Posts Tagged ‘American social documentary photography

12
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath’ at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 19th November 2016 – 19th March 2017

Curator: Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator, Photograph

 

 

This will be short and sweet because of my hands… love this artist’s work.

 

Triumph of the spirit

Abandoned by both parents at age 4, he grew up in foster homes and an orphanage in Philadelphia.

High contrast images – burnt in backgrounds and then bleached back faces.

Raw, loneliness, love, sadness, homesick, Christ figure (Carl Dean Kipper) bringing out emotion.

Establishment of relationships contrasted with isolation and loneliness.

Sense of inner self – faces and forms. Sensitivity. Unpretentious.

A deeply humane approach to being witness to the human condition.

The condition of becoming.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the The Nelson-Atkins 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.

 

 

Heath has always, and instinctively, understood the power of sympathetic vision. His photographs of people are infused with a special emotional directness and power. They reflect a fundamental, and almost tactile, need to connect.

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Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator, Photography at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Carl Dean Kipper, Korea' 1953-1954

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Carl Dean Kipper, Korea
1953-1954
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Central Park, New York City' 1957

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Central Park, New York City
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 1/2 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Rochester, New York' 1958

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Rochester, New York
1958
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Washington Square, New York City' 1958

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1958
Gelatin silver print
12 1/2 x 8 3/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, New York City' 1958

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, New York City
1958
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

 

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

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 3/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'New York City' 1962

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City
1962
Gelatin silver print
11 1/16 x 8 1/2 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

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
7 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

A major exhibition showcasing the work of Dave Heath, one of the most original photographers of the last half of the 20th century, opened at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on Nov. 19. Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath is curated by Keith F. Davis, Senior Curator, Photography, who wrote a widely acclaimed catalogue of the same title to accompany the exhibition. The Nelson-Atkins has the largest holding of Heath’s work in the United States, and the exhibition was entirely assembled from the museum’s collection. A smaller version of the show opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September 2015 to critical praise.

“Dave Heath has had one of the most important careers in modern photography,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “With little formal training, he applied his determination and curiosity to learning about photography and the history of art. And we see the result in this exhibition: the flowering of one of the greatest talents of his generation.”

The exhibition spans the full breadth of Heath’s creative career, from the late 1940s into the 21st- century. It begins with his earliest pictures, his first book prototypes, his first audio-visual artistic work (“Beyond the Gates of Eden,” 1969), and concludes with his colour street pictures of 2001-2007. The exhibition centres on Heath’s 1965 photo-book A Dialogue with Solitude, a sequence of 82 photographs widely considered his defining achievement.

Heath’s photographs are a powerful expression of his emotional life, his concern for interpersonal contact and communion. Abandoned by both parents at age 4, he grew up in foster homes and an orphanage in Philadelphia. This experience shaped his creative vision, an expression of a profound sense of pain, loneliness, alienation, longing, joy, and hope. Guided by an entirely personal expressive need, Heath used the camera to understand himself and the society around him.

“Heath has always, and instinctively, understood the power of sympathetic vision,” said Davis. “His photographs of people are infused with a special emotional directness and power. They reflect a fundamental, and almost tactile, need to connect.”

Heath’s interest in photography was sparked in 1947, when he saw Ralph Crane’s photo-essay “Bad Boy’s Story”, about an alienated boy in an orphanage, in Life magazine. He identified with Crane’s subject and grasped the power of the photograph to transcend simple reportage. Largely self-taught, Heath studied for a year at the Philadelphia College of Art before working for a commercial photo studio in Chicago. He came to national attention after his move to New York City in 1957. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1963 and his work was included in major exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere. He taught from 1965 to 1996, with 36 of those years spent at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario.

Heath died on his 85th birthday, June 27, 2016, knowing that his work had reached wider audiences and recognised for his individual and powerful voice.

Press release from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Vengeful Sister, Chicago' 1956

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Vengeful Sister, Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 3/16 x 8 7/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Chicago' 1956

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print
12 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Greenwich Village, New York City' 1957

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Greenwich Village, New York City
1957
Gelatin silver print
12 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Santa Barbara, California' 1964

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Santa Barbara, California
1964
Gelatin silver print
5 x 7 9/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Berkeley, California' 1964

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Berkeley, California
1964
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 6 13/16 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of Elizabeth and Jeffrey Klotz and family

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Kansas City, Kansas' 1967

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Kansas City, Kansas
1967
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 10 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'New York City' September 19, 2004

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City
September 19, 2004
Inkjet print (printed January 25, 2008)
11 7/8 × 18 1/16 inches
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'New York City' October 5, 2005

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City
October 5, 2005
Inkjet print (printed January 25, 2008)
11 7/8 × 18 1/16 inches
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Toronto' October 20, 2007

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Toronto
October 20, 2007
Inkjet print (printed December 18, 2007)
11 7/8 × 18 1/16 inches
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Wed, 10 am – 5 pm
Thurs, Fri, 10 am – 9 pm
Sat, 10 am – 5 pm
Sun, 10 am – 5 pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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03
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ustExhibition dates: 17th January 2015 – 13th September 2015

Robert and Jane Burke Gallery (Gallery 335)

 

 

It’s been a really tough time writing the Art Blart recently, as my beloved Apple Pro tower that has served me so well over the years has died and gone to god. I have been making do with a small laptop, but tomorrow I pick up my new 27 inch iMac with Retina screen, to pair with my Eizo Flexscan monitor. I can’t wait!

I have so much admiration for the work of this man. The light, the sensitivity to the social documentary narrative just emanates from these images. You don’t need to say much, it’s all there in front of you. Just look at the proud profile of that old woman, Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas (1950, below), and you are instantly transported back to the slave fields and southern plantations of the 19th century. No words are necessary. The bony hands, gaunt cheeks and determined stare speak of a life hard lived.

Marcus

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

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“Gordon Parks (1912-2006), one of the most celebrated African-American photographers of all time, is the subject of a new exhibition of groundbreaking photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott (January 17 – September 13, 2015) traces Parks’ return to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas and then to other Midwestern cities, to track down and photograph each of his childhood classmates. On view in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, the exhibition’s 42 photographs were from a series originally meant to accompany a Life magazine photo essay – but for reasons unknown, the story was never published. The images depict the realities of life under segregation in 1950 – presenting a rarely seen view of everyday lives of African-American citizens in the years before the Civil Rights movement began in earnest. One of the most personal and captivating of all Parks’ projects, the images, now owned by The Gordon Parks Foundation, represent a rare and little-known group within Parks’ oeuvre. This exhibition, on view in the Robert and Jane Burke Gallery, is accompanied by a publication by Karen Haas, the MFA’s Lane Curator of Photographs, in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, which includes an introduction by Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book includes previously unpublished photographs as well as archival materials such as contact sheets and a portion of the 1927 yearbook from the segregated school Parks attended as a child.

“These personal and often touching photos offer a glimpse into the life of Gordon Parks and the prejudice that confronted African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “We’re grateful to The Gordon Parks Foundation for giving us the opportunity to display these moving works.”
Fort Scott, Kansas was an emotional touchstone for Gordon Parks and a place that he was drawn to over and over again as an adult, even though it held haunting memories of racism and discrimination. Parks was born in Fort Scott in 1912 to a poor tenant farmer family and left home as a teenager after his mother died and he found himself – the youngest of 15 children – suddenly having to make his own way in the world. By 1948, Parks was the first African-American photographer hired full time by Life magazine. One of the rare African-American photojournalists in the field, Parks was frequently given magazine assignments involving social issues that his fellow white photographers were not asked to cover. For an assignment on the impact of school segregation, Parks returned to Fort Scott to revisit early memories of his birthplace – many involving racial discrimination – and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom went to the same all-black elementary school that Parks had attended.  He was able to track down all but two members of the Plaza School Class of 1927, although only one was still living in Fort Scott at the time. As he met with fellow classmates, his story quickly shifted its focus to the Great Migration north by African Americans. Over the course of several days Parks visited with his childhood friends – by this time residing in Kansas City; Saint Louis; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Chicago – joining them in their parlors and on their front porches while they recounted their life stories to him. Organized around each of these cities and families, the exhibition features previously unpublished photographs as well as a seven-page draft of Parks’ text for the article.

“With the Back to Fort Scott story, Parks showed – really for the first time – a willingness to mine his own childhood for memories both happy and painful, something he would continue to do in a series of memoirs over the course of his long career” said Haas. “The experience also seems to have inspired him to write The Learning Tree in 1963, his best-selling novel about growing up poor and black in Kansas, that he transformed a few years later into a groundbreaking Hollywood movie – the first by an African American writer-director.”

Parks began his research in Fort Scott, where he found classmate Luella Russell. In addition to photographing Luella with her husband and 16-year-old daughter, Parks took photos of his own family and life around town – finding friends and acquaintances at the local theater, railway station and pool hall. Parks also visited the local baseball field at Othick Park, where he recorded a group of white spectators seated at one end of the bleachers watching a game, while two African-American girls in summer dresses stand at the other end, in an area loosely designated for the town’s black residents. Parks’ image of the girls at the ballpark, where black and white baseball teams sometimes competed against each other, subtly refers to the separation of the races that marked much of everyday life in Fort Scott.

Fort Scott had not changed dramatically since Parks’ youth. Parks attended the all-black Plaza School through the ninth grade  in 1927, and as he wrote in his draft for Life magazine: “Twenty-four years before I had walked proudly to the center of the stage and received a diploma. There were twelve of us (six girls and six boys) that night. Our emotions were intermingled with sadness and gaiety. None of us understood why the first years of our education were separated from those of the whites, nor did we bother to ask. The situation existed when we were born. We waded in normal at the tender age of six and swam out maladjusted… nine years later.”

After Fort Scott, Parks discovered three of his classmates in Kansas City and St. Louis – cities that were easily reached by rail and were often the first stops made by African Americans leaving smaller towns. Many left towns like Fort Scott in the hope of finding jobs and better futures for their children in these larger, more industrial cities. When Parks tracked down his classmates, he recorded their jobs and wages – the sort of detail that Life typically included in such pieces, allowing its readers to measure their own lives against a story’s subjects. In Kansas City, classmate Peter Thomason was working as a postal transportation clerk (a position, Parks noted, with a minimum salary of $3,700 a year), while in St. Louis, Parks recorded that classmate Norman Earl Collins was doing quite well, making $1.22 an hour at Union Electric of Missouri. Parks’ sympathetic images of Earl and his daughter, Doris Jean, may have been a conscious effort on Parks’ part to offset contemporary stereotypes of black families as less stable and strong than their white counterparts.

By 1950, Chicago was the de facto capital of African-American life in the US, with more black inhabitants than any other city in America – including three of Parks’ classmates. Parks discovered them residing only a mile or two apart from one another on the city’s South Side. Untitled, Chicago, Illinois (1950), depicts Parks’ classmate Fred Wells and his wife Mary in front of their apartment building in the Washington Park neighborhood. A number of the photographs in the exhibition repeat the simple compositional device seen here – featuring a classmate and his or her family, framed by the front door of their home. These images highlighted the families’ similarities to, rather than differences from Life‘s readers, who would have found such strong representations of black families at once surprising and reassuring.

In Detroit, Parks traced classmate Pauline Terry to the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. In Fort Scott, Pauline had married Bert Collins, who had run a restaurant during much of the 1930s. By 1950, they were settled in Detroit and had five children. Unlike Parks’ other classmates who had migrated north in search of opportunity, Pauline (yearbook ambition: “To be young forever; to be a Mrs.”) now had a large family and no longer worked outside the home. In the course of her conversation with Parks, she emphasized the importance of religion in their lives. Parks’ powerful portrait of the couple walking to Sunday services at the Macedonia Baptist Church, Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (1950) reinforces the seriousness of their faith.  The cigar-smoking Bert wears a sharp suit and straw boater and carries a well-worn Bible.

Once completed, Parks’ Fort Scott photo essay never appeared in Life. The reason for that remains a mystery, although the US entry into the Korean War that summer had a major impact on the content of its pages for some time. The magazine’s editors did try to resuscitate the story early in April of 1951 only to have it passed over by the news of President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur. In the end, all that survives, as far as written documentation of the Fort Scott assignment, are Parks’ project notes from his individual visits with his classmates in May and June of 1950; several telegrams sent by Life staffers regarding his friends’ whereabouts before his arrival; fact-checking when the piece was again slated to run in April 1951; and an annotated seven-page draft. Because the photos were never published, and most have never before been on view, the exhibition presents a unique opportunity to explore a body of work that is almost completely unknown to the public.

“The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to collaborate with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on this exhibition and publication highlighting a series of very personal, early works by the artist” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., the Foundation’s executive director. “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott allows us a focused look at a single Life magazine story and reveals a fascinating tale of Gordon Parks’ segregated beginnings in rural Kansas and the migration stories of his classmates, many of whom, like him, left in search of better lives for themselves and their families.””

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Columbus, Ohio' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Columbus, Ohio
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“The lives of the classmates – six girls and five boys who graduated from the segregated Plaza School in 1927, in what was then a town of 10,000 people – present a miniature snapshot of African-American aspiration and struggle in the years before Brown v. Board of Education or the civil rights movement.

Parks found Emma Jane Wells in Kansas City, Mo., where she sold clothes door-to-door to supplement her husband’s salary at a paper-bag factory. Peter Thomason lived a few blocks away, working for the post office, one of the best jobs available to black men at the time. But others from the class led much more precarious lives. Parks tracked down Mazel Morgan on the South Side of Chicago, in a transient hotel with her husband, who Parks said robbed him at gunpoint after a photo session. Morgan’s middle-school yearbook description had been ebullient (“Tee hee, tee ho, tee hi, ha hum/Jolly, good-natured, full of fun”), but in 1950 she told Parks, “I’ve felt dead so long that I don’t figure suicide is worthwhile anymore.”

The most promising of the classmates, Donald Beatty, lived in an integrated neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where he had a highly desirable job as a supervisor at a state agency and where Parks’s pictures show him – very much in the vernacular of Life magazine’s Eisenhower-era domestic scenes – happy and secure with his wife and toddler son and a brand-new Buick. But notes made by a Life fact-checker just a year later, when the magazine planned once again to run Parks’s article, recorded a tragedy, blithely and with no explanation: “Aside from the death of their son, nothing much has happened to them.”

Lorraine Madway, curator of Wichita State University’s special collections, said of the Fort Scott story: “There are those moments in an archive when you know you’ve found the gold, and this is one of them. It’s a wonderful example of micro-history. It’s not only that there is so much material written at a specific time in people’s lives, but then there are Parks’s reflections on it later.” …

Besides fact-checking notes, Parks’s own notes and a typewritten draft for what might have been his introduction to the photo spread, there is almost no other documentation surrounding the project, for which Parks shot about 30 rolls of 35-millimeter and medium-format film. And so the question of why it was not published might never be answered. In an essay for the show’s catalog, Ms. Haas speculates that it might have been doomed by its very newsworthiness, as national challenges to school segregation began gathering speed and Life waited – in the end too long – for just the right moment…

Parks carried his own psychic wounds from those years, which profoundly shaped his writing and approach to photography. But his feelings were always bittersweet. Though he lived for many years in New York City, he chose to be buried in his hometown, whose African-American population has declined even more markedly than its overall population. In a 1968 poem about his childhood, he wrote that he would miss “this Kansas land that I was leaving,” one of “wide prairies filled with green and cornstalk,” of the “winding sound of crickets rubbing dampness from wings” and “silver September rain.”

Then he added: “Yes, all this I would miss – /along with the fear, hatred and violence/We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.””

Extract from Randy Kennedy. “‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation,” on The New York Times website, December 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 29/08/2015.
Gordon Parks. 'Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 4.45 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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14
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Segregation Story’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 15th November 2014 – 21st June 2015

 

The more I see of this man’s work, the more I admire it.

A sense of history, truth and injustice; a sense of beauty, colour and disenfranchisement; above all, a sense of composition and knowing the right time to take a photograph to tell the story. It’s all there, right in front of us, in almost every photograph. Photographs of institutionalised racism and the American apartheid, “the state of being apart”, laid bare for all to see.

From the languid curl and mass of the red sofa on which Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama (1956) sit, which makes them seem very small and which forms the horizontal plane, intersected by the three generations of family photos from top to bottom – youth, age, family … to the blank stare of the nanny holding the white child while the mother looks on in Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956). I love the amorphous mass of black at the right hand side of the this image. From the neon delightful, downward pointing arrow of ‘Colored Entrance’ in Department Store, Mobile, Alabama (1956) to the ‘WHITE ONLY’ obelisk in At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama (1956). And so the story flows on like some great river, unstoppable, unquenchable…

But then we have two of the most intimate moments of beauty that brings me to tears as I write this, the two photographs at the bottom of the posting Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956). Just look at the light that Parks uses, this drawing with light. And then the use of depth of field, colour, composition (horizontal, vertical and diagonal elements) that leads the eye into these images and the utter, what can you say, engagement – no – quiescent knowingness on the children’s faces (like an old soul in a young body). This is a wondrous thing.

Notice how the photographer has pre-exposed the sheet of film so that the highlights in both images do not blow out. Pre-exposing the film lessens the contrast range allowing shadow detail and highlight areas to be held in balance. Also notice how in both images the photographer lets the eye settle in the centre of the image – in the photograph of the boy, the out of focus stairs in the distance; in the photograph of the three girls, the bonnet of the red car – before he then pulls our gaze back and to the right of the image to let the viewer focus on the faces of his subjects. In both photographs we have vertical elements (a door jam and a telegraph post) coming out of the red colours in the images and this vertically is reinforced in the image of the three girls by the rising ladder of the back of the chair. Masterful image making, this push and pull, this bravura art of creation.

Surely, Gordon Parks ranks up there with the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the High Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Many thanx also to Carlos Eguiguren for sending me his portrait of Gordon Parks taken in New York in 1985, which reveals a wonderful vulnerability within the artist.

 

 

Carlos Eguiguren. 'Gordon Parks, New York' 1985

 

Carlos Eguiguren
Gordon Parks, New York
1985
4 x 5 transparency film
© Carlos Eguiguren

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

This portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton Sr., aged 82 and 70, served as the opening image of Parks’s photo essay. The well-dressed couple stares directly into the camera, asserting their status as patriarch and matriarch of their extensive Southern family. Photography is featured prominently within the image: a framed portrait, made shortly after the couple was married in 1906, hangs on the wall behind them, while family snapshots, including some of the Thorntons’ nine children and nineteen grandchildren, are proudly displayed on the coffee table in the foreground.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia
1956
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Joanne Wilson, one of the Thorntons’ daughters, is shown standing with her niece in front of a department store in downtown Mobile. The pair is impeccably dressed in light, summery frocks. The jarring neon of the “Colored Entrance” sign looming above them clashes with the two young women’s elegant appearance, transforming a casual afternoon outing into an example of overt discrimination. Notice the fallen strap of Wilson’s slip. Though this detail might appear discordant with the rest of the picture, its inclusion may have been strategic: it allowed Parks to emphasize the humanity of his subjects.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

A group of children peers across a chain-link fence into a whites-only playground with a Ferris wheel. Although they had access to a “separate but equal” recreational area in their own neighborhood, this photograph captures the allure of this other, inaccessible space. The children, likely innocent to the cruel implications of their exclusion, longingly reach their hands out to the mysterious and forbidden arena beyond. The pristinely manicured lawn on the other side of the fence contrasts with the overgrowth of weeds in the foreground, suggesting the persistent reality of racial inequality.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

The Jim Crow laws established in the South ensured that public amenities remained racially segregated. These laws applied to schools, public transportation, restaurants, recreational facilities, and even drinking fountains, as shown here. The photograph documents the prevalence of such prejudice, while at the same time capturing a scene of compassion. Here, a gentleman helps one of the young girls reach the fountain to have a refreshing drink of water.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

“RARE PHOTOS BY GORDON PARKS PREMIERE AT HIGH MUSEUM OF ART

Featuring works created for Parks’ powerful 1956 Life magazine photo essay that have never been publicly exhibited.

The High Museum of Art presents rarely seen photographs by trailblazing African American artist and filmmaker Gordon Parks in Gordon Parks: Segregation Story on view November 15, 2014 through June 21, 2015.

The exhibition, presented in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, features more than 40 of Parks’ color prints – most on view for the first time – created for a powerful and influential 1950s Life magazine article documenting the lives of an extended African-American family in segregated Alabama. The series represents one of Parks’ earliest social documentary studies on color film. The High will acquire 12 of the color prints featured in the exhibition, supplementing the two Parks works – both gelatin silver prints – already owned by the High. These works augment the Museum’s extensive collection of Civil Rights era photography, one of the most significant in the nation.

Following the publication of the Life article, many of the photos Parks shot for the essay were stored away and presumed lost for more than 50 years until they were rediscovered in 2012 (six years after Parks’ death). Though a small selection of these images has been previously exhibited, the High’s presentation brings to light a significant number that have never before been displayed publicly. As the first African-American photographer for Life magazine, Parks published some of the 20th century’s most iconic social justice-themed photo essays and became widely celebrated for his black-and-white photography, the dominant medium of his era. The photographs that Parks created for Life’s 1956 photo essay The Restraints: Open and Hidden are remarkable for their vibrant color and their intimate exploration of shared human experience.

The images provide a unique perspective on one of America’s most controversial periods. Rather than capturing momentous scenes of the struggle for civil rights, Parks portrayed a family going about daily life in unjust circumstances. Parks believed empathy to be vital to the undoing of racial prejudice. His corresponding approach to the Life project eschewed the journalistic norms of the day and represented an important chapter in Parks’ career-long endeavor to use the camera as his “weapon of choice” for social change. The Restraints: Open and Hidden gave Parks his first national platform to challenge segregation. The images he created offered a deeper look at life in the Jim Crow South, transcending stereotypes to reveal a common humanity.

“Parks’ images brought the segregated South to the public consciousness in a very poignant way – not only in color, but also through the eyes of one of the century’s most influential documentarians,” said Brett Abbott, exhibition curator and Keough Family curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “To present these works in Atlanta, one of the centers of the Civil Rights Movement, is a rare and exciting opportunity for the High. It is also a privilege to add Parks’ images to our collection, which will allow the High to share his unique perspective with generations of visitors to come.”
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A Day in the Life

For The Restraints: Open and Hidden, Parks focused on the everyday activities of the related Thornton, Causey and Tanner families in and near Mobile, Ala. The images present scenes of Sunday church services, family gatherings, farm work, domestic duties, child’s play, window shopping and at-home haircuts – all in the context of the restraints of the Jim Crow South.

Key images in the exhibition include:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile Alabama (1956)
  • Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama (1956)
  • Department Store, Mobile Alabama (1956)
  • Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956)
  • Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956)
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About Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. He grew up poor and faced racial discrimination. Parks was initially drawn to photography as a young man after seeing images of migrant workers published in a magazine, which made him realize photography’s potential to alter perspective. Parks became a self-taught photographer after purchasing his first camera at a pawnshop, and he honed his skills during a stint as a society and fashion photographer in Chicago. After earning a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for his gritty photographs of that city’s South Side, the Farm Security Administration hired Parks in the early 1940s to document the current social conditions of the nation.

By 1944, Parks was the only black photographer working for Vogue, and he joined Life magazine in 1948 as the first African-American staff photographer. In 1970, Parks co-founded Essence magazine and served as the editorial director for the first three years of its publication. Parks later became Hollywood’s first major black director when he released the film adaptation of his autobiographical novel The Learning Tree, for which he also composed the musical score, however he is best known as the director of the 1971 hit movie Shaft. Parks received the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and received more than 50 honorary doctorates over the course of his career. He died in 2006.
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About The Gordon Parks Foundation

The Gordon Parks Foundation permanently preserves the work of Gordon Parks, makes it available to the public through exhibitions, books, and electronic media and supports artistic and educational activities that advance what Gordon described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.” The Foundation is a division of The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation.”

Press release from the High Museum of Art

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Store Front, Mobile Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Store Front, Mobile Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Black Classroom, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Black Classroom, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Although this photograph was taken in the 1950s, the wood-paneled interior, with a wood-burning stove at its center, is reminiscent of an earlier time. Parks’s photograph of the segregated schoolhouse, here emptied of its students, evokes both the poetic and prosaic: springtime sunlight streams through the missing slats on the doors, while scraps of paper, rope, and other detritus litter the uneven floorboards. One of the Thorntons’ daughters, Allie Lee Causey, taught elementary-grade students in this dilapidated, four-room structure. After Parks’s article was published in Life, Mrs. Causey, who was quoted speaking out against segregation, was suspended from her job. She never held a teaching position again.

 

 

High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street,
N.E. Atlanta, GA 30309

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Thursday – 10 am – 5 pm
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Sunday – 12 noon – 5 pm

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07
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans. A Life’s Work’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Exhibition dates: 25th July – 9th November 2014

 

End of the week. Not a lot of energy or time to write an in depth piece on the wonders of Walker Evans, so just a few observations…

I like this photographer, I like him a lot. No histrionics, little subjectivity being thrown at the audience. The images are -just -so. The compositions are seemingly simple but are actually very complex. Only a skilled craftsman can make the difficult look simple. As Thomas Struth has said of his photography: ‘for me it is more interesting to try and find out something from the real than to throw something subjective in front of the audience.’

“The uninflected image gives no hints as to how it is to be interpreted, and the viewer is led to linger over what might otherwise seem an un-noteworthy, everyday vista.” It’s recognising that vista in the first place for what it is, and what else it can be, so that it ‘gives pause’ to the viewer.

I really like the portrait of Berenice Abbott and it is also very educational. Look at the depth of field, with the view camera probably one stop past wide open. The sharpness plane is very tiny but look at the quality of the lens and how it renders the values that are slightly out of focus. What a very beautiful image and I suspect a top drawer lens. Notice also it is print 22. Walker Evans would keep a lot of prints and they were not the same. The next copy of this print might have been better (he might have worked out something to do) or it might be worse – the developer might have gone off. So it is not strictly an “edition” it is just the numbering of the prints he made.

He used every sort of camera: 8 x 10 and the smaller view formats, roll film cameras, Colour polaroid! hence the different sizes of his prints. Occasionally he did crop his images but on other occassions he took “a stance” where you knew he was about to perform and there would be no cropping. If you are really interested in this master photographer, the best Walker Evans book to get is First and Last (1978, available cheaply as a hardback on Amazon) which contains many pictures and “threads” that are dynamite… and the John Szarkowski book Walker Evans (1972) is a good one as well.

Marcus

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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.

 

 

Walker Evans. 'Two Women' Frenchquarter, New Orleans, February - March 1935

 

Walker Evans
Two Women
Frenchquarter, New Orleans, February – March 1935
155 x 219 mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Young Women Outside Clothing Store' 1934-35

 

Walker Evans
Young Women Outside Clothing Store
1934-35
114 x 184 mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Girl In French Quarter' New Orleans, February - March 1935

 

Walker Evans
Girl In French Quarter
New Orleans, February – March 1935
117 x 178 mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Crowd In Public Square' 1930s

 

Walker Evans
Crowd In Public Square
1930s
143 x 248 mm
Lunn Gallery Stamp (1975)
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Berenice Abbott' 1929-30

 

Walker Evans
Berenice Abbott
1929-30
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Walker Evans (1903-1975) was one of the great personalities of 20th century photography, being an exponent of what is called the “documentary style”. His work, which spans a period of over fifty years, will be represented by well over 200 original prints from the years 1928 to 1974, taken mostly from the considerable private collection of Clark and Joan Worswick, but also from various German collections.

For decades, right up to the present, the prolific photographic oeuvre of Walker Evans has acquired an increasingly model character. In the half century of his creative activity the photographer documented in sober documentary fashion a uniquely authentic picture of America, and like no other before him showed a particular feel for both the everyday and the subtle – the American Vernacular – creating a sense of identity and historic significance.

Visitors follow both Evans’ biography and the changing face of America, from the Great Depression to the onset of stability and business as usual: early impressions of the 1920s from the New York neighbourhood he lived in; portraits of his friends and fellow artists which give some indication of the ramified cultural ambience he inhabited; specimens of 19th century architecture that have blended into the evolving cultural life about them; picture cycles from Tahiti and Cuba; images of African sculptures and masks commissioned by the New York Museum of Modern Art; and numerous photographs taken in the 1930s in the rural south of the USA, which contrast starkly with the lifestyles of those who may be seen promenading in the fashionable streets of cities like New York.

In addition to street scenes, American monuments and shop window displays far from the world of “big business”, examples of his significant subway photographs are to be seen, taken with a hidden camera. We also see interiors whose modest appointments tell of the life of those who live in them, pictures that inevitably recall Evans’ remark that “I do like to suggest people by absence”. Evans’ predilection for typography, advertising and mass-produced articles give rise to strangely fascinating shots which seem to anticipate the soon-to-emerge Pop Art and its assemblages.

While the exhibition shows icons in the history of photography, it also highlights some of the photographer’s lesser known motifs dating from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. These include works done for Fortune, the magazine founded by Henry Luce in 1930; pictures taken on trips to London from 1945 onwards for the periodical Architectural Forum; or during stays at Robert Frank’s Nova Scotia house in the late 1960s.”

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

 

Walker Evans. 'Façade of House with Large Numbers' Denver, Colorado, August 1967

 

Walker Evans
Façade of House with Large Numbers
Denver, Colorado, August 1967
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Interior View of Heliker/Lahotan House' Walpole, Maine, 1962

 

Walker Evans
Interior View of Heliker/Lahotan House
Walpole, Maine, 1962
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Interior View of Robert Frank’s House' Nova Scotia, 1969-71

 

Walker Evans
Interior View of Robert Frank’s House
Nova Scotia, 1969-71
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Robert Frank' Nova Scotia, 1969-71

 

Walker Evans
Robert Frank
Nova Scotia, 1969-71
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Barn' Nova Scotia, 1969-71


 

Walker Evans
Barn
Nova Scotia, 1969-71
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans. 'Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign' Chicago, Illinois, 1946

 

Walker Evans
Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign
Chicago, Illinois, 1946
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

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

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 19 hrs
Tuesday closed

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22
Mar
14

Exhibition: ‘Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs Of Ansel Adams’ at the Jundt Art Gallery, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

Exhibition dates: 4th January – 29th March 2014

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Just a small celebration = this is the 900th posting on Art Blart since it started…

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I sifted through all the photographs of the “war relocation center” (euphemism for concentration camp) named Manzanar that Ansel Adams took – over 220 photographs on the Library of Congress website – to bring you these, the best of the bunch. Adams wasn’t a particularly good documentary photographer and it was a struggle to come up with these images, but sprinkled in with the prosaic are some absolutely stunning landscape and still life images.

What is noteworthy however, is Adams moral stance towards the unlawful incarceration of Japanese Americans, something that went against everything American citizenship is supposed to stand for. In 1944 he published a book called Born Free and Equal which protests the treatment of these American citizens. Through photography and text he showed how they suffered under a great injustice – by portraying “Japanese American internees as loyal Americans going about their lives like regular citizens, not as dangerous aliens.”

As curator Robert Flynn Johnson notes, “Adams saved his harshest attack on their unjust imprisonment for the language of his book… In the text Adams struggled with the argument that the incarceration of these citizens was not just but justified by military necessity. However, he rejected that argument, clearly and forcefully articulating his opposition to the internment. The book was not well received. Adams was called a “Jap lover” and copies of the book were burned. To fully understand the “profiles in Courage” stand Ansel Adams took by publishing Born Free and Equal while the war was still raging, one must understand the emotionally volatile nature of those times in which it was published. Adams’s strong convictions are fully apparent when one reads his forceful words while viewing his beautiful photographic imagery…”

Can you imagine what courage it must have taken to publish a book in the middle of the Second World War – with all that was going on with America and the war in the Pacific against Japan – titled Born Free and Equal, a book that lays bare the hypocrisy of democracy as only contingent on those in power. This man and his supporters have my utmost admiration. In Australia it’s a pity – no, it’s shameful – that those elected people on both sides of major politics do not possess similar fortitude. The guts to stand up for justice and freedom against the evils of incarceration and oppression when they see it staring them in the face.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

PS. What is also interesting is how Adams laid out this work for exhibition in the camp itself. The size of the prints, how they are displayed both vertically and horizontally, and how they move up and down and are not hung ‘on the line’ – plus the artefacts they are also displayed with. Fascinating stuff.

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These photographs were sourced from the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog of the Library of Congress. The online archive contains all of Ansel Adams photographs of Manzanar War Relocation Center to download in high resolution, with no known restrictions on publication. Please note: publication of these images in the posting does NOT mean that these images are in the exhibition.

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Foreword to Born Free and Equal

“Moved by the human story unfolding in the encirclement of desert and mountains, and by the wish to identify my photography in some creative way with the tragic momentum of the times, I came to Manzanar with my cameras in the fall of 1943. For many years, I have photographed the Sierra Nevada, striving to reveal by the clear statement of the lens those qualities of the natural scene which claim the emotional and spiritual response of the people. In these years of strain and sorrow, the grandeur, beauty, and quietness of the mountains are more important to us than ever before. I have tried to record the influence of the tremendous landscape of Inyo on the life and spirit of thousands of people living by force of circumstance in the Relocation Center of Manzanar. …

I believe that the acrid splendor of the desert, ringed with towering mountains, has strengthened the spirit of the people of Manzanar. I do not say all are conscious of this influence, but I am sure most have responded, in one way or another, to the resonances of their environment. From the harsh soil they have extracted fine crops; they have made gardens glow in the firebreaks and between the barracks. Out of the jostling, dusty confusion of the first bleak days in raw barracks they have modulated to a democratic internal society and a praiseworthy personal adjustment to conditions beyond their control. The huge vistas and the stern realities of sun and wind and space symbolize the immensity and opportunity of America – perhaps a vital reassurance following the experience of enforced exodus. …

I trust the content and message of this book will suggest that the broad concepts of American citizenship, and of liberal, democratic life the world over, must be protected in the prosecution of the war, and sustained in the building of the peace to come.”

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Ansel Adams, Foreword to Born Free and Equal, 1944

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Library of Congress text

Well-known fine art and landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, took on several war-related assignments. When offering the Manzanar photos to the Library in 1965, Adams wrote in an accompanying letter, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice … had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.”

Summary: Photographs document the lives of Japanese Americans interned during World War II at the Manzanar Relocation Center, in Inyo County, California. There are numerous close-up and occupational portraits of individuals, including Roy Takeno, editor of the Manzanar Free Press, and photographer Tōyō Miyatake. Group portraits include families, women and children. Other photographs show people posed in their living quarters and engaged in indoor daily life such as shopping, religious services, health care, and education; more informal views portray outdoor agricultural scenes and sports and leisure activities. Landscape views feature the background mountains and desert as well as camp facilities and buildings.

Text from the Library of Congress website

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'C.T. Hibino, artist, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
C.T. Hibino, artist, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Frank Hirosama [i.e., Hirosawa] in laboratory, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Frank Hirosama [i.e., Hirosawa] in laboratory, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, spring, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, spring, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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“… that all Japanese, whether citizens or not, be placed in inland concentration camps. As justification for this, I submit that if an American born Japanese, who is a citizen, is really patriotic and wishes to make his contribution to the safety and welfare of this country, right here is his opportunity to do so, namely, by permitting himself to be placed in a concentration camp, he would be making his sacrifice. … Millions of other native-born citizens are willing to lay down their lives, which is a far greater sacrifice, of course, than being placed in a concentration camp.”

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Secretary of War Henry Stinson, January 16, 1942

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“The Jundt Art Museum will display Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams in the Jundt Galleries Jan. 4 through March 29. The exhibition features 50 of the renowned photographer’s images of the Japanese-American relocation camp in Manzanar, Calif. during World War II. The photographs are included in the controversial book Born Free and Equal, which protests the treatment of these American citizens. The book was published in 1944 while the war was in progress. Also included in the exhibition are various photographs, documents and other works of art that further contextualize the images. Robert Flynn Johnson, curator emeritus for the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, curated the exhibition.

Born in San Francisco, Adams was a visionary in nature photography and wilderness preservation. He has become an environmental folk hero for his work in conservation as well as a symbol of the American West, particularly for his photographs of Yosemite National Park. Adams’ Manzanar work is a departure from his signature style of landscape photography. Most of the Manzanar photographs are portraits, views of daily life, agricultural scenes, and sports and leisure activities. The Ansel Adams photographs taken between 1943-1944 are prints made from the original negatives in the Library of Congress. They were previously exhibited in the exhibition, Born Free and Equal: An Exhibition of Ansel Adams Photographs, organized by the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, History and Science in 1984.

Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in his essay for the exhibition writes, “This exhibition recounts one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States, one that the distinguished author John hersey referred to as ‘a mistake of terrifyingly horrible proportions.’ It is a story of ignorance and prejudice, but also a story of perseverance and nobility. What happened should never be forgotten so that it should never happen again.” Johnson continues, “This is not only an art exhibition, a history lesson, or a study in race relations; it is all three. My hope is that it educates us about an unfortunate moment in our country’s history that must be better understood. It also should serve as a warning as to what can occur when emotion and fear overwhelm clarity and courage.”

Also included in the exhibition is a first edition copy of Adams’s 1944 book, Born Free and Equal; a vintage gelatin silver print by Adams titled A Photograph of Yosemite, c. 1938; three reproductions of Dorothea Lange photographing Japanese-Americans being evacuated; a watercolor painting of a camp by an internee; an original 1942 poster of the Civilian Exclusion Order that announced that Japanese-Americans were to be rounded up for imprisonment; seven original magazine covers and a poster that documents the virulent anti-Japanese attitudes present at the time; a watercolor by Henry Minakata of one of the Relocation Camps; and three original drawings by the famous artist Chiura Obata, who was imprisoned in the Topaz Camp. The exhibition, which will tour museums in the United States over the next few years, was organized by Photographic Traveling Exhibitions of Los Angeles.”

Press release from the Jundt Art Gallery website

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Benji Iguchi driving tractor in field, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Benji Iguchi driving tractor in field, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar from guard tower, summer heat, view SW, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar from guard tower, summer heat, view SW, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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“The first morning in Manzanar when I woke up and saw what Manzanar looked like, I just cried. And then I saw the high Sierra mountain, just like my native country’s mountain, and I just cried, that’s all.” Haruko Niwa, interned at Manzanar from 1942 until 1945.

Ten war relocation centers were built in remote deserts, plains, and swamps of seven states; Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Manzanar, located in the Owens Valley of California between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Inyo mountains on the east, was typical in many ways of the 10 camps. About two-thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. The remainder were aliens, many of whom had lived in the United States for decades, but who, by law, were denied citizenship.

The first Japanese Americans to arrive at Manzanar, in March 1942, were men and women who volunteered to help build the camp. On June 1 the War Relocation Authority (WRA) took over operation of Manzanar from the U.S. Army. The 500-acre housing section was surrounded by barbed wire and eight guard towers with searchlights and patrolled by military police. Outside the fence, military police housing, a reservoir, a sewage treatment plant, and agricultural fields occupied the remaining 5,500 acres. By September 1942 more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were crowded into 504 barracks organized into 36 blocks. There was little or no privacy in the barracks – and not much outside. The 200 to 400 people living in each block, consisting of 14 barracks each divided into four rooms, shared men’s and women’s toilets and showers, a laundry room, and a mess hall. Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided.

Coming from Los Angeles and other communities in California and Washington, Manzanar’s internees were unaccustomed to the harsh desert environment. Summer temperatures soared as high as 110ºF. In winter, temperatures frequently plunged below freezing. Throughout the year strong winds swept through the valley, often blanketing the camp with dust and sand. Internees covered knotholes in the floors with tin can lids, but dust continued to blow in between the floorboards until linoleum was installed in late 1942…

Two thirds of the Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were under the age of 18. 541 babies were born at Manzanar. A total of 11,070 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar. From a peak of 10,046 in September 1942, the population dwindled to 6,000 by 1944. The last few hundred internees left in November 1945, three months after the war ended. Many of them had spent three-and-a-half years at Manzanar.”

Anon. “Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” on the Manzanar National Historic Site (U. S. National Park Service) website [Online] Cited 08/03/2014

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, clouds, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, clouds, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, winter, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, winter, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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“This exhibition recounts one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States, one that the distinguished author John Hersey referred to as “a mistake of terrifyingly horrible proportions.”1 It is a story of ignorance and prejudice, but it is also a story of perseverance and nobility. What happened should never be forgotten so that it should never happen again.

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Background

In the aftermath of the Japanese surprise attack on pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States, a wave of fear and paranoia swept the western United States and the Hawaiian Islands. Anxiety over possible invasion by Japanese forces or sabotage by fifth columnist Japanese and Japanese Americans living amongst the general American population overrode common sense in Government circles. Despite the protestations of Attorney General Francis Biddle, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, and even F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the most unfortunate act of an otherwise admirable presidency, allowed public opinion and biased, racist attitudes of elements within the U.S. Army to induce him into issuing on February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066: the forced evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This evacuation was done despite the fact that the F.B.I. had, within three days of pearl Harbor, rounded up and arrested 857 Germans, 147 Italians, and 1,291 Japanese (367 in Hawaii and 924 on the mainland) for subversive activities. The government did not inter Germans, Italians, nor, with few exceptions, Japanese residing in Hawaii. Instead they rounded up Japanese and Japanese Americans residing in the western United States. In the end, these individuals were interred in ten camps spread over underpopulated areas of the West and in Arkansas in the Midwest…

The act of rounding up civilians and imprisoning them in camps had occurred in earlier centuries. The term “concentration camp” was first used to describe the actions of the British against the Boers during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), but today it is indistinguishable from the horrors of the extermination camps perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews, Russians, and other victims of the Reich in World War II. American authorities euphemistically labeled the Japanese internments as “war relocation centers,” but given the harsh conditions Japanese Americans suffered, a more appropriate term might be war relocation “camps.”

Mine Okubo describes the conditions: “The camps represented a prison: no freedom, no privacy, no America. Internment camps were also guarded by U.S. military personnel and had a barbed wire perimeter.”2

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Manzanar

The brilliant social activist photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was hired by the U.S. government in the spring of 1942 to document this forced relocation. Her assignment included the camp at Manzanar, located in the remote Owens Valley in the northern reaches of Death Valley, California. However, when her photographs were submitted, they were viewed with alarm for showing the government in a bad light; the decision was made to impound (censor) her images until the end of the war.

It was only in 1943 that Ralph Merritt, the enlightened second director at Manzanar, invited his old friend Ansel Adams to come and photograph there. By that time, the internees had settled into their lives there coping as best they could. In 1942 a confrontation with camp guards had led to shots being fired, resulting in the deaths of two internees and the wounding of nine. There were no further incidents. Some historians have criticized Adams’s photographs, comparing them to the more politicized imagery of Lange. Linda Gordon wrote,

“Ansel Adams photographed at Manzanar a year after Lange did, producing work that, by contrast, reveals much about Lange’s perspective. He tried to walk a cramped line, opposing anti-Asian racism, but avoiding identification with the opposition to the internment. Adams’s pictures, primarily portraits – surprisingly for a landscape photographer – emphasized the internees’ stoic, polite, even cheerful making the best of it. His subjects were almost exclusively happy, smiling. His goal was to establish the internees as unthreatening, Americanized, open – scrutable rather than inscrutable. By making mainly individual portraits, he masked collective racial discrimination. The resultant hiding of the internment’s violation of human rights was not an unintended consequence of this goal, but an expression of Adams’s patriotism.”3

There is no question that Lange was the stronger documentary photographer. However, Adams was working out of his comfort zone as a landscape photographer and his point was not to use his images to indict the authorities. Instead, he wished to portray the Japanese American internees as loyal Americans going about their lives like regular citizens, not as dangerous aliens. Adams saved his harshest attack on their unjust imprisonment for the language of his book, Born Free and Equal, published the following year, 1944.

In the text Adams struggled with the argument that the incarceration of these citizens was not just but justified by military necessity. However, he rejected that argument, clearly and forcefully articulating his opposition to the internment. The book was not well received. Adams was called a “Jap lover” and copies of the book were burned. To fully understand the “profiles in Courage” stand Ansel Adams took by publishing Born Free and Equal while the war was still raging, one must understand the emotionally volatile nature of those times in which it was published. Adams’s strong convictions are fully apparent when one reads his forceful words while viewing his beautiful photographic imagery…

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Conclusion

This is not only an art exhibition, a history lesson, or a study in race relations; it is all three. My hope is that it educates us about an unfortunate moment in our country’s history that must be better understood and should serve as a warning against allowing emotion, prejudice and fear to overwhelm clarity and courage. Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, in his 1944 foreword to Born Free and Equal sums up the essence of this human drama,

“It has long been my belief that the greatness of America has arisen in large part out of the diversity of her peoples. Before the war, peoples of Japanese ancestry were a small but valuable element in our population. Their record of law-abiding, industrious citizenship was surpassed by no other group. Their contributions to the arts, agriculture, and science were indisputable evidence that the majority of them believed in America and were growing with America.

Then war came with the nation of their parental origin. The ensuing two and a half years have brought heartaches to many in our population. Among the causalities of war has been America’s Japanese minority. It is my hope that the wounds which it has received in the great uprooting will heal. It is my prayer that other Americans will fully realize that to condone the whittling away of the rights of any one minority group is to pave the way for us all to lose the guarantees of the Constitution.”4

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Robert Flynn Johnson
Curator Emeritus
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

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1. John Hersey, “A Mistake of Terrifically Horrible proportions,” in Manzanar, by John Armor and peter Wright (New York Times Books, 1988)
2. Sara Ann McGill, “Internment of Japanese Americans,” http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/ (accessed May 3, 2010)
3. Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro, ed., Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2006), 34
4. Ansel Adams, Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans (New York: U.S. Camera, 1944), 7

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top - Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top – Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Roy Takeno's desk, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Roy Takeno’s desk, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar museum (Ansel Adams exhibit), Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar museum (Ansel Adams exhibit), Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

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Jundt Art Gallery
502 East Boone Avenue
Spokane, WA 99258-0001
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Opening hours:
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Jundt Art Gallery website

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09
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951’ at The Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 16th June 2013

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Conscience of the brave

Bradley Manning.
A slight, bespectacled, intelligent gay man.
A man who has the courage of his convictions.
He revealed truth at the heart of the world’s largest “democracy.”

There is something insidious about the American nation. Not its citizens, not its place, but its government. This government has perpetrated evil in the name of its people. Think of Iraq and Afghanistan, invasions in the name of freedom, the support of puppet governments, the assassinations, the military advisors on the ground, the profits made.

The torture. The deaths.

Bradley Manning revealed all of this because he has a mighty moral compass. He knows right from wrong. He was not afraid to expose the hypocrisy that for many years has beaten, unfettered, in the breast of a nation. The home of the brave and the free is sadly under attack from within. In the name of its people.

And why is this text relevant to this posting?
So often in the history of America, dissension is shut down because of some imagined menace, from within or without. Here another group of people (photographers documenting American social conditions) were persecuted for standing up for social causes, for the freedom to expose injustice where it lives. The paranoia of patriotism.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Norton 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.

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“When the persecution of an individual who has exposed an evil is pursued so ruthlessly and yet the evil itself is studiedly ignored, all of us know that there is something very wrong with the way that our society is conducting itself. And if we do not protest in the strongest terms about what is being done in our name, then we become complicit.”

Alan Moore

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“The US has shown remarkable energy in its pursuit of alleged whistleblowers. Has it investigated the deaths of those innocent civilians with the same vigour? With any vigour whatsoever? And which would you consider a crime? To conceal the deaths of innocent civilians, or to reveal them? I know what my answer would be.”

Les Barker

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“To suggest that lives were put in danger by the release of the WikiLeaks documents is the most cynical of statements. Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, an act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack. It was a war based on a complete lie and lives were not only put in danger, hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated. For those who organised this massacre to point a finger at Bradley Manning is the ultimate example of Orwellian hypocrisy.” 

Michael Moore

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“Private Manning is the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to ‘a moral choice.’ His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.” 

John Pilger

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Alexander Alland (1902-1989, born Sevastopol, Ukraine) 'Untitled (Brooklyn Bridge)' 1938

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Alexander Alland (1902-1989, born Sevastopol, Ukraine)
Untitled (Brooklyn Bridge)
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York,
Purchase: William and Jane Schloss Family Foundation Fund

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Louis Stettner (born 1922, Brooklyn, New York) 'Coming  to America' c. 1951

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Louis Stettner (born 1922, Brooklyn, New York)
Coming  to America
c. 1951
Gelatin silver print The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund

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Erika Stone (born 1924, Frankfurt, Germany) 'Lower Eastside Facade' 1947

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Erika Stone (born 1924, Frankfurt, Germany)
Lower Eastside Facade
1947
Gelatin silver print
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Photo League Collection
Museum purchase with funds provided by Elizabeth M. Ross, the Derby Fund,
John S. and Catherine Chapin Kobacker, and the Friends of the Photo League

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Stone’s adroit cropping of this image emphasizes the coy upward gaze of the woman in the advertisement,
away from the laundry line (emblem of poverty), and suggests the social mobility of the postwar era.

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Marvin E. Newman (born 1927, Manhattan, New York) 'Halloween, South Side' 1951

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Marvin E. Newman (born 1927, Manhattan, New York)
Halloween, South Side
1951
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund

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Marvin Newman

Born in New York; Newman attended Brooklyn College, where he studied sculpture with Burgoyne Diller and photography with Walter Rosenblum. Following Rosenblum’s suggestion, he joined the Photo League in 1948, taking classes with John Ebstel. The Photo League, founded in 1936, blazed a trail for serious photographers for 15 years, providing a forum for ideas, cheap darkroom space, and the vision of using the art of picture taking to change the world. Newman then attended the Institute of Design, Chicago (1949-52), where, after studying with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, he received one of the first MS degrees in photography (1952).

During this time, Newman won national contests, including one sponsored by American Photography (1950) and another by Time, Inc. (1951). His work appeared in the Always a Young Stranger exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in a one-man show at Roy De Carava’s A Photographer’s Gallery (1956). Well-known as a photojournalist, Newman has been a major contributor to Sports Illustrated since its inception (1953), as well as to Life, Look, Newsweek, and Smithsonian magazines. In addition, he has been the national president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers, authored or coauthored eight books on photography, and received the Art Director’s Gold Medal for Editorial Photography.

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Ida Wyman (born 1926, Malden, Massachusetts) 'Spaghetti 25 Cents, New York' 1945

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Ida Wyman (born 1926, Malden, Massachusetts)
Spaghetti 25 Cents, New York
1945
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund

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This Italian restaurant was near the offices of Acme Newspictures, where Wyman became the company’s first
female photo printer in 1943. After the war she lost her job at the agency. The “Ladies Invited” sign on the
window is a reminder of a time when unescorted women were not always welcome in public dining establishments.

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Ida Wyman

When I began working in the 1940s, few women were doing magazine photography in a field that was almost exclusively male. As I progressed from box camera to Speed Graphic (my first professional camera), and then to a Rolleiflex, I stopped thinking about the mechanics of film speed, f-stops, shutter speed, and began focusing on subject matter that interested me. What interested me so much were ordinary people and their everyday activities. Early on, I had documented children’s games and unusual architectural details in my Bronx neighborhood. I decided to expand, to go elsewhere, taking the subway to Harlem, Chinatown, and lower Manhattan, exploring those neighborhoods and looking for photos.

I became a member of the Photo League in 1946. I considered myself a documentary photographer and the League’s philosophy of honest photography appealed to me. I also began to understand the power of photos to help improve the social order by showing the conditions under which many people lived and worked. Even after leaving the League the following year, I continued to emphasize visual and social realities in my straightforward photographs.

Beginning with my earliest photos seeing New York City with my feet, and in whatever part of the country I was in, I continued my own walkabout, learning the area, engaging my subject, listening, and respecting their dignity. This continued to be my approach when taking photos. My photographs depicted daily life in America’s modern metropolitan centers, including Chicago and Los Angeles as well as New York.

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Aaron Siskind (1903-1991, born Manhattan, New York) 'The Wishing Tree' 1937

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Aaron Siskind (1903-1991, born Manhattan, New York)
The Wishing Tree
1937, printed later
from Harlem Document, 1936-40
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Lillian Gordon Bequest

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Harlem’s legendary Wishing Tree, bringer of good fortune, was once a tall elm that stood outside a theater at
132nd Street and Seventh Avenue. When it was cut down in 1934 Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the celebrated tap
dancer, moved the stump to a nearby block and planted a new Tree of Hope beside it to assume wishgranting duties.
A piece of the original trunk is preserved in the Apollo Theater on 125th Street, where performers still touch
it for luck before going onstage.

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Sonia Handelman Meyer (born 1920, Lakewood, New Jersey) 'Hebrew Immigration Aid Society' c. 1946

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Sonia Handelman Meyer (born 1920, Lakewood, New Jersey)
Hebrew Immigration Aid Society
c. 1946
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin in memory of Max Alperin

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The efforts of the New York­ based Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) to rescue European Jews during
the war were severely hampered by US immigration laws. After the war it aided in the resettlement of some
150,000 displaced persons, including, presumably, these three, whom Handelman Meyer has chosen to
photograph in close­up. She conveys both their common suffering and their individuality, emphasizing
differences in body language and dress.

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Sonia Handelman Meyer

I first heard of the Photo League from Lou Stoumen in Puerto Rico in 1942. I was working for the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Lou was preparing to join Yank Magazine.  When I returned to New York City, I walked up the rickety stairs to League Headquarters and took a beginners class with Johnny Ebstel. I bought a used Rolleicord for a precious $100, and dared to go out on the city streets to photograph the life around me. Soon the guys began to come back from the war and the heady life of Photo League workshops, exhibits, lectures, photo hunts, and committee assignments intensified. I took eye-heart-soul opening workshops with Sid Grossman, worked as the paid (!) secretary for a year or so, and worked on the Lewis Hine Committee under Marynn Ausubel.

I photographed in Spanish Harlem, Greenwich Village, midtown Manhattan, at the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, at an anti-lynching rally in Madison Square Park, at a Jehovah’s Witness convention in Yankee Stadium, and on Coney Island. Mostly, I photographed children and reflections of my city – rough-edged, tender, and very beautiful in its diversity. Some of this work was shown in the major 1949 exhibition, This is the Photo League.

The heartbreaking end of the League coincided with a huge change in my personal life. I got married and my husband began to go to college and we were out of NY for a while. And then the biggest change: our own family arrived and the joys of our son, and later our daughter, absorbed my time. Prints and negatives were stashed away in boxes and I lost track of all the old friends at the League. After so many years of being in the shadows, you can imagine my pleasure, at 90+ years of age, to have my photographs out of their boxes and onto walls where they can be seen, thought about, and enjoyed – and perhaps again take their place in the history of the Photo League.

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York) 'Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn' 1950

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York)
Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn
1950
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Rictavia Schiff Bequest

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Arnold Eagle. 'Chatham Square Platform, New York City' c. 1939

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Arnold Eagle
Chatham Square Platform, New York City
c. 1939
Silver gelatin print

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Joe Schwartz (born 1913, Brooklyn, New York) 'Slums Must Go! May Day Parade, New York' c. 1936

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Joe Schwartz (born 1913, Brooklyn, New York)
Slums Must Go! May Day Parade, New York
c. 1936
Gelatin silver print
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Photo League Collection
Museum Purchase with funds provided by Elizabeth M. Ross, the Derby Fund, John S. and Catherine Chapin
Kobacker, and the Friends of the Photo League

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Morris Huberland (1909-2003, born Warsaw, Poland) 'Union Square, New York' c. 1942

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Morris Huberland (1909-2003, born Warsaw, Poland)
Union Square, New York
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin Fund

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“The Norton Museum of Art’s newest special exhibition, The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936 – 1951, is a formidable survey of the League’s history, and its artistic, cultural, social, and political significance. Opening March 14 and on view through June 16, 2013, this striking exhibition includes nearly 150 vintage photographs from Photo League collections at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, and The Jewish Museum in New York City.

The exhibition is organized by Mason Klein, Curator of Fine Arts at The Jewish Museum and Catherine Evans, the William and Sarah Ross Soter Curator of Photography of the Columbus Museum of Art. It premiered in at The Jewish Museum in 2011 to rave reviews. The New York Times called The Radical Camera a “stirring show,” and the New York Photo Review hailed it as “nothing short of splendid.” The New Yorker named the exhibition one of the top 10 photography exhibitions of 2011. The Norton is the final venue on the exhibition’s tour.

The exhibition explores the fascinating blend of aesthetics and social activism at the heart of the Photo League. League members were known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life. The League focused on New York City and its vibrant streets – a shoeshine boy, a brass band on a bustling corner, a crowded beach at Coney Island. Many of the images are beautiful, yet harbor strong social commentary on issues of class, race, and opportunity. The organization’s members included some of the most noted photographers of the mid-20th century – W. Eugene Smith, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott and Aaron Siskind, to name a few.

In 1936, a group of young, idealistic photographers, most of them Jewish, first-generation Americans, formed an organization in Manhattan called the Photo League. Their solidarity centered on a belief in the expressive power of the documentary photograph, and on a progressive alliance in the 1930s of socialist ideas and art. (The Photo League also helped validate photography as a fine art, presenting student work and guest exhibitions by established photographers.) The Radical Camera presents the development of the documentary photograph during a tumultuous period that spanned the New Deal reforms of the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Offering classes, mounting exhibitions, and fostering community, members of the Photo League focused on social reform and the power of the photograph to motivate change. At the height of their influence, their membership included the most important photographers of their day including Berenice Abbot, Aaron Siskind, Barbara Morgan, Sid Grossman, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), and Lisette Model. Featuring more than 175 works by these artists as well as many more Photo League members, The Radical Camera traces the organization’s interests, attitudes toward photography, and impact during its 15-year lifespan.

The innovative contributions of the Photo League during its 15-year existence (1936-1951) were significant. As it grew, the League mirrored monumental shifts in the world starting with the Depression, through World War II, and ending with the Red Scare. Born of the worker’s movement, the Photo League was an organization of young, idealistic, first-generation American photographers, most of them Jewish, who believed in documentary photography as an expressive medium and powerful tool for exposing social problems. It was also a school with teachers such as Sid Grossman, who encouraged students to take their cameras to the streets and discover the meaning of their work as well as their relationship to it. The League had a darkroom for printing, published an acclaimed newsletter called Photo Notes, offered exhibition space, and was a place to socialize.

The Photo League helped validate photography as a fine art, presenting student work and guest exhibitions by established photographers such as Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Edward Weston, among others. These affecting black and white photographs show life as it was lived mostly on the streets, sidewalks and subways of New York. Joy and playfulness as well as poverty and hardship are in evidence. In addition to their urban focus, “Leaguers” photographed rural America, and during World War II, took their cameras to Latin America and Europe. The exhibition also addresses the active participation of women who found rare access and recognition at the League. The Radical Camera presents the League within a critical, historical context. Developments in photojournalism were catalyzing a new information era in which photo essays were appearing for the first time in magazines such as Life and Look. As time went on, its social documentary roots evolved toward a more experimental approach, laying the foundation for the next generation of street photographers.

In 1947, the League came under the pall of McCarthyism and was blacklisted for its alleged involvement with the Communist Party. Ironically, the Photo League had just begun a national campaign to broaden its base as a “Center for American Photography.” Despite the support of Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Paul Strand, and many other national figures, this vision of a national photography center could not overcome the Red Scare. As paranoia and fear spread, the Photo League was forced to disband in 1951. The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 has been organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, and the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Major support was provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Limited Brands Foundation.”

Press release from The Norton Museum of Art website

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Sy Kattelson (born 1923, Manhattan, New York) 'Untitled (Subway Car)' 1949

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Sy Kattelson (born 1923, Manhattan, New York)
Untitled (Subway Car)
1949
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: The Paul Strand Trust for the benefit of Virginia Stevens Gift

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Jerome Liebling (United States, 1924-2011) 'Butterfly Boy, New York' 1949

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Jerome Liebling (United States, 1924-2011)
Butterfly Boy, New York
1949
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin Fund
© Estate of Jerome Liebling

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Lee Sievan (1907-1990, born Manhattan, New York) 'Salvation Army Lassie in Front of a Woolworth Store' c. 1940

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Lee Sievan (1907-1990, born Manhattan, New York)
Salvation Army Lassie in Front of a Woolworth Store
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund

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This is a classic photograph. Look at the triangle that forms the central part of the image, from the girl at left looking with disdain at the matriarch singing then down to the look on the organ players face. Notice the girl at right covering her ears so she cannot hear the racket. Imagine the legs of the organ player going up and down, pumping air into the organ; and finally observe the shadow of a man’s face captured by reflection in the shop window as he walks past the scene. Magic.

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Rosalie Gwathmey (1908-2001, born Charlotte, North Carolina) 'Shout Freedom, Charlotte, North Carolina' c. 1948

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Rosalie Gwathmey (1908-2001, born Charlotte, North Carolina)
Shout Freedom, Charlotte, North Carolina
c. 1948
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Gay Block and Malka Drucker Fund of the Houston Jewish Community Foundation

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968, born Zloczów, Galicia, now Ukraine) 'Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade' c. 1940

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968, born Zloczów, Galicia, now Ukraine)
Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Joan B. and Richard L. Barovick Family Foundation and Bunny and Jim Weinberg Gifts

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Bernard Cole (1911-1992, born London, England) 'Shoemaker’s Lunch' 1944

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Bernard Cole (1911-1992, born London, England)
Shoemaker’s Lunch
1944
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York,
Purchase: The Paul Strand Trust for the benefit of Virginia Stevens Gift

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Rebecca Lepkoff (American, born 1916) 'Broken Window on South Street, New York' 1948

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Rebecca Lepkoff (American, born 1916)
Broken Window on South Street, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Esther Leah Ritz Bequest

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York) 'Ideal Laundry' 1946

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York)
Ideal Laundry
1946
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Esther Leah Ritz Bequest

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Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1978, born Astoria, Oregon) 'Untitled (Tenements, New York)' c. 1937

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Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1978, born Astoria, Oregon)
Untitled (Tenements, New York)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: The Paul Strand Trust for the benefit of Virginia Stevens Gift

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Leftist political activism was a strong element in Kanaga’s work, beginning with her photographs of a labor
strike in San Francisco in 1934. She provided photographs for progressive publications such as New Masses,
Labor Defender,
 and Sunday Worker. Underlying this formal study of tenement laundry lines (a common
motif in League imagery) is Kanaga’s empathy for the living conditions of the working class.

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Ruth Orkin (1921-1985, born Boston, Massachusetts) 'Boy Jumping into Hudson River' 1948

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Ruth Orkin (1921-1985, born Boston, Massachusetts)
Boy Jumping into Hudson River
1948
Gelatin silver print The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund

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Sol Prom (Solomon Fabricant) (1906-1989, born Brooklyn, New York) 'Untitled (Dancing School)' 1938

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Sol Prom (Solomon Fabricant) (1906-1989, born Brooklyn, New York)
Untitled (Dancing School)
1938
from Harlem Document, 1936-40
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund

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Mary Bruce opened a dancing school in Harlem in 1937. For fifty years she taught ballet and tap, giving free lessons to those who could not afford them. Her illustrious pupils included Katherine Dunham, Nat King Cole, Ruby Dee, and Marlon Brando.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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