and nobody knew what. … We protected him a bit, but he caught a couple of bad beatings and lost his reputation. He ate a lot of pills one night and never woke up. His mother found him dead. OD’d in bed at 19. He was the first in the group to die from a drug overdose.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.1 x 24.1 cm (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.2 x 25.3 cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

This print is vintage – made soon after the picture was shot – and its 8 x 10-inch size was typical of the period and preferred for making reproductions for magazines and books. As photography began gaining acceptance into the gallery and museum world in the 1980s, larger prints became the norm. The museum also owns an unusually large print of the same image, made in the 1990s or 2000s, which was created to be exhibited in galleries and museums. The two may look the same on the computer screen, but do not feel the same when viewed in real life.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.8 x 24.1 cm (6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.1 x 25.4 cm (7 15/16 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

After a day at the beach at Coney Island, the teens “would take the long bus ride back to their neighbourhood,” remembered Bruce Davidson. “As they sat in the rear of the bus, the sunlight burned through the windows, giving them an angelic glow. They would drift into their dreams and awake alert to the mean streets awaiting them.”

 

 

Bruce Davidson

Barbara Tannenbaum

Curator of Photography

A hot topic in the 1950s, gangs were avidly analysed by sociologists, the press, and artists. Gordon Parks’s photographs of a young black Harlem gang leader were published in Life magazine in 1948. The musical West Side Story, which pitted a Polish gang against a Puerto Rican one, debuted on Broadway in 1957. The following year, a seven-part series in the New York Times analysed the social, economic, and psychological causes of this juvenile delinquency.

In the summer of 1959, Bruce Davidson went to Brooklyn to meet and photograph a teenage street gang called the Jokers. Davidson’s series Brooklyn Gang provided an in-depth view into the daily activities of an Irish and Polish gang whose turf was a block in the impoverished Park Slope neighbourhood. The Jokers were teenagers who were mostly students at the neighbourhood Catholic school or dropouts. They shoplifted and fought with members of rival gangs in rumbles that involved bricks, bats, knives, and occasionally zip (homemade) guns.

At age 25, Davidson was an outsider to them. He had been raised in a Jewish family in suburban Chicago and held an MFA in photography from Yale University. His images were being published in major magazines, and he had just joined Magnum, a distinguished, artist-run photographic agency. The Jokers’ role models were the greasers, a rebellious youth subculture promoted by cinematic antiheroes such as Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang member in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean’s troubled teen in Rebel without a Cause (1955). The gang members’ “bad boy” image, replete with Vaseline-slicked pompadours and blue-collar clothing, flouted the era’s aspirational role model of an upwardly mobile white-collar worker in a business suit and short haircut.

Davidson did not sport a pompadour, but making a living as a freelance photojournalist was itself a rebellion against the nine-to-five office world. He spent the summer with the Jokers, hanging out on street corners, in the local candy store, and on the beach at Coney Island. His images reflect their alienation and anxieties but also their camaraderie. The boys explore male bonding rituals and act out their visions of maleness and adulthood. They may roughhouse, but gang ethics dictated that they were not to hurt each other. Real violence was reserved for rival gangs and, like their criminal acts, was not shown by Davidson.

He did capture the teens’ early experiences with lust and love. The Lothario in the back seat of a car is Lefty, of whom Bob Powers, a gang member who wrote a memoir 40 years later, remarked, “We never thought he was good-looking, but all the girls loved him.” This well-known image of Lefty is joined in the exhibition by three others from that same make-out session. Together they form an almost cinematic progression. Several other groups of related images of events are also included in the exhibition. These rare glimpses into the artist’s shooting and editing processes are all drawn from the recent anonymous gift to the museum of 367 works from Davidson’s archive, selections that span his 70-year career.

Davidson was careful not to pass judgment in his Brooklyn Gang photographs. The youngsters’ hairstyles, tattoos, and underage drinking, smoking, and sex were considered ruinous behaviour at the time. The memoirs of Bob Powers and the reminiscences of other members give the Jokers’ story a dark tone. The best-known image in the series, taken in front of a cigarette machine at Coney Island, shows Artie Giammarino, who later became a transit police detective, and Cathy O’Neal, whom the boys considered “beautiful like Brigitte Bardot.” Cathy is seen here at age 13 or 14, around the time she began dating the “coolest” of the gang, Junior Rice. At 14 she got pregnant. Though they were both under the legal age, they married. They later divorced, and Junior became a heroin dealer and user; within a few years, drugs would claim the lives of many in the gang and in the neighbourhood. Years after their divorce, Cathy committed suicide by shotgun.

Davidson would always remain an outsider to the gang, but his working process allowed for intimacy and trust to grow between the gang members and the photographer. By the end of the summer, Davidson realised that he and the Jokers were all considered outsiders in the conformist, materialistic 1950s. “I could see my own repression in them, and I began to feel a connection to their desperation,” he remembered. “I began to feel their isolation and even my own.”

Cleveland Art, Fall 2020

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Although most of the gang members’ time was spent in their neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, the Jokers sometimes took excursions. Few had access to cars, so most travel was by bus and subway. The subway fare of 15 cents – the equivalent of $1.33 today – would take them anywhere in New York City. Here a gang member and his girlfriend wait for a train on the neighbourhood subway platform. The beach at Coney Island was a favourite summer destination for the gang.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

“We used to hang out in [Brooklyn’s] Prospect Park all the time,” recalled Jokers member Bob Powers. “We did a lot of drinking and sleeping overnight in the park. … The cops with their bats would push us along, tell us to move. We were very defiant. If we moved, we moved ten feet. Then they had to tell us to move another ten feet. We’d kind of like move around in a circle and come back to where we originally started. The cops were mean at that time, but then we weren’t the best of kids either.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 13.9 x 17.6cm (5 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.)
Image: 11.4 x 16.9cm (4 1/2 x 6 5/8 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The Jokers roughhoused and fought among themselves but were not allowed to hurt each other. Real violence was reserved for those in other gangs or occasionally for civilians. “Did we fight with chains and pipes and knives? Yeah,” gang member Bob Powers reminisced years later. “Did people get stabbed? Yeah, people got stabbed. And people got their heads cracked open with bats.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang member making out in the back seat of a car on the way home from Coney Island is Lefty, identifiable by his tattoo. “We always wondered why the girls liked him,” recalled Jokers member Bob Powers. “We never thought he was good-looking, but all the girls loved him. It was amazing.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Jimmie, an older member of the gang, watched over the younger members with his brother Johnny. In 1998, Jokers member Bob Powers recalled, “Later, the whole family, all six of them … died, wiped out, mostly from drugs. It’s amazing because at this particular time, if you see Jimmie, he’s like the ‘Fonz,’ like James Dean – handsome. He was good-looking, he had the women, and he was always working on cars.”

 

 

Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Opening hours:
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays 10.00am – 5.00pm
Wednesdays, Fridays 10.00am – 9.00pm
Closed Mondays

Cleveland Museum of Art website

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30
May
19

Exhibition: ‘Dave Heath: Dialogues with Solitudes’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 8th March – 2nd June 2019

 

Dave Heath. 'California' 1964

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
California
1964
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

The master of what we see / visions of the self

In which the visions (ghosts?) in these haunting photographs live, breathe, and barely exist in a strange closed world. Where the subjects seem so vulnerable.

In which there is little sentimentality. The portraits emit a deep sense of melancholy in their re/pose, in the subjects temporal existence separated out from time. Heath photographs people as they are. He projects himself, not his ego, into this vision of vulnerable humanity.

In which this vision of truth illuminates the complex relationship between human nature and reality through emotional energy.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“… the conundrum of the title is a reference about how to navigate the terrain of solitude one wishes to experience (to be alone), but also how to make that extend into a conversation with the subjects in front of you that will eventually become a single body of work for many to view (to be of more than one). This is of course conditional to your position within the world at large and how you view your presence within the greater universal ether. You must carry your solipsism like a rusty bucket of dirty brown well water. In Heath’s case, the solitary monologue and the ramble of the flaneur become something of a mantra – an incessant need to repeat, to be part of the cacophony of the worship of modern life in which the self and the crowd / city are forced to adjust to one another, but at safe distance with impassioned and yearning eyes.”

.
Extract from Brad Feuerhelm. “David Heath: “Dialogues With Solitudes”,” on the ASX website November 23, 2018 [Online] Cited 26/05/2019

 

“”A Dialogue with Solitude” is a self-portrait in which the artist himself never really appears, but is revealed and interpreted by every detail. Its revolt is alive with sympathy and acceptance of man’s modern placement in the world, mated with contradictory realization and resistance which deny and combat the absurdities of existence. This is expressed with a sincere poetry which is never shocked out of countenance by reality.”

.
Edwards, exh. label for A Dialogue of Solitude, 1963, on file in the Photography Department, Art Institute of Chicago quoted in Hugh Edwards. “Dave Heath,” on the Art Institute of Chicago website [Online] Cited 26/05/2019

 

 

The first major UK exhibition dedicated to the work of this hugely influential American photographer.

Heath’s psychologically charged images both reflect and respond to the alienation particularly prevalent in post war North American society. He was one of the first of a new generation of artists seeking new ways to try and make sense of the increasing sense of isolation and vulnerability that typified the age.

Predominantly self-taught, Heath was nonetheless extremely informed and versed in the craft, theory and history of photography and taught extensively throughout his life. Although greatly influenced by W. Eugene Smith and the photographers of the Chicago School, including Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, Heath cannot be neatly pigeonholed as either a documentary or experimental photographer. His work feels more at home within a narrative or poetic tradition, where an interior reality takes precedence.

Taking his masterwork and first publication, A Dialogue With Solitude, as a point of departure, this exhibition highlights Heath’s preoccupations with solitude and contemplation and further makes explicit the importance of sequencing in his practice. Heath was clear that “the central issue of my work is sequence” and held the belief that the relativity and rhythm of images offered a truer way of conveying a universal psychological state than a single image. He perfected a form of montage, often blending text and image to create visual poems, which captured the mood of the decade in a manner akin to a photographic protest song.

Heath’s photographs are shown in dialogue with cult American films from the 1960s similarly focused on themes of solitude and alienation. These include: Portrait of Jason by Shirley Clarke (1966); Salesman by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Mitchell Zwerin (1968); and The Savage Eye by Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers and Joseph Strick (1960).

“The fact that I never had a family, a place or a story that defined me, inspired a need in me to join the community of mankind. I did so by inventing a poetic form linking this community, at least symbolically, in my imagination, through this form.” ~ Dave Heath

Curated by Diane Dufour, Director of LE BAL. Exhibition conceived by LE BAL with the support of Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto), Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York), Archive of Modern Conflict (London) and Les Films du Camélia (Paris).

Text from the Photographers’ Gallery website [Online] Cited 25/05/2019

 

Dave Heath. 'Sesco Corée' 1953-1954

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Sesco, Corée
1953-1954
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Carl Dean Kipper, Korea' 1953-54

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Carl Dean Kipper, Korea
1953-54
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'New York City, 1958-59'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
New York City
1958-59
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Janine Pommy Vega, Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, New York' 1959

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Janine Pommy Vega, Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, New York
1959
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Erin Freed, New York City' 1963

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Erin Freed, New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'New York City (Young Couple Kissing)' 1962

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City (Young Couple Kissing)
1962
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery, in collaboration with LE BAL Paris, presents Dave Heath: Dialogues with Solitudes; the first major UK exhibition dedicated to the work of this hugely influential American photographer (b. 1931 USA, d. 2016 Canada).

Heath’s psychologically charged images both reflect and respond to the alienation particularly prevalent in post war North American society. He was one of the first of a new generation of artists seeking new ways to try and make sense of the increasing sense of isolation and vulnerability that typified the age. Predominantly self-taught, Heath was nonetheless extremely informed and versed in the craft, theory and history of photography and taught extensively throughout his life. Although greatly influenced by W. Eugene Smith and the photographers of the Chicago School, including Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, Heath cannot be neatly pigeonholed as either a documentary or experimental photographer. His work feels more at home within a narrative or poetic tradition, where an interior reality takes precedence.

Heath was born in Philadelphia in 1931 and had a turbulent childhood, abandoned by his parents at the age of four and consigned to a series of foster homes before being placed in an orphanage. He first became interested in photography as a teenager, and joined an amateur camera club. He was fascinated by the photo essays in Life Magazine and cites one in particular as having a decisive impact on his future. Bad Boy’s Story by Ralph Crane, charted the emotional landscape of a young orphan. Not only did Heath identify with the protagonist, he immediately recognised the power of photography as a means of self expression and as a way of connecting to others. In the following years he trained himself in the craft, taking courses in commercial art, working in a photo processing lab, and studying paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While stationed in Korea with the US Army, he began to photograph his fellow soldiers, eschewing the drama of the battlefield for quiet and private moments of subdued reflection.

On his return, Heath dedicated himself to photography, continuing his interest with capturing an “inner landscape” and training his lens on anonymous strangers whom he identified as similarly lost or fragile. Although he photographed in mostly public spaces, on the streets of Chicago and New York (where he moved to in 1957), his subjects seem detached from their physical context, shot in close-up, articulated by their isolation. His frames possess an intensity of concentration, showing single figures or close-knit couples entirely wrapped up in their own world. An occasional sidelong glance conveys a momentary awareness of being photographed, but for the most part Heath is an unobserved, unobtrusive witness. By concentrating on the fragility of human connection, focusing on the personal over the political, Heath gave ‘voice’ to those largely unheard and joined a growing community of artists searching for alternative forms of expression. His work was pivotal in depicting the fractured feeling of societal unease just prior to the rise of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War and his ground-breaking approaches to narrative and image sequence, his exquisite printing techniques, handmade book maquettes, multimedia slide presentations culminated in his poetic masterwork, A Dialogue with Solitude, 1965. This sensitive exploration of loss, pain, love and hope reveals Heath as one the most original photographers of those decades.

After 1970, Dave Heath devoted much of his time to teaching (in particular at Ryerson University, Toronto) in Canada, where he later became a citizen. He died in 2016.

Press release from The Photographers’ Gallery website [Online] Cited 25/05/2019

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Philadelphia, 1952'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Philadelphia
1952
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Untitled' c. 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Untitled
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Elevated in Brooklyn, New York City' 1963

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Elevated in Brooklyn, New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street
London
W1F 7LW

Opening hours:
Mon – Sat: 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday: 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sunday: 11.00 – 18.00

The Photographers’ Gallery website

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10
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Detroit 1968: Photographs by Enrico Natali’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, CA – Part 2

Exhibition dates: 2nd November – 21st December 2013

 

Enrico Natali. 'Ford Motor Company press conference, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Ford Motor Company press conference, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The second tranche of images from the artist Enrico Natali demonstrate his command of visual space. Groups of people face away from the camera, then towards it (image above and below), people clutch at each other or walk in opposite directions (next two images). There is the comparison of races, between abject poverty and young people dressed in fur going to the prom. There is the silence of the singular women in the office, and the (op)posed camaraderie of the Detroit Bolt and Nut Company workers (1968, below). Above all, there is light and shade coupled with a sensitive understanding of how human beings interact – with themselves and the camera. Newlywed couple, Detroit, 1968 (1968, below) is a case in point: the clock on the wall, the record player with single, the hand on the shoulder and the ash lengthening on the cigarette complement the presence of the couple and the wonderful look on their faces. Somehow Natali adds genuine charisma to these people, a dignity and poignancy that makes these photographs memorable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Enrico Natali. 'Ford Motor Company press conference, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Ford Motor Company press conference, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Office workers, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Office workers, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Couple at Metropolitan Beach, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali. 'Pedestrians at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Conners, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Pedestrians at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Conners, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'High school prom, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
High school prom, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Secretary with abstract painting, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Secretary with abstract painting, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Detroit Bolt and Nut Company workers, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Detroit Bolt and Nut Company workers, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Computer room, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Computer room, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Ann Davis at home with her daughter and son, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Ann Davis at home with her daughter and son, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Couple at home with their daughter, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Couple at home with their daughter, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Jim and Judy Yardley with their dogs, Sport and Barney, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Jim and Judy Yardley with their dogs, Sport and Barney, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Pool player in an east side poolroom, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Pool player in an east side poolroom, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Typesetter at work, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Typesetter at work, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Dean Turner with his parents and cat, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Dean Turner with his parents and cat, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Father and child at the Detroit Auto Show, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Father and child at the Detroit Auto Show, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali Enrico.'Natali's son, Vincenzo Natali, on the day of his birth, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Enrico Natali’s son, Vincenzo Natali, on the day of his birth, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Suburban girls shopping in downtown Detroit, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Suburban girls shopping in downtown Detroit, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Man with injured knee at the beach smoking, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Man with injured knee at the beach smoking, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Beauty salon client smoking, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Beauty salon client smoking, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Gala hostess, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Gala hostess, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Woman outside a tire factory waiting for the bus, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Woman outside a tire factory waiting for the bus, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Spectators at an Armed Forces Day parade, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Spectators at an Armed Forces Day parade, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'High school student in mini dress, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
High school student in mini dress, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Couple outside of an art museum, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Couple outside of an art museum, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Woman at an art exhibition in Grosse Pointe, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Woman at an art exhibition in Grosse Pointe, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Newlywed couple, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Newlywed couple, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girard Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 456-5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am-5pm, and Saturday by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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06
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Detroit 1968: Photographs by Enrico Natali’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, CA – Part 1

Exhibition dates: 2nd November – 21st December 2013

 

Enrico Natali. 'Spectators at a public demonstration, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Spectators at a public demonstration, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

 

It takes about five or six photographs. Then, in a light bulb moment, you realise what the artist is doing and how good these images really are.

They stink of humanity!

They are good because the humanity is not something that the photographer has been able to whip around to serve his photography. In fact, because of the milieu in which they were made, he might not have even been aware of it as an outstanding feature. But after looking at contemporary photography, Natali serves up something that is now missing in aces. As a full house in fact.

The strength of these photographs lies in their directness, intimacy and immediacy. The 35mm format adds to latter quality, as does the photographers ability to get his subjects to engage with the process of having their photograph taken. In different contexts, Natali seems to have a wonderful rapport with all sorts of people, whether it be office workers, people at home, students at school or men sitting under hair dryers. The look of the woman with sunglasses fourth in line in the photograph Women’s Convention, Detroit, 1968 (1968, below) is priceless.

Natali never defines his point of departure and just moves around it but in his case it doesn’t matter, for the “humanity” present in his work is obvious. Admittedly, there are elements that Natali borrows from people such as Robert Frank and Diane Arbus. And a photographer such as Lee Friedlander for example, by his intellect / aesthetic, tops the attribute of humanity under a layer of quality and a veneer of fame. But this work has a wonderful presence and substance, a respect for human beings and their worlds and real guts to the work. You can absolutely feel his love for the medium, the craft of photography, and the capturing of these self-contained moments.

Today – all too often (as in most of the photography in the Melbourne Now exhibition) – we have a top layer of aesthetic / intellect etc… but there is rarely anything under it. And that my friends, gives me the shits.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Enrico Natali. 'Incident at Bell Isle Park, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Incident at Bell Isle Park, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Businessmen at a squash match, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Businessmen at a squash match, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Woman at a gym, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Woman at a gym, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Husband and wife at home with their youngest child, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Husband and wife at home with their youngest child, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Office workers, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Office workers, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Woman in her kitchen with rollers in her hair, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Woman in her kitchen with rollers in her hair, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Students at school, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Students at school, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Waitress in an empty restaurant, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Waitress in an empty restaurant, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'High school basketball, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
High school basketball, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Formal cocktail party, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Formal cocktail party, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Programmer with computer, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Programmer with computer, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Women's gymnastics class, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Women’s gymnastics class, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Couple picnicking, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Couple picnicking, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Beauty salon client with a new haircut, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Beauty salon client with a new haircut, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Men under hairdryers, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Men under hairdryers, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Shoe repair shop owner, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Shoe repair shop owner, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Women waiting at a bus stop in the rain, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Women waiting at a bus stop in the rain, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Women's Convention, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Women’s Convention, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

 

As the fall of Detroit began, as her middle class American Dreamers began moving to greener pastures, and while the Motor City’s status as one of the shining stars of the industrial revolution began to fade, Detroit became a locus for the racial conflict and political upheaval that swept the country during the late 1960s. Throughout this pivotal moment, Enrico Natali was present, empathically documenting Detroit, her people and their environments, and their lives and conditions in his compelling photographs.

Forty-one years later, Natali’s photographs of Detroit still resonate with hope and emotion, and indeed, have taken on an added pathos. These pictures capture the relative calm before the storm: people attending art exhibitions, sporting events, a high school prom; families posing together for portraits; secretaries smoking their afternoon cigarettes; children, parents and grandparents, workers of every stripe – machinists, waitresses, beauticians – plying their trades with what might be described in retrospect as innocence. The spirits of these nameless faces, young and old, are the ghosts that haunt what is now – very literally – this bankrupt metropolis.

Enrico Natali was born in 1933, in Utica, New York. During the 1960s he lived and photographed in various American cities, including New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit. At the end of that decade he ceased work as a photographer and began a meditation practice that became his primary focus, as he built a home and raised his family in California’s Los Padres National Forest. In 1990 Natali and his wife Nadia founded the Blue Heron Center for Integral Studies, a Zen meditation center in Ojai, California. A handsome, timely and poignant publication, Detroit 1968, published by Foggy Notion Books, including an essay by Mark Binelli, author of the critically acclaimed Detroit City is the Place to Be (2012, Metropolitan Books), accompanies the exhibition.

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery website

 

Enrico Natali. 'Young woman on a street, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Young woman on a street, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Warehouse foreman, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Warehouse foreman, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Community organizer, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Community organiser, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Opening night at the Detroit Opera, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Opening night at the Detroit Opera, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Hair stylist smoking, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Hair stylist smoking, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Boy in a backyard, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Boy in a backyard, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Young men at a debutante ball, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Young men at a debutante ball, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Ana Kuzick at home in high chair, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Ana Kuzick at home in high chair, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Businessman at a press party, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Businessman at a press party, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Margaret Carpenter at home, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Margaret Carpenter at home, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'William Day, president of Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
William Day, president of Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Bolt and nut sorters, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Bolt and nut sorters, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Executive secretary, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Executive secretary, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Go-Go dancer, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Go-Go dancer, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Warehouse worker, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Warehouse worker, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Trucking company executive, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Trucking company executive, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Sales meeting in an auditorium, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Sales meeting in an auditorium, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

Enrico Natali. 'Elevator operator, Detroit, 1968' 1968

 

Enrico Natali (American, b. 1933)
Elevator operator, Detroit, 1968
1968
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girard Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 456-5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am-5pm, and Saturday by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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24
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘Lewis Hine: Photography for a Change’ at the Netherlands Museum of Photography, Rotterdam

Exhibition dates: 15th September – 6th January 2013

 

Lewis Hine
. 'Man on hoisting ball, Empire State building' 1931

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Man on hoisting ball, Empire State building
1931
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

 

“In the last analysis, good photography is a question of art.”

“I wanted to show the thing that had to be corrected: I wanted to show the things that had to be appreciated.”

.
Lewis Wickes Hines

 

 

Something that you really don’t get in reproductions is the absolutely beautiful tonality of Hine’s social documentary photography. Even less so when the images provided by the institution are degraded by scratches, dust, spots and colour irregularities. Despite these media images being 300 dpi when I received them from the museum media department they were in very average condition. For example, the image of Christmas Fiddles (below) was in such poor condition when enlarged that I had to spend over half and hour cleaning up the image to make it pictorially legible to the viewer at a larger size.

This is not an unusual occurrence and, unbeknownst to the readers of the blog, I spend many hours quickly cleaning the digital files before they are presented to you. Some individual images and sets of images are of such poor quality that I simply cannot use them at all. I will do a posting on this issue soon, but suffice to say that museums that spend thousands of hours and dollars staging impressive photographic exhibitions really let themselves down in the promotion of the exhibition if they provide dodgy scans and unusable media images to people that promote the exhibition for free. In this world of media saturated images it should be the norm that the “quality” of the image outweighs the indifferent quantity. With faster and faster download speeds larger images can be viewed more readily online and therefore scans provided by institutions must live up to this enlarged capacity.

Hopefully you can get some idea of the work of this socially conscious photographer, an American photographer who saw the camera as both a research tool and an instrument of social reform, whose images helped change the world with regard to child labour. Unfortunately success and reputation counted for nought. He died totally impoverished in 1940, shortly before a resurgence of public interest in his work raised him to the highest level of American photographers. What an infinite sadness.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Lewis Hine. 'Lunch Time, New York' 1910

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Lunch Time, New York
1910
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

Lewis Hine. 'Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles' 1918

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles
1918
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

Lewis Hine. 'Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles' 1918 (detail)

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Belgrade. Christmas Fiddles (detail)
1918
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

Lewis Hine. 'Steelworker standing on beam' 1931

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Steelworker standing on beam
1931
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

 

From 15 September 2012 to 6 January 2013, the Netherlands Museum of Photography will present the first large retrospective in the Netherlands of the work of the renowned American photographer Lewis Hine. Hine was an enthusiastic photographer who wished to improve people’s lives through his photos. His pictures of immigrants on Ellis Island, of child labour, and of workers busy on the Empire State Building high above New York belong to the visual icons of the 20th century. The internationally touring exhibition contains more than 200 photos and documents, many in their original state and originating from the collection of the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York State. Lewis Hine is an initiative of three European institutions: Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (Paris), Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid) and the Netherlands Museum of Photography (Rotterdam). It is with great pride that the Netherlands Museum of Photography can now present this exhibition that harmonizes perfectly with its aim to pay attention to the canon of international documentary photography.

Lewis W. Hine (Wisconsin, 1874 – New York, 1940), a sociologist and photographer, belongs to the group of famous photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Frank, Robert Capa, Eugène Atget to whom the Netherlands Museum of Photography has previously devoted impressive exhibitions. Hine is known as a 20th-century pioneer of social documentary photography. It is characteristic of Hine that he strongly believed in the camera’s powers of conviction. Thus, armed only with a heavy camera he fought for social justice. For the National Child Labor Committee he travelled more than 75,000 kilometres through the United States to photograph children working in agriculture, the mines, factories, sewing attics, and on the streets. His photos were partly responsible for reforms in these fields. The themes in Hine’s work – child labour, situations of human indignity, and the vulnerability of immigrants and refugees – are still current. Despite his present reputation, his early successes and the fact that many governmental organisations made use of his photos, he died totally impoverished in 1940.

 

Empire State Building and Building the Rotterdam

In 1932 Lewis Hine published the famous photographic book entitled Men at Work, which covered the construction of the Empire State Building. From the most audacious vantage points he took photos of the 381-metre building, showing the strength and willpower of humankind, man’s contribution to industry. The tall buildings on the Wilhelminapier have determined the skyline of Rotterdam for many years, just as the Empire State Building did in New York around 1930. The Wilhelminapier is now under full development. De Rotterdam Building, designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architectural) will be completed in 2013-2014. The photographer Ruud Sies has followed the genesis of the largest building in the Netherlands for four years now. The project entitled Building the Rotterdam – a work in progress by Ruud Sies was inspired by the work of Lewis Hine and establishes the connection with the Wilhelminapier as a historical location. To the Netherlands Museum of Photography, this is a reason to include this project in the exhibition of the work of Lewis Hine.

 

Exhibition

With 170 vintage photos from the period 1903-37 as well as 42 documents, this exhibition of Hine’s work is the first extensive and well-documented overview in the Netherlands and even in Europe. Hine’s entire oeuvre is on show, ranging from his earliest portraits of immigrants on Ellis Island to his work in Europe after the First World War. The Lewis Hine touring exhibition was on display in Paris toward the end of 2011, and in Madrid at the beginning of this year. For this international journey, Hine’s work has undergone preventative preservation treatment and is exposed to a minimum amount of light. After the exhibition in the Netherlands, the work will return to the George Eastman House in America to relax in a dark depot.”

Press release from the Netherlands Museum of Photography website

 

Lewis Hine. 'The Sky Boy' 1931

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
The Sky Boy
1931
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

Lewis Hine. 'Waiting for the dispensary to open Hull House District, Chicago' 1910

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Waiting for the dispensary to open Hull House District, Chicago
1910
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

 

Lewis Hine was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1874. He moved to New York City in 1901 to teach at the Ethical Culture School. There Hine used photographs as educational tools, and soon began to photograph immigrants at Ellis Island. He hoped his photographs would encourage people to “exert the force to right wrongs.” While continuing to teach at ECS, Hine began to do freelance work for the National Child Labor Committee, an association that transformed his professional life.

In 1908, the NCLC provided Hine a monthly salary to photographically document children in factories, mills, canneries, textile mills, street trades, and agricultural industries. Through his photographs he sought to alert the public to the extent of child labor in America, and the degree to which it denied these children their childhood, health, and education. In one year, Hine covered 12,000 miles in his quest to end abusive child labor. By 1913, Hine was considered the leading social welfare photographer in America.

Hine enjoyed a long and successful career following his work for the NCLC. He worked for the American Red Cross (1917-20), photographing refugees and civilians in war-torn Europe, a new series of photographs of immigrants at Ellis Island (1926), a series of photographs documenting the construction of the Empire State Building (1930), photographs of drought-ridden communities in Arkansas and Kentucky (1931), as well as work for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1936-37 Hine was appointed head photographer for the National Research Project of the Works Progress Administration. The aging Hine, however, was disappointed at the rebuff of his attempts to secure work with the Farm Services Administration, where director Roy Stryker considered Hine old fashioned and difficult. Lewis Hine died in 1940, shortly before a resurgence of public interest in his work raised him to the highest level of American photographers.

Text from Child Labour in Virginia: Photographs by Lewis Hine web page [Online] Cited 21/12/2012 no longer available online

 

Lewis Hine. 'Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house' 1920

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Mechanic at steam pump in electric power house
1920
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

Lewis Hine. 'Candy Worker, New York' 1925

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Candy Worker, New York
1925
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

Lewis Hine. 'Paris Gamin' 1918

 

Lewis Hine
 (American, 1874-1940)
Paris Gamin
1918
Gelatin silver print
© George Eastman House

 

 

Netherlands Museum of Photography
Wilhelminakade 332
3072 AR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Opening hours
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

Nederlands Museum of Photography website

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12
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album. Vintage Photographs of the 1960s’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 20th September – 17th December 2012

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Guy With 5 Hogs' 1961-67

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Guy With 5 Hogs
1961-67
Location: USA
6.97 x 9.85 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

 

 

 

“I never made a cent from these photos. They cost me money but kept me alive. These are my photos. I started at eighteen taking pictures. I stopped at thirty-one. (…) These represent the years from twenty-five to thirty-one, 1961 to 1967. I didn’t crop my photos. They are full frame natural light Tri-X. I went under contract to Warner Brothers at eighteen. I directed Easy Rider at thirty-one. I married Brooke at twenty-five and got a good camera and could afford to take pictures and print them. They were the only creative outlet I had for these years until Easy Rider. I never carried a camera again.”

.
Dennis Hopper 1986

 

“The necessity to make these photos and paintings came from a real place – a place of desperation and solitude – with the hope that someday these objects, paintings, and photos would be seen filling the void I was feeling.”

.
Dennis Hopper 2001

 

 

Unlike an earlier posting of photographs by a well known film director (the underwhelming, in fact pretty awful, Wim Wenders: Places, Strange and Quiet), these “lost” photographs by Dennis Hopper are very good. They perfectly capture the social milieu of the time and the pervading ethos of the fracturing of the image plane, a la Gary Winogrand or Lee Friedlander. Nice to see the work full frame as well, meaning that the photographers’ previsualisation was strong in camera; that Hopper had an excellent understanding of the construction of the pictorial frame negating the necessity for cropping of the image. Enlarging the face of Martin Luther King Jr., (below) and then looking into his eyes, I felt I had a connection with this person. Nostalgia, longing, sadness and joy at his life and the feeling that I was looking into the eyes of one of the great human beings of the twentieth century.

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

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Double Standard' 1961

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Double Standard
1961
Location: Los Angeles, Ca USA
6.87 x 9.79 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

Dennis Hopper. 'James Rosenquist' 1964

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
James Rosenquist
1964
Location: Billboard Factory, Los Angeles, Ca USA
6.81 x 9.68 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

 

The exhibition shows a spectacular portfolio of over four hundred vintage photographs taken by Dennis Hopper in the 1960s. Tucked away in five crates and forgotten, they were discovered after his death. There can be no doubt that these works are those personally selected by Hopper from the wealth of shots he took between 1961 and 1967 for the first major exhibition of his photography. The pictures themselves document how the works were installed in the Fort Worth Art Center Museum, Texas, in 1970 by himself and Henry T. Hopkins, the museum’s director at the time. None of these works have been displayed in Europe before. The portfolio that has now come to light is a treasure. It consists of small plates, sometimes numbered on the back with brief notes in Hopper’s hand and showing traces of wear. Mounted on cardboard, without frame of glass, they were attached directly to the wall.

The images have a legendary quality. Spontaneous, intimate, poetic, unabashedly political and keenly observed, they document an exciting epoch, its protagonists and milieus. These photographs reflect the atmosphere of an era, being outstanding testimonials to America’s dynamic cultural scene in the 1960s. On the viewer they exercise an irresistible attraction, bearing him away on a journey into the past, often into his own history.

Many of these pictures are icons, such as the portraits of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman and Jane Fonda. They also cover a wide range of subjects. Dennis Hopper is interested in everything. Wherever he happens to be, whether in Los Angeles, New York, London, Mexico or Peru, he takes in his surroundings with empathy, enthusiasm and intense curiosity. He seeks and savours the “essential moment”, capturing the celebrities and types of his time with the camera: actors, artists, musicians, his family, bikers and hippies. He leaves an impressive photographic record of the “street life” of Harlem, of cemeteries in Mexico, and of bullfights in Tijuana. Hopper accompanies Martin Luther King Jr. on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and, in images of great beauty and serenity, he converts the every day life and the neglected into a picture of beauty and silence as if converting Abstract Expressionism from the language of painting into that of photography.

Between 1961 and 1967 Hopper applied himself intensely on photography.

Hopper’s photographs are legendary images, spontaneous, intimate, and poetic as well as decidedly political and keenly observant – documents of an exciting period, its protagonists and milieus. Many of these photos have become iconic: the portraits of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman or Jane Fonda. They also cover a range of topics and motifs. Hopper was interested in everything. Wherever he was, in Los Angeles, New York, London, Mexico or Peru, he was a precise observer, full of empathy and curiosity. He captured the geniuses of his day, the actors, artists, musicians and poets, his family and friends, the “scene”, bikers and hippies. He wandered the streets of Harlem and the graveyards of Durango and watched the bullfights in Tijuana with fascination. Hopper followed Martin Luther King Jr. with his camera on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. And he paid attention to things small, ordinary, and neglected, transforming the “remains of our world” into images of great beauty and tranquility, as if converting Abstract Expressionist painting into the language of photography.

Press release from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Andy Warhol and Members of The Factory (Gregory Markopoulos, Taylor Mead, Gerard Malanga, Jack Smith)' 1963

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Andy Warhol and Members of The Factory (Gregory Markopoulos, Taylor Mead, Gerard Malanga, Jack Smith)
1963
Location: in The Factory, NYC, NY USA
6.57 x 9.87 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Niki de Saint Phalle (kneeling)' 1963

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Niki de Saint Phalle (kneeling)
1963
Location: USA
6.66 x 9.83 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

 

The Lost Album

Gelatine silver vintage prints, 1970
Collection of the Dennis Hopper Art Trust

More than four hundred photos came to light after Hopper’s death. He had selected them for his first photography exhibition in 1970 at the Fort Worth Art Center Museum. They show signs of wear: fingerprints, scratches, discolouration, a frayed corner or tiny dent. Mounted on cardboard, numbered on the back with notes in Hopper’s handwriting, they were hung directly on the wall from small wooden strips without frames or glass. The hanging in the Martin-Gropius-Bau is based on the original installation of 1970.

The vintage prints, in portrait and landscape format, are all of a similar size, c. 24 x 16cm; twenty of them are in a larger format (c. 33 x 23cm). Of the 429 Hopper chose for his first exhibition, eleven are believed lost; they are replaced here by new prints, which will be clearly indicated. In only two cases was it impossible to locate the corresponding negative, and a placeholder with the title is mounted instead. The rediscovered boxes contained an additional nineteen, unnumbered vintage prints along with the 429, which Hopper took with him to Fort Worth but probably never hung in the exhibition. They have been incorporated into the “Album” here (I-XIX).

 

Additional information on the photographs

1. Brooke Hayward, Marin Hopper

Brooke Hayward, born and raised in Los Angeles, was at home in the glamorous world of Hollywood through her parents, the film producer Leland Hayward and Hollywood star Margaret Sullavan, and Hopper in turn knew a lot of extraordinary people through his involvement in the acting and art worlds. Hopper and Hayward’s home became the center of an illustrious group of actors, artists, musicians, writers, and film producers. Soon after moving [into their house] they threw a “movie star party” for Andy Warhol to celebrate his second exhibition at the Ferus Gallery (1963).

“Since I was a small child, growing up in L.A., I remember that my dad was always capturing the scene around him through the lens of his camera. What he always described as taking the most pleasure in exploring, or focusing on, much like Marcel Duchamp signing the Hotel-Green-Sign for him on the night of his opening at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963, and Rauschenberg’s practice, was the philosophy that an artist can point to something and claim it’s art because in that moment it is to them.” (Marin Hopper, 2012)

 

2. Los Angeles Art Scene

Walter Hopps and Edward Kienholz founded the Ferus Gallery at 736A North La Cienega Boulevard in March 1957. Ferus was very underground, like a crazy club with exhibitions, readings and fashion shows. “The openings were wild, everybody had a blast, and nobody made a penny.” Hopper attended every opening and went to performances and happenings, whether it was Oldenburg’s Los Angeles performance Autobodys in 1963, Robert Rauschenberg’s performance Pelican at the Culver City Ice Rink in 1966, or Allan Kaprow’s Fluids in 1967, when with the help of friends he stacked blocks of ice to form enclosures at different sites in Los Angeles.

In 1966, Claes Oldenburg made a piece of plaster wedding cake (which he stamped on the back) for each guest at the wedding party for Jim Elliot, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Rauschenberg was wearing this stamp on his tongue when Hopper photographed him at the wedding.

 

3. New York

Hopper frequently traveled to New York, strolling through the Museum of Modern Art and the galleries, sometimes in the company of Henry Geldzahler, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and visited Warhol, at whose Factory he encountered Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead or David Hockney. Hopper met Robert Rauschenberg in New York and visited Roy Lichtenstein in his studio.

In London, where he exhibited his assemblages at the Robert Fraser Gallery in 1964, he made the acquaintance of Peter Blake, one of the key figures of British Pop Art, David Hemmings, the star of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow up (1966), and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.

 

4. Civil Rights Marches

The Selma to Montgomery March: “[Marlon] Brando got me involved [in the march] … He pulled up in his car and said, ‘What are you doing day after tomorrow?’ and I said ‘Nothing’, and he said, ‘You want to go to Selma?’ And I said, ‘Sure, man. Thanks for asking me!’ [Then at the march, police] dogs were biting, and people were being bombed, and it was like, ‘Where are we?'” (Dennis Hopper)

The third march from Selma to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, began on March 21, 1965, extended for 54 miles, took five days, and involved 4,000 marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr. and allies such as Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. It was the highpoint of the American Civil Rights Movements. Hundreds of ministers, priests, nuns, and rabbis followed King’s call to Selma. “It was like a holy crusade …” Numerous photographers, such as Spider Martin, James Karales, Steve Shapiro, and Bruce Davidson, documented the largest ever gathering of people during the civil rights movement in the South.

 

5. Mexico

He was completely obsessed with bullfighting and began attending fights regularly at the Tijuana arena in the 1950s. Hopper went to Mexico as an actor in 1965 when Henry Hathaway surprisingly offered him a role in his film The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).

A Western town was erected in the middle of Durango. Of course, Hopper had his camera with him. He photographed John Wayne and Dean Martin on the set and natives who were part of the crew or who just stopped by to watch, but he also roamed the area and the streets of Durango and Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s Mexico had held a great fascination for European as well as American avant-garde painters, photographers, and writers. Edward Weston lived in Mexico City; Henri Cartier-Bresson went there for a year in 1934, befriending the young photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Their images have shaped our perception of that country, a perception that is also echoed by some of Hopper’s photographs.

Wall texts from the exhibition

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Martin Luther King, Jr.' 1965

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Martin Luther King, Jr.
1965
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
9.2 x 13.6 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Martin Luther King, Jr.,' 1965 (detail)

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (detail)
1965
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
9.2 x 13.6 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

Dennis Hopper. 'James Brown' 1966

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
James Brown
1966
Location: USA
9.7 x 6.77 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

Dennis Hopper. 'Paul Newman' 1964

 

Dennis Hopper (American, 1936-2010)
Paul Newman
1964
Location: Malibu, Ca USA
9.7 x 6.66 inches
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

 

 

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening hours:
Friday – Wednesday 10.00 – 19.00
Thursday 10.00 – 21.00
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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17
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Before Color: William Eggleston’ at Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam

Exhibition dates: 16th June – 26th August 2012

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1960

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1960
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York and Peder Lund, Oslo
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Vegard Kleven, Oslo

 

 

“As these rediscovered prints reveal, the man who made colour photography into an artform worked brilliantly in monochrome – and his eye for unsettling detail is every bit as sharp”

.
Sean O’Hagan

 

 

These are magnificent, intelligent photographs. They are works from the master that show that Eggleston found his own style early on. His understanding of the “quietness” of space and form within the picture plane is already fully developed and his aesthetic decision to use grainy, black and white high speed film just adds to the stillness and eeriness of the photographs. His signature style, his unique messianic voice, really shines through in these recently discovered images which could be seen to be BC – before the beginning of colour (photography) as eulogised by the museum establishment.

Highlights in these photographs include:

  • The pose of the women caught mid-stride, about to put the telephone back in its cradle
  • The man and the woman frozen mid-conversation in a minimal hotel lobby(?) with the shroud of a dark man on the plaque behind
  • The barren hotel room with old air conditioner, vinyl chair, floral bedspread and newspapers strewn over the floor (remeniscent of the spaces of so many of his later colour photographs)
  • And my favourite, Untitled (1960, below), the bulk of the heavy car looming out of the murk at the bottom of the picture frame, the intransigent windscreen wipers, the rain and the blurred traffic moving behind. You can almost touch and taste the atmosphere of this moment, in this day, of that year…

.
The wondrous thing is that Eggleston’s voice transfers beautifully through into the saturation of his later colour dye-transfer prints. His pared down vision of life and world become unmistakably his own in the colour photographs. Unlike the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, whose panache in his black and white photographs is matched only by the shallowness of his colour work, here Eggleston lays the ground work for the rest of his monumental career.

Great to see these early photographs. I’m so glad they found them!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1960

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1960
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York and Peder Lund, Oslo
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1966

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1966
Private collection, Oslo. Courtesy Peder Lund
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

 

The American photographer William Eggleston (1939) is known as one of the first major pioneers of artistic colour photography. His book William Eggleston’s Guide was one of the most influential photography books of the 20th century and still inspires many today. Eggleston’s black-and-white photographs are less well-known. In Before Color, the Nederlands Fotomuseum highlights this famous photographer’s earliest work, which was only recently discovered. The photographs show that Eggleston found his own style early on. Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston used a 35mm camera and fast black-and-white film to photograph the American way of life in the early 1960s. We see his own surroundings: suburban Memphis, with its diners, car parks and supermarkets, as well as the houses and domestic interiors of the people who lived there. Before Color by William Eggleston will be on display from 16 June until 26 August.

 

Black-and-white snapshots

When Eggleston started taking photographs in the early 1960s, he was particularly inspired by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and his book The Decisive Moment from 1952. Contrary to the big names in American photography at the time – who were preoccupied with the stunning landscape, like Ansel Adams – Cartier-Bresson took snapshots of everyday life. Eggleston found this approach very appealing. Using a 35mm camera and fast black-and-white film he began photographing his own surroundings. These were predominantly shaped by suburban Memphis, with its diners, car parks and supermarkets, but he also focused on the houses and domestic interiors of the people who lived there.

 

Breaking a tradition

At the same time Eggleston experimented with colour photography. Together with Joel Meyerowitz, Joel Sternfeld and others, he broke the long tradition of black-and-white photography by working in colour and focusing on subjects from daily life. In 1972 he completed an extensive series of 2,200 photographs entitled Los Alamos, which provided a unique picture of life in America in the ’60s and early ’70s. He discovered the deep and saturated colours of the so-called dye-transfer printing technique, originally a commercial application that he perfected and that would become his international trademark. His first solo exhibition in 1976 was also the first exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art devoted to colour photography. The exhibition was accompanied by what would become the acclaimed and influential book William Eggleston’s Guide.

 

Before color

Eggleston would later abandon black-and-white film altogether and his earliest work was forgotten. So it was a surprise when a box of his black-and-white photographs was recently found in the archives of the William Eggleston Artistic Trust in Memphis. The photographs were exhibited for the first time in 2010 at the Cheim & Read Gallery in New York and published in the book Before Color (Steidl, 2010).

 

Before Color exhibition

This is the first time that Before Color has been exhibited in the Netherlands and includes nearly 40 photographs from William Eggleston’s early career. The images show that Eggleston found his personal style and photographic motifs early on and provide a wonderful picture of the American way.

Press release from the Nederlands Fotomuseum website

 

William Eggelston. 'Untitled' 1960

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1960
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York and Peder Lund, Oslo
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' Nd

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
Nd
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York and Peder Lund, Oslo
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1960

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
Nd
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York and Peder Lund, Oslo
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1960

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1960
Private collection, Oslo. Courtesy Peder Lund
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1960

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1960
Private collection, Oslo. Courtesy Peder Lund
Eggleston Artistic Trust, Photo Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

 

Nederlands Fotomuseum
Wilhelminakade 332
3072 AR Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Opening hours
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

Nederlands Fotomuseum website

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24
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Photographs’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 29th April 2012

 

Berenice Abbott. 'New York Stock Exchange, New York City' 1933

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
New York Stock Exchange, New York City
1933
Gelatin silver print
24 x 19cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

 

It is not her portraits or the road trip photographs, nor her scientific work for which Berenice Abbott will be remembered. Firstly, she will always be remembered as the person who photographed Eugene Atget in 1927 just before he died and who bought the remainder of his negatives (after the French government had bought over 2,000 in 1920 and another 2,000 had been sold after his death). She then tirelessly promoted Atget’s work helping him gain international recognition until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. Secondly, she is remembered for her magnificent photographs of New York City and its urban environs, photographs that show the influence of Atget in their attention to detail and understanding of the placement of the camera, and imaging of old and new parts of the city (much as Atget had photographed old Paris before it was destroyed). However, these photographs are uniquely her own, with their modernist New Vision aesthetic, bold perspectives and use of deep chiaroscuro to enhance form within the photograph. Abbott’s best known project, Changing New York (1935-39) eventually consisted of 305 photographs that document the buildings of Manhattan, some of which are now destroyed. As the text on Wikipedia insightfully notes:

“Abbott’s project was primarily a sociological study imbedded within modernist aesthetic practices. She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realise that their environment was a consequence of their collective behaviour (and vice versa). Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favour of what she described as “fantastic” contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilised a subject (if she approved of it), or destabilised it (if she scorned it).”

.
In the text below Gaëlle Morel observes, “Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “disappearance of the moment” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.”

While Abbott’s photographs are definitely modernist in nature I believe that today they can also be seen as deeply nostalgic, emerging as they do in the period after the Great Depression when the economy was on the move again, a peaceful time before the oncoming armageddon of the Second World War, closely followed by the fear of nuclear annihilation and the threat of communist indoctrination. They are timeless portraits of a de/reconstructed city. The images seem to float in the air, breathe in the shadows. This is the disappearance of the moment into the enigma of past, present, future – where the photograph becomes eternal, where the best work of both Atget and Abbott resides.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Treasury Building, New York City' 1933

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Treasury Building, New York City
1933
Gelatin silver print
51 x 40.5cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

 

Architecture

“The tempo of the city is not that of eternity, nor that of time, but that of the ephemeral. That is why recording it is so important, in both documentary and artistic terms.”

“All the photographs of New York took a long time to make, because the camera had to be carefully positioned. There is nothing fortuitous about these photographs.”

.
The exhibition features a substantial collection from Abbott’s best known project, Changing New York (1935-39). Commissioned by the Roosevelt administration as part of its response to the nationwide economic crisis, Abbott saw this piece of work as both a way of documenting the City and as a personal work of art. Eighty of the 305 photographs taken by Abbott are on show here, along with various documents providing insight into the background of this major photographic undertaking, including posters and views of the exhibition organised by the Museum of the City of New York in 1937, sketches and historical notes made by the team of journalists working with Abbott on the project, and proofs and dummies of the layout made by the photographer before she started work.

Abbott homes in on the contrasts between old and new elements in the City’s structure. Her images alternate between a New Vision aesthetic, characterised by an emphasis on details and bold perspectives, and a more documentary style that is frontal and neutral. Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “disappearance of the moment” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.

In 1938, hoping to take advantage of the fifty million visitors expected at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the publisher, E.P. Dutton, offered to bring out a selection of one hundred images from the project accompanied by a text by the renowned art critic Elizabeth McCausland, who also happened to be Abbott’s companion and staunch supporter. Going against the women’s original ideas for an art book, Dutton produced a more standard tourist guide, breaking the City down into a series of tours, from south to north and from the centre outwards. The text, too, was shorn of its poetic and pedagogical dimensions, leaving only informative entries about the buildings in the pictures.

In the exhibition, this set of architectural photographs is rounded out by a selection of pictures of vernacular architecture taken by Abbott during a journey in the southern states of the US in the 1930s and when she was travelling along Route 1 in the 1950s. Here, portraits of farmers and wooden houses alternate with pictures of streets and local events.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Triborough Bridge, East 125th Street Approach, New York City, June 29, 1937'

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Triborough Bridge, East 125th Street Approach, New York City, June 29, 1937
1937
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 19cm
Museum of the City of New York. Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Broadway to the Battery, New York City, May 4, 1938' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Broadway to the Battery, New York City, May 4, 1938
1938 
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24cm
Museum of the City of New York
Museum Purchase with funds from the Mrs. Elon Hooker Acquisition Fund
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Flat Iron Building, Broadway and Fifth Avenue, New York City' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Flat Iron Building, Broadway and Fifth Avenue, New York City
1938
Gelatin silver print
101.5 x 76 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

 

Berenice Abbott Petit Journal

With over 120 photographs, plus a selection of books and documents never shown before, this is the first exhibition in France to cover the many different facets of the American photographer Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), who is also famous for her international advocacy of Eugène Atget. She came to Paris in 1921 where she learnt her craft from Man Ray before opening her own studio and embarking on a successful career as a portraitist. Returning to New York City in 1929, she conceived what remains her best‑known project, Changing New York (1935-39). This was financed by the Works Progress Administration as part of its response to the economic crisis sweeping the country. The photographs she took in 1954 when travelling along the US East Coast on Route 1 (the exhibition presents a previously unseen selection of these images) reflect her ambition to represent the whole of what she called the “American scene.” Furthermore, in the 1950s, she also worked on a set of images for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed to illustrate the principles of mechanics and light for educational purposes.

A committed member of the avant‑garde from the early 1920s, and a staunch opponent of Pictorialism and the school of Alfred Stieglitz, Abbott spent the whole of her career exploring the limits and nature of documentary photography and photographic realism. This exhibition shows the rich array of her interests and conveys both the unity and diversity of her work.

 

Portraits

Berenice Abbott moved to New York City in the early 1920s and went about becoming a sculptor. Mixing in the bohemian circles of Greenwich Village, she met writers and artists such as Djuna Barnes, Sadakichi Hartmann and Marcel Duchamp. She also posed for Man Ray. Economic hardship at home and the allure of what then seemed the cultural Eldorado of Europe impelled several of these artists to try their luck in Paris, and Abbott herself joined this group of American expatriates in 1921.

In 1923 she became the assistant of Man Ray, who had opened a portrait studio shortly after his arrival in France in 1921. While a fair portion of the studio’s clients were American tourists, Abbott found herself at the heart of the avant-garde scene – especially that of the Surrealists. Between 1923 and 1926 she thus learnt about darkroom techniques and portrait photography while at the same time picking up a broader intellectual and artistic education. She produced her portraits in Man Ray’s studio before opening her own in 1926. Success soon followed. Her clientele was a mixture of French cultural figures and American expatriates, of bourgeois, bohemians and literary types. Her portraits were on occasion manifestly influenced by Surrealism, and more generally show an interest in masquerade, play and disguise, but sometimes even in their use of overprinting and distortion.

The female models express a kind of sexual ambiguity, notably by their masculine haircut or clothes, deliberately exuding a sense of uncertainty with regard to their identity. In composing her portraits, Abbott developed a distinctive aesthetic, far removed from the usual commercial conventions. The absence of a set, with the background usually no more than a plain wall, helped to focus on the sitter and their posture, the position of their body and their facial expression. The use of a tripod and long-focus lenses placed at eye-height allowed her to avoid distortions and thus heighten the physical presence of the models. In early 1929 Abbott left Paris for New York City. Back in America she continued with the same activities, opening a new portrait studio and taking part in exhibitions of modernist photography, while also promoting the work of Eugène Atget, having bought part of his estate in 1928.

 

New York City

In the early 1930s, Abbott set about her project for a great documentary portrait of the City of New York, but had no luck when she approached institutions such as the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Historical Society for funding. She assembled her first efforts in an album (eight pages of which are exhibited here) in order to convey the scale of her ambitious undertaking, and in 1934 exhibited her photographs of the City at the Museum of the City of New York in the hope of attracting sponsors. In 1935, support was at last forthcoming from the Federal Art Project, a programme set up to aid artists by the Works Progress Administration as part of the New Deal; she now had the support of a team of researchers who produced an information pack with text and drawings to accompany each image. Entitled Changing New York, she conceived this commission as both a vast documentary record of the City and a personal work of art. Eighty of the 305 photographs constituting this project have been selected for the exhibition. These are accompanied by documents – a poster, exhibition views, sketches and historical notes, proofs, pages from the preparatory album and original editions – that help to convey the concerns and ambitions behind this major photographic undertaking.

Abbott focused on the contrasts and links between old and new in the City’s structure. Her images alternate between a New Vision aesthetic, characterised by an emphasis on details and bold perspectives, and a more documentary style that is frontal and neutral. Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “vanishing instant” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.

The upshot of all this work was the publication of a book, Changing New York, in 1939. But there was considerable tension between the publisher, whose concerns were commercial, and the photographer, with her artistic ambitions. In 1938, hoping to take advantage of the fifty million visitors expected at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the publishing house E.P. Dutton proposed to bring out a selection of one hundred images from the project accompanied by a text from the renowned art critic Elizabeth McCausland, who also happened to be Abbott’s companion and unfailing supporter. Straying far from the project originally envisaged by the two women, Dutton changed the presentation of the photographs and produced what was a standard tourist guide, breaking the City down into a series of tours, from south to north and from the centre outwards. The text, too, was shorn of its poetic and pedagogical dimensions, leaving only information about the buildings in the pictures.

 

The “American scene”

This set of architectural images is completed by a selection of vernacular photographs. In the summer of 1935, Berenice Abbott went on a road trip down to the Southern US in order to create a portrait of a rural world in crisis. Choosing the kind of documentary style that would be the hallmark of the photographic survey launched by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) that same year, she focused on the modest wooden houses and the farmers. Driving around these states with Elizabeth McCausland, Abbott took some two hundred photographs which the two women saw as part of an ambitious photographic portrait of America in book form, although in the end this was never published. A similar fate befell Abbott’s piece on the small towns and villages along Route 1, which she travelled in 1954. Covering approximately 6,500  kilometres as she followed this road along the East Coast of the US, she took some 2,400 photographs, taking in stalls, shops, portraits of farmers, diners and bars and dance halls. Her photography alternated between the documentary aesthetic and Street Photography. With Route 1, Abbott continued to pursue her ambition of representing the whole of the “American scene.”

 

Science

Abbott started photographing scientific phenomena in 1939. In 1944 she was recruited by the journal Science Illustrated, where she published some of her own pictures, as head of its photography department. Abbott took a committed, pedagogical approach, seeing her images as a vital bridge between modern science and the general public. In 1957, as a result of the anxiety about national science stirred by the Soviet launch of the Sputnik into outer space, at the height of the Cold War, the National Science Foundation set up a Physical Science Study Committee at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its role was to develop new textbooks for the teaching of science in schools and to use innovative photographs to illustrate the principles of quantum mechanics. Abbott was hired by MIT to produce photographs for the popularisation and teaching of the sciences. Using abstract forms to visually express complex mechanical concepts and invisible mechanical laws, she used black grounds to reveal principles such as gravity and light waves. The exhibition features a score of Abbott’s scientific and experimental images, as well as some of the books for which they were used. Harking back to the experiments of the avant-gardes, and in particular the Rayogram technique, she was able to produce visually attractive and surprising images that were also rich in discovery, thus combining documentary information with a sense of wonder.”

Text by Gaëlle Morel, curator of the exhibition, on the Jeu de Paume website

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, New York City, October 24, 1935' 1935

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, New York City, October 24, 1935
1935
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5cm
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Sunoco Station, Trenton, New Jersey' 1954

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Sunoco Station, Trenton, New Jersey
1954
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Gunsmith and Police Department Headquarters, 6 Centre Market Place and 240 Centre Street, New York City, February 4, 1937' 1937

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Gunsmith and Police Department Headquarters, 6 Centre Market Place and 240 Centre Street, New York City, February 4, 1937
1937 
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5cm
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Happy's Refreshment Stand, Daytona Beach, Florida' 1954

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Happy’s Refreshment Stand, Daytona Beach, Florida
1954
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 28cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Miner, Greenview, West Virginia' 1935

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Miner, Greenview, West Virginia
1935
Gelatin silver print
25 x 19 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Phone: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11am – 9pm
Wednesday – Sunday: 11am – 7pm
Closed Monday
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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05
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks’ at the Phoenix Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 20th August – 6th November 2011

 

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

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'Children with Doll (Ella Watson’s Grandchildren)' 1942

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Children with Doll (Ella Watson’s Grandchildren)
1942
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks. 'Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli' 1949

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli
1949
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks. 'Black Muslim Rally' New York, 1963

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Black Muslim Rally
New York, 1963
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks. 'Alberto Giacometti, Paris' 1951

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Alberto Giacometti, Paris
1951
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

Gordon Parks spent the majority of his professional career at the crossroads of the glamorous and the ghetto – two extremes the noted photographer knew well.  Perhaps best recognised for his works chronicling the African-American experience, Parks was also an accomplished fashion photographer. Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks provides a revealing look at the diversity and breadth of Parks’s most potent imagery. Featuring 73 works specifically selected by Parks for the photographic collection of the Los Angeles-based Capital Group, Bare Witness divulges heart wrenching images, iconic moments, celebrities and slices of everyday life.

Born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks, who died in 2006 at age 93, was an African American photographer who began working professionally in the 1930’s. Parks tackled the harsh truth and dignity of the black urban and rural poor in the United States. He photographed aspects of the Civil Rights movements and individuals associated with the Black Panthers and Black Muslims. For nearly 25 years, from 1948 to 1972, he served as staff photographer for Life magazine. He also established himself as a foremost fashion photographer, providing spreads for respected magazines such as Vogue.

Bare Witness features many of Parks’s most memorable images such as “American Gothic.” Taken during Parks’s brief time with the Farm Security Agency, the photograph depicts a black cleaning woman named Ella Watson standing stiffly in front of an American flag, a mop in one hand and a broom in the other. Also included in the exhibition is a series of photos from Parks’s most famous Life magazine essay about Flavio da Silva, a malnourished and asthmatic boy living in a Rio de Janerio slum. Portraits of Muhammad Ali, Duke Ellington, Alexander Calder, Ingrid Bergman, Langston Hughes and Malcolm X among others will also be on view.

“Whether photographing celebrities or common folk, children or the elderly, Harlem gang leaders or fellow artists, Parks brought his straightforward, sympathetic ear and mind to bear witness to late 20th century civilisation,” commented Hilarie Faberman, the Robert M. and Ruth L. Halperin Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Cantor Arts Center and organiser of the exhibition. “His photographs balance the dichotomies of black and white, rich and poor, revealing his strengths and struggles as an artist and a man.”

In addition to his documentary and fashion photography, Parks was a filmmaker, author, musician and publisher. He was the first black artist to produce and direct a major Hollywood film, “The Learning Tree” in 1969, which was based on his early life experiences. He subsequently directed the popular action films “Shaft” and “Shaft’s Big Score.” He was a founder and editorial director of Essence magazine and wrote several autobiographies, novels and poems. In 1988, he received the National Medal of Arts award and throughout his lifetime was the recipient of 40 honorary doctorates from colleges and universities in the United States and England.

“Parks was a renaissance man whose career embodied the American ideal of equality and whose art was deeply personal. This exhibition is an exciting opportunity for Museum visitors to experience the poignant images he made over five decades,” commented Rebecca Senf, Norton Curator of Photography, Phoenix Art Museum.

The exhibition includes an illustrated catalogue with an essay by photography scholar Maren Stange who writes frequently on modern American culture. This exhibition has already enjoyed a five-venue tour, where the photographs were received with great excitement. The exhibition has been revived for a final showing at the Phoenix Art Museum. Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks was organised by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are made possible by generous support from The Capital Group Foundation, the Cantor Arts Center’s Hohbach Family Fund, and Cantor Arts Center’s Members.

Press release from the Phoenix Museum of Art website

 

Gordon Parks. 'American Gothic' 1942

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
American Gothic
1942
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott' 1949

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott
1949
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks. 'Muhammad Ali' c. 1970

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Muhammad Ali
c. 1970
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks. 'Muhammad Ali' 1970

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Muhammad Ali
1970
Cibachrome
20 x 16 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

Phoenix Art Museum
McDowell Road & Central Avenue
1625 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday Museum closed
Wednesday 10am – 9pm (Free admission/voluntary donation every Wednesday, 3-9pm)
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Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Phoenix Art Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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