Posts Tagged ‘Amsterdam

27
Aug
17

Exhibition: ‘Lionel Wendt: Ceylon’ at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 10th June 2017 – 3rd September 2017

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

 

Glorious modernist photographs with avant-garde and surrealist overtones: the use of photomontage, double printing and solarisation is particularly effective.

The sensitive figure studies of males in classical pose carry an over current of barely surpressed desire evidencing a sexualised (post-colonial?) gaze falling on the exotic Other – even as Wendt was part of an emerging generation of artists documenting Sri Lanka’s culture and history from the inside.

More interesting than desire hiding through artistic ethnographic study are the landscapes, abstracts of coils of rope and the voluptuous female nudes. Stunning.

The media images were in such poor condition when I received them that I have spent a long time digitally cleaning and balancing them for your pleasure.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Lionel Wendt was the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon.”

.
Pablo Neruda, Memoirs

 

“The proposition that confronted Wendt was that Sri Lanka had a way of life that was very old but which remained, in spite of poverty, squalor and apathy, a vital sense of life. He recognised that here man, living in traditional ways, had not become alienated from his environment… Evidence of his deep regard for Sri Lanka and its traditions are illustrated in the images he chose to capture with his camera, each being a tiny microcosm of a vast and magnificent tapestry. It was recognised by all those who knew him that Wendt had an endless capacity for work. He focussed on the country and the people with unerring judgement and relentless dedication, and in doing this, he stimulated a new consciousness among them and (just as pertinent) in some high places.”

.
Neville Weeraratne

 

“He never spoke much about his photography. I expect he wanted his images to speak for themselves and he never spoke of them or about himself. I suppose he was so critical of everybody else that he did not want to expose himself to the same treatment. He did not reveal himself. He was a very interior person. He showed no emotion though he expressed a great passion for things. Perhaps he was hypocritical.”

.
Lester James Peiris

 

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title (Self-portrait)
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

 

There is something special going on with regard to the oeuvre of Ceylonese photographer Lionel Wendt (1900-1944). After a period of relative obscurity, Wendt was rediscovered – or discovered, in fact – worldwide as a unique, individualistic photographer who availed himself of experimental techniques and modern compositions. Wendt’s choice of subjects was eclectic: from sensual and homo-erotic portraits to tropical images of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and from picturesque scenes to compositions for which he used modernist stylistic devices and experimental techniques. After Wendt’s premature death in 1944 his negatives were destroyed, but the work he left behind lives on. This consists of a collection of beautiful experimental prints, of which several are included in the renowned collections of such museums as Tate Modern in London and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This year, Wendt’s work is being exhibited at Documenta 14 in Athens and, from 10 June till 3 September 2017, in a large-scale retrospective exhibit at Huis Marseille, which shines a spotlight on the fascinating work of this photographer in all its facets.

 

Who was Lionel Wendt?

Lionel Wendt was a concert pianist, author, patron of the arts, teacher and, above all, a first-class photographer. After having studied law and musical training as a concert pianist in Great Britain, Wendt returned to the city of his birth, Colombo in Ceylon, at the age of 24. It did not take long for him to dedicate himself fully to the arts after his return: piano, literature and the visual arts. It was particularly in photography that he found an ideal vehicle for expression. In 1934, he established the Photographic Society of Ceylon jointly with Bernard G. Thornley and P.J.C. Durrant, and started running Chitrafoto, the photographic studio of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon and in which he also published a photographic column, in 1938. Wendt developed into a prominent avant-gardist – the ‘Oscar Wilde’ of the Ceylonese arts scene. His first solo exhibition took place in 1938 at the Camera Club in London, at the invitation of Ernst Leitz, the inventor and manufacturer of the Leica. Two years later, a solo exhibition followed in Colombo entitled Camera Work, probably in reference to Alfred Stieglitz’s avantgardist photography magazine of the same name.

 

Tropical modernism, masterful prints

Initially, Wendt used a Rolleiflex for his photography, which he quickly replaced by a Leica. From approximately 1933 onwards, he started to print his film in his own darkroom, where he soon showed himself to be a master. He made refined bromide and gelatine silver prints with subtle shades of grey and gradations of black, which gave his nudes and landscapes a velvet-like quality. Wendt allowed himself to be inspired by the ‘straight photography’ of Paul Strand and Edward Weston and the surrealistic experiments of Man Ray, and experimented with techniques such as photogram, photomontage, double printing and solarisation.

 

Homosexuality, hiding in plain sight

Wendt’s work includes spectacular images of Ceylon: its landscapes, cultural heritage and local population, photographed during everyday activities or traditional rituals. However, his sensual homoerotic nudes are particularly astounding. In a time and at a place where homosexuality was not accepted, Wendt had his male subjects (men and boys) pose in the landscape or in his studio. Through the traditional Ceylonese loincloths worn by his subjects, which leave little to the imagination, and the academic poses he asked them to take, he was able to express his homosexuality under the guise of art and ethnography. He also created portraits of the members of the island’s avant-garde movement. Wendt played a significant role in the development of modernist painting on Ceylon; he acted as a patron of the arts and his house was a meeting place for the ’43 Group, the artistic movement that was a predecessor of Ceylonese modernism.

 

A dormant legacy reawakens

Following Wendt’s early death in 1944 his work sank into oblivion. In the course of time the hundreds of prints that comprise his legacy came into the possession of several collectors, galleries and museums. After having led a dormant existence for several decades, Wendt’s work was once again brought to the attention of the public in 1994.

 

Large-scale museum retrospective in the Netherlands

From 10 June through 3 September 2017, Huis Marseille is presenting the first museum solo exhibition of Lionel Wendt in the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Ton Peek Gallery (Utrecht) and Jhaveri Contemporary Gallery (London/Mumbai). Over 140 prints from various international private and museum collections have been brought together. Concurrent to the exhibition, the publishing house Fw:Books will be presenting the book Lionel Wendt. Ceylon featuring an overview of Wendt’s work (hardcover, 200 pages, design by Hans Gremmen). This is the first monograph since Lionel Wendt. A Centennial Tribute (2000), an extensive and revised version of the very first catalogue of Wendt’s oeuvre: Lionel Wendt’s Ceylon (1950).

Text from Huis Marseille

 

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

 

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam,

Exhibition: 'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

 

Installation views of the exhibition Lionel Wendt: Ceylon at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam

 

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

 

Installation of photographs for the exhibition

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Courtesy Ton Peek (Utrecht)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt

 

Lionel Wendt (1900-1944)
No title
Nd
Private collection
Courtesy Jhaveri Contemporary (London/Mumbai)
© Lionel Wendt

 

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book cover

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

'Lionel Wendt: Ceylon' book pages

 

Lionel Wendt: Ceylon book

 

 

Huis Marseille
Keizersgracht 401
1016 EK Amsterdam
T +31 20 531 89 89

Opening hours
Tue – Sun, 11 – 18 h

Huis Marseille website

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16
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Early Photography in Imperial China’ at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 23rd August 2015

 

For me, the standout photographs in this posting are Mee Cheung’s rhythmic Buddhist Monks in Chefoo and the work of Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz, especially the three photographs Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum, Portrait of a Chinese woman and Portrait of Chinese Admiral Ting.

The latter three have a deceptively simple structure, delicate hand colouring, and a visual and metaphysical presence that is almost beyond description… as though you know the character and personality of these anonymous human beings through the rendition of their image. In a way they are humanist portraits presaging the tradition of the more scientific and archetypal portraits of August Sander.

You can see in the face of Admiral Ting that he is a prosperous and powerful man, you can see the individuality of each person in these images, the individualisation of these people, a tradition which is continued by today’s documentary photographers. But not generally by today’s art photographers looking at the portrait because, for them, the portrait is surface and detail – controlled by the photographer and not responsive to the subject.

Marcus

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

 

 

A. Chan. 'Sheung-mun-tai Street in Canton' c. 1870

 

A. Chan
Sheung-mun-tai Street in Canton
c. 1870
Collectie Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam

 

A. Chan. 'Sheung-mun-tai Street in Canton' (detail) c. 1870

 

A. Chan
Sheung-mun-tai Street in Canton (detail)
c. 1870
Collectie Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam

 

Mee Cheung. 'Buddhist Monks in Chefoo' c. 1880-1890

 

Mee Cheung
Buddhist Monks in Chefoo
c. 1880-1890
Collection Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam

 

Mee Cheung. 'Buddhist Monks in Chefoo' (detail) c. 1880-1890

 

 

Mee Cheung
Buddhist Monks in Chefoo (detail)
c. 1880-1890
Collection Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam

 

Afong. 'Studio Portrait of Courtesans in Shanghai' c. 1875-1880

 

Afong
Studio Portrait of Courtesans in Shanghai
c. 1875-1880
Collections Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam

 

Afong. 'Studio Portrait of Courtesans in Shanghai' (detail) c. 1875-1880

 

Afong
Studio Portrait of Courtesans in Shanghai (detail)
c. 1875-1880
Collections Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam

 

Afong. 'A Chinese Party Game' c. 1895

 

Afong
A Chinese Party Game
c. 1895
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

 

 

“Rare photos, photo albums and stereo photos from the collection of China expert Ferry Bertholet, enhanced with photographs from the Rijksmuseum’s collection, show 19th century unknown China at the time of the last emperors for the very first time. From 5 June to 23 August 2015 the Rijksmuseum is presenting Early Photography in Imperial China in it’s Photo Gallery.

In the 19th century Imperial China was almost entirely hidden away from the world until the last Emperor was deposed in 1912. Access was limited to port cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Canton, which were forced to be open to the West after 1842 so that Westerners could trade unimpeded. The advent of photography coincided with a rapidly growing interest in the unknown China. The photographs in the exhibition take the visitor into this exciting unknown world of ports, quays and rickshaws, but also of narrow crowded streets bustling with the multitude of shops and ‘tea houses’ and their hostesses.

The display includes important photographs by such as Felice Beato (his famous photograph of the Second Opium War 1857-1860) and the famous China photographer John Thomson. They were among the first Europeans able to record images of a country that – even at that time – was still barely accessible to the rest of the world. Furthermore, this is also the first time that the work of Chinese photographers such as Afong, Lan Wah and Sze Yuen Ming has ever been shown in the Netherlands. 
Other highlights of the exhibition include a rare Chinese family portrait from 1860 from the Bertholet collection of American photographer Milton Miller, as well as the coloured photos of ‘types of people’ by Baron Raimund Ratenitz von Stillfried.

Besides the 35 photos in the exhibition, a huge travel camera from that time is also on display, illustrating how awkward it was to photograph such material. There are also stereo photos in 3D, including a special shot of the city of Peking in 1860, and photo albums and amateur photos of travellers to China are also on display. A richly illustrated book was published recently: Ferry Bertholet & Lambert van der Aalsvoort, Among the Celestials. China in Early Photographs, Brussels 2014.”

Press release from the Rijksmuseum website

 

Anonymous. 'Peking' c. 1860 - c. 1930

 

Anonymous
Peking
c. 1860 – c. 1930

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Chinese carriers' c. 1861 - c. 1880

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Chinese carriers
c. 1861 – c. 1880

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum' 1875

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum
1875

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum' 1875

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum
1875

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum' (detail) 1875

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Portrait of two Chinese Buddhist monks with rosary, bell and slit drum (detail)
1875

 

attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Portrait of a Chinese woman' 1860 - 1870

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Portrait of a Chinese woman
1860 – 1870

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Portrait of Chinese Admiral Ting' c. 1861 - c. 1880

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Portrait of Chinese Admiral Ting
c. 1861 – c. 1880

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz. 'Portrait of Chinese Admiral Ting' (detail) c. 1861 - c. 1880

 

Attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz
Portrait of Chinese Admiral Ting (detail)
c. 1861 – c. 1880

 

Attributed to Jan Adriani. 'A street with several people in Kinkiang, China' 1907

 

Attributed to Jan Adriani
A street with several people in Kinkiang, China
1907

 

 

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Jan Luijkenstraat 1, Amsterdam

Opening hours:
Every day from 9:00 to 18:00

Rijksmuseum website

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16
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 4th April – 24th August 2014

 

It takes guts and moral fortitude to continue photographing the city that you live in even as the state that controls that city and country conspires against you. It takes talent to produce memorable images of urban poverty, to record for posterity communities that would soon vanish forever under the weight of a malignant form of madness, of genocide.

Vishniac was the only one not concerned with ego. He went out there and got the job done where no one else did. He produced thoroughly modern images of an ancient culture on the verge of destruction. He knew the danger and yet he still took the photos. Courage and fortitude, and in the end the luck to escape the Holocaust himself.

You can’t look at these images without a sense of regret and sadness – at the stupidity of humanity, of the egos of men, and the waste of millions of lives. One name says it all: Ernst Kaufmann. Standing on a pile of rocks, wearing wooden clogs, this man with the wavy hair looks down into the camera and he will ever be thus – young, handsome, alive in the moment that the photograph was taken.

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Jewish Historical Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Lots more images can be found on the excellent Roman Vishniac Archive website.

 

 

ICP_Vishniac_pressimage_1-DETAIL

 

Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance, Berlin (detail)
1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered brings together four decades of work by an extraordinarily versatile and innovative photographer for the first time. Vishniac (1897-1990) created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. These celebrated photographs were taken on assignment for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world’s largest Jewish relief organization, from 1935-38, yet this exhibition follows the photographer’s long and accomplished career from the early 1920s through the 1950s. Roman Vishniac Rediscovered introduces a radically diverse body of work – much of it only recently discovered – and repositions Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern European Jewry within a broader tradition of 1930s social documentary photography.

More than any other photographer, Roman Vishniac’s images have profoundly influenced contemporary notions of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Vishniac created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of that world on the eve of its annihilation, yet only a small fraction of his work was published or printed during his lifetime. Known primarily for this poignant record, Vishniac was in fact a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. His body of work spans more than five decades, ranging from early engagements with European modernism in the 1920s to highly inventive color photomicroscopy in the 1950s and ’60s.

Born in 1897 to an affluent Russian-Jewish family, Vishniac was raised in Moscow, where he studied zoology and biology. He immigrated to Berlin in 1920 in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. As an amateur photographer he took to the streets, offering witty and wry visual commentary on his adopted city while experimenting with new approaches to framing and composition. As Vishniac documented the Nazi rise to power, foreboding signs of oppression soon became a focal point of his work. In 1935, he was commissioned by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) – the world’s largest Jewish relief organization – to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Vishniac’s four years of work on the project yielded the celebrated images that have largely defined his photographic legacy.

Arriving in New York on New Year’s Day 1941, Vishniac opened a portrait studio, working to make ends meet by documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life, while establishing himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, he returned to Europe and documented Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps, the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives, emigration and relief efforts, and the ruins of Berlin.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is a comprehensive reappraisal of Vishniac’s total photographic output, from his early years in Berlin through the postwar period in America. The exhibition is drawn from the Roman Vishniac archive at ICP and serves as an introduction to this vast assemblage comprising more than 30,000 objects, including recently discovered vintage prints, rare moving film footage, contact sheets, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from his recently digitized negatives.

 

Berlin Street Photography, 1920s-30s

Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920, shortly after the formation of the Weimar Republic. He and his wife Luta settled in the Wilmersdorf district, home to a large community of affluent Russian-Jewish expatriates. Berlin in the 1920s was the epitome of a modern city: cosmopolitan, loud, vibrant, diverse, and full of recent immigrants. Already an accomplished amateur photographer, Vishniac joined several of the city’s ubiquitous camera clubs. Armed with his Rolleiflex and Leica, he took to the streets, creating astute, often humorous observations of his adopted city.

Vishniac’s interest in photography had begun during his childhood in Russia; many Russian Jews owned photography shops and studios, and Vishniac’s family encouraged his pursuits. In Berlin, his perspective as an outsider contributed to his inventive and dynamic images of life in the city, and marked his transformation from amateur hobbyist to accomplished street photographer. His best, most intimate photographs were often taken in his own neighborhood, where he built a fully equipped photo-processing lab in his apartment.

Vishniac took full advantage of the city’s manifold resources, improving his technique and experimenting with modernist and avant-garde approaches to framing and composition – hallmarks of Weimar Berlin. This prodigious body of early work became increasingly influenced by European modernism as he captured the buzzing day-to-day life of the city: streetcar drivers, municipal workers and day laborers, marching students and children at play, bucolic park scenes and the intellectual café life of the bustling metropolis that was, in Vishniac’s words, “the world’s center of music, books, and science.”

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]' late 1920s - early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac
[Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]
late 1920s – early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'People behind bars, Berlin Zoo' Early 1930s (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
People behind bars, Berlin Zoo
Early 1930s (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

The oldest and most renowned zoo in Germany, the Zoologische Garten was a popular gathering place for Berlin’s middle- and upper-class Jewish community before World War II. Many affluent Jewish families, including the Vishniacs, were shareholders. Beginning in 1933, the zoo began to force out Jewish board members. In 1938, a sign reading “Juden unerwünscht” (Jews Unwanted) was displayed at the entrance to the zoo and in early 1939 Jews were denied entry entirely. In Vishniac’s photograph of the zoo’s famous polar bears, it appears that the visitors, and not the animals, are in a cage.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boys admiring a motorcycle, Brandenburg, outskirts of Berlin]' 1929 - early 1930s (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boys admiring a motorcycle, Brandenburg, outskirts of Berlin]
1929 – early 1930s (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Nazi Rise to Power in Germany, 1933-38

“I grew up in Berlin with a pervasive sense of danger and dread combined with a perceived obligation not to show fear. I was aware of personal danger and knew that whatever happened to me, my parents could offer no protection or help. That was everyday life.”

Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Vishniac’s development as a professional photographer coincided with the Nazi rise to power and the establishment of the Third Reich. Widespread antisemitism and the implementation of increasingly restrictive measures against Jews became daily realities. Vishniac documented the ominous changes he encountered, photographing campaign posters, swastika banners, phrenology shops, and marching Nazi soldiers. Following Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933, the government relentlessly pursued those artists and intellectuals not in line with the Reich’s values. Berlin’s cosmopolitan vivacity was soon drained of its intellectual and cultural capital. Once-vibrant neighborhoods became ruled by fear; anyone considered an opponent of the Nazi government could be sent to Dachau, a concentration camp established in 1933 outside Munich.

Many photographers suffered from the Nazi policies; the Schriftgesetz (Editorial Act) of November 1933 forced anyone working in publishing – photographers included – to provide proof of Aryan heritage. In 1934, the Deutsche Presse (German Press) published a list of authorized Aryan photographers whose work aligned with the Nazi party. Jews were forbidden to take photographs on the street. In spite of these restrictions, Vishniac tenaciously documented Berlin’s rapid acclimation to Nazi policy. To avoid suspicion, he often used his young daughter Mara as a prop, snapping seemingly innocuous pictures of her in front of advertising columns and shop windows festooned with Nazi propaganda.

These symbols of oppression formed the quotidian backdrop of Vishniac’s Germany, a fact to which the ubiquity of Nazi flags, banners, and posters in his later Berlin photographs testify. Capturing the spread of Nazi ideology on Berlin’s streets, Vishniac’s images embodied his own marginalization – and endangerment – as both a photographer and a Jew.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Recalcitrance, Berlin' 1926

 

Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance, Berlin
1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Vishniac's daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads "The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights," Wilmersdorf, Berlin]' 1933

 

Roman Vishniac
[Vishniac’s daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads “The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights,” Wilmersdorf, Berlin]
1933
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Street scene with a swastika flag on a storefront (at left), Berlin]' c. 1935-36 (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Street scene with a swastika flag on a storefront (at left), Berlin]
c. 1935-36 (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Vishniac often positioned himself in doorways or building foyers in his Berlin street photography, documenting daily life as a removed observer. This image reveals multiple layers of time in one shot: the car positioned alongside the horse-drawn wagon, bicyclists speeding by as pedestrians young and old navigate the cobblestones and pavement, against the backdrop of a rapidly modernizing metropolis. Only upon closer examination do our eyes move to a swastika flag blowing in the wind above the horses, a common site on most Berlin streets by 1935.

 

 

German-Jewish Relief and Community Organizations, Berlin, mid- to late 1930s

Prior to Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933, Jewish social service organizations in Germany primarily served Eastern European Jews, the majority of whom were less cosmopolitan, assimilated, and affluent than their German-born coreligionists. The Nazi regime recognized no such distinction, however, and their rise to power drastically affected almost every Jew living in Germany. As Germany’s Jewish population was gradually excluded from both social and economic life, many came to depend upon a Jewish social structure that was originally intended to look outward but quickly expanded to serve the growing needs of the community.

In 1933, German-Jewish groups unified into the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Central Organization of German Jews), an umbrella organization intended to ameliorate the effects of Nazi racial policy. Between 1933 and 1938, subsidiary and affiliate organizations created Jewish education and healthcare systems and instituted a welfare system for Jews facing impoverishment. Zionist and other youth organizations flourished under the exclusionary policies of the Nazis, helping would-be émigrés learn the agricultural and vocational skills needed to build new lives in Palestine and elsewhere. The Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Association) was established in response to restrictions placed on Jewish artists. Vishniac and his family were among its 70,000 members and regularly attended lectures and performances. Vishniac was also a member of T’munah, a Jewish photographic group founded in 1934 in response to the exclusionary policies of “Aryan” camera clubs.

As restrictions on photographers increased, Vishniac was commissioned to document the work of several Jewish community and social service organizations in Berlin. This fascinating body of work is largely unknown, but it helped establish his reputation in Jewish philanthropic circles, leading to major commissions from a wide range of Jewish relief and community organizations from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Drawer of freshly farmed eggs, Gut Winkel, a training farm for German-Jewish youth hoping to emigrate to Palestine, Spreenhagen in der Mark, Brandenburg, Germany]' c. 1938

 

Roman Vishniac
[Drawer of freshly farmed eggs, Gut Winkel, a training farm for German-Jewish youth hoping to emigrate to Palestine, Spreenhagen in der Mark, Brandenburg, Germany]
c. 1938
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Preparing food in a Jewish soup kitchen, Berlin]' mid- to late 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac
[Preparing food in a Jewish soup kitchen, Berlin]
mid- to late 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Jewish Life in Eastern Europe, ca. 1935-38

In 1935, Roman Vishniac was hired by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) to document impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Photographic images offered limitless, affordable reproducibility, and could be used in slide lectures, brochures, appeals, and annual reports throughout America and Western Europe. Vishniac’s images played a crucial role in communicating the AJDC’s message, and they would ultimately become the last extensive photographic record by a single photographer of Jewish communities that had existed for centuries.

The majority of Vishniac’s published photographs of Eastern Europe depict privation. Many others illustrate the philanthropic activities of the AJDC such as children’s camps, free loan societies, soup kitchens, schools, and health organizations. And while Vishniac is often associated with images of rural villages and small towns, or shtetlach, most of his photographs record urban poverty in major cities like Warsaw, Krakow, and Lodz. His work for the AJDC echoes the contemporaneous projects of American photographers like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, and Walker Evans. In the same years that the Farm Security Administration sent photographers to the American South and West to document those affected by drought, depression, and migration, Vishniac was sent east by the AJDC. Today, his work stands alongside the best social-documentary photographers of his era. His unpublished work imparts a much more complex and nuanced perspective on Eastern European Jewish life, and reveals a much more versatile – and modern – artist.

That Vishniac was commissioned to document the most impoverished Jews is significant, as is the fact that he often chose the most traditional and observant Jews as subjects, to amplify the contrast between Ostjuden, or Eastern Jews, and the more assimilated Western Jews who would be viewing the images. It was only after the Holocaust, when the communities he had so poignantly depicted were annihilated, that his body of work came to symbolize the vanished world of Eastern Jewry.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Eastern Europe]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Eastern Europe]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Eastern Europe]' (detail) c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Eastern Europe] (detail)
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stenciled flowers above her head, Warsaw]' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac
[Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stenciled flowers above her head, Warsaw]
c. 1935-37
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Werkdorp Nieuwesluis Agrarian Training Camp, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands, 1939

As the plight of German Jews became increasingly dire throughout the 1930s and many Jewish families attempted to send their children to safety in neutral countries, many young German Jews, including Vishniac’s children Wolf and Mara, joined a large number of Zionist organizations. With the British government maintaining strict immigration quotas, hundreds of young German Jews planning to go to Palestine and waiting to obtain visas were sent to the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, a Zionist agrarian youth training complex, or hachschara, in the Netherlands. Established in 1934 by the Foundation for Jewish Labor on land donated by the Dutch government, the Werkdorp taught young, urban Jews farming, animal husbandry, construction, and other unfamiliar skills they would need as pioneers in Palestine.

In 1939, Vishniac was sent by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) to document the Werkdorp’s activities. Vishniac photographed the capable young men and women as idealized, heroic Zionist pioneers, lifting heavy stones, constructing scaffolding, and tugging on rope. The images bear a striking resemblance to heavily circulated halutz (Zionist pioneer) photography made in Palestine in the 1930s, and demonstrate Vishniac’s versatility: here is an ambitious, accomplished series in a style that is radically different from his earlier work, and perfectly suited to his athletic, industrious subjects. Shot from a low vantage point, the Werkdorp images juxtapose clear skies and strong silhouettes to form vigorous, balanced compositions. Young, healthy bodies play off the clean, rhythmic geometry of the construction sites in a manner that is also reminiscent of the Russian Constructivist photographer Rodchenko, whose work would certainly have been familiar to Vishniac.

In March 1941, Nazi SS officers ordered the evacuation of the camp, and most of its inhabitants were sent to transit camps, including Westerbork. Out of 315 Werkdorp residents in May 1940, 175 were killed in concentration camps in the east.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Vishniac’s Werkdorp images did not include any caption information on the few existing prints of the work, and were thus difficult to identify. A small, 2¼-inch-square contact print of three young men wearing wooden clogs provided a vital clue that facilitated the attribution of this larger body of Werkdorp material, with the assistance of curators at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. This is the only known example of a professional photographer documenting this Dutch Zionist agrarian training camp.

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Willy Lefkowitz and Martin Grünpeter constructing a foundry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939 (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Willy Lefkowitz and Martin Grünpeter constructing a foundry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939 (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Willy Lefkowitz, left, was forcibly removed from the Werkdorp when it was closed by the Nazis in 1941. Lefkowitz, along with the majority of the Werkdorp’s remaining inhabitants, was sent to the Westerbork Transit Camp in northeastern Netherlands, a site where Dutch Jews and Roma were assembled during World War II prior to their deportation to Nazi extermination camps in the east. Of the 107,000 people who passed through Westerbork – among them Anne Frank and her family – only 5,200 survived, including Lefkowitz, who immigrated to the United States. He is believed to have died in Brooklyn in 2001. Martin Grünpeter, right, a German Jew born in 1914, survived World War II and immigrated to Palestine.

 

 

Travel, Refuge, and Internment in France: Paris, Nice, and Marseille, ca. 1939

From April to September 1939, Vishniac worked as a freelance photographer based in France while his family struggled to secure exit visas to the U.S. (his children had been sent to safety in Sweden). In the interwar years, France had welcomed Jews from across Europe. By 1939, as Jews fleeing Nazi rule brought the Jewish population in France to over 300,000, an increasingly conservative and nationalist government sought to limit immigration. Detention camps for Jews were established in southern France.

During this time, Vishniac was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT) to photograph and film an ORT vocational training school for Jewish refugees near Marseille. Vishniac’s parents had relocated to Nice in 1937, and while visiting them, he took playful, spontaneous photographs of Riviera beach life, a stark contrast to the intense and machine-focused ORT images that were to be his final photographic assignment for the AJDC until his return to Europe in 1947.

In late 1939, after entrusting a large selection of his negatives to his friend Walter Bierer in Paris, Vishniac was arrested and imprisoned at the Camp du Ruchard internment camp. Held for three months, he wrote desperate letters to family, friends, and the staff of the AJDC, describing the dismal conditions and pleading for assistance. Following his release, secured through the efforts of his wife, Vishniac waited in France while his family worked to obtain exit visas, with assistance from the AJDC. Vishniac reunited with Luta, Wolf, and Mara in Lisbon, and the family sailed for America on the S.S. Siboney in December 1940, arriving in America on New Year’s Day 1941.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Beachgoers in the afternoon, Nice, France]' c. 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Beachgoers in the afternoon, Nice, France]
c. 1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Students learning metalwork techniques, Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), Marseille]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Students learning metalwork techniques, Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), Marseille]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

YIVO Exhibitions in New York, January 1944 and January 1945

In 1944 and 1945, as World War II raged in Europe, Vishniac staged two large exhibitions at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, presenting his commissioned work from Eastern Europe to an American audience.

Founded in 1925 as the Yiddish Scientific Institute in Wilno, Poland, YIVO was created to preserve, research, and promote Eastern European Jewish culture and history during a period of rapid modernization and immigration. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the organization was reestablished in New York in 1940 as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, at 55 West 123rd Street, while a group of brave and dedicated archivists in Wilno worked to rescue precious material in defiance of Nazi orders.

Vishniac’s first exhibition at YIVO, Pictures of Jewish Life in Prewar Poland, opened in January 1944 and focused on urban Jewish life, with a large selection of images from Lublin, Warsaw, and Wilno. The second exhibition, Jewish Life in the Carpathians, opened in January 1945, and featured photographs of Jewish farming communities in the Carpathian Mountains, and yeshivas and religious life in Galicia.

The largely Yiddish-speaking audience in New York viewed images of their communities of origin just as those communities were being destroyed, a fate the viewers were virtually powerless to stop. As word of the destruction of Eastern European Jews spread across the Atlantic, Vishniac’s photographs – originally intended to call attention to the privation of living Eastern European Jews – began to be seen as “documents of a lost epoch,” as phrased in the exhibition text at YIVO. These exhibitions signaled the first major shift in the contextualization of Vishniac’s work: from documentary assignments to bolster relief efforts in the late 1930s to images capturing a world on the brink of annihilation.

The YIVO exhibition boards, labeled in both English and Yiddish utilizing an innovative, Bauhaus-inspired typography that originated in interwar Wilno, are now in the collection of ICP and are being displayed as a group for the first time since the original exhibitions.

Today, YIVO continues to advance the study of Eastern European Jewish cultural heritage, and houses an archive of more than 24 million artifacts.

 

“The Face of America at War”: New York, 1941-44

The recent discovery of Vishniac’s unsuccessful 1944 application for a Guggenheim Fellowship sheds new light on a group of more than 200 negatives from the early 1940s that had previously appeared to be unrelated. Printed and exhibited here for the first time, these images show the impact of war rationing on shoppers at the Washington Market, the war relief efforts of New York’s Chinese-American community, women’s entrance into the industrial workforce and the military, the carousing of off-duty soldiers in Central Park, and the impact of war on the lives of New Yorkers. Vishniac’s Guggenheim proposal described a “photographic series portraying the face of America at war,” and this diverse yet cohesive group of images was likely submitted as a sample portfolio with his application, the beginnings of a project never completed for want of funding. His extraordinary, extensive series on Chinatown, reminiscent of his photographs of urban Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, depicts a neighborhood that is both separated from and integrated into the fabric of the larger city, reflective of Vishniac’s own efforts to navigate yet another new, adopted home as an outsider. The images capture the “objectivity” of “un-posed” journalistic photography, in the words of one recommender, and have a great deal in common with fellow Jewish émigré Robert Frank’s Guggenheim-funded project, The Americans, made a decade later.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Sisters Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht, refugees assisted by the National Refugee Service (NRS) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), shortly after their arrival in the United States, Central Park, New York]' 1941

 

Roman Vishniac
[Sisters Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht, refugees assisted by the National Refugee Service (NRS) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), shortly after their arrival in the United States, Central Park, New York]
1941
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Customers waiting in line at a butcher's counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York]' 1941-44

 

Roman Vishniac
[Customers waiting in line at a butcher’s counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York]
1941-44
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn]' 1949

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn]
1949
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Berlin in Ruins, 1947

In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe as an American citizen, hired by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and United Jewish Appeal (UJA) to document relief efforts in Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps. While on assignment, Vishniac visited Berlin, where he created a bleak and poignant record of the destroyed city that had been his home for twenty years. Focusing on West Berlin, he took intimate photographs of his former Wilmersdorf neighborhood, now reduced to ruins. The same locations that had thrummed with life in his street photography from the Weimar era are suffused with a haunting silence in his 1947 photographs. One photograph reveals the crumbling and mangled platform that had once been Vishniac’s living room. Other images capture the tentative steps of a city emerging from devastation: children walking hand-in-hand and playing amidst the ruins, flowers growing through the rubble, and hairdressers once more advertising their services. Together, these pictures, which have not been previously printed or exhibited, constitute a unique and highly personal contribution to the documentation of postwar life in Berlin.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boy standing on a mountain of rubble, Berlin]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boy standing on a mountain of rubble, Berlin]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'The streets are free of brown batallions!, Berlin' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
The streets are free of brown batallions!, Berlin
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Refugees and Displaced Persons’ Camps, Germany and France, 1947

In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied nations had initially expected the repatriation of displaced refugees to take six months. Most Jewish refugees, however, no longer had communities or family to which they could return, presenting a unique challenge. Following the 1945 Harrison Report, the Allies considered Jewish survivors a distinct group, to be housed in exclusively Jewish camps and aided in eventual emigration. By mid-1947, 250,000 Jews lived in Displaced Persons’ Camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Officially administered by the United Nations, the primary aid, support, and administration for the DP Camps came from Jewish charitable organizations, most notably the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). In France, Jewish organizations ran DP Camps privately, housing nearly 40,000 refugees. Despite difficult conditions and profound trauma, Jewish life soon flourished in the camps, as families reunited and formed anew.

Commissioned by the AJDC and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), Vishniac traveled to various DP Camps in 1947, documenting a broad range of relief programs, including food distribution centers, visa application lines, occupational training, and health services. Other images record children’s camps, religious and cultural events, and refugee reunions. Wired back to America, Vishniac’s images helped publicize the plight of homeless and stateless Jewish refugees, raising funds and increasing the pressure on Britain and the U.S. to open their doors to survivors.

Spurred by these cultural and educational programs and the emerging Zionist youth movement, survivors soon rallied against British restrictions on immigration to Palestine. Following the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, and the American Displaced Persons Act of 1948, most Jews left DP Camps for Israel or the United States. By 1952, almost all DP Camps had closed.

Maya Benton, Curator at the International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Holocaust survivors and American relief worker, probably Schlachtensee Displaced Persons' Camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Holocaust survivors and American relief worker, probably Schlachtensee Displaced Persons’ Camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons' Camp, Picardy, France]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons’ Camp, Picardy, France]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

 

 

Jewish Historical Museum
Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1
1011 PL Amsterdam

Opening hours:

Jewish Historical Museum website

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28
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013’ at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 3rd August 2014

 

What an absolutely beautiful space to show your work. Can you just imagine what you would create if you had the chance!

Marcus

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

 

 

Installation view of 'Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013' at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Installation view of 'Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013' at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Installation view of 'Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013' at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Installation view of 'Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013' at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

 

Installation views of Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013 at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij

 

Jeff Wall. 'Volunteer' 1996

 

Jeff Wall
Volunteer
1996
Gelatine silverprint
221.5 x 313 x 5cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Wall. 'The Flooded Grave' 1998-2000

 

Jeff Wall
The Flooded Grave
1998-2000
Transparency in lightbox
225.5 x 282 x 25 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Wall. 'Invisible man by Ralp Ellison, The Prologue' 1999-2000

 

Jeff Wall
Invisible man by Ralp Ellison, The Prologue
1999-2000
Transparency in lightbox
174 x 250 x 25cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

“Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013 presents recent work in color and black and white, and features the new, previously unseen diptych Summer Afternoons (2013). It is the first major photography exhibition to be presented at the Stedelijk following its reopening in 2012.

Since the 1980s, Wall has produced critically acclaimed work in the form of color transparencies backlit by fluorescent light strips and presented in lightboxes. He was one of the first artists to make photographs on a large scale. The standard lightbox was created for the primary purpose of outdoor advertising. In Wall’s work, this medium became a platform for his figurative tableaux, street scenes and interiors, landscapes and cityscapes. Wall explores themes such as the relationships between men and women and the boundary between metropolis and nature. He offers social commentary on violence and cultural miscommunication, and conjures seductive nightmarish fantasies and personal memories. These scenes provide the basis for photographic reconstructions of Wall’s experience. They derive their inherent suspense from a combination of extreme realism and sometimes elaborate artifice.

The exhibition hinges on the year 1996, which marked a turning point in Wall’s production: It was the first year that he produced black-and-white prints on paper. More immediately than the lightboxes, the black-and-white photographs suggest new relations of his work to documentary themes and aesthetics. But Wall also orchestrates the content of these images, employing tools borrowed from filmmaking. Wall sees photographs as autonomous, independent images and, strictly speaking, all his works are created using photographic means. At the same time, he analyzes and expands the visual language of photography by adding elements from painting, cinema, theater. In choosing his themes, Wall deconstructs common ideas and assumptions, including those relating to his own work. He has, for instance, also shot many “unstaged” images.

Curator Hripsimé Visser said: “Jeff Wall is first and foremost an ‘artist’s artist,’ he is well- known and much loved by other artists, as well as critics. With this exhibition, the Stedelijk hopes to create broader public awareness of Jeff Wall as one of the artists who uniquely and enduringly defined photography as a fine art medium. Wall’s work is classic, yet entirely contemporary at the same time. His themes are both commonplace and tension-filled. What at first seems straightforward and intelligible is also complex and enigmatic. Wall carefully selects his mode of display to be produced with an incredible eye for detail. The large scale of the images is a natural, integral feature of the work.”

Jeff Wall himself chose the title of this exhibition. It is a reference to the layers that can be found in his work. He says, “‘Tableau’ refers to the free-standing, autonomous object we look at from a distance, often when it is hanging on the wall in front of us. ‘Picture’ relates to that special and isolated image within the entire spectrum of image production available in a culture. And ‘photograph’ identifies it in the technical sense, and as medium, distinct from other ways of making tableaux or pictures.” Wall aims to present each photo as an independent, unique image, intended to be seen hanging on a wall, not as reproductions in a book. As such, Wall arranged this presentation to give each individual artwork the space it needs. The monumental scale of the work encourages viewers to experience the space that is evoked in the images. At the same time, the themes and formal and stylistic qualities of the different images prompt viewers to draw comparisons between them.

The exhibition will fan out across the Stedelijk’s former Hall of Honor, two adjacent gallery spaces in the historic building, and the Van den Ende Foundation Gallery in the new wing of the museum. Jeff Wall: Tableaux Pictures Photographs 1996-2013 was curated by Hripsimé Visser, in close collaboration with the artist and in collaboration with Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaeck, Denmark. The exhibition will travel to both museums.

Jeff Wall grew up in Vancouver and studied at the University of British Columbia and at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Since the late 1970s, he has been considered one of the art world’s most innovative contemporary photographers. His work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2013), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007), and Tate Modern, London (2005), among others. The Stedelijk Museum first presented Wall’s work in 1985.”

Press release from the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam website

 

Jeff Wall. 'Overpass' 2001

 

Jeff Wall
Overpass
2001
Transparency in lightbox
214 x 273.5 x 25cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Wall. 'In Front of a Nightclub' 2006

 

Jeff Wall
In Front of a Nightclub
2006
Transparency in lightbox
226 x 360 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Wall. 'Knife Throw' 2008

 

Jeff Wall
Knife Throw
2008
Ink-jet-print
195 x 267 x 5cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Wall. 'Boy Falls From Tree' 2010

 

Jeff Wall
Boy Falls From Tree
2010
Colour photograph
234.3 x 313.7 x 5.1 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jeff Wall. 'Boxing' 2011

 

Jeff Wall
Boxing
2011
Colour photograph
222.9 x 303.5 x 5.1 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Museumplein 10

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 10 pm

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam website

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01
Jun
14

Exhibition: ‘Apartheid and After’ at Huis Marseille – Museum for Photography, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 8th June 2014

Artists: David Goldblatt met Paul Alberts, Pieter Hugo, Santu Mofokeng, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi, Jo Ractliffe, Michael Subotzky, Guy Tillim, Graeme Williams and others, and the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg

Curators: Els Barents, David Goldblatt

 

A raft of exhibitions finishing on the 8th June 2014 means a lot of postings over the next few days. This posting continues my fascination with African photography. The two excellent photographs by David Goldblatt are the stand out here, along with the portrait by Mikhael Subotzky.

Marcus

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

 

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto) 'Sunflowers harvest, Vaalrand farm, Bloemhof' 1988

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto)
Sunflowers harvest, Vaalrand farm, Bloemhof
1988
From the Bloemhof Series, 1988/9, 1994

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto) 'Windmill, Vaalrand' 1988

 

Santu Mofokeng (1956 Soweto)
Windmill, Vaalrand
1988
From the Bloemhof Series, 1988/9, 1994

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town) 'Military watchtower in a domestic garden, Riemvasmaak' 2013

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town)
Military watchtower in a domestic garden, Riemvasmaak
2013
From The Borderlands (2011-2013)

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town) 'Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein' 2012

 

Jo Ractliffe (1961 Cape Town)
Playing soccer with marbles, Platfontein
2012
From The Borderlands (2011-2013)

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg) 'Kempton Park' Nd

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg)
Kempton Park
Nd
From Previously Important Places series 1990s -2013

The Emperors Palace Casino and Chariots Entertainment World was build on the site [ in… add please date and place… ]? were the negotiations leading up to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) took place. Now, at the very same place  a statue of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus greets visitors at the entrance of the afore mentioned  entertainement center.

 

Pieter Hugo (1976 Johannesburg) 'In Sipho Ntsibande's Home, Soweto' 2013

 

Pieter Hugo (1976 Johannesburg)
In Sipho Ntsibande’s Home, Soweto
2013
from the series Kin, 2013

 

Guy Tillim (1962 Johannesburg) 'Neri James, Petros Village, Malawi' 2006

 

Guy Tillim (1962 Johannesburg)
Neri James, Petros Village, Malawi
2006
from the series Petros Village, 2006

 

 

“The scars left in South Africa’s collective memory by its apartheid regime were also inscribed visually on its collective retina. There is less consensus, however, on the period of ‘truth and reconciliation’ after political apartheid came to an end in South Africa in 1990. The exhibition Apartheid and After addresses the question: where did photographers whose earlier work had opposed the apartheid regime point their cameras after 1980?

They include David Goldblatt, for instance, now an éminence grise of South African photography whose exhibition Cross Sections hung in Huis Marseille and others. Has South African democracy been given a face? Where is the real development happening? And where are the scars? Has South African national identity got stuck on a runaway merry-go-round, as the South African visual artist William Kentridge has suggested? One thing is clear: after apartheid, most South African photographers continued to make their own country their work domain, and in doing so they have gained a considerable international reputation.”

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“It is astonishing to think that until the beginning of the 1990s, merely two decades ago, modern and contemporary African photography was largely in the shadows.”

Okwui Enwezor in Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity: Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection, Steidl, 2013, p. 23.

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein) 'Child minder, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no.11)' 1975

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein)
Child minder, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no.11)
1975
From the series Particulars, 2003 (publishing date)

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein) 'Man on a beach, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no. 2)' 1975

 

David Goldblatt (1930 Randfontein)
Man on a beach, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, 1975 (no. 2)
1975
From the series Particulars, 2003 (publishing date)

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein) 'Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011' 2011

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein)
Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011
2011

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein) 'Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011' 2011

 

Sabelo Mlangeni (1980 Driefontein)
Coming to Johannesburg I, January, 2011
2011

 

Daniel Naudé (1984 Cape Town) 'Africanis 23. Richmond, Northern Cape, 298 January 2009' 2009

 

Daniel Naudé (1984 Cape Town)
Africanis 23. Richmond, Northern Cape, 298 January 2009
2009

 

Mikhael Subotzky (1981 Cape Town) 'Joseph Dlamini (Eye test), Matsho Tsmombeni squatter camp' 2012

 

Mikhael Subotzky (1981 Cape Town)
Joseph Dlamini (Eye test), Matsho Tsmombeni squatter camp
2012
From the series Retinal Shift

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg) 'Nelson Mandela speaks at CODESA, 199..?' Nd

 

Graeme Williams (1958 Johannesburg)
Nelson Mandela speaks at CODESA, 199..?
Nd
From Previously Important Places series 1990s -2013

 

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban) 'Being (T)here (Amsterdam)' 2009

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban) 'Being (T)here (Amsterdam)' 2009

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban) 'Being (T)here (Amsterdam)' 2009

 

Zanele Muholi (1972 Umlazi, Durban)
Being (T)here (Amsterdam)
2009

 

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Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

Paul Alberts 'The portraits of the applicants' 1994

 

Paul Alberts (1946 Pretoria – 2010 Brandfort)
The portraits of the applicants
1994

As the 1994 election approached in South-Africa many blacks living in small towns and rural areas had never been officially identified. In order to speed up these otherwise slow procedures, Charmaine and Paul Alberts set up an official, but temporary office and studio to process applications. The portraits of the applicants were taken before a paper back drop in the community hall of Majwemasweu. Each person held a slate with a number that corresponded to the number of the film and exposure, plus their name and place where they lived.

 

 

Huis Marseille – Museum for Photography
Keizersgracht 401
1016 EK Amsterdam

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday
11 – 18 hr

Huis Marseille – Museum for Photography website

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27
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Primrose – Russian Colour Photography’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 25th January – 3rd April 2013

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A bumper posting on a fascinating subject. The portrait of Tolstoy is incredible; more poignant are the photographs pre-World War I (the last days of the Tsarist dynasty), and pre-World War 2 (Portrait of Yury Rypalov, below). People stare into the camera with no idea of the maelstrom about to descend…

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

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Varvara Stepanova. 'Red Army Men' 1930

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Varvara Stepanova
Red Army Men
1930
Photomontage for Abroad magazine

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Boris Mikhailov. 'Untitled' 1971-1985

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Boris Mikhailov
Untitled
1971-1985
From the series Luriki

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Vasily Ulitin. 'Flame of Paris' 1932

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Vasily Ulitin
Flame of Paris
1932
Bromoil
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Men's talk' 1950s

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Dmitry Baltermants
Men’s talk
1950s
Colour print
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Rain' 1960s

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Dmitry Baltermants
Rain
1960s
Colour print
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Yakov Khalip. 'Sea cadets' End of 1940s

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Yakov Khalip
Sea cadets
End of 1940s
Artist’s colour print
On the reverse side text of congratulation to Alexander Rodchenko
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow/ Moscow House of Photography Museum

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“The exhibition Primrose – Russian Colour Photography takes place as part of Netherlands-Russia 2013. The title refers to the primrose flower, used metaphorically here to represent the many colours in which it appears during early spring. Primrose – Russian Colour Photography presents a retrospective of the various attempts in Russia to produce coloured photographic images. This process began in the early 1850s, almost simultaneously with the discovery of the new medium itself. The colouring technique, based on the traditional methods of craftsmen who added colour into a certain contour design, has determined a whole independent trend in the history of photography in Russia, from ‘postcard’ landscapes and portraits to Soviet propaganda and reportage photography.

The use of colour in Russia stems from the early 1850s and practically coincides with the invention of the medium itself. The term colour photography is slightly disingenuous, since at first it referred to a toning technique in which black and white photographs were painted by hand. Traditionally this technique was used by specialized tradesmen who added colour to the photographs according to certain methods and within the contours of the image. This technique became so popular that it started a trend in and of itself and to a large extent determined the appearance and aesthetics of colour photography in Russia. Initially used especially for portraits, pictorialist landscapes and nudes, it later also found favour with avant-garde artists. Interestingly enough these aesthetics also formed the starting point for Soviet propaganda and for portraits, political leaders and reportage.

Primrose – Russian Colour Photography can be viewed as a journey through various techniques and genres, meanings and messages, mass practices and individual experiments. The exhibition contains works by renowned photographers and artists such as Sergey Produkin-Gorsky, Ivan Shagin, Dmitry Baltermants and Robert Diament. But is also shows unique photos of Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stephanova, and recent works from the famous Luriki series by Boris Mikhailov, in which he mocked the visual culture of the Soviet propaganda.”

Press release from the Foam website

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Pyotr_Pavlov-WEB

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Pyotr Pavlov
Moscow. Lubianka
1910s
Offprint
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Tania, Natasha, Kolia and Liza Kozakov, Vera Nikolayevna Vedenisov and Elena Frantsevna Bazilev. Yalta' 1910-1911

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Piotr Vedenisov
Tania, Natasha, Kolia and Liza Kozakov, Vera Nikolayevna Vedenisov and Elena Frantsevna Bazilev. Yalta
1910-1911
Copy; original – autochrome
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Nikolskoye Simbirsk province' 1910

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Piotr Vedenisov
Nikolskoye Simbirsk province
1910

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Alexander Rodchenko.' Race. "Dynamo" Stadium' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Race. “Dynamo” Stadium
1935
Artist’s gelatine silver print, gouache
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© A. Rodchenko – V. Stepanova Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Meeting in the tundra' 1972

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Dmitry Baltermants
Meeting in the tundra
1972
From the Meetings with Chukotka series
Colour print Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Primrose - Russian Colour Photography' at Foam, Amsterdam

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Installation photographs of the exhibition Primrose – Russian Colour Photography at Foam, Amsterdam

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Primrose

“This exhibition with the metaphorical title Primrose demonstrates the appearance and development of colour in Russian photography from the 1860s to 1970s, and at the same time reveals the history of Russia in photography. With examples of works from classics of Russian photography such as P. Pavlov, K. Bergamasko, A. Eikhenvald, A. Rodchenko, V. Mikoshi, G. Petrusov, D. Baltermants and B. Mikhailov, as well as unknown photographers, we can see how life in Russia changed in the course of a century as it endured historical and socio-political catastrophes, also the diverse roles that photography played during this period.

Colour became widespread in Russian photography at approximately the same time as in Europe – in the 1860s. This was dependent on the manual tinting of photographic prints with watercolour and oil paints, either by the photographers themselves or by artists working with them. Above all this applies to solo or family portraits commissioned as a keepsake. The photographic studios of Nechayev, Ushakov & Eriks and Eikhenvald produced thousands of tinted portraits that became an important part of the domestic interior.

People were eager to see their own image in colour, and moreover in a picturesque form. The colouring of early photographic shots could also hide imperfections in the prints, including those introduced on albumenised paper. With time this paper turned yellow. To conceal this, the paper was tinted green, pink and other colours and coloured with watercolours, gouache, oils, or later aniline dyes. Sometimes the photograph was partially redrawn during the process of tinting, and foliate embellishments or different items of interior decoration appeared in the background.

By the end of the 19th century, by the 1880s and 1890s, colour photography was extended to architectural, landscape and industrial subject matter. For instance, the photographic studio of the Trinity and St. Sergius Monastery (photographic studios attached to Russian monasteries became a very common phenomenon) produced numerous coloured architectural images of Orthodox churches.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Russia was on the one hand undergoing active europeanisation, as reflected in the style of architectural structures, interiors, costume and way of life, but meanwhile there was also a search for national identity, and new interest in the national particularities of inhabitants in the Russian Empire. Entire series of tinted photographs appeared, depicting people in national costumes – Russian, Tatar, Caucasian, Ukrainian, and so on.

With the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries people began to decorate their walls not only with tinted landscapes, but also photographs of industrial structures (eg Dmitri Yezuchevsky’s photograph Building the Bridge). In the early 20th century, in the 1910s, coloured photographs of Russian military officers, an important social class before the outbreak of the First World War, were particularly popular.

The photographic documentation of life in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century acquired the status of a State objective, largely because Tsar Nicholas II and his family were enthusiastic amateur photographers. In May 1909 Emperor Nicholas II gave an audience to the photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky. In 1902 Prokudin-Gorsky had first announced a technique for creating colour photographs, and in 1903 he published a brochure entitled ’Isochromatic Photography with Manual Cameras’. Prokudin-Gorsky used black-and-white plates sensitised according to his own formulae, and a camera of his own construction. Three rapid shots were taken successively through light filters coloured blue, green and red (the photographer managed to reduce the exposure time to an absolute minimum). From this triple negative a triple positive was prepared. A projector with three lenses in front of three frames on the photographic plate was used to view the shots. Each frame was projected through a colour filter of the same colour as that through which it had been photographed. A full-colour image appeared on the screen as the three images combined. Prokudin-Gorsky succeeded in making polygraphic reproductions of his shots, printed in the form of photo cards, and also as inserts for illustrated magazines.

Delighted with this invention, Emperor Nicholas II asked the photographer to take colour photographs of every aspect of life in the various regions that then constituted the Russian Empire. For this the photographer was issued with a specially equipped railway car. The government provided him with a small manned steamship able to traverse the shallows for his work on waterways, and a motorboat for the River Chusova. A Ford automobile was dispatched to Yekaterinburg for his shots of the Urals and the Ural mountain range. Prokudin-Gorsky was presented with official imperial documents that gave him access to all parts of the Empire, and government officials were ordered to assist Prokudin-Gorsky on his travels.

Meanwhile autochrome pictures by the Lumière brothers, with whom Prokudin-Gorsky worked after emigrating from Soviet Russia, became very popular in early 20th-century Russia. Autochromes, colour transparencies on a glass backing, were first produced on an industrial scale in 1907. Granules of potato starch tinted red, yellow and blue were applied to a glass plate. The granules worked as colour filters. Addition of a second layer of granules provided orange, violet and green hues. After that a light-sensitive emulsion was applied. The plate was exposed and developed. Autochromes could be viewed against the light, or projected with the aid of special apparatus, which at that time was manufactured by the Lumière brothers’ own company (diascopes, chromodiascopes, mirrored stereoscopes, etc.). The Lumière brothers’ autochromes were used, for example, by Pyotr Vedenisov, a prosperous nobleman and graduate of the Moscow Conservatoire, who settled in Yalta, in the Crimea, in the late 1880s. As was the case with the Lumière brothers’ autochromes, Vedenisov’s favoured subject matter was the photographer’s own family life. However, what was at first sight very private and personal photography later provided an excellent description of the typical lifestyle enjoyed by educated Russian noblemen in the early 20th century.

The onset of the First World War in 1914 and October Revolution in 1917 annihilated the Russia whose memory is preserved in the tinted photographs and autochromes of the second half of the 19th to early 20th centuries.

Vladimir Lenin and the new Soviet government actively supported photography in the early post-revolutionary years, seeing it as an important propaganda weapon for a country where 70% of the population were unable to read or write. At first there was emphasis on photo reportage, but very soon it became clear real change in a country where hunger and devastation ruled after the Revolution and Civil War was as insubstantial as the utopian dreams of ardent revolutionaries. From the mid-1920s photomontage was widespread in the Soviet Union, enthusiastically encouraged by the Bolsheviks. Photomontage allowed for a combination of documentary veracity and the new Soviet myths. In the 1920s it was practised by such highly talented modernists as A. Rodchenko, G. Klutsis, El Lissitzky, V. Stepanova and others. Photomontage embraced colour and became an ideological ‘visual weapon’.

From the mid-1920s A. Rodchenko regenerated the forgotten technique of hand colouring his own photographs. His use of tinting profited from his experience with photomontage (Mosselprom House Advertising Wall, Dynamo Running Stadium, etc.), and he also applied it to develop experiments with positive-negative printing (scenes from the film Albidum) and for very personal and even intimate portraits of his muse Regina Lemberg – Girl with Watering Can. In 1937, at the height of Stalin’s repression, A. Rodchenko began photographing classical ballet and opera, using the arsenal of his aesthetic opponents, the Russian pictorialists, who by that time were subject to even harsher repression in the Soviet Union than modernist photographers. For Alexander Rodchenko soft focus, classical subject matter and toning typical of pictorial photography were a mediated way of expressing his internal escapism and tragic disillusionment with the Soviet utopia.

In 1932 general rules for socialist realism were published in the USSR, as the only creative method for all forms of art, including photographic. Soviet art had to reflect Soviet myths about the happiest people in the happiest country, not real life and real people. On this Procrustean bed it was hard not only for modernism with its constructivist aesthetics, but even pictorialism, to fit into the aesthetics of Socialist realism.

Pictorialism was one of the most important tendencies of early 20th-century Russian photography, and Russian pictorialist photographers were awarded gold and silver medals at international exhibitions. Pictorial photography differed not only by the method of shooting and complex printing techniques intended to bring photography closer to painting, but also by the selection of traditional themes. Romantic landscapes and architectural ruins or nude studies were from the point of view of socialist realism dangerous remnants from the past. Some of the pictorialist photographers ended up in Stalin’s prison camps, and were forbidden from practising their profession or settling in the capital or other large cities. Those who remained at liberty – for example, Vasily Ulitin, a participant in major international photo exhibitions and recipient of medals and diplomas in Paris, London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Toronto, Tokyo and Rome – tried with difficulty to adapt to the new reality and attempted to depict revolutionary subjects (Flames of Paris, Red Army Soldier), thereby gaining indulgence and the right to work from the Bolsheviks.

Almost simultaneously, in 1936 the German company Agfa and American company Kodak introduced colour film. Broad distribution and introduction to the amateur photography market were delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War. In the USSR colour photography only appeared at the end of the war. Production of Soviet-made colour film in the USSR was facilitated by German trophy equipment in 1946. From that year onwards Ivan Shagin and several other photographers began to relay their colour news chronicle to the country.

Before 1946 colour photographs of Soviet Russia were made only in isolated cases, on German or American film. Until the mid-1970s, in the USSR negative film for printing colour photographs was a luxury only available to a few official photographers who worked for major Soviet publications. It was used by such classics of Soviet photography as V. Mikosha, G. Petrusov, D. Baltermants, V. Tarasevich, and others. All of them were in one way or another obliged to follow the canons of socialist realism and practise staged reportage. In those days even still life studies of fruit bore an ideological message, being photographed for cookery books in which the Soviet people could see produce that remained absent in a hungry postwar country, where the ration-card system of food distribution was still functioning (Ivan Shagin, Lemons and Fruit, 1949).

From the late 1950s, in the Khrushchev Thaw after the debunking of Stalin’s cult of personality, the canons of socialist realism softened and permitted a certain freedom in aesthetics, allowing photography to move closer to reality (Dmitri Baltermants’ series Arbat Square). In the postwar period, during the 1950s to 1960s life gradually improved and coloured souvenir photo portraits again appeared on the mass market. They were usually produced by unknown and ‘unofficial’ photographers, since private photo studios that had carried out such commissions since the mid-19th century were now forbidden, and the State exercised a total monopoly on photography by the 1930s. Boris Mikhailov copied and enlarged such kitsch colour photographs as souvenirs to supplement his income at his photo laboratory in Kharkov in the early 1970s. He began collecting them. They form the basis for a new aesthetics he developed in the Lyrics series from the early 1980s. By tinting these naïve photographs he revealed and deconstructed the nature of Soviet myths.

Colour transparency film appeared on the Soviet mass market in the 1960s and 1970s. As opposed to colour negative film that requires a complicated and expensive development process for subsequent printing, colour slide film could be developed even in domestic surroundings. Above all it was widely used by amateurs, who created transparencies that could be viewed at home with a slide projector. An unofficial art form emerging in the USSR at this time developed the aesthetics and means for a new artistic conceptualisation of reality, quite different from the socialist realism that still prevailed, although somewhat modified. Photography took a significant role in this unofficial art. It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Boris Mikhailov began photographing his series Suzi Et Cetera on colour slide film.

More than half a century of Soviet power after the 1917 Revolution radically altered Russia. The surrounding reality has fallen into decline, and people brought up on Soviet slogans never thought to pay attention. But this was the only reality offered by our perception, and Boris Mikhailov tries to develop its colour, humanise it with his attention and give it the right of existence. Photography textbooks of that period were made up of one-third technical formulae and two-thirds description of what to photograph, and how. The photographer was certainly not required or even allowed to take nude studies. Corporeality and sexuality are inherent signs of an independent individual, of selfhood. The Soviet system specifically tried to level out any sense of selfhood, smothering it and challenging such ideas with the collective community and the impersonal ‘we’ of the Soviet nation. In photographing Suzi Et Cetera Boris Mikhailov disrupts the norms and reveals characters, his own and that of his subjects. It was impossible to show these shots in public, but slides could be projected at home, in the workshops of his artist friends or the small, often semi-underground clubs of the scientific and technical intelligentsia, who began to revive during Khrushchev’s Thaw after the Stalinist repression. Boris Mikhailov’s slide projections are now analogous to the apartment exhibitions of unofficial art. By means of colour he displayed the dismal standardisation and squalor of surrounding life, and his slide performances helped to unite people whose consciousness and life in those years began to escape from the dogmatic network of Soviet ideology, which permitted only one colour – red.”

Curator Olga Sviblova
Director, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

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Boris Mikhailov. 'Untitled' 1971-1985

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Boris Mikhailov
Untitled
1971-1985
From the series Luriki

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Vladislav Mikosha. 'Portrait of Yury Rypalov' 1938-1939

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Vladislav Mikosha
Portrait of Yury Rypalov
1938-1939

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V. Yankovsky. '"In memory of my military service". Saint Petersburg' Beginning of 1910s

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V. Yankovsky
“In memory of my military service”. Saint Petersburg
Beginning of 1910s
Collodion, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Yelena Mrozovskaya. 'Portrait of girl in Little Russia costume. Saint Petersburg' 1900s

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Yelena Mrozovskaya
Portrait of girl in Little Russia costume. Saint Petersburg
1900s
Gelatine silver print, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Moscow House of Photography Museum

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A. Nechayev. 'Portrait of girl' 1860s

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A. Nechayev
Portrait of girl
1860s
Salted paper, covered by albumen, painting
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. 'Portrait of Lev Tolstoy' 23rd of May 1908

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Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
Portrait of Lev Tolstoy
23rd of May 1908
Offprint
Collection Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Uknown woman, the Crimea, Yalta' 1914

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Piotr Vedenisov
Uknown woman, the Crimea, Yalta
1914

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Andrei Aleksandrovich Kozakov. Yalta' 1911-1912

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Piotr Vedenisov
Andrei Aleksandrovich Kozakov. Yalta
1911-1912
Copy; original – autochrome
Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Vera Kozakov in Folk Dress' 1914

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Piotr Vedenisov
Vera Kozakov in Folk Dress
1914
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Piotr Vedenisov. 'Kolya Kozakov and the Dog Gipsy. Yalta' 1910-1911

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Piotr Vedenisov
Kolya Kozakov and the Dog Gipsy. Yalta
1910-1911
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Vasily Ulitin. 'Red Army man' 1932

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Vasily Ulitin
Red Army man
1932

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Dmitry Baltermants. 'Show window' Beginning of 1960s

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Dmitry Baltermants
Show window
Beginning of 1960s
Colour print
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Dmitry Baltermants Archive
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Ivan Shagin. 'Fruits' 1949

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Ivan Shagin
Fruits
1949
Colour print
Collection of Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Robert Diament. 'He has turned her head' Beginning of 1960s

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Robert Diament
He has turned her head
Beginning of 1960s
Colour print
Collection Moscow House of Photography Museum
© Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow / Moscow House of Photography Museum

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Foam
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
T: + 31 20 5516500

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 am – 6 pm
Thu/Fri 10 am – 9 pm

Foam website

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30
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 3rd October 2012

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“For outness is but the feeling of otherness (alterity) rendered intuitive, or alterity visually represented.”

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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In her most famous series, Beach Portraits (1992-2002), juveniles stare at the camera in a moment passif, caught by the camera between states – youth / adulthood, knowing / unknowing, Self / Other. Shot from a low perspective, lit by fill flash and with little contextual detail, the subjects exhibit – and I use the term advisedly – vulnerability, awkwardness (in the body and self), languidness of pose and bravuro self confidence that belies their beautiful alterity. These adolescents are not at one with themselves they are unsure of their place in the world. Dijkstra documents this uncertainty and enlarges it, blowing the photographs up to huge scale so that the viewer can examine every crevice of the persona in minute detail, their alterity visually represented.

Max Weintraub notes that Dijkstra has produced, “a set of carefully balanced compositions defined by the central, monumental presence of her youthful subjects. The classical simplicity of Dijkstra’s photographs focuses the viewer’s attention on the subtle particulars: the teens’ gawky, angular bodies, ill-fitting swimsuits and awkward postures… Her subjects hover somewhere between the receding past of their childhood and an unknown future. And while the identity of her subjects remain anonymous – each beach photograph is only identified by date and location – when viewed together a collective body emerges, one that stirs restlessly between the last physical and emotional trappings of youth and the social and psychological pressures of pending adulthood. The individuals depicted are so powerfully distinct that the effect of seeing these portraits en mass is symphonic, and the images begin to collectively hum with the sounds of the construction of self – its awkwardness, its uncertainty and above all, its heartbreakingly tender beauty.”

What a great piece of writing.

It is also interesting to observe that her own self portrait (Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 19, 19911991, below) is only printed at 35 x 28 cm whereas images from the Beach Portraits are printed at 117 x 94 cm. Surrounded by ceiling, floor and wall tiles Dijkstra is enclosed, minute within the frame. The photographer recedes into the background, even more vulnerable and less “visible” than her monumental models of innocence. Other series continue the artist’s investigation into themes of time and change to greater or lesser effect. The Olivier series is a very powerful body of work that documents the loss of youthful innocence and the military socialisation of a young mind, evidenced by the look in Olivier’s eyes and the change in his outward appearance. As the press release states, “the Olivier series (2000-03) follows a young man from his enlistment with the French Foreign Legion through the years of his service, showing his both physical and psychological development into a soldier.”

“In contemporaneous works, including portraits of new mothers after giving birth, and photographs of bullfighters immediately after leaving the ring, Dijkstra sought subjects whose physical exhaustion diminished the likelihood of an artificed pose… Later, Dijkstra took portraits of new initiates to the Israeli army, photographing female soldiers in their uniforms after induction and then again in their civilian dress, as well as male soldiers directly after military exercises,” states the Guggenheim website.

Basically, this time line of change is a version of the old before and after shot, used throughout the history of photography – from the documentation of the changes in Dr Barnado’s children in the 1870s to the “scientific” use of photography to document the science of physical fitness and the commodification of the body in the ‘Before and After’ bodybuilding photographs from the 1930s, the 1950s and from the contemporary era.

To conclude, the strongest work is where the artist gives the photographs a greater depth of field and adds a narrative element by adding a background to the images. The work with contextless backgrounds is too derivative of say, Thomas Ruff, who I think does it better, more frontally, more confrontingly than Dijkstra does.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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Rineke Dijkstra
Coney Island, N.Y., USA, June 20, 1993

1993
Chromogenic print
117 x 94 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Rineke Dijkstra
Dubrovnik, Croatia, July 13, 1996
1996

Chromogenic print
117 x 94 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Rineke Dijkstra
Hilton Head Island, S.C., USA, June 24, 1992
1992

Chromogenic print
117 cm x 94 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Rineke Dijkstra
Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26, 1992
1992
Chromogenic print
117 x 94 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Installation view of the Beach Portraits (1992-2002) series from the exhibition Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

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Rineke Dijkstra
Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 19, 1991
1991

Chromogenic print
35 x 28 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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“From June 29 to October 3, 2012, the Guggenheim Museum will present Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, an extensive midcareer survey and the first major exhibition of the artist’s work organized by a North American institution. It is the most comprehensive museum exhibition of the artist’s oeuvre to date. Dijkstra, born in Sittard, the Netherlands, in 1959, has developed an international reputation as one of the most highly regarded photographers of her generation. The exhibition will include representative examples from the most significant bodies of work she has created over the past twenty years.

Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has produced a complex body of photographic and video work that offers a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale color photographs of young, typically adolescent subjects recall 17th-century Dutch painting in their scale and visual acuity. The minimal contextual details present in her photographs and videos encourage us to focus on the exchange between photographer and subject and the relationship between viewer and viewed.

Dijkstra works in series, creating groups of photographs and videos around a specific typology or theme. In 1992, she started making portraits of adolescents posed on beaches from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Poland and Ukraine. Shot from a low perspective, the subjects of the Beach Portraits (1992-2002), poised on the brink of adulthood, take on a monumental presence. In contemporaneous works, including portraits of new mothers after giving birth and photographs of bullfighters immediately after leaving the ring, Dijkstra sought subjects whose physical exhaustion diminished the likelihood of an artificial pose.

Dijkstra has also photographed individuals repeatedly over the course of several months or years. Her ongoing Almerisa series began in 1994 with a single photograph of a young Bosnian girl at a Dutch refugee center for asylum seekers and has grown as Dijkstra continued to photograph her regularly for more than a decade as she became a young woman with a child of her own. The outward signs of her transition into adulthood and her integration into mainstream Dutch culture reveal themselves incrementally over the course of many years. Similarly, the Olivier series (2000-03) follows a young man from his enlistment with the French Foreign Legion through the years of his service, showing his both physical and psychological development into a soldier. Later, Dijkstra took portraits of new initiates to the Israeli army, photographing female soldiers in their uniforms after induction and then again in their civilian dress, as well as male soldiers directly after military exercises.

For several years beginning in 1998, Dijkstra photographed young people, often in groups, posed in the lush landscapes of public parks. In contrast to the neutral backgrounds against which many of her subjects are pictured, the richness of the park settings lends these works a greater depth of field and adds a narrative element.

More recently, Dijkstra has built upon her revelatory work in video from the mid-1990s. In The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK/Mystery World, Zaandam, NL (1996-97) and The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee), Liverpool, UK (2009), Dijkstra filmed teenage habituées of local clubs dancing to their favorite music. Presented as multichannel video installations, these works showcase their subjects’ teen personas and methods of self-expression, revealed in how they style themselves and in the movements of their bodies. Two video works made in 2009 at Tate Liverpool expand the artist’s interest in the empathic exchange between photographer and subject to include the affective response to artworks. In I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) (2009), a group of schoolchildren engage with art, discussing their perceptions of and reactions to a work by Pablo Picasso, while Ruth Drawing Picasso (2009) shows a girl pensively sketching a masterwork.”

Press release from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website

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Rineke Dijkstra
Olivier, The French Foreign Legion, Camp Raffalli, Calvi, Corsica, June 18, 2001
2001

Chromogenic print
90 x 72 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Installation view of the Olivier (2000-03) series from the exhibition Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

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Rineke Dijkstra
Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
90 x 72 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Rineke Dijkstra
Amy, The Krazyhouse, Liverpool, England, December 22, 2008
2008

Archival inkjet print
96.5 x 75 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Rineke Dijkstra
The Buzz Club, Liverpool, England, March 3, 1995
1995

Chromogenic print
110 x 88.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Rineke Dijkstra
Omri, Givatti Brigade, Golan Heights, Israel, March 29, 2000
2000
Chromogenic print, 140 x 112.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Friday 10 am – 5.45 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7.45 pm
Thursday closed

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website

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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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