Posts Tagged ‘American social documentary photography

01
May
17

Exhibition: ‘The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2016 – 7th May 2017

 

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

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography, drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s-50s. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, including portraits of Matisse, Picasso, and Breton. With over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage prints on show from seminal figures including Brassai, Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, this is a chance to take a peek inside Elton John’s home and delight in seeing such masterpieces of photography.”

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand
Wall Street, New York
1915
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

Tate Modern presents a major new exhibition, The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, drawn from one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography. This unrivalled selection of classic modernist images from the 1920s to the 1950s features almost 200 works from more than 60 artists, including seminal figures such as Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Man Ray, Alexandr Rodchenko and Edward Steichen among many others. The exhibition consists entirely of rare vintage prints, all created by the artists themselves, offering a unique opportunity to see remarkable works up close. The quality and depth of the collection allows the exhibition to tell the story of modernist photography in this way for the first time in the UK. It also marks the beginning of a long term relationship between Tate and The Sir Elton John Collection, as part of which Sir Elton and David Furnish have agreed to give important works to the nation.

The Radical Eye introduces a crucial moment in the history of photography – an exciting rupture often referred to as the ‘coming of age’ of the medium, when artists used photography as a tool through which they could redefine and transform visions of the modern world. Technological advancements gave artists the freedom to experiment and test the limits of the medium and present the world through a new, distinctly modern visual language. This exhibition reveals how the timeless genres of the portrait, nude and still life were reimagined through the camera during this period, also exploring photography’s unique ability to capture street life and architecture from a new perspective.

Featuring portraits of great cultural figures of the 20th century, including Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston by Tina Modotti, Jean Cocteau by Berenice Abbott and Igor Stravinsky by Edward Weston, the exhibition gives insight into the relationships and inner circles of the avant-garde. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, depicting key surrealist figures such as Andre Breton and Max Ernst alongside artists including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar. Ground-breaking experimentation both in the darkroom and on the surface of the print, such as Herbert Bayer’s photomontage and Maurice Tabard’s solarisation, examine how artists pushed the accepted conventions of portraiture.

As life underwent rapid changes in the 20th century, photography offered a new means to communicate and represent the world. Alexandr Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy and Margaret Bourke-White employed the ‘worm’s eye’ and ‘bird’s eye’ views to create new perspectives of the modern metropolis – techniques associated with constructivism and the Bauhaus. The move towards abstraction is also explored, from isolated architectural elements to camera-less photography such as Man Ray’s rayographs and Harry Callahan’s light abstractions.

A dedicated section of the exhibition looks at the new approaches that emerged in capturing the human form, highlighted in rare masterpieces such as André Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, Hungary 1917, while Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels 1925 and Tina Modotti’s Bandelier, Corn and Sickle 1927 feature in a large presentation dedicated to the Still Life. The important role of documentary photography as a tool of mass communication is demonstrated in Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother 1936 and Walker Evans’ Floyde Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama 1936, from the Farm Security Administration project.

The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection is at Tate Modern from 10 November 2016 until 7 May 2017. It is curated by Shoair Mavlian with Simon Baker and Newell Harbin, Director of The Sir Elton John Photography Collection. The exhibition is accompanied by an exclusive audio tour of the exhibition featuring commentary from Sir Elton John, and a major new catalogue from Tate Publishing including an interview with Sir Elton John by Jane Jackson.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Edward Weston. 'White Door, Hornitos, California' 1940

 

Edward Weston
White Door, Hornitos, California
1940
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

“We possess an extraordinary instrument for reproduction. But photography is much more than that. Today it is … bringing something entirely new into the world.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy, 1932

 

 

Artists in the modernist period explored what the camera could do that the human eye alone could not, and how this could be harnessed to present a new modern perspective on the world. Artist and theorist László Moholy-Nagy proclaimed that photography could radically change not just what, but how we see. He called this the ‘new vision’. Rather than emulating other art forms, photography began to embrace qualities unique to itself, from its ability to reproduce the world in sharp detail to its capacity to create new realities through the manipulation of light, chemicals and paper.

This re-evaluation of photography coincided with a period of upheaval. War, revolution and economic depression led to mass movements of people and great social change. The idea of the avant-garde took hold and dada and surrealism emerged, challenging both the art and social norms that had come before. At the same time, new art schools such as the Bauhaus in Germany and Vkhutemas in Russia fostered the role of the professional artist and challenged divisions between art and design.

The Radical Eye is arranged thematically and charts a changing emphasis from the subject of an image to the visual qualities of the photograph itself, irrespective of what it represents. The many vintage prints in this exhibition – made soon after the photographs were taken – give a rare insight into the artists’ processes and creative decisions, and foreground the photograph as a physical object. All works are shown in the frames in which they are displayed in the home of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

Together, the works in this exhibition show how photography pushed the boundaries of the possible, changing the world through the ways in which it was seen and understood. ‘Knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterates of the future will be ignorant of the use of camera and pen alike,’ wrote Moholy-Nagy in 1927, foreseeing the cultural dominance of the photographic image. This extraordinary period still impacts how we, the photo-literate future, read and create images today.

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain
Sunbaker
1937
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

“They collect themselves. Carefully, as if tying a cravat, they compose their features. Insolent, serious and conscious of their looks they turn around to face the world.”

.
From ‘Men before the Mirror’, published alongside portraits by Man Ray, 1934

 

 

Portraits

Modernist portraiture harnessed photography’s capacity to render an accurate likeness in clear, sharp focus and detail. But at the same time, artists and sitters pushed the conventions of portraiture with innovations in pose, composition and cropping.

Many of the portraits in this room are of artists, writers and musicians, giving a cross section of key cultural players of the time. Issues of control and collaboration arise particularly when the subject is an artist, raising the question of who is responsible for conveying the sitter’s persona. The modernist period also saw a boom of the illustrated press. Magazines reproduced photographic portraits of well-known figures which were instrumental in shaping their public images.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia O’Keeffe
1922
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Man Ray. 'Nusch Éluard' 1928

 

Man Ray
Nusch Éluard
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

 

Nusch Éluard (born Maria Benz; June 21, 1906 – November 28, 1946) was a French performer, model and surrealist artist…

Nusch arrived in France as a stage performer, variously described as a small-time actress, a traveling acrobat, and a “hypnotist’s stooge”. She met Paul Éluard in 1930 working as a model, married him in 1934, produced surrealist photomontage and other work, and is the subject of “Facile,” a collection of Éluard’s poetry published as a photogravure book, illustrated with Man Ray’s nude photographs of her.

She was also the subject of several cubist portraits and sketches by Pablo Picasso in the late 1930s, and is said to have had an affair with him. Nusch worked for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She died in 1946 in Paris, collapsing in the street due to a massive stroke.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23) 'Actress Gloria Swanson' 1924

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Actress Gloria Swanson
1924
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

 

Adolph de Meyer. 'For Elizabeth Arden (The Wax Head)' 1931

 

Adolph de Meyer
For Elizabeth Arden (The Wax Head)
1931
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Edward Weston. 'Igor Stravinsky' 1935

 

Edward Weston
Igor Stravinsky
1935
Silver gelatin print
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography

 

George Platt Lynes. 'A Forgotten Model' c. 1937

 

George Platt Lynes
A Forgotten Model
c. 1937
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Man Ray. 'Juliet and Margaret Nieman in Papier-Mâché Masks' c. 1945

 

Man Ray
Juliet and Margaret Nieman in Papier-Mâché Masks
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Irving Penn. 'Salvador Dali in New York' 1947

 

Irving Penn
Salvador Dali in New York
1947
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

“The enemy of photography is convention, the fixed rules ‘how to do’. The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy, c. 1940

 

 

Experiments

This was not a period of discovery but of rediscovery. Artists were rewriting the preceding century’s rules of photographic technique, harnessing ‘mistakes’ such as distortions and double exposures, or physically manipulating the printed image, cutting, marking and recombining photographs. These interventions could occur at any point in the process, from taking the image to the final print.

Used in portraiture, such experiments allowed for more psychologically charged representations. However, the transformative power of a particular technique often becomes much more important than the particular subject of the image. Above all, the rich creative possibilities of the photographic process come to the fore. While artists were seriously investigating the medium, the results are often surprising and playful.

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Herbert Bayer
Self-Portrait
1932
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© DACS 2016

 

Otto Umbehr. "Katz" - Cat 1927

 

Otto Umbehr
“Katz” – Cat
1927
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© Phyllis Umbehr/Galerie Kicken Berlin/DACS 2016

 

Josef Breitenbach. 'Patricia, New York' c. 1942

 

Josef Breitenbach
Patricia, New York
c. 1942
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, Courtesy Gitterman Gallery

 

 

“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”

.
Edward Weston, 1924

 

 

Bodies

Experimental approaches to shooting, cropping and framing could transform the human body into something unfamiliar. Photographers started to focus on individual parts of the body, their unconventional crops drawing attention to shape and form, accentuating curves and angles. Fragmented limbs and flesh were depersonalised and could be treated like a landscape or still life, dissolving distinctions between different genres. Thanks to faster shutter speeds and new celluloid roll film, photographers could also freeze the body in motion outside of the studio for the first time, capturing dancers and swimmers with a clarity impossible for the naked eye.

 

André Kertész. 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June 1917' 1917

 

André Kertész
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June 1917
1917
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolph Koppitz
Movement Study
1925
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2016

 

Man Ray. 'Noire et Blanche' 1926

 

Man Ray
Noire et Blanche
1926
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Glass Tears (Les Larmes)' 1932

 

Man Ray (1890-1976)
Glass Tears (Les Larmes)
1932
Gelatin silver print on paper
229 x 298 mm
Collection Elton John
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Edward Weston. 'Nude' 1936

 

Edward Weston
Nude
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

Man Ray. 'Dora Maar' 1936

 

Man Ray
Dora Maar
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Nino Migliori. 'Il Tuffatore' (The Diver) 1951

 

Nino Migliori
‘Il Tuffatore’ (The Diver)
1951
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

“The documentary photographer is trying to speak to you in terms of everyone’s experience.”

.
Dorothea Lange, 1934

 

 

Documents

During the 1930s, photographers refined the formula for what we now know as social documentary. To compel the public to look at less palatable aspects of contemporary society they married creative manipulation with an appeal to viewers’ trust in the photograph as an objective visual record. This combination proved itself uniquely capable of eliciting empathy but is fraught with artistic and ethical complexity. These works highlight the vexed position of documentary photographs: historical evidence, instruments of propaganda and, latterly, works of art.

The development of new technology – particularly the portable camera and roll film – allowed photographers to capture spontaneous moments unfolding in the everyday world. Taking viewers into neighbourhoods where they might never set foot, street photography and documentary opened up new perspectives socially as much as visually.

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Floyde Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans
Floyde Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Dorothea Lange. 'A young girl living in a shack town near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
A young girl living in a shack town near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Christ or Chaos?' 1946

 

Walker Evans
Christ or Chaos?
1946
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Walker Evans Archives, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting.”

.
Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1920s

 

 

Objects, Perspectives, Abstractions

The subjects and approaches of modernist photography vary widely, but are united by a fascination with the medium itself. Every image asks what photography is capable of and how it can be pushed further. This final room brings together three interlinked approaches. It shows the still life genre reimagined by photographers who used the technical capabilities of the camera to reveal the beauty of everyday things. Objects captured at unconventional angles or extreme close-up become strange, even unrecognisable.

A similar effect of defamiliarisation was accomplished by taking photographs from radically new perspectives, positioning a camera at the point of view of the ‘worm’s eye’ or ‘bird’s eye’. This created extreme foreshortening that transformed photographs from descriptive images of things into energetic compositions hovering between abstraction and representation.

Abstraction pushes against photography’s innate ability to record objectively. Radical techniques such as cameraless image-making simplified the medium to the point of capturing the play of light on photosensitive paper. By stripping it back to its most basic components, artists celebrated photography, not as a tool for reproduction, but as a creative medium capable of producing new imagery.

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Shukov Tower' 1920

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Shukov Tower
1920
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive, DACS, RAO 2016

 

Edward Steichen. 'A Bee on a Sunflower' c. 1920

 

Edward Steichen
A Bee on a Sunflower
c. 1920
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Man Ray. "Rayograph" 1923

 

Man Ray
“Rayograph”
1923
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

André Kertész. 'Mondrian's Glasses and Pipe' 1926

 

André Kertész
Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe
1926
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandelier, Corn and Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti
Bandelier, Corn and Sickle
1927
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Werner Mantz. 'Staircase Ursuliner Lyzeum Cologne 1928'

 

Werner Mantz
Staircase Ursuliner Lyzeum Cologne 1928
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'George Washington Bridge' 1933

 

Margaret Bourke-White
George Washington Bridge
1933
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy
View from the Berlin tower
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Margaret de Patta. 'Ice Cube Tray with Marbles and Rice' 1939

 

Margaret de Patta
Ice Cube Tray with Marbles and Rice
1939
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© Estate of Margaret de Patta

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday –  Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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25
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Peter Hujar: Speed of Life’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 27th January – 30th April 2017

Curator: Joel Smith, “Richard L. Menschel Curator” and Director of the Department of Photography at the Morgan Library & Museum

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life has been organised by Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona, and The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. The exhibition and its travelling schedule have been made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

 

 

A love letter to Peter Hujar

.
You jumped so high

the boy on a raft

saluting the sky

absorbed in his craft

 

Of rhythm and eros

you offer no excess

just intimacy, connection

a timeless … transience

 

The line of skyscrapers, the lines of a thinker

the gaze of a baby, the eyes of a dreamer

two cows look direct, as direct as can be

and chrysanthemums and roses lay death near thee

 

Contortions and compression

of time and space

the twist of a wrist, the surge of a river

a certain, poignant – tenderness

 

In love with photography

and the stories it tells

A troubled man

brought out of his shell

 

You left us too soon

you beautiful spirit

your portraits of life

loved, immortal – never finished

 

Marcus

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

See more Peter Hujar images on The Guardian website.

 

 

I want you to talk about me in a low voice. When people talk about me, I want them to do it by whispering.

.
Peter Hujar

 

He was charismatic and complicated and, it turned out, deeply insecure, with a damaging family history he kept mostly to himself… Peter was, in a way, at his most moving when taking photographs. He was so absorbed by it. Peter was in many ways a very tortured man, and I felt like when he was taking photographs, he wasn’t. I had other friends who were photographers, but not like Peter. Peter was so profoundly absorbed and engaged by it. He was never not a photographer.

.
Vince Aletti

 

 

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

 

Installation views of Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE is delighted to be presenting Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, a retrospective exhibition on the American photographer Peter Hujar. Offering the most detailed account of the artist’s work to date, from the 1950s to his death in New York in 1987, it will be on display between January 27 and April 30, 2017 at the Fundación MAPFRE’s Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space (Calle Diputació, 250) in Barcelona.

Hujar was a portraitist in everything he did. Regardless of the subject of the work – a lover, an underground theatre actor, a goose, the surface of the Hudson River, or the placid features of his own face – what moved and motivated him was the spark of encounter and exchange between artist and other. Hujar’s serene, meditative, square-format photographs confer gravity on the object of his attention, granting it an eternal moment’s pause within the rush of passing time.

Little recognised during his own lifetime, Hujar published only one book of photographs, Portraits in Life and Death, but his output is today recognised as distinctive. His portraits combine disclosure and secrecy, ferocity and peace. Hujar’s career involved both a quest for recognition in the world of fashion photography – the photographers he admired most were Irving Penn and Richard Avedon – and a more solitary, almost completely uncompensated body of work in which he depicted the creative and intellectual New York that he knew and admired.

The present exhibition follows Peter Hujar’s method of presenting his work. Rather than show his photographs in isolation or in an linear or chronological arrangements, he preferred to present them in dynamic, surprising and sometimes disconcerting juxtapositions.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Four keys

Peter Hujar’s work falls within the photographic tradition of portraiture: he was a portraitist in everything he did. Whatever the subject – a lover, an actor, a horse, the surface of the Hudson River, or the gentle features of his own face – what moved and motivated Hujar was the spark in the encounter and the exchange between the artist and his subject, establishing a direct relationship with whatever he portrayed thereby revealing its true nature.

One of the themes reflected in Hujar’s work is homosexuality. These were the years of the first Gay Liberation movements and the famous Stonewall riots. Hujar lived close to the Stonewall Inn, and his partner at the time, Jim Fouratt, came onto the scene the night of the police raid and founded the Gay Liberation Front. Hujar was not an activist, though he attended the group’s first meeting and contributed his well-known photograph which would become the image for the Gay Liberation Front Poster, 1970.

The route followed by the exhibition reflects the preferences of the artist, who systematically chose to present his photographs in vibrant, surprising and sometimes disturbing Most of the photographs are grouped into sets, some of which reflect the artist’s recurrent concerns, while others exemplify his interest in emphasizing diversity and the internal contradictions in his work.

A distinguishing feature of his art is the invisibility of technique in his photographs and yet simultaneously his preoccupation with and care over it. Hujar produced his own copies and was also considered a good printer.

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE website

 

Peter Hujar. 'La Marchesa Fioravanti' 1958

 

Peter Hujar
La Marchesa Fioravanti
1958
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Horse in West Virginia Mountains' 1969

 

Peter Hujar
Horse in West Virginia Mountains
1969
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Richard y Ronay Menschel
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Stromboli' 1963

 

Peter Hujar
Stromboli
1963
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Palermo Catacombs (11)' 1963

 

Peter Hujar
Palermo Catacombs (11)
1963
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Allen Adler and Frances Beatty Adler
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'St. Patrick's, Easter Sunday' 1976

 

Peter Hujar
St. Patrick’s, Easter Sunday
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Artist biography

Peter Hujar was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1934 and grew up in the countryside with his Polish immigrant grandparents. When he was eleven his mother, a waitress, brought him to live with her in Manhattan.

Interested in photography from childhood, after graduating from high school in 1953 Hujar worked as an assistant in the studios of magazine professionals and aspired to work in fashion like his idols Lisette Model, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon.

Between 1958 and 1963 Hujar lived mainly in Italy with two successive partners, artists Joseph Raffael and Paul Thek. After studying for a year at a filmmaking school in Rome he returned to Manhattan, where he moved in the circles of writer Susan Sontag and Andy Warhol’s Factory. From 1968 to 1972 he pursued a freelance career in fashion photography, publishing over a dozen features in Harper’s Bazaar and GQ before concluding that the hustle of magazine work “wasn’t right for me.”

In 1973 Hujar definitively renounced his professional aspirations for a life of creative poverty in New York’s East Village. Living in a loft above a theatre at Twelfth Street and Second Avenue, he took paying jobs only when necessary in order to focus on the work that truly motivated him. He photographed the artists he knew and respected, animals, the nude body, and New York as he knew it, a city then in serious economic decline. In his book Portraits in Life and Death (1976) he combined intimate studies of his rarefied downtown coterie (painters, performers, choreographers, and writers such as Sontag and William S. Burroughs) with portraits  of mummies in the Palermo Catacombs that he had made during a visit with Thek thirteen years earlier. His focus on mortality would intensify and find its purpose in the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic ravaged gay populations in New York and worldwide.

Briefly a lover and subsequently a mentor to the young artist David Wojnarowicz, in his last seven years Hujar continued chronicling a creative downtown subculture that was fast becoming unsustainable in the context of the increasing power of money. His most frequent subject in these years was his neighbour and friend Ethyl Eichelberger, a drag performer whom he called “the greatest actor in America.” With Wojnarowicz, Hujar made expeditions to the depressed areas around New York, photographing industrial ruins in Queens, neighbourhoods of Newark, New Jersey, that had been destroyed in the riots of the late 1960s, and the abandoned Hudson River piers of lower Manhattan, sites of sexual exploits by night and guerilla art installations by day. Hujar died in New York on Thanksgiving Day, 1987, around eleven months after being diagnosed with AIDS.

Throughout his life Hujar stubbornly aligned himself with what he called the “All-In people”: artists committed to a creative course all their own, unconcerned with mass-market acclaim. At the same time he both disdained and bitterly wished for public recognition such as that achieved by his famous contemporaries Diane Arbus – eleven years his senior and respected by him – and Robert Mapplethorpe, who was twelve years younger and whom he considered a facile operator. During the thirty years since Hujar’s death the highly localised downtown public that knew his work has all but completely passed into history, while a vastly expanded photography audience around the world has become familiar with specific facets of his work, such as his indelible 1973 image Candy Darling on her Deathbed, and his soulful portraits of animals. In Peter Hujar: Speed of Life what comes to light is a broader assessment of his unique oeuvre, which was diverse and enduring. Many of the subjects populating this retrospective are familiar, even iconic faces of their era, but what can be seen more clearly today is the vision of the artist who unites them, himself a great and singular talent of the post-war decades in American art.

 

Peter Hujar. 'Cindy Luba as Queen Victoria' 1973

 

Peter Hujar
Cindy Luba as Queen Victoria
1973
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Warrilow (1)' 1985

 

Peter Hujar
David Warrilow (1)
1985
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Flowers for the Dead, Mazatlán, Mexico (2)' 1977

 

Peter Hujar
Flowers for the Dead, Mazatlán, Mexico (2)
1977
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen' 1980

 

Peter Hujar
Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen
1980
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Grass, Port Jefferson, New York' 1984

 

Peter Hujar
Grass, Port Jefferson, New York
1984
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Paul Hudson (Leg)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar
Paul Hudson (Leg)
1979
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Robyn Brentano (1)' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Robyn Brentano (1)
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Structure of the exhibition

The exhibition includes 160 photographs that offer an exploration of the career of this American photographer, with works loaned from the collection of the Morgan Library & Museum and nine other collections. The result is the most detailed account of Peter Hujar’s work presented to date.

In its structure the exhibition takes account of Hujar’s preference for presenting his photographs in vivid, startling, and even puzzling juxtapositions. Although following a broadly chronological order, with formative work from the 1950s and 1960s concentrated in the first half and later photographs at the end, the visual and creative continuities that spanned the duration of Hujar’s artistic life are emphasised as the visitor follows the sequence of works.

Most of the photographs are presented in groups of three to eight images, some of which showcase enduring preoccupations of the artist while others exemplify his desire to stress the diversity and internal contradictions of his work.

Thus, for the final exhibition of his life, held at the Gracie Mansion Gallery in the East Village in January 1986, Hujar spent several days arranging seventy photographs into thirty-five tightly spaced vertical pairs, taking care not to let any single genre of image appear twice in a row. At the start of the present exhibition, a six-photograph grid pays homage to this method by presenting a checkerboard-format conversation between three images made in controlled indoor conditions and three exterior views. The subjects, in order, are: a man’s bare leg with the foot planted firmly on the studio floor; waves rolling in on an ocean beach; a portrait of an unidentified young man; the World Trade Center at sunset; Ethyl Eichelberger applying makeup before a performance; and a dark burned-out hallway in the ruins of the Canal Street pier.

 

The catalogue

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition includes texts by its curator Joel Smith and by Philip Gefter and Steve Turtell, making it a reference work for a detailed knowledge of Peter Hujar’s work from the 1950s until his death in 1987.

 

Peter Hujar. 'Peggy Lee' 1974

 

Peter Hujar
Peggy Lee
1974
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Hudson River' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Hudson River
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Mural at Piers' 1983

 

Peter Hujar
Mural at Piers
1983
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Steel Ruins 13' 1976

 

Peter Hujar
Steel Ruins 13
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Gary in Contortion (1)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar
Gary in Contortion (1)
1979
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Self-Portrait Jumping (1)' 1974

 

Peter Hujar
Self-Portrait Jumping (1)
1974
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Candy Darling on Her Deathbed' 1973

 

Peter Hujar
Candy Darling on Her Deathbed
1973
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Richard and Ronay Menschel
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Chloe Finch' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
Chloe Finch
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Butch and Buster' 1978

 

Peter Hujar
Butch and Buster
1978
Gelatina de Plata
Colección de John Erdman and Gary Schneider
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2)' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2)
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'John McClellan' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
John McClellan
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Susan Sontag
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'New York: Sixth Avenue (1)' 1976

 

Peter Hujar
New York: Sixth Avenue (1)
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Boy on Raft' 1978

 

Peter Hujar
Boy on Raft
1978
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona featuring the Peter Hujar image 'Boy on Raft' (1978)

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona featuring the Peter Hujar image Boy on Raft (1978)

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space
Calle Diputació, 250
Barcelona

Fundación MAPFRE website

The Peter Hujar Archive

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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

.
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.

.
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

.
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:
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Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

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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.”
.

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)
    .

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.
.

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
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N.E. Atlanta, GA 30309

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

High Museum of Art website

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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

 

 

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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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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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