Posts Tagged ‘An-My Lê

21
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 29th October 2016 – 7th May 2017

 

Photography is … a language for asking questions about the world. The Shape of Things imbues this aphorism with a linear taxonomy in its written material (while the installation “occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression”), no matter that each “moment” in the history of photography – historical, modern, contemporary – is never self contained or self sufficient, that each overlaps and informs one another, in a nexus of interweaving threads.

Charles Harry Jones’ Peapods (c. 1900) are as modern as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Cooling Towers (1973); Margaret Watkins’ Design Angles (1919) are as directorial as Jan Groover’s Untitled (1983) or Charles Harry Jones’ Onions (c. 1900). And so it goes…

The ideation “the shape of things” is rather a bald fundamental statement in relation to how we imagine and encounter the marvellous. No matter the era, the country or the person who makes them; no matter the meanings readable in photographs or their specific use value in a particular context – the photograph is still the footprint of an idea and, as John Berger asks, a trace naturally left by something that has past? That flicker of imagination in the mind’s eye which has no time.

As Sartre says in Being and Nothingness, “Temporality is only a tool of vision.”

Marcus

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

 

 

The Shape of Things presents a compact and non-comprehensive history of photography, from its inception to the early twenty-first century, in one hundred images. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the 504 photographs that have entered The Museum of Modern Art’s collection with the support of Robert B. Menschel over the past forty years, including a notable selection of works from his personal collection that were given in 2016 and are being shown here for the first time.

“Photography is less and less a cognitive process, in the traditional sense of the term, or an affirmative one, offering answers, but rather a language for asking questions about the world,” wrote the Italian photographer and critic Luigi Ghirri in 1989. Echoing these words, the exhibition presents the history of the medium in three parts, emphasising the strengths of Menschel’s collection and mirroring his equal interest in historical, modern, and contemporary photography. Each section focuses on a moment in photography’s history and the conceptions of the medium that were dominant then: informational and documentary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, more formal and subjective in the immediate postwar era, and questioning and self-referential from the 1970s onward. The installation occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression, fuelled by the conviction that works from different periods, rather than being antagonistic, correspond with and enrich each other.

 

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

 

Installation views of The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 – May 7, 2017
© 2016 The Museum of Modern Art
Photo: John Wronn

 

 

The exhibition The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel presents a compact history of photography, from its inception to the early 21st century, in 100 images. On view from October 29, 2016, through May 7, 2017, the exhibition is drawn entirely from the 504 photographs that have entered The Museum of Modern Art’s collection over the past 40 years with the support of longtime Museum trustee Robert B. Menschel. It includes a notable selection of works from his personal collection that were given in 2016 and are being shown here for the first time. The Shape of Things is organised by Quentin Bajac, the Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, with Katerina Stathopoulou, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, MoMA.

Borrowing its title from the eponymous work by Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), the exhibition presents the history of the medium in three parts, emphasising the strengths of Menschel’s collection and mirroring his equal interest in historical, modern, and contemporary photography. Each section focuses on a moment in photography’s history and the conceptions of the medium that were dominant then: informational and documentary in the 19th and early 20th centuries, more formal and subjective in the immediate postwar era, and questioning and self-referential from the 1970s onward. The installation occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression, fuelled by the conviction that works from different periods, rather than being antagonistic, correspond with and enrich each other.

 

Historical

From 1840 to 1900, in photography’s infancy as a medium, artists principally sought to depict truthful representations of their surrounding environments. This primal stage is distinguished by a debate on the artistic-versus-scientific nature of the invention. Photographers engaged with the aesthetic and technical qualities of the medium, experimenting with tone, texture, and printing processes. The exhibition begins with seminal photographs such as William Henry Talbot Fox’s (British, 1800-1877) 1843 picture Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris, taken from the windows of the Hôtel de Douvres. Also on view is the astronomer Jules Janssen’s (French, 1824-1907) masterpiece L’Atlas de photographies solaires (Atlas of solar photographs), published in 1903. Summing up a quarter-century of daily photography at Janssen’s observatory in Meudon, France, the volume on view contains 30 images of the photosphere, demonstrating photography’s instrumental role in advancing the study of science. Other artists included in this section are Louis-August and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson (Bisson brothers), Eugène Cuvelier, Roger Fenton, Hugh W. Diamond, Charles Marville, and Henri Le Secq.

 

Modern

As photographers grappled with war and its aftermath, they began to turn their focus away from documenting the world around them and toward capturing their own personal experiences in a more formal, subjective way. A selection of works from 1940 to 1960 explores this theme, including works by two artists whose images Menschel collected extensively: Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) and Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991). A selection from Callahan’s quintessential photographs of urban environments – from Chicago and New York to Aix-en Provence and Cuzco, Peru – double exposures of city views, and portraits of his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara, underscore the breadth of his oeuvre. In the summer of 1951, while teaching alongside Callahan at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Siskind began the series of pictures of the surfaces of walls for which he is best known. One of the early works in the series on view, North Carolina 30 (1951), shows the bare legs of a woman framed by the words “IN” and”AND” amid layers of peeling layers of posters. In their planarity and graphic quality, these pictures also have a kinship with paintings by the Abstract Expressionists, alongside whom Siskind began exhibiting in the late 1940s. Other artists in this section include Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, John Gossage, André Kertész, Clarence John Laughlin, and Dora Maar.

 

Contemporary

From the 1970s onward, photographers began working in what A. D. Coleman defined as “The Directorial Mode,” wherein the photographer consciously creates events for the sole purpose of making images. John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) took his own body, naked and with the head invisible, as the subject of his work – both carrying on and contradicting the tradition of the self-portrait centered on the face – as seen in Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above) (1984). Joan Fontcuberta’s (Spanish, b. 1955) series Herbarium appears at first glance to be a collection of botanical studies, depicting plants with new and distinctive contours and rigorously scientific names. However, as revealed by his fictional character Dr. Hortensio Verdeprado (“green pasture” in Spanish), the “plants” are actually carefully composed by the photographer using scrap picked up in industrial areas around Barcelona. Made of bits of paper and plastic, small animal bones, and other detritus, these forms are not only non-vegetal – there is almost nothing natural about them at all. Fontcuberta is interested in the way data assumes meaning through its presentation and in the acceptance of the photographic image as evidence of truth. Other artists in this section include Jan Groover, David Levinthal, An-My Lê, Michael Spano, JoAnn Verburg, and William Wegman.

Press release from the Museum of Modern Art

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'Greek Hero' c. 1857

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Greek Hero
c. 1857
Salted-paper print from a wet-collodion glass negative
13 7/16 × 10 3/16″ (34.2 × 25.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

Hugh W. Diamond (British, 1809-1886) 'Untitled' c. 1852-55

 

Hugh W. Diamond (British, 1809-1886)
Untitled
c. 1852-55
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
6 1/2 x 5 5/16″ (16.6 x 13.5 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris' May 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris
May 1843
Salted paper print
6 11/16 × 6 3/4″ (17 × 17.2 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Pont Neuf' 1870s

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Pont Neuf
1870s
Albumen silver print
14 1/8 x 8 1/4″ (36 x 23.5 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois' c. 1866

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois
c. 1866
Albumen silver print
11 13/16 × 10 1/2″ (30 × 26.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Rue du Cygne' c. 1865

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Rue du Cygne
c. 1865
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
11 3/4 x 10 9/16″ (29.9 x 26.9 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'The Terminal' 1893

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Terminal
1893
Photogravure mounted to board
10 × 13 3/16″ (25.4 × 33.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Truthful representations, 1840-1930

“One advantage of the discovery of the Photographic Art will be, that it will enable us to introduce into our pictures a multitude of minute details which add to the truth and reality of the representation, but which no artist would take the trouble to copy faithfully from nature.

Contenting himself with a general effect, he would probably deem it beneath his genius to copy every accident of light and shade; nor could he do so indeed, without a disproportionate expenditure of time and trouble, which might be otherwise much better employed.

Nevertheless, it is well to have the means at our disposal of introducing these minutiae without any additional trouble, for they will sometimes be found to give an air of variety beyond expectation to the scene represented.”

William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844-46

 

“I was interested in a straightforward 19th-century way of photographing an object. To photograph things frontally creates the strongest presence and you can eliminate the possibilities of being too obviously subjective. If you photograph an octopus, you have to work out which approach will show the most typical character of the animal. But first you have to learn about the octopus. Does it have six legs or eight? You have to be able to understand the subject visually, through its visual appearance. You need clarity and not sentimentality.”

Hilla Becher, in “The Music of the Blast Furnaces: Bernhard and Hilla Becher in Conversation with James Lingwood,” Art Press, no. 209 (1996)

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Peapods' c. 1900

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Peapods
c. 1900
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 5/16 x 8 1/4″ (16 x 20.9 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers' 1973

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers
1973
Gelatin silver prints
Each 15 3/4 × 11 13/16″ (40 × 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Estate Bernd and Hilla Becher

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'George Washington Bridge, Riverside Drive and West 179th Street, Manhattan' January 17, 1936

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
George Washington Bridge, Riverside Drive and West 179th Street, Manhattan
January 17, 1936
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 7 5/8″ (24.3 x 19.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Gunsmith, 6 Centre Market Place, Manhattan' February 4, 1937

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Gunsmith, 6 Centre Market Place, Manhattan
February 4, 1937
Gelatin silver print 9 5/8 x 7 9/16″ (24.4 x 19.1 cm)
Gift of the Robert and Joyce Menschel Foundation

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1973

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany
1973
Gelatin silver print
18 7/16 x 22 11/16″ (46.9 x 57.6 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1999

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany
1999
Gelatin silver print
19 5/16 x 24″ (49.1 x 60.9 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Louis-Auguste Bisson (French, 1814-1876) 'Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (detail of facade)' c. 1853

 

Louis-Auguste Bisson (French, 1814-1876)
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (detail of facade)
c. 1853
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
14 7/16 x 17 13/16″ (36.6 x 45.3 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985) 'Rails' c. 1927

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985)
Rails
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
15 7/16 x 10 3/8″ (39.2 x 26.3 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985) 'Le Metal Inspirateur d'Art (Metal Inspiration of Art)' 1930

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985)
Le Metal Inspirateur d’Art (Metal Inspiration of Art)
1930
Gelatin silver print
6 5/8 x 8 7/16″ (16.8 x 21.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Personal experiences, 1940-1960

“As photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup themselves as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge, and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that’s your picture.

What I have just described is an emotional experience. It is utterly personal: no one else can ever see quite what you have seen, and the picture that emerges is unique, never made and never to be repeated. The picture – and this is fundamental – has the unity of an organism. Its elements were not put together, with whatever skill or taste or ingenuity. It came into being as an instant act of sight.”

Aaron Siskind, “The Drama of Objects,” Minicam Photography 8, no. 9 (1945)

 

“The business of making a photograph may be said in simple terms to consist of three elements: the objective world (whose permanent condition is change and disorder), the sheet of paper on which the picture will be realized, and the experience which brings them together. First, and emphatically, I accept the flat plane of the picture surface as the primary frame of reference of the picture. The experience itself may be described as one of total absorption in the object. But the object serves only a personal need and the requirements of the picture. Thus rocks are sculptured forms; a section of common decorated ironwork, springing rhythmic shapes; fragments of paper sticking to a wall, a conversation piece. And these forms, totems, masks, figures, shapes, images must finally take their place in the tonal field of the picture and strictly conform to their space environment. The object has entered the picture in a sense; it has been photographed directly. But it is often unrecognizable; for it has been removed from its usual context, disassociated from its customary neighbours and forced into new relationships.”

Aaron Siskind, “Credo,” Spectrum 6, no. 2 (1956)

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria. 1899-1968) 'The Gay Deceiver' c. 1939

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria. 1899-1968)
The Gay Deceiver
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
13 x 10 1/4″ (33 x 26 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' 1951

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
1951
Dye transfer print
10 5/16 x 15 11/16″ (26.2 x 39.9 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985) 'Spectre of Coca-Cola' 1962

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
Spectre of Coca-Cola
1962
Gelatin silver print, printed 1981
13 1/4 x 10 3/8″ (33.6 x 26.4 cm)
Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Siena' 1968

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Siena
1968
Gelatin silver print
9 × 8 7/8″ (22.9 × 22.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' c. 1952

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
c. 1952
Dye transfer print
8 3/4 × 13 7/16″ (22.3 × 34.1 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' c. 1949

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 x 9 9/16″ (19.5 x 24.3 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago' 1953

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago
1953
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 x 9 11/16″ (19.5 x 24.6 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Providence' 1974

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Providence
1974
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 × 6 7/16″ (16.6 × 16.3 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary. 1894-1985) 'New York' August 10, 1969

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary. 1894-1985)
New York
August 10, 1969
Gelatin silver print
13 11/16 x 9 3/4″ (34.7 x 24.7 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Directorial modes, 1970s and beyond

“Here the photographer consciously and intentionally creates events for the express purpose of making images thereof. This may be achieved by intervening in ongoing ‘real’ events or by staging tableaux – in either case, by causing something to take place which would not have occurred had the photographer not made it happen.

Here the authenticity of the original event is not an issue, nor the photographer’s fidelity to it, and the viewer would be expected to raise those questions only ironically. Such images use photography’s overt veracity by evoking it for events and relationships generated by the photographer’s deliberate structuring of what takes place in front of the lens as well as of the resulting image. There is an inherent ambiguity at work in such images, for even though what they purport to describe as ‘slices of life’ would not have occurred except for the photographer’s instigation, nonetheless those events (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) did actually take place, as the photographs demonstrate.

… This mode I would define as the directorial.”

A. D. Coleman, “The Directorial Mode: Notes Towards a Definition,” Artforum 15, no. 1 (1976)

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Chicago 30' 1949

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Chicago 30
1949
Gelatin silver print
14 x 17 13/16″ (35.6 x 45.3 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'North Carolina 30' 1951

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
North Carolina 30
1951
Gelatin silver print
13 1/16 × 9 11/16″ (33.2 × 24.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934) 'Glenwood Springs, Colorado' 1981

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
1981
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 12 15/16″ (21.9 x 32.8 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012) 'Untitled' 1983

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012)
Untitled
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 x 13 1/2″ (25.9 x 34.3 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Design Angles' 1919

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Design Angles
1919
Gelatin silver print
8 5/16 x 6 3/8″ (21.1 x 16.2 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Onions' c. 1900

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Onions
c. 1900
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
5 7/8 x 8 1/4″ (15 x 21cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Jalapa 30 (Homage to Franz Kline)' 1973

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Jalapa 30 (Homage to Franz Kline)
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 9 15/16″ (24.1 x 23.6 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Jalapa 38 (Homage to Franz Kline)' 1973

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Jalapa 38 (Homage to Franz Kline)
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 8 15/16″ (24.1 x 22.8 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Lima 89 (Homage to Franz Klein)' 1975

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Lima 89 (Homage to Franz Klein)
1975
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 × 9 5/8″ (25.9 × 24.4 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

John Gossage (American, born 1946) 'Monumentenbricke' 1982

 

John Gossage (American, born 1946)
Monumentenbricke
1982
Gelatin silver print
12 3/16 x 9 11/16″ (30.9 x 24.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Val Telberg (American, born Russia. 1910-1995) 'Exhibition of the Witch' c. 1948

 

Val Telberg (American, born Russia. 1910-1995)
Exhibition of the Witch
c. 1948
Gelatin silver print
10 15/16 × 13 3/4″ (27.8 × 35 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Estate of Val Telberg

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy. 1905-1999) 'I Adore You' 1947

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy. 1905-1999)
I Adore You
1947
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 × 9 1/2″ (19.2 × 24.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above)' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above)
1984
Gelatin silver print
19 13/16 × 15″ (50.4 × 38.1 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955) 'Giliandria Escoliforcia' 1983

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955)
Giliandria Escoliforcia
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 8 1/2″ (26.8 x 21.5 cm)
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955) 'Mullerpolis Plunfis' 1983

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955)
Mullerpolis Plunfis
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 8 1/2″ (26.8 x 21.5 cm)
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960) '29 Palms: Mortar Impact' 2003-04

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960)
29 Palms: Mortar Impact
2003-04
Gelatin silver print
26 1/2 × 38 1/16″ (67.3 × 96.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert B. Menschel Fund
© 2016 An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960) '29 Palms: Infantry Platoon (Machine Gunners)' 2003-04

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960)
29 Palms: Infantry Platoon (Machine Gunners)
2003-04
Gelatin silver print
26 1/2 × 38 1/16″ (67.3 × 96.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert B. Menschel Fund
© 2016 An-My Lê

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau. 'Hitler Moves East' 1977

 

David Levinthal (American, born 1949)
Untitled from the series Hitler Moves East
1975
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 13 7/16″ (26.8 x 34.1 cm)
The Fellows of Photography Fund and Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'Contemplating the Bust of Man Ray from the portfolio Man Ray' 1976

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
Contemplating the Bust of Man Ray from the portfolio Man Ray
1976
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 × 6 7/8″ (18.5 × 17.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Michael Spano (American, born 1949) 'Photogram-Michael Spano' 1983

 

Michael Spano (American, born 1949)
Photogram-Michael Spano
1983
Gelatin silver print
57 7/8 x 23 15/16″ (145.2 x 60.8 cm) (irregular)
Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953) 'The Shape of Things' 1993

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953)
The Shape of Things
1993
Gelatin silver prints
a) 26 7/8 x 26 15/16″ (68.2 x 68.4 cm) b) 26 15/16 x 26 7/8″ (68.5 x 68.3 cm)
Gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

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11
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2014 – 15th March 2015

The Eyal Ofer Galleries

Artists: Jules Andrieu, Pierre Antony-Thouret, Nobuyoshi Araki, George Barnard, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Luc Delahaye, Ken Domon, Roger Fenton, Ernst Friedrich, Jim Goldberg, Toshio Fukada, Kenji Ishiguro, Kikuji Kawada, An-My Lê, Jerzy Lewczyński, Emeric Lhuisset, Agata Madejska, Diana Matar, Eiichi Matsumoto, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Don McCullin, Susan Meiselas, Kenzo Nakajima, Simon Norfolk, João Penalva, Richard Peter, Walid Raad, Jo Ratcliffe, Sophie Ristelhueber, Julian Rosefeldt, Hrair Sarkissian, Michael Schmidt, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Indre Šerpytyte, Stephen Shore, Harry Shunk and János Kender, Taryn Simon, Shomei Tomatsu, Hiromi Tsuchida, Marc Vaux, Paul Virilio, Nick Waplington, Jane and Louise Wilson, and Sasaki Yuichiro.

Curators: Simon Baker, Curator Photography and International Art, Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, and Professor David Alan Mellor, University of Sussex

 

 

Another fascinating exhibition. The concept, that of vanishing time, a vanquishing of time – inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five and the Japanese photographer Kikuji Kawada’s 1965 photobook The Map – is simply inspired. Although the images are not war photography per se, they are about the lasting psychological effects of war imaged on a variable time scale.

While the images allow increasing passages of time between events and the photographs that reflect on them – “made moments after the events they depict, then those made days after, then months, years and so on” – there settles in the pit of the stomach some unremitting melancholy, some unholy dread as to the brutal facticity and inhumanness of war. The work which “pictures” the memory of the events that took place, like a visual ode of remembrance, are made all the more powerful for their transcendence –  of time, of death and the immediate detritus of war.

Marcus

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

 

 

“From the seconds after a bomb is detonated to a former scene of battle years after a war has ended, this moving exhibition focuses on the passing of time, tracing a diverse and poignant journey through over 150 years of conflict around the world, since the invention of photography.

In an innovative move, the works are ordered according to how long after the event they were created from moments, days and weeks to decades later. Photographs taken seven months after the fire bombing of Dresden are shown alongside those taken seven months after the end of the First Gulf War. Images made in Vietnam 25 years after the fall of Saigon are shown alongside those made in Nakasaki 25 years after the atomic bomb. The result is the chance to make never-before-made connections while viewing the legacy of war as artists and photographers have captured it in retrospect…

The exhibition is staged to coincide with the 2014 centenary and concludes with new and recent projects by British, German, Polish and Syrian photographers which reflect on the First World War a century after it began.”

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

“The original idea for the Tate Modern exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography came from a coincidence between two books that have captivated and inspired me for many years: Kurt Vonnegut‘s classic 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five and the Japanese photographer Kikuji Kawada’s 1965 photobook The Map. Both look back to hugely significant and controversial incidents from the Second World War from similar distances.

Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in Dresden when what he called ‘possibly the world’s most beautiful city’ was destroyed by incendiary bombs, and struggled to write his war book for almost 25 years. Kawada was a young photographer working in post-war Hiroshima when he began to take the strange photographs of the scarred, stained ceiling of the A-bomb Dome – the only building to survive the explosion – that he would eventually publish on August 6 1965, 20 years to the day since the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.

It may seem odd that these great works of art and literature took so long to emerge from the aftermath of the events they concern. But many of the most complex and considered accounts of conflict have taken their time. To Vonnegut’s painfully slow response to the war, for example, we might add Joseph Heller’s brilliantly satirical Catch-22, published in 1961, and, even more significantly, JG Ballard’s memorial masterpiece Empire of the Sun, which did not see the light of day until 1984.

And today, in 2014, 100 years since the start of the First World War, it seems more important than ever not only to understand the nature and long-term effects of conflict, but also the process of looking back at the past…

CONTINUE READING THIS EXCELLENT ARTICLE BY CURATOR SIMON BAKER: “War photography: what happens after the conflict?” on The Telegraph website, 7th November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

 

“… taking its cue from Vonnegut, ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ is arranged differently, following instead the increasing passages of time between events and the photographs that reflect on them. There are groups of works made moments after the events they depict, then those made days after, then months, years and so on – 10, 20, 50, right up to 100 years later.”

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Simon Baker

 

 

Roger Fenton. 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855

 

Roger Fenton
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855

 

Shomei Tomatsu 'Atomic Bomb Damage - Wristwatch Stopped at 11-02, August 9. 1945' (1961)

 

Shomei Tomatsu
Atomic Bomb Damage – Wristwatch Stopped at 11.02, August 9, 1945, Nagasaki, 1961
1961
Gelatin silver print on paper
253 x 251 mm
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo

 

Shomei Tomatsu. 'Steel Helmet with Skull Bone Fused by Atomic Bomb, Nagasaki, 1963'

 

Shomei Tomatsu
Steel Helmet with Skull Bone Fused by Atomic Bomb, Nagasaki, 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print on paper
226 x 303 mm
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo

 

Shomei Tomatsu. 'Melted bottle' Nagasaki, 1961

 

Shomei Tomatsu
Melted bottle
Nagasaki, 1961
from the series Nagasaki 11:02
Silver Gelatin print
20 x 21 cm
© Shomei Tomatsu

 

An-My Lê. 'Untitled, Hanoi' (1994-98)

 

An-My Lê
Untitled, Hanoi
1994-98
Gelatin silver print on paper
508 x 609 mm
Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy, New York

 

Jane Wilson (born 1967) Louise Wilson (born 1967) 'Urville' 2006

 

Jane Wilson (born 1967)
Louise Wilson (born 1967)
Urville
2006
Gelatin silver print, mounted onto aluminium
1800 x 1800 mm
Tate
Purchased 2011

 

Jane Wilson and Louise Wilson 'Azeville' 2006

 

Jane Wilson (born 1967)
Louise Wilson (born 1967)
Azeville
2006
Gelatin silver print, mounted onto aluminium
1800 x 2900 mm
Tate
Purchased 2011

 

Jo Ractliffe. 'As Terras do fim do Mundo' Nd

 

Jo Ractliffe
As Terras do fim do Mundo (The Lands of the End of the World)
2009-2010
Courtesy Mark McCain collection

 

 

“At first glance, Jo Ractliffe’s black-and-white shots of sun-baked African landscapes look random and bland: rocks, dirt, scrubby trees; some handwritten signs but no people. Only when reading the titles – “Mass Grave at Cassinga,” “Minefield Near Mupa” – do you learn where the people are, or once were, and the pictures snap into expressive focus.

Ms. Ractliffe, who lives in Johannesburg, took the photographs in 2009 and 2010 in Angola on visits to now-deserted places that were important to that country’s protracted civil war and to the intertwined struggle of neighboring Namibia to gain independence from South Africa’s apartheid rule. South Africa played an active role in both conflicts, giving military support to insurgents who resisted Angola’s leftist government, and hunting down Namibian rebels who sought safety within Angola’s borders.

It’s through this historical lens that Ms. Ractliffe views landscape: as morally neutral terrain rendered uninhabitable by terrible facts from the past – the grave of hundreds of Namibia refugees, most of them children, killed in an air raid; the unknown numbers of landmines buried in Angola’s soil. Some are now decades old but can still detonate, so the killing goes on.”

Text from The New York Times website

 

Kikuji Kawada. 'Hinomaru, Japanese National Flag' from the series 'The Map' 1965

 

Kikuji Kawada
Hinomaru, Japanese National Flag from the series The Map
1965
Gelatin silver print
279 x 355 mm
© Kikuji Kawada, courtesy the artist and Photo Gallery International, Tokyo

 

Kikuji Kawada. 'Lucky Strike' 1962

 

Kikuji Kawada
Lucky Strike
1962
From the series The Map
© Kikuji Kawada, courtesy the artist and Photo Gallery International, Tokyo

 

Kikuji Kawada. 'The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River'

 

Kikuji Kawada
The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River from the series The Map
Hiroshima 1960-65
Gelatin silver print
© Kikuji Kawada

 

 

Points of memory: Kikuji Kawada

My first published photo book, The Map, took me five years to complete, beginning in 1960. In late 1961 a solo show with work from the series was held at Fuji Photo Salon in Tokyo, organised in three parts.

The first featured a ruined castle that was blown up intentionally by the Japanese army during the Second World War. The second comprised photographs taken a decade after the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima. They showed the stains and flaking ceilings of the Atomic Bomb Dome, the only structure left standing at the heart of the detonation zone. The third part concerned Tokyo during the period of economic recovery: images of advertising, scrap iron, the trampled national flag and emblems of the American Forces such as Lucky Strike and Coca-Cola, all twisted together, their order shuffled again and again. Some appeared as a montage to be presented as a metaphor. I dare not say the meaning of it.

These works led me to attempt to create this photographic book, using the notion of the map as a clue to the future and to question the whereabouts of my spirit. Discarded memorial photographs, a farewell note, kamikaze pilots – the illusions of various maps that emerge are to me like a discussion with the devil. The stains are situated as a key image of the series by drawing a future stratum and sealing the history, the nationality, the fear and anxiety of destruction and prosperity. It was almost a metaphor for the growth and the fall.

On the back of the black cover box are written rhyming words that are almost impossible to read. The front cover shows that the words are about to burn out. Inside, the pages are laid out as hinged double fold-out spreads. The repetition of the act of opening and closing makes the images appear and disappear. I wanted to have a book design as a new object and something that goes beyond the contents. With the rich and chaotic nature of monochrome, it might be that I tried to find my early style within the illusion of reality by abstracting the phenomenon. As an observer, I would like to keep forcing myself into the future, never losing the sense of danger which emerges in the conflicts of daily life. I wish to harmonise my old distorted maps with the heartbeat of this exhibition at Tate Modern, twisting across the bridges of the centuries through conflicting space and time.

Kikuji Kawada is a photographer based in Tokyo.

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Richard Peter. 'Dresden After Allied Raids Germany' 1945

 

Richard Peter
Dresden After Allied Raids Germany
1945
© SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek / Richard Peter, sen.

 

Toshio Fukada. 'The Mushroom Cloud - Less than twenty minutes after the explosion (4)' 1945

 

Toshio Fukada 
The Mushroom Cloud – Less than twenty minutes after the explosion (4)
1945
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© The estate of Toshio Fukada, courtesy Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

 

Jerzy Lewczyński. 'Wolf's Lair / Adolf Hitler's War Headquarters' 1960

 

Jerzy Lewczyński
Wolf’s Lair / Adolf Hitler’s War Headquarters
1960
© Jerzy Lewczyński

 

Don McCullin. 'Shell Shocked US Marine, Vietnam, The Battle of Hue' 1968

 

Don McCullin
Shell Shocked US Marine, Vietnam, The Battle of Hue
1968, printed 2013
© Don McCullin

 

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg. 'Kurchatov - Architecture of a Nuclear Test Site Kazakhstan. Opytnoe Pole' 2012

 

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg
Kurchatov – Architecture of a Nuclear Test Site Kazakhstan. Opytnoe Pole
2012
Courtesy of the artist’s studio
© Ursula Schultz-Domburg

 

 

Conflict, Time, Photography brings together photographers who have looked back at moments of conflict, from the seconds after a bomb is detonated to 100 years after a war has ended. Staged to coincide with the centenary of the First World War, this major group exhibition offers an alternative to familiar notions of war reportage and photojournalism, instead focusing on the passing of time and the unique ways that artists have used the camera to reflect on past events.

Conflicts from around the world and across the modern era are depicted, revealing the impact of war days, weeks, months and years after the fact. The works are ordered according to how long after the event they were created: images taken weeks after the end of the American Civil War are hung alongside those taken weeks after the atomic bombs fell on Japan in 1945. Photographs from Nicaragua taken 25 years after the revolution are grouped with those taken in Vietnam 25 years after the fall of Saigon. The exhibition concludes with new and recent projects by British, German, Polish and Syrian photographers which reflect on the First World War a century after it began.

The broad range of work reflects the many different ways in which conflict impacts on people’s lives. The immediate trauma of war can be seen in the eyes of Don McCullin’s Shell-shocked US Marine 1968, while the destruction of buildings and landscapes is documented by Pierre Antony-Thouret’s Reims After the War (published in 1927) and Simon Norfolk’s Afghanistan: Chronotopia 2001-2002. Other photographers explore the human cost of conflict, from Stephen Shore’s account of displaced Jewish survivors of the Second World War in the Ukraine, to Taryn Simon’s meticulously researched portraits of those descended from victims of the Srebrenica massacre.

Different conflicts also reappear from multiple points in time throughout the exhibition, whether as rarely-seen historical images or recent photographic installations. The Second World War for example is addressed in Jerzy Lewczyński’s 1960 photographs of the Wolf’s Lair / Adolf Hitler’s War Headquarters, Shomei Tomatsu’s images of objects found in Nagasaki, Kikuji Kawada’s epic project The Map made in Hiroshima in the 1960s, Michael Schmidt’s Berlin streetscapes from 1980, and Nick Waplington’s 1993 close-ups of cell walls from a Prisoner of War camp in Wales.

As part of Conflict, Time, Photography, a special room within the exhibition has been guest-curated by the Archive of Modern Conflict. Drawing on their unique and fascinating private collection, the Archive presents a range of photographs, documents and other material to provide an alternative view of war and memory.

Conflict, Time, Photography is curated at Tate Modern by Simon Baker, Curator of Photography and International Art, with Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, and Professor David Mellor, University of Sussex. It is organised by Tate Modern in association with the Museum Folkwang, Essen and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, where it will tour in spring and summer 2015 respectively. The exhibition is also accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks, events and film screenings at Tate Modern.”

Press release from the Tate Modern website

 

Simon Norfolk. 'Bullet-scarred apartment building' 2003

 

Simon Norfolk

Bullet-scarred apartment building and shops in the Karte Char district of Kabul. This area saw fighting between Hikmetyar and Rabbani and then between Rabbani and the Hazaras
2003
© Simon Norfolk

 

Susan Meiselas. 'Managua, July 2004' from the series 'Reframing History'

 

Susan Meiselas
Managua, July 2004
from the series Reframing History

 

“Cuesto del Plomo,” hillside outside Managua, a well-known site of many assasinations carried out by the National Guard. People searched here daily for missing persons. July 1978, from the series, “Reframing History,” Managua, July 2004

In July 2004, for the 25th anniversary of the overthrow of Somoza, Susan returned to Nicaragua with nineteen mural-sized images of her photographs from 1978-1979, collaborating with local communities to create sites for collective memory. The project, “Reframing History,” placed murals on public walls and in open spaces in the towns, at the sites where the photographs were originally made.

 

 

Nick Waplington. 'Untitled' from the series 'We Live as We Dream, Alone' 1993

 

Nick Waplington
Untitled from the series We Live as We Dream, Alone
1993

 

Nick Waplington. 'Untitled' from the series 'We Live as We Dream, Alone' 1993

 

Nick Waplington
Untitled from the series We Live as We Dream, Alone
1993

 

 

Nick Waplington’s deeply moving and once controversial photographs of the cells of Barry Island prison, where Nazi SS Officers were held prisoner before the Nuremburg trials, were taken in 1993, almost 50 years after the prisoners had embellished the cell walls with Germanic slogans and drawings of pin-up girls and Bavarian landscapes will be displayed. The half-century that elapsed between the photographs and the creation of their subject is grim testament to the enduring legacy of conflict…

“In 1992 I was commissioned to make work by the Neue galerie in Graz, Austria and the theme was war or “krieg” as it is in German. Graz is on the border with Yugoslavia and there was war in Yugoslavia at the time. I think they were hoping that I would make something to do with the war that was taking place between Croatia and Serbia and Bosnia. I did go to the war; you went to Zagreb and got a UN pass and went in to the warzone. It was very interesting to be taken into the warzone but ultimately I got back to England and I decided – to the annoyance of the gallery – that I was thinking about Austria instead. At the time, the president of Austria, Kurt Waldheim, had been exposed as a member of the SS and had been informing Yugoslavia during the war [World War Two] and the Austrians were very unconcerned about this. I thought I’d much prefer to make work that had the Austrians confronting their Nazi past rather than about the current conflict. I knew about the prison in Barry Island in South Wales where the SS were held before they were sent to Nuremburg for the trial and I started taking a series of photographs in the prison. It was lucky that I did because it was demolished the following year by the MOD. It’s gone now. When I got there, I saw the prisoners had been drawing on the walls. They’re mossy and crumbling but you can see Germanic lettering and Bavarian landscapes and women with 1940s haircuts. They are evocative and powerful given the emotive history. ”

Extract from Elliot Watson. “Nick Waplington: Conflict, Rim, Photography,” on the Hunger TV website, 26th November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

Sophie Ristelhueber. 'Fait #25' 1992

 

Sophie Ristelhueber (born 1949)
Fait #25
1992
71 photographs, gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminium
Object, each: 1000 x 1240 x 50 mm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2013

 

Sophie Ristelhueber. 'Fait #44' 1992

 

Sophie Ristelhueber (born 1949)
Fait #44
1992
71 photographs, gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminium
Object, each: 1000 x 1240 x 50 mm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2013

 

Sophie Ristelhueber. 'Fait #46' 1992

 

Sophie Ristelhueber (born 1949)
Fait #46
1992
71 photographs, gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminium
Object, each: 1000 x 1240 x 50 mm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Purchased 2013

 

Luc Delahaye. 'US Bombing on Taliban Positions' 2001

 

Luc Delahaye
US Bombing on Taliban Positions
2001
C-print
238.6 x 112.2 cm
Courtesy Luc Delahaye and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Bruxelles

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Vebranden-Molen, West-Vlaanderen' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews
Vebranden-Molen, West-Vlaanderen
2013
Soldat Ahmed ben Mohammed el Yadjizy
Soldat Ali ben Ahmed ben Frej ben Khelil
Soldat Hassen ben Ali ben Guerra el Amolani
Soldat Mohammed Ould Mohammed ben Ahmed
17:00 / 15.12.1914
From the series Shot at Dawn
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews
Former Abattoir, Mazingarbe, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
2013
Eleven British soldiers were executed here between 1915-18
From the series Shot at Dawn
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

 

Seeing what can’t be seen

“This is a challenge still faced by photographers today. Two years ago, the British documentary photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews set about creating a series of her own responding to the World War One. Called Shot at Dawn, it expresses her shock upon discovering that during the conflict around a thousand British, French and Belgian troops were condemned for cowardice or desertion before being executed the following morning by firing squads consisting of comrades from their own battalions. “I never knew this happened,” she tells me. “Until quite recently, no one really talked about it, because the subject was so contentious and taboo.”

Researching her series, Dewe Mathews worked closely with academics to locate the forgotten places along the western front where these unfortunate combatants had been shot. She then travelled to each spot and set up her camera there at dawn, recording whatever could be seen a century after the executions had taken place.

The results are eerie and elegiac – otherwise unremarkable, empty landscapes infused with a powerful sense of mourning, outrage and loss.”

Extract from Alastair Sooke. “Beyond boots and guns: A new look at the horrors of war,” on BBC Culture website, 11 November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

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For more information please see the excellent article by Sean O’Hagan. “Chloe Dewe Mathews’s Shot at Dawn: a moving photographic memorial” on the Guardian website [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews. 'Six Farm, Loker, West-Vlaanderen' 2013

 

Chloe Dewe Mathews
Six Farm, Loker, West-Vlaanderen
2013
Private Joseph Byers
Private Andrew Evans
Time unknown / 6.2.1915
Private George E. Collins
07:30 / 15.2.1915
© Chloe Dewe Mathews

 

Stephen Shore. 'Tzylia Bederman, Bucha, Ukraine, July 18, 2012'

 

Stephen Shore
Tzylia Bederman, Bucha, Ukraine, July 18, 2012
2012
Courtesy of Stephen Shore

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret. 'Plate I' 1927 from 'Reims after the war'

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret
Plate I
1927
from Reims after the war. The mutilated cathedral. The devastated city.
Private collection, London

 

 

The limits of realism

“So how can photographers respond to conflict if not by employing strategies commonly found in photojournalism about war? One alternative approach is to focus less on documenting the heat of battle and more on remembrance – something that feels relevant this year, which marks the centenary of the start of the World War One.

Some of the most moving evocations of the Great War were captured by commercial photographers who arrived in northeast France in the wake of the conflict, when people began travelling to the region in order to see for themselves the extent of the devastation of local villages, towns, and cities. There was enormous appetite for images recording the destruction, available in the form of cheap guidebooks and postcards.

“This is one of the first episodes of mass tourism in the history of the world,” explains [curator Simon] Baker. “There were 300 million postcards sent from the western front, for instance by people visiting the places where their relatives had died. And the photographers had to make these incredible compromises: making photographs of places that weren’t there anymore.”

In the case of Craonne, which was entirely obliterated by artillery, the village had to be rebuilt on a nearby site, while the ruins of the original settlement were abandoned to nature. As a result, the only way for photographers to identify Craonne was by providing a caption.

“The idea of photographing absence became really important,” says Baker. “War is about destruction, removing things, disappearance. A really interesting photographic language about disappearance in conflict emerged and it is extremely powerful. How does one record something that is gone?””

Extract from Alastair Sooke. “Beyond boots and guns: A new look at the horrors of war,” on BBC Culture website, 11 November 2014 [Online] Cited 09/02/2015

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret. 'Plate XXXVIII' 1927

 

Pierre Anthony-Thouret
Plate XXXVIII
1927
from Reims after the war. The mutilated cathedral. The devastated city.
Private collection, London

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

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Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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