Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Photography

18
Sep
22

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘The sun does not move’ 2017-2022

September 2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Women in orange' London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Women in orange
London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

This posting offers a selection of photographs from my new ninety-eight image sequence The sun does not move (2017-2022). To see the whole extended conversation please visit my website. The text below illuminates the rationale for the work…

 

Two students were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind. “It’s the wind that is really moving,” stated the first one. “No, it is the flag that is moving,” contended the second. A Zen master, who happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them. “Neither the flag nor the wind is moving,” he said, “It is MIND that moves.”

 

The photographs in this sequence meditate on the idea that it is the mind of the viewer that constructs the spaces and meanings of these images. It is MIND that moves. The title of this sequence the sun does not move is attributed to Italian polymath Galileo Galilei.

The photographs are not a contemporary dissection of some archaic concept or hidden historical moment. They just are. Why do I make them? Because I feel impelled to be creative, to explore the spiritual in liminal spaces that I find across the earth. Ultimately, I make them for myself, to illuminate the journey that this soul is on.

With wonder and affection and empathy and feeling for the spaces placed before it. As clear as light is for the ‘mind’s eye’.

With thankx to the few “fellow travellers” for their advice and friendship.

Marcus

 

98 images
© Marcus Bunyan

VIEW THE WHOLE SEQUENCE ON MY WEBSITE (preferably on a desktop computer)

 

 

“To try to see more and better is not a matter of whim or curiosity or self-indulgence. To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe, by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.”

.
Teilhard de Chardin, Seeing 1947

 

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ print costs $1,000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see the Store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Brick pattern' London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Brick pattern
London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Sliver' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Sliver
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Bus depot' South London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Bus depot
South London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Gare du Nord' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Gare du Nord
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Blue / White' London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Blue/White
London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Tomb effigy' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Tomb effigy
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Float' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Float
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Scar' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Scar
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Circle, two white lines, four pieces of white and a trail of dark oil' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Circle, two white lines, four pieces of white and a trail of dark oil
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Couple in light' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Couple in light
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The crossing' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The crossing
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Equilibrium' Tuileries, Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Equilibrium
Tuileries, Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Leaving' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Leaving
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The sun does not move, it's your mind that moves...' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The sun does not move, it’s your mind that moves…
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Crystallize' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Crystallize
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Hand in hand' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Hand in hand
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'We might be otherwise – we might be all' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
We might be otherwise – we might be all
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Every kind of pleasure' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Every kind of pleasure
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Eiffel Tower II' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Eiffel Tower II
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Profusion' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Profusion
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Ancient and modern' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Ancient and modern
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Two black holes' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Two black holes
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The Wheel of Time' V&A Museum, London 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The Wheel of Time
V&A Museum, London 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek (Shelley)' France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek (Shelley)
France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Modernisation' Montparnasse, Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Modernisation
Montparnasse, Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The light whose smile kindles the universe' Palace of Fontainebleau, France 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The light whose smile kindles the universe
Palace of Fontainebleau, France 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'The unknown thought I' Paris 2017/2022

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The unknown thought I
Paris 2017
From the series The sun does not move 2017-2022
Digital colour photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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22
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Zanele Muholi’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2020 – 31st May 2021

Curators: Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern.

 

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Zanele Muholi Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Unclassified fabulousness

There are so many words that you can say about an artist and their work. So many unnecessary words. All you have to do is look at the work. Does it speak to you? does it make you feel, does it empower you?

For me, artists either have it or they don’t… and in this case, visual activist Zanele Muholi possesses it by the bucketful. Panache, flair, downright unclassified fabulousness, call it what you want. They just have it.

They are powerful, they are strong, they are courageous, they tell great stories, they make you question history, they make you analyse what you think you know, they challenge your memories, they make you feel something about their participants, they make you want to fight for LGBTQIA+ social rights. They make you want to stand up and fight for equality and freedom for everyone. No person is an island, alone by themselves; we should all be equal under this cosmic sky.

The older I get the less tolerant I get of the stupidity of the human race and its non-evolution, in terms of spirit of self. When is the human race going to just grow up! Ditch the patriarchy, misogyny, colonialism, racial and socio-economic oppression. Appreciate difference, value the quality of every human being, debunk the dogma of religion, curtail the power of corporations and live in harmony with the earth. Not f…ing much to ask is it, after all these thousands of years.

I won’t live to see it, but with artists like Muholi, there is hope for humanity yet. Unclassifiable. Beautiful. Hail the Dark Lioness – all power to them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Tate Modern presents the first major mid-career survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi in the UK. Born in South Africa, Muholi came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that sought to envision black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives beyond deviance or victimhood.

 

 

“My mission is to re-write a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”

“In my world, every human is beautiful.”

.
Zanele Muholi

 

“Muholi prefers to be called an activist rather than an artist. Art, for them, is a means to an end, a tool to convey messages about social empowerment and visibility. “Zanele Muholi’s visual activism is not an occupation. It’s a lifestyle,” Kerryn Greenberg explains. “It’s something that occupies them day and night – whether they receive a call from someone in the community needing money to pay for a hospital appointment, or consoling those who’ve lost someone close to them in an act of violence, or giving some kind of public address at a wedding or a funeral. It’s about being a very active member of the community, and a public voice within that community.”

.
Maisie Skidmore. “Yes, but why? Zane Muholi,” on the We Present website [Online] Cited 11 April 2021

 

“The connection that Muholi has with their participants (which they are eager to distinguish from the word “subject,” which implies a distanced gaze) translates to the viewer, who, in looking at these images, is immediately welcomed into a space of understanding and empathy. Muholi also often highlights the voices of the participants in their shows, books and events. …

The political agenda of the 260 photographs on display – which critique centuries of anti-Black sentiment, oppression and erasure – echoes the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial justice reckoning it has inspired worldwide. “Muholi’s work takes on an enormous importance within the context of Black Lives Matter because of its potential to educate audiences and promote mutual understanding,” said Sarah Allen. Each piece makes a clear visual statement: not only that Black queer lives matter but also that Black queer lives are nuanced, cherished and deserve to be celebrated.”

.
Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi – ‘In My World, Every Human is Beautiful’ / Tate

Visual activist, Zanele Muholi, uses photography and film to document and explore issues of race and representation and to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa and beyond. Here they talk about how the power of images can show LGBTQIA+ people of South Africa, and QTIPOC people worldwide, that they are not alone. Watch as they introduce us to four key bodies of work and the ideas behind them.

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi: In Conversation with Lady Phyll / Artist’s Talk / Tate Exchange

Watch an in conversation between Muholi and Lady Phyll of UK Black Pride. Together, they discuss what difficult love looks like for QTIPOC communities in South Africa and Britain and the importance of chosen families.

This talk forms a part of From a Place of Love, a collaboration between Tate Exchange’s Love programme and UK Black Pride, whose theme for 2020 is home.

 

 

Born in 1972 and raised in Umlazi, a township on South Africa’s eastern coast, Muholi had a childhood shaped by the racial brutality of Apartheid – a white supremacist regime that systematically oppressed and displaced South Africa’s non white population for half a century. Muholi was an adolescent when Apartheid absolved and South Africa’s constitution was rewritten in 1996, with the intention of ushering a new era of equality. Even though South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, as a young queer person, Muholi was constantly reminded that the violent realities of gay life in South Africa did not align with this utopic vision of the future. Homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia remained rampant, and in South Africa, Black lesbians and transgender men are among the most at risk, and are often victims of heinous hate crimes, like “corrective” rape, abduction and murder. Drawing inspiration from the work of the American photographer Nan Goldin, whose early photographs documented queer culture and the HIV epidemic through intimate portraits of her family and friends, Muholi embarked on a mission to commemorate the battles and triumphs of her community with pictures.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi is a South African visual activist whose pronouns are they/them/theirs. Their work tells the stories of Black LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Asexual) lives in South Africa and beyond. Their photography raises awareness of injustices and aims to educate, while creating positive visual histories for under and mis-represented communities. Muholi also turns the camera on themself, making self-portraits that address race, history and representation. This exhibition charts Muholi’s emergence as an activist in the early 2000s to the present day.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political change. Apartheid was officially abolished in 1994. This was a political and social system of racial segregation underpinned by white minority rule. Anyone who was not classified as white was actively oppressed by the regime. Apartheid continued the segregation that had begun under the Dutch and British colonial regimes in the late 19th century. The apartheid regime also upheld injustice and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. While the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for prejudice, hate crimes and violence.

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 1 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Only Half the Picture (2002-6)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 1: Only Half The Picture

This room incudes work from Muholi’s first series Only Half the Picture (2002-2006). It documents survivors of hate crimes living across South Africa and its townships. Under apartheid, townships were established as residential areas for those who had been evicted from places designated as ‘white only’. The people Muholi photographs – their participants – are presented with compassion, dignity and courage in the face of ongoing discrimination. The series also includes images of intimacy, expanding the narrative beyond victimhood. Muholi reveals the pain, love and defiance that exist within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Aftermath' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Aftermath
2004
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
600 x 395mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'ID Crisis' 2003

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
ID Crisis
2003
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
325 x 485mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The exhibition opens with a group of deceptively gentle images. In the first, Aftermath (2004), a torso is cropped from waist to knees, hands modestly clasped in front of Jockey shorts, a huge scar running down the person’s right leg almost like a piece of body art. In another, Ordeal (2003), hands wring out a cloth in an enamel basin of water placed on a floor. A third image shows a cropped, seated figure, again waist to thighs, hands folded in their lap, plastic hospital ties around their wrists. These pictures have a softness and beauty which completely belies the fact that their subjects are all survivors of sexual violence and “corrective rape”.

As the caption to the last picture, Hate crime survivor I, Case number (2004) explains, “Corrective rape is a term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.” This horrific practice is by no means unique to South Africa, but the term seems to have originated there – feminist activist Bernedette Muthien used it during an interview with Human Rights Watch in 2001 – and its effects on the community resonate throughout this exhibition.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 2 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 2: Being

This room features work from Muholi’s series Being (2006 – ongoing). The portraits capture moments of intimacy between couples, as well as their daily life and routines. Muholi addresses the misconception that queer life is ‘unAfrican’, a falsehood emerging in part out of the belief that same-sex orientation was a colonial import to Africa. Each couple is shown in the private spaces they share. Muholi explains how ‘lovers and friends consented to participate in the project, willing to bare and express their love for each other.’

Commenting on this series they say, ‘my photography is never about lesbian nudity. It is about portraits of lesbians who happen to be in the nude.’ This series dismantles the white patriarchal gaze and rejects negative or heteronormative images, common in political and social systems that uphold heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation.

Since slavery and colonialism, images of us African women have been used to reproduce heterosexuality and white patriarchy, and these systems of power have so organised our everyday lives that it is difficult to visualise ourselves as we actually are in our respective communities. Moreover, the images we see rely on binaries that were long prescribed for us (heterosexual / homosexual, male/female, African / unAfrican). From birth on, we are taught to internalise their existences, sometimes forgetting that if bodies are connected, connecting, the sensuousness goes beyond simplistic understandings of gender and sexuality.

.
Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Beloved V' 2005

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Beloved V
2005
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'TommyBoys' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TommyBoys
2004
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

In “TommyBoys,” a colour photograph, two muscular figures in tracksuit pants sit on a tarmac. One, in a red T-shirt, sits with her hands folded against her chest, while next to her, the second uses her white vest to wipe something from her eyes. (“Tommy Boy” is a word used in South Africa, like “butch,” to refer to a masculine-presenting lesbian.)

Text from the New York Times website

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg' 2006

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
2006
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 3 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing in the bottom photograph the series Miss Lesbian I-VII, Amsterdam (2009)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 3: Queering Public Space

Photographing Black LGBTQIA+ participants in public spaces is an important part of Muholi’s visual activism. This room contains portraits of transgender women, gay men and gender non-conforming people photographed in public places.

Several of the locations are important in the history of South Africa. Some images are taken at Constitutional Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It is a key place in relation to the country’s progression towards democracy. Other participants are photographed on beaches. These were segregated during apartheid. They are therefore potent symbols of how racial segregation affected every aspect of life. Participants are often shown on Durban Beach, close to Muholi’s birthplace of Umlazi.

Muholi states that ‘we’re ‘queering’ the space in order for us to access the space. We transition within the space in order to make sure that the Black trans bodies are part of this as well. We owe it to ourselves.’ Muholi often chooses to photograph participants in colour, bringing the work closer to reality and rooting them in the present day.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine II' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss D’vine II
2007
Lambda print
765 x 765 mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam' 2009

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam
2009
C-print
86.5 x 60.5cm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi.

Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date.

Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. From the early 2000s, they have documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

In the early series Only Half the Picture, Muholi captures moments of love and intimacy as well as intense images alluding to traumatic events – despite the equality promised by South Africa’s 1996 constitution, its LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice.

In Faces and Phases each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze. These images and the accompanying testimonies form a growing archive of a community of people who are risking their lives by living authentically in the face of oppression and discrimination.

Other key series of works, include Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos.

Muholi turns the camera on themself in the ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama – translated as ‘Hail the Dark Lioness’. These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics.​

Exhibition organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Gropius Bau, Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University.

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of South African visual activist Zanele Muholi. Muholi (b. 1972) came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that told the stories of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in South Africa. Over 300 photographs are brought together to present the full breadth of Muholi’s career to date, from their very first body of work Only Half the Picture, to their on-going series Somnyama Ngonyama. These works challenge dominant ideologies and representations, presenting the participants in their photographs as fellow human beings bravely existing in the face of prejudice, intolerance and often violence.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political changes. While the country’s 1996 post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice to this day. In the early series Only Half the Picture Muholi aimed to depict the complexities of gender and sexuality for the individuals of the queer community. The collection includes moments of love and intimacy as well intense images alluding to traumatic events in the lives of the participants. Muholi also began an ongoing visual archive of portraits, Faces and Phases, which commemorates and celebrates black lesbians, transgender people and gender non-conforming individuals. Each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze, while individual testimonies capture their stories. The images and testimonies form a living and growing archive of this community in South Africa and beyond.

The exhibition includes several other key series of works, including Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos. Images like Melissa Mbambo, Durban also attempt to reclaim public spaces for black and queer communities, such as a beach in Durban which was racially segregated during apartheid. Within these series, Muholi tells collective as well as individual stories. They challenge preconceived notions of deviance and victimhood, encourage viewers to address their own misconceptions, and create a shared sense of understanding and solidarity.

More recently, Muholi has begun an acclaimed series of dramatic self-portraits entitled Somnyama Ngonyama (‘Hail the Dark Lioness’ in Zulu). Turning the camera on themself, the artist adopts different poses, characters and archetypes to address issues of race and representation. From scouring pads and latex gloves to rubber tires and cable ties, everyday materials are transformed into politically loaded props and costumes. The resulting images explore themes of labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics, often commenting on events in South Africa’s history and Muholi’s experiences as a South African black queer person traveling abroad. By enhancing the contrast in the photographs, Muholi also emphasises the darkness of their skin tone, reclaiming their blackness with pride and re-asserting its beauty. Muholi has created some new self-portraits for this series which are being shown at Tate Modern for the first time.

Zanele Muholi is co-curated by Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Gropius Bau in Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University. Supported by the Zanele Muholi Exhibition Supporters Circle, Tate Americas Foundation, Tate International Council, Tate Patrons and Tate Members . Research supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor.

 

About Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi was born in Umlazi, Durban and lives in Johannesburg. They studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and Ryerson University, Toronto. Co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual media, Muholi is also an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany. Solo exhibitions of Muholi’s work have been hosted around the world, including at the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2012); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017-) and Museo de Arte moderno de Buenos Aires (2018). Muholi has won numerous awards, including the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2019), the 2019 ‘Best Photography Book Award’ by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation for their book Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, The Dark Lioness (Aperture), the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017);the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the Carnegie International (2013); a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Somnyama Ngonyama was shown at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Faces and Phases was shown at dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

Muholi’s pronouns are they, them, their.

Press release from the Tate website

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 4 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 4: Brave Beauties

Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing) is a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants. Queer beauty pageants offer a space of resistance within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. They are a place where individuals can realise and express their beauty outside heteronormative and white supremacist cultures. Muholi has commented that these participants ‘enter beauty pageants to change mind-sets in the communities they live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed, or worse.’

This series is also inspired by fashion magazine covers. Muholi has questioned whether ‘South Africa as a democratic country would have an image of a trans woman on the cover of a magazine.’ These images aim to challenge queerphobic and transphobic stereotypes and stigmas.

As with all of Muholi’s images, the portraits are created through a collaborative process. Muholi and the participant determine the location, clothing and pose together, focusing on producing images that are empowering for both the participant and the audience.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sazi Jali, Durban' 2020

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sazi Jali, Durban
2020
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Somizy Sincwala, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somizy Sincwala, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The series Brave Beauties, started in 2014, is “a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants.” The queer beauty pageant is many things: a celebration – and redefinition – of beauty, a declaration of independence by contestants, a challenge to “heteronormative and white supremacist cultures,” and an attempt, as Muholi puts it, “to change mind-sets in the communities [the contestants] live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed or worse.”

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

What I really want to talk about is beauty. Because I think for Muholi, that’s kind of where it all stems from, is recognising beauty in things that you might not expect. Muholi has said “All I want to see is beauty. And that doesn’t mean you have to smile, or try harder. Just be.”

I think that’s very much linked to the history of Apartheid, of course […] As a Black person being told constantly ‘your hair isn’t straight enough’, ‘you should look like this’, ‘you should look like that’ and that being legislated under Apartheid. But it’s also what is in the magazines, this idea of the perfect beauty. Muholi’s counteracting them, saying actually, none of that is relevant. It’s about being the beauty that you want to be.

There’s a really great series called Brave Beauties, which […] pictures trans women and gender non-binary individuals, many of whom have been in beauty pageants, occupying space. Demanding attention. And being absolutely stunningly beautiful. And you kind think, ‘yeah, what are our notions of beauty, what are these kind of constructions that are absolutely false?’

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 5 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 5: Collectivity

Collectivity lies at the heart of Muholi’s work. Many of Muholi’s large network of collaborators are members of their collective, Inkanyiso. This means ‘light’ in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language and one of 11 official languages in South Africa. Inkanyiso’s mission is to ‘Produce, educate and disseminate information to many audiences, especially those who are often marginalised or sensationalised by the mainstream media.’ Queer Activism = Queer Media, is the collective’s motto.

Self-organisation, mentorship and skill sharing are central to Muholi’s collaborative activity. This room features images that are collaboratively made. Whether documenting public events such as Pride marches and protests, or private events such as marriages and funerals, these images form an ever-expanding visual archive. By recording the existence of the Black LGBTQIA+ community, they resist erasure.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Room 6: Faces and Phases

Muholi began their ongoing series Faces and Phases in 2006. The project currently totals 500+ works. As a collective portrait, it celebrates, commemorates and archives the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

It is important to mark, map and preserve our mo(ve)ments through visual histories for reference and posterity so that future generations will note that we were here.

.
Many of these portraits are the result of a long and sustained relationship and collaboration. Muholi often returns to photograph the same person over time. Faces refers to the person being photographed. Phases signifies a transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and identity to another. It also marks the changes in the participants’ daily lives, including ageing, education, work experience and marriage. The gaps in the grid indicate individuals that are no longer present in the project, or a portrait yet to be taken. One wall in the exhibition is dedicated to the participants who have passed away.

Faces and Phases forms a living archive that visualises Muholi’s belief that ‘we express our gendered, radicalised, and classed selves in rich and diverse ways.’

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 6 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Faces and Phases is an ongoing series whereby the artist was seeking to document and photograph Black lesbians, trans men and gender non-conforming individuals. There’s now a mass of these incredibly beautiful portraits, which generally are presented in a grid, to show that, actually […] giving visibility to these people is a life’s work. There are many portraits of the same individuals over the course of a number of years. So you can see how people age, how they transition, sometimes, and how the way they present themselves, alters.

It is about acknowledging pain and trauma, and trying to heal people, and heal oneself through those images. Images that Muholi wants their community, to be proud of, and feel well represented by.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Death is a constant presence in Muholi’s community and work. The largest space in this exhibition is given to Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing), a collection of portraits – 500, and counting. The images “celebrate, commemorate and archive the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.” People appear more than once. Some spots on the walls are empty, marking a portrait yet to be taken or a participant no longer there. One wall is dedicated to those who have passed away.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. '"TK" Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TK Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Marcel Kutumela, Alexandra, Johannesburg
2008
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg' 2011

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg
2011
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 7 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 7: Sharing Stories

From their earliest days as an activist, Muholi sought to record first-hand testimonies and experiences of Black LGBTQIA+ people. Giving participants a platform to tell their own story, in their own words, has been an enduring goal. They have said:

Each and every person in the photos has a story to tell but many of us come from spaces in which most Black people never had that opportunity. If they had it at all, their voices were told by other people. Nobody can tell our story better than ourselves.

.
In this room, eight participants share stories of their lives and experiences as members of the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. Some of them feature in the Faces and Phases project in the previous room. The interviews have been conducted and produced by Muholi’s collaborators, some of whom are members of Inkanyiso. Some testimonies do not use Muholi’s preferred gender pronouns they, them, theirs.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 8 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 8: Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness

Somnyama Ngonyama (2012 – ongoing) is a series in which Muholi turns the camera on themself to explore the politics of race and representation. The portraits are photographed in different locations around the world. They are made using materials and objects that Muholi sources from their surroundings.The images refer to personal reflections, colonial and apartheid histories of exclusion and displacement, as well as ongoing racism. They question acts of violence and harmful representations of Black people. Muholi’s aim is to draw out these histories in order to educate people about them and to facilitate the processing of these traumas both personally and collectively.

Muholi considers how the gaze is constructed in their photographs. In some images they look away. In others they stare the camera down, asking what it means for ‘a Black person to look back’. When exhibited together the viewer is surrounded by a network of gazes. Muholi increases the contrast of the images in this series, which has the effect of darkening their skin tone.

I’m reclaiming my Blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.

.
The titles of the works in the series remain in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language. This is part of their activism, taking ownership of and pride in their language and identity. It encourages a Western audience to understand and pronounce the names. This critiques what happened during colonialism and apartheid. Then, Black people were often given English names by their employers or teachers who refused to remember or pronounce their real names.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Fisani, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Fisani, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Thulani II, Parktown' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Thulani II, Parktown
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ziphelele, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ziphelele, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'MaID IV, New York' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
MaID-IV, New York
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ntozakhe II, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ntozakhe II, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sebenzile, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sebenzile, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

As Muholi’s career started to take off internationally, they were traveling a huge amount in hotel rooms. They were exposed to the usual hassles of border immigration and airports, where racial profiling is still a reality, and entering spaces that are historically white. [They were] very conscious of the feeling that perhaps they were not quite wanted there, despite having been invited.

In 2012, they began to make a series of self-portraits, which actually I think are more accurately presented as self-projections, rather than self-portraits. In them, there is this sense of unapologetic selfhood. The sense that actually, you can be Black, you can encompass many histories, and projecting that in a really powerful way.

These photographs are often taken in situations, as I said, away from home, where Muholi might not have access to the same camera each time. And the light conditions are very variable. So, you’ll see that when they’re printed, they’re at very different scales, and that is representative of the fact that they’ve been made on the hop.

The itineracy of the lifestyle is very much evident in the pictures themselves, but also in the titles. They’re often titled in isiZulu, the artist’s home language. But then there will be the place in which they’ve been made, and that could be New York, that could be Norway, you know, a whole range of different locations.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zazi II, Boston' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zazi II, Boston
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Xiniwe at Cassilhaus' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Xiniwe at Cassilhaus
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The unforgettable works in Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness are a divine ode to Black women past and present, in Africa and beyond. In this series of black and white self portraits, Muholi becomes the participant, encouraging viewers to question what they were taught to find beautiful, and why. Often adorning themselves with different domestic materials as a tribute to their mother, who was a domestic worker for a white family (and resultantly absent from Muholi’s childhood), Muholi alludes to the broader history of colonisation and enslavement. Muholi also uses symbolically loaded poses and props which both summon and challenge visual stereotypes of African women and oppressive white beauty standards. By drawing on familiar aesthetic tropes, like fashion magazine covers and advertisements, Muholi dismantles the Western narrative by replacing the typically white bodies and faces that fill these frames with depictions of radical, queer, Black beauty.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bona, Charlottesville' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bona, Charlottesville
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester VIII, Philadelphia' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester VIII, Philadelphia
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Bester I

“This self-portrait is a special tribute to my late mother who passed on in 2009. She worked as a domestic worker for 42 years and was forced to retire due to ill health. After retirement she never lived long enough to enjoy her life at home with her family and grandchildren.

This photo is also a dedication to all the domestic workers around the globe who are able to fend for their families despite meagre salaries and make ends meet.

With this image I looked at how different people can use the materials of daily life for multiple purposes. The pegs lend an unexpected aesthetic to this photo and allow it to be read differently in the fashion world; the same goes for the striped mat. The pegs themselves can be seen as functional art in this regard. The striped doormat can also be used as shawl, but in this case it was meant for something else.

What people call a prop, I call material. The viewer is forced to rethink how they think about the materials – and their history.

I looked directly at the camera in order to create a sense of questioning or confrontation which could be read by viewers in different ways.”

~ Zanele Muholi, March 2017

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester I, Mayotte' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester I, Mayotte
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Muholi Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Qiniso, The Sails, Durban' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Qiniso, The Sails, Durban
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

In this work, Muholi has darkened their skin and whitened their eyes, and composed the picture in the manner of a classical, perfectly-lit studio portrait, posing with found objects as “costume” – a footstool as a helmet, say. There is so much to unpick in these images – references to colonialism, Apartheid, to the politics of race and representation, to femininity and “women’s work”. Muholi presents us with a kaleidoscope of views of injustice, equal parts beautiful and brutal.

The intellectual focus of every picture is slightly different. Zamile, KwaThema (2016) shows Muholi draped in a striped blanket, as used in South African prisons during Apartheid. In Quinso, The Sails, Durban (2019) Muholi’s hair is adorned with silvery Afro combs, a symbol of African and African diaspora cultural pride. In Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy (2015) their hair is stuffed with pens – a reference to the “pencil test” whereby, under Apartheid, if a pencil pushed into a person’s hair fell out they were “classified as white”.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Untitled' Nd

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Untitled
Nd
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

FEW Stop the War on Women's Bodies poster c. 2005

 

FEW Stop the War on Women’s Bodies poster
c. 2005

 

 

Room 9: Tracing Contexts

Muholi defines themself as a visual activist. They were born in 1972 during the height of apartheid in South Africa. Today their work celebrates LGBTQIA+ identity in the new era of democracy after apartheid was brought to an end in 1994, while also addressing the ongoing risks that the community face. Muholi has spoken about this being the very means through which they ‘claim their full citizenship’. The artist’s place within South African histories of activism, both as they relate to apartheid and the emergence of queer activism, are explored in this timeline. The timeline helps to highlight particular contexts from which Muholi’s work emerges and remains deeply rooted.

 

Zanele Muholi: Glossary

The terms included in this glossary are culturally complex and nuanced. Whilst the co-authors and editors of this text have attempted to reflect this, it is worth noting that the interpretations offered here are not definitive, as the meanings of many of the terms herein are deeply subjective and are consistently contested, debated and re-evaluated.

Ally

An individual who actively supports the social movements and rights of LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised identities, but who does not identify as LGBTQIA+ or as a member of said marginalised groups.

Apartheid

A former policy / oppressive system that was officially implemented in South Africa from 1948 until 1994, to enforce racial segregation and political, economic and social discrimination against people of colour or anyone who was not classified as white. The word ‘apartheid’ is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’. The term has also been used to refer to global forms of institutionalised / systemic racial and socio-economic oppression that is still prevalent in societies across the world.

Asexual

An umbrella term used to describe those with a variation of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction. The term can also describe people who are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually attracted to people, or where their attraction is not limited to physical sexual expression.

Assignment

Within the dominant culture informed by Western scientific models that classify gender and sex as binary, gender and sex are commonly assigned at birth based on external biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. A vulva-bearing child is typically assigned female at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AFAB’), while a penis bearing child is typically assigned male at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AMAB’). AFAB and AMAB are terms commonly used by transgender, gender-non-conforming and non-binary people to demonstrate that the sex and / or gender one was assigned at birth may not necessarily match one’s true gender identity.

Bisexual

An umbrella term used to describe a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bisexual people may describe themselves using one or more of a variety of terms, including (but not limited to) pansexual and queer.

Black

Capitalise when used to describe someone’s race, ethnicity or culture, unless the individual or group self-identifies otherwise.

Black Lesbian Feminism

A political identity, movement and school of thought that incorporates perspectives, experiences and politics around race, gender, class and sexual orientation, and surfaces the inextricable links between them.

Butch

A term used in queer culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically masculine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Cis / Cisgender

A term used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

Civil Union

Also known as a civil partnership, a civil union is a legally recognised arrangement which grants most or all of the rights, responsibilities and legal consequences of a marriage except the title itself. Civil unions were created primarily to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples and partnerships.

‘Corrective Rape’

A term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.

Family

A term widely used by queer and trans people to identify other queer and trans people. Also known as ‘chosen family’.

Femme

A term used in LGBTQIA+ culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Gay

A term used to refer to a man, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards men. The term can also be used more broadly and colloquially to describe a same-sex or queer orientation.

Gender

Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth. One’s gender is made up of one’s gender identity (a person’s innate sense of their own gender) and gender expression (how a person outwardly expresses their gender).

Gender Binary

The system of dividing gender into two distinct categories – man and woman – thus excluding non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Gender Dysphoria

Used to describe a person’s discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

Gender Non-conforming / Non-conformity

A person who does not conform to the binary gender categories that society prescribes (man and woman) through their gender identity/expression.

Hate Crime

Any incident that may or may not constitute a criminal offence, perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate. The perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise their victims, whom they consider different from them based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, health status, nationality, social origin, religious convictions, culture, language or other characteristics.

Heteronormativity

A socio-political system that, predicated on the gender binary, upholds heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation. Heteronormativity encompasses a belief that people fall into distinct and ‘complementary’ genders (men and women) with natural roles in life. It assumes that sexual, romantic and marital relations are most fitting between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, positioning all other sexual orientations as ‘deviations’.

Homonationalism

A form of LGBTQIA+ advocacy that frames LGBTQIA+ rights in nationalistic terms that privilege North American and European expressions over those of the Middle East and the Global South, particularly Africa. Homonationalism sees the conceptual realignment of LGBTQIA+ activism to fit the goals and ideologies of both neoliberalism and the far right in order to justify racist, classist, Islamophobic and xenophobic perspectives. This framing is based on prejudices that migrant people are supposedly homophobic, and that western society is egalitarian.

Homophobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about LGBTQIA+ people.

Homosexual

A person who has a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. ‘Homosexual’ is often considered a more medical term. The terms ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ are now more generally used.

Intersectionality

Emerging from the traditions of critical race theory, womanism and Black feminist thought, intersectionality encompasses the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The term was formalised by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in a discussion around Black women’s employment in the US. Intersectionality rejects the notion of universal experiences of womanhood in favour of a more holistic assessment of how one’s race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, nationality and religion can impact one’s experience of womanhood or gender, but also how these social inequalities intertwine with and shape one another.

Intersex

A term used to describe a person who may have biological attributes that do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes ‘male’ or ‘female’. These biological variations may manifest in different ways and at different stages throughout an individual’s life. Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

isiNgqumo

A type of language used amongst the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa, mostly among the Nguni people.

isiStabane / Stabane

A slur or derogatory isiZulu term used in vernacular language to refer to a person who is from the LGBTQIA+ community in the Southern African context. Translated into English, the term means a person who is born with both male and female ‘parts’.

Lesbian

A term used to refer to a woman, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards women or non-binary femmes.

LGBTQIA+

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. This is not an exhaustive list, as denoted by the inclusion of the plus symbol, which nods to the varying sexual orientations and gender identities that exist around the world.

Lobola

Also known as lobolo, lobola is a customary practice of marriage whereby the bridegroom’s family and kin transfer certain goods to the bride’s family in order to validate a customary marriage. Historically this was in the form of cattle, but today monetary payment is preferred, depending on the bride’s family.

MSM

An acronym standing for men who have sex with men. MSM may or may not identify as gay, queer or bisexual.

Necklacing

A practice of extrajudicial torture and execution whereby a burning rubber tyre is forced around a person’s neck. Under apartheid, necklacing was sometimes used within the Black community to punish those who were perceived to have collaborated with the apartheid government.

Non-binary

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’ (also often referred to as genderqueer). Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

Outed

When an LGBTQIA+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed without their consent.

Pansexual

A term that refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

Passbook (dompas) / Reference book

An identification book or document that every person of colour or anyone who was not classified as white had to carry under the pass laws of apartheid. The book was made up of two parts. One part had a laminated identity card that featured the name of the bearer, their ethnic affiliation, the date the card was issued, the signature of an official and a black and white portrait photograph. The other part included five sections which listed information on permissions to enter urban areas, record of required medical examinations, names and addresses of employers, work status and receipts for tax payments. Colloquially, among the Black South African population, these passes were often referred to derogatorily as the dompas, an Afrikaans term literally meaning ‘dumb’ / ‘stupid pass’.

Patriarchy

A social hierarchy that privileges and prioritises men over women and other gender identities.

Pencil Test

A racist, dehumanising test that was devised to assist authorities in racial classification under apartheid. When officials were unsure if a person should be classified as white or of colour, a pencil would be pushed into their hair. If the pencil fell out, signalling that their hair was straight rather than curly, kinky or coily, the person ‘passed’ and was ‘classified’ as white.

People / Person of Colour (POC)

A term used to denote someone who is not considered white. The term is used to emphasise the common experiences of systemic racism amongst people of colour.

Pinkwashing

A term with multiple meanings, but that commonly refers to the appropriation of the LGBTQIA+ movement in order to promote some corporate or political agenda. The term is used to describe the practices of entities who market themselves as ‘gay-friendly’ to gain favour with progressives, while simultaneously masking aspects of their practices that are violent and undemocratic.

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’, or gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they’.

QTIPOC

An acronym standing for queer, trans and intersex people of colour.

Queer

An umbrella term used by those who reject heteronormativity. Although some people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed by the queer community, who have embraced it as an empowering and subversive identity.

Safe space

An environment that enables all persons, including sexual and gender minorities, to be free to express themselves without fear of discrimination or violation of their rights and dignity. Individual actions and reactions are key in upholding or violating a safe space.

Sangoma

A traditional African healer who specialises in treating people’s spiritual and physical diseases by looking into their past and future and connecting them with the ancestors. Healers believe that they are called by their ancestors to take on this important and respected position in society.

Sex

Sex is distinct from gender. Sex is assigned to a person at birth on the basis of biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive
functions.

Transgender

An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people are binary-identified and others are not.

Transition

The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition involves different processes. For some this involves medical intervention or gender affirming healthcare such as hormone therapy and surgeries (medical transition), but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning might also involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently, changing one’s pronouns (social transition) and changing official documents (legal transition).

Transmisogynoir

A term that characterises the marginalisation of Black trans women and transfeminine people and captures the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny. It is used to denote the fact that Black trans women experience a different, racialised form of misogyny that is compounded with transphobia.

Transmisogyny

A term capturing the interlocking discrimination of transphobia and misogyny. Transmisogyny includes negative attitudes, hate and discrimination toward transgender individuals who fall on the feminine side of the gender spectrum, particularly trans women and transfeminine people.

Transphobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are transgender, including the denial / refusal to accept their gender identity.

White Supremacy

A racist ideology in which people defined and perceived as white are positioned as superior to and should dominate people of other races, and the practices based on this ideology.

WSW

An acronym standing for women who have sex with women. WSW may or may not identify as lesbian, queer or bisexual.

Zulu

A Bantu ethnic group and language of Southern Africa situated within the Nguni people. They are a branch of the southern Bantu and have close ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with the Swazi and Xhosa. The Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, with an estimated population of 10 million, residing mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

 

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01
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography’ at Museum Folkwang, Essen

Exhibition dates: 19th February – 16th May, 2021

 

Timm Rautert. 'Tokaido Express, Tokyo' 1970

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Tokaido Express, Tokyo
1970
Gelatine silver print
45.5 x 59 cm
Museum Folkwang
© Timm Rautert

 

 

What an admirable artist.

Unfortunately with a limited number of media images available one cannot cover in any depth the many bodies of work of this fine artist. I would have liked to have seen more photographs from Rautert’s series The Amish and The Hutterites, and some photographs from his series on Thalidomide victims (none are available anywhere online). Very few of his portraits (only two are included here) or homeless series are available as well.

Particularly intriguing is work from the series Image-Analytical Photography in which Rautert explores “the fundamental conditions of photographic work – from the photographic act and the development of photographic images under an enlarger in the lab to the various possibilities of presentation”, using “black-and-white photographs, passport photos, lab experiments, combinations of selected photo prints with their negatives … but also non-photographic material such as a grey card (used for measuring light mainly in photo studios), postcards and graphic manuals” in order to understand “what photography means as a medium, what is expected from it, and how it has shaped the perception of the world.” Very few of these investigative images can be found online and only two are included in this posting. The second is a cracker.

Through the simple expedient of turning the camera upside down and photographing himself doing it coupled with the photographic outcome of the resulting picture we – the viewer, the looker, the seeker (of “truth”) – are so eloquently made aware that the camera is a machine, that it has a monocular perspective, and that every photo the camera takes is a construct. As Rautert asks in the quote below, “what is photography? what is light? what is time? what is space? how does one tell great stories? what means what?”

An excellent example of this enquiry is the series Gehäuse des Unsichtbaren (Houses of the Invisible) which depicts “working environments in the automobile and computer industries, creating a long-term chronicle of the transformation of the workplace in the wake of industrial automation.” In these conceptual but documentary, applied but artistic photographs, the human is masked, occluded and / or dwarfed by the humungous complexity and size of the machine – becoming an invisible attendant (a small cog in the wheel) of the mighty mechanism (think Metropolis, 1927). A solid story with a social and conceptual form.

There seems to be a strong eye and a whip sharp mind at work here: inquiring and questioning, ethical and creative, telling great stories through the lives of photography. An admirable artist indeed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Till May 16, 2021, Museum Folkwang presents a comprehensive retrospective of photographer Timm Rautert’s oeuvre. The exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography spans five decades of his artistic production: beginning with Rautert’s experimental early work as a student of Otto Steinert, it shows his famous portrait series such as “Deutsche in Uniform (Germans in Uniform)” or “Eigenes Leben (Own Life),” as well as his artwork collages and his 2015 photographic installation work L’Ultimo Programma. The nearly 400 works illustrate not only the thematic and methodological versatility of Rautert’s oeuvre, but can also be read as documents of photography’s long journey into the museum and the art canon.

 

 

“I thought to myself: what is photography actually? What is it really?
I decided to develop a kind of grammar for photography:
What is light? What is time? What is space?
How does one tell great stories?
What means what?”

.
Timm Rautert

 

“Timm Rautert’s work forges links between applied and artistic photography. It reflects man in his time as much as the worlds created by man: the factories and machines, cultural highlights and the social fringe, heaven and hell of modern society. For many years Rautert has worked as a socially critical photographer and engaged himself in different long term projects.”

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Installation views of the exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography at Museum Folkwang, Essen showing at bottom left, photographs from The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia (2014)
Fotos: Jens Nober

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia' 2014

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia
2014
Black and white photograph, bromide silver gelatine
Sheet size 50.8 x 40.5cm

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia' 2014

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
The Final Program, Campo S. Angelo, Venezia
2014
Black and white photograph, bromide silver gelatine
Sheet size 50.8 x 40.5 cm

 

 

To mark the 80th birthday of the photographer Timm Rautert, Museum Folkwang is organising a comprehensive retrospective covering half a century of his artistic work.

Timm Rautert (born in 1941 in Tuchola, then West Prussia) is considered one of Germany’s preeminent contemporary photographers. Over the decades he has succeeded not only in anticipating the most important trends in photography, but has also played a major role in shaping them: as a studio photographer for galleries, as a photojournalist, as a chronicler of changing work environments and, finally, as a university lecturer, he has influenced ensuing generations.

As a student under Otto Steinert at what was then the Folkwangschule in Essen-Werden, Rautert quickly developed solid foundations for a committed, social-documentary photography. Alongside this, he explored the fundamentals of photography and developed his “image-analysis photography”, which has methodically permeated his artistic work to this day. For Rautert, alternating between applied and artistic elements is not a contradiction, but an expression of resolute photographic authorship.

In 1970, Rautert travelled to the USA and photographed figures such as Franz Erhard Walther, Andy Warhol and Walter de Maria. In Osaka, he documented the World’s Fair and the deeply traditional Japanese society of the time. From the mid-1970s, Rautert worked together with the journalist Michael Holzach on joint reportages for ZEITMagazin. For over a decade he produced social documentary reportages on migrant workers, the homeless, or previously inaccessible communities like The Hutterites (1978) and The Amish (1974).

In the 1980s, Rautert turned to documenting working environments in the automobile and computer industries, creating a long-term chronicle of the transformation of the workplace in the wake of industrial automation. Around 70 photographs from the series Gehäuse des Unsichtbaren (Houses of the Invisible) with photographs of research and manufacturing sites such as the Max Planck Institute (1988) or Siemens AG (1989) are being presented for the first time in a digital double projection, which Rautert developed specially for the exhibition at Museum Folkwang.

Artist portraits have been a recurring theme in Rautert’s work; his first was that of the Czech photographer Josef Sudek made for an exhibition of work by Otto Steinert and his students. It was followed by portraits of Otl Aicher, Pina Bausch, André Heller, Jasper Morrison and Éric Rohmer. Rautert focused not only on the subject, but also on their surroundings and actions; capturing their sphere of influence as part of their identity.

After being appointed professor of photography at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (1993-2008), Rautert dedicated himself to his own work. His focus is on re-examining, restructuring and reshooting past projects. His students include Viktoria Binschtok, Falk Haberkorn, Harry (Grit) Hachmeister, Margret Hoppe, Sven Johne, Ricarda Roggan, Adrian Sauer, Sebastian Stumpf and Tobias Zielony.

In 2008, Timm Rautert was the first photographer to receive the Lovis Corinth Prize for his life’s work.

Text from the Museum Folkwang website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography at Museum Folkwang, Essen showing photographs from Deutsche in Uniform (1974)
Fotos: Jens Nober

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Liane Schneider, 33, Ground Hostess, Deutsche Lufthansa' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Liane Schneider, 33, Ground Hostess, Deutsche Lufthansa
1974
From Germans in Uniform
C-Print
28.7 x 22cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Otto Koniezny, 39 Jahre, Bundesbahnschaffner (Federal Railroad conductor)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Fräulein Monika Powileit, 33 Jahre, Diakonieschwester (deaconry sister)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Konrad Benden, 61 Jahre, Tambourmajor im Stadttambourchor, St. Maximilian 04, Düsseldorf (drum major in the city drum choir, St. Maximilian 04, Düsseldorf)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Werner Kudszus, 47 Jahre, Oberstleutnant, Kommandeur eines Feldjägerbataillons (Lieutenant Colonel, commander of a military police battalion)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Peter Müller, 22 Jahre, Oberwachtsmeister im Bundesgrenzschutz Bonn (chief sergeant in the Federal Border Police in Bonn)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Claudia Krüll, 17, German Red Cross Helper' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Claudia Krüll, 17, German Red Cross Helper
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Wolfgang Markgraf, 28 Jahre, Pfarrer, Evangelische Friedens-Kirchengemeinde (pastor, Evangelical Peace Church Congregation)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Deutsche in Uniform' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Herr Jürgen Lobert, Frau Marlene Lobert, 30 und 31 Jahre, Schützen regiments könig und Königin (rifle regiment king and queen)
From the series Deutsche in Uniform
1974
© Timm Rautert

 

 

Timm Rautert’s 1974 series “Germans in Uniform”, presenting a range of Germans in their professional attire in both a sociological and ironic manner, was first published in German by Steidl in 2006, and is now available in English in this expanded version.

For his project Rautert invited a range of public servants and officials to his Düsseldorf studio, where he photographed them in their work clothes – from a pastor, monk, Red Cross helper and hotel valet, to a more flamboyant drum major, forest warden and even a Santa Claus. Rautert depicts his subjects before the same neutral backdrop with similar framing and perspective, thus emphasising how they reveal their characters beyond their uniforms. Below each photo are the subject’s name, age and profession; at times personal quotes from conversations with Rautert during the shoot are also included. The result today is at once a complex portrait of post-war Germany, a nostalgic historical document, and an expression of the interplay between uniformity and personality that continues to shape society. In contrast to today’s professional clothing … the uniforms photographed by Rautert reflect a time of social upheaval. This documentary project was followed by the 1976 series entitled Die Letzten ihrer Zunft (The Last of this Profession) about the extinction of certain trades and professions.

Anonymous text from the Steidl website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

In shooting these landmark 1974 portraits of Deutsche in Uniform, Timm Rautert met his subjects in their own territories, but then set them against a neutral background, separating them from their work aesthetics. This portable studio setting gives special significance to the moment of representation, when the subject is captured as a symbol of the state or an occupational group. By using not only names and job titles but also quotes from interviews, Rautert also prompts observers to focus on the subject or the connection between the individual’s gestures and his official work clothes. In contrast to today’s professional clothing, which is transformed into outfits by logos, the uniforms he photographed reflect a time of social upheaval.

Anonymous text from the Amazon website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Swiss Pavilion' 1970

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Swiss Pavilion
1970
From: Expo ’70 – Osaka
Gelatine silver print
50 x 56cm
Museum Folkwang
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) From the series 'The Amish' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
From the series The Amish
1974
Gelatine silver print
17.4 x 26.8cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

 

In 1974 the young Timm Rautert travelled to Pennsylvania to photograph those who normally don’t allow themselves to be photographed: the Amish, a group of Anabaptist Protestant communities. Four years later Rautert returned to America, this time to the Hutterites who live so stringently by the Ten Commandments and the bible’s restrictions on images that they have their identity cards issued without photographs. Both these two series were influential on Rautert’s later work…

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book 'No Photographing' (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) photographs from the book No Photographing (Steidl, Hardcover, 2011)

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Homeless II' 1973

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Homeless II
from the series In Germany’s Homeless Shelters
1973
Gelatine silver print
47.8 x 32cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Homeless due to housing shortage' 1973

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Homeless due to housing shortage
from the series In Germany’s Homeless Shelters
1973
Gelatine silver print
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Socio-educational scheme, Cologne' 1974

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Socio-educational scheme, Cologne
1974
Gelatine silver print
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'Social work in Cologne' 1977

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Social work in Cologne
1977
Gelatine silver print
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Otto Steinert, Essen' 1968

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Otto Steinert, Essen
1968
Gelatine silver print
39.8 x 27.1cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

 

The Powerlessness of Photographs

When television moved into people’s living rooms in the 1950s, many predicted the moving picture would spell the end of still photography. Yet it is not films but photographs with their capacity to eternalise individual moments, freeze them in time and, by bringing things to a halt, compel viewers to look at them and think, that continue to define our collective memory today. Buzz Aldrin on the moon, children fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam, the student in front of the army tanks in Tiananmen Square, victims of torture at Abu Ghraib – these are the images that are said to have changed the world.

Timm Rautert began his career as a photojournalist. Inspired by the belief that photography could change the world, he addressed social issues on behalf of major magazines and newspapers. His work took him to Japan, Russia and the USA, and led him to the homeless, the jobless and to Thalidomide victims. He wanted to use his camera to get to the heart of things, and draw the viewer’s attention to injustice in the long term through his haunting series of images. But it turned out that the power of these images and their influence on society was limited: “My images haven’t change a thing,” was Timm Rautert’s sobering realisation some years later.

His interest in social and moral issues continued unabated. But his photographic style changed, becoming more conscious and more reflective. Increasingly, Timm Rautert straddled the boundary between applied and artistic photography. But he still put the message of his images above their aesthetic quality: “Photography is an important medium to understanding the world; it is such a waste to use it only as art.” Nevertheless, he combined form and content in the knowledge that his work could only ever show his personal perspective on things.

His teacher, Otto Steinert, had a profound influence on this approach. The founder of subjective photography claimed it was impossible to depict reality objectively. The mere presence of the camera distorted the situation for everyone involved and therefore the image – including the photographer himself. Timm Rautert, too, sees the camera as standing between himself and reality – biasing his view of life.

Text from the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Mensch in einem Photoautomaten' (Human in a photo booth) New York, 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Mensch in einem Photoautomaten (Human in a photo booth)
New York, 1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Gotham City NY' New York, 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Gotham City NY
New York, 1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'New York (Wellington Hotel)' 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
New York (Wellington Hotel)
1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'New York' 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
New York
1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert. 'New York' 1969

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
New York
1969
From the series New York
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)' 1972

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)
1972
From Image-Analytical Photography
Gelatine silver print
20.4 x 26.9cm
Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Dresden
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)' 1972

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Self with Camera Turned (by. 0° 180°)
1972
From Image-Analytical Photography
Negative mounting, on cardboard
Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Dresden
© Timm Rautert/SKD
Foto: Herbert Boswank

 

 

‘I Started as a Scientist and Finished as an Artist’ | Interview with Timm Rautert

 

 

“I thought to myself: what is photography actually? What is it really?
I decided to develop a kind of grammar for photography:
What is light? What is time? What is space?
How does one tell great stories?
What means what?”

 

Timm Rautert’s Bildanalytische Photographie (Image-Analytical Photography), from 1968 to 1974, highlights the fundamental conditions of photographic work – from the photographic act and the development of photographic images under an enlarger in the lab to the various possibilities of presentation. A systematically elaborated ensemble of analogue black-and-white and colour photographs, of image-text compilations, and of manuals and photographic material provokes elementary questions about what photography means as a medium, what is expected from it, and how it has shaped the perception of the world. Scenic black-and-white photographs, passport photos, lab experiments, combinations of selected photo prints with their negatives are found here among Rautert’s 56 works, but also non-photographic material such as a grey card (used for measuring light mainly in photo studios), postcards and graphic manuals. Each work becomes an element of “analysis” showing the numerous potential scenarios of photography.

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) from 'Variation' 1967

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
from Variation
1967
C-Print
39.3 x 29.7cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography' at Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Installation view of the exhibition Timm Rautert and the Lives of Photography at Museum Folkwang, Essen showing work from the series Houses of the Invisible
Foto: Jens Nober

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Siemens AG, Munich' 1989

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Siemens AG, Munich
1989
From Houses of the Invisible
Digital projection, variable size
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH, Ottobrunn' 1989

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH, Ottobrunn
1989
From Houses of the Invisible
Digital projection, variable size
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Fraunhofer Institut für Mikroelektronik, Duisburg' 1986

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Fraunhofer Institut für Mikroelektronik, Duisburg
1986
From Gehäuse des Unsichtbaren (Houses of the Invisible)
Digital projection, variable size
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Rolf Deininghaus & Maxmillian Oesterling, Dortmund' 1994

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Rolf Deininghaus & Maxmillian Oesterling, Dortmund
1994
From A life of one’s own
Gelatine silver print
57 x 44.2cm
Courtesy the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941) 'Mona Lisa' 2010

 

Timm Rautert (German, b. 1941)
Mona Lisa
2010
Mixed Media Farbcollage, Offsetdruck, Tonpapier
80.5 x 63 cm
Courtesy of the Artist
© Timm Rautert

 

 

Museum Folkwang
Museumsplatz 1, 45128 Essen

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 8pm

Museum Folkwang website

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07
Mar
21

Exhibition: ‘Dawoud Bey: An American Project’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 7th November 2020 – 14th March 2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976' 1976

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man in a Bowler Hat, Harlem, NY, 1976
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Early in his career, Bey realised the importance of collaborating with his subjects to make a picture that would also serve as a dialogue between artist and subject: “I wanted to photograph this man in the bowler hat who was talking to a group of three friends and I had no idea how to interrupt their conversation in order to do so. This is when I first realised that it wasn’t just about the photograph; it was also about establishing a relationship out of which comes the photograph.”

 

 

I have always admired artists who have a social conscience, who investigate their subject matter with intelligence, empathy and insight.

I have always admired artist who examine their subject matter from different perspectives, turning the diamond of the world in light, to probe the moral and existential questions of existence.

I have always admired artists who develop their practice, never repeating for the sake of it the same constructs over and over – from a lack of imagination, to be successful, or to follow the money trail.

One such artist is Dawoud Bey.

From formal to informal portraiture, through conceptual “bodies”, Bey’s work visualises Black American history in the present moment, not by using the trope of reusing colonial photographs or memorabilia, but by presenting afresh the history of injustice enacted on a people and a culture, picturing their ongoing pain and disenfranchisement – in the here and now – through powerful and deeply political photographs. As the press release observes, Bey “has used his camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, race, place, and American history.”

“His art is grounded in the concept of citizenship, community and belonging, and especially in centring the experiences and histories of Black Americans at the forefront of our culture. His photographs actively work to provide space, voice and visibility for communities who have long been excluded from dominant narratives, especially in institutions like museums.”

From his early street photographs through the later large format Polaroid work and on to the conceptual series, Bey’s photographs have an engaging directness and candour to them. There are no photographic or subjective histrionics here, just immensely rich social documentary photographs that speak truth to subject. The subjects stare directly at the camera and reveal themselves with a poignant honesty.

The series that affected me most deeply was The Birmingham Project.

“On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four African American girls inside. Two Black boys were also killed later that same day in the violence that ensued. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event, rendering it painfully immediate. Bey made formal portraits of Birmingham children the same ages as the victims and adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived. He then paired the photographs in diptychs that both honour the community’s unthinkable loss and make tangible the continued impact of racism, violence, and trauma in the present.”

All the suffering, all the ongoing pain and misery of an unfair world was, to me, wrapped up in these unforgettable images. The violence against other human beings, against people of difference 50 years ago brought into the present. Thinking about what these people could have achieved in the world, what life they would have led, what they would have looked like. Photography transcending time and space, Bey intelligently bringing past into present future. As Bey says, “I wanted to give those young people a more tangible, less-mythic, palpable presence… I wanted to figure out how to show the passage of time and the tragic loss of possibility.”

In my imagination I try to construct this tragic loss of possibility through the agency of Bey’s photographs. They produce sadness, anger, and empathy in me. They bring the possibility of change to the forefront of my mind, and an acknowledgment that we can all do better, that the world must do better. And that experience is a powerful thing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan.

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

 

 

“I’ve come to believe that the best works tend to result not from the imposition of an idea on a situation, but to be responsive to what’s going on once you get there.”

“How can one visualise African American history and make that history resonate in the contemporary moment?”

.
Dawoud Bey

 

“Dreams are spaces that do not yet exist, except by escape through an unknown night.”

.
Anna Mirzayan

 

“I Never Had White Folks That Was Good To Me, EVER… We all worked jest like dogs and had about half enough to eat and got whupped for everything. Our days was a constant misery to us… My old Master was Dave Giles, the meanest man that ever lived. He didn’t have many slaves, my mammy, and me, and my sister, Uncle Bill, and Truman. He had owned my grandma but he give her a bad whupping and she never did git over it and died. We all done as much work as a dozen niggers – we knowed we had to. I seen old Master git mad at Truman and he buckled him down across a barrel and whupped him till he cut the blood out of him and then he rubbed salt and pepper in the raw places. It looked like Truman would die it hurt so bad. I know that don’t sound reasonable that a white man in a Christian community would do such a thing but you can’t realise how heartless he was. People didn’t know about it and we dassent tell for we knowed he’d kill us if we did. You must remember he owned us body and soul and they wasn’t anything we could do about it. Old Mistress and her three girls was mean to us too. One time me and my sister was spinning and old Mistress went to the well-house and she found a chicken snake and killed it. She brought it back and she throwed it around my sister’s neck. She jest laughed and laughed about it. She thought it was a big joke. Old Master stayed drunk all the time. I reckon that is the reason he was so fetched mean. My, how we hated him! He finally killed hisself drinking and I remember Old Mistress called us in to look at him in his coffin. We all marched by him slow like and I jest happened to look up and caught my sister’s eye and we both jest natchelly laughed – Why shouldn’t we? We was glad he was dead. It’s a good thing we had our laugh fer old Mistress took us out and whupped us with a broomstick. She didn’t make us sorry though.”

.
Annie Hawkins, formerly enslaved Afrikan who was sold from Georgia to Texas. This interview was done in Colbert, Oklahoma where her and her family moved after emancipation. Interview, conducted Spring, 1937 with a date stamp of August 16, 1937. Ms. Hawkins was 90 years old at the time of the interview and what she relates occurred in Texas. Source: Library of Congress

 

 

Since the beginning of his career in the 1970s, Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) has used his camera to create poignant meditations on visibility, race, place, and American history. From early street portraits made in Harlem to a recent series imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Bey explores photography’s potential to reveal communities and stories that have been underrepresented or even unseen. Both a form of personal expression and an act of political responsibility, Bey’s art insists on the power of photography to transform stereotypes, convene communities, and create dialogue.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project traces these through lines across the forty-five years of Bey’s career and his profound engagement with the young Black subject and African American history. The title intentionally inserts his photographs into a long-running conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera. The questions of who is considered an American photographer, or simply an American, and whose story is an American story are particularly urgent today. Bey’s work offers a potent corrective to the gaps in our picture of American society and history – and an emphatic reminder of the ongoing impact of those omissions.

 

 

Dawoud Bey on visualising history

Photographer Dawoud Bey’s work grapples with history. The artist asks, “How can one visualise African American history and make that history resonate in the contemporary moment?” Here he discusses several series, sited from Harlem to Birmingham to the Underground Railroad routes of northeastern Ohio, each of which works to make histories visible.

 

 

Dawoud Bey: An American Project – Part 1

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Boy in Front of the Loew's 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976' 1976

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Boy in Front of the Loew’s 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The Street

Bey’s landmark black-and-white 1975-78 series “Harlem, USA” documents portraits and street scenes with locals of the historic neighbourhood in New York. As a young man growing up in Queens, Bey was intrigued by his family’s history in Harlem, where his parents met and where he visited family and friends throughout childhood. The series premiered at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979, when Bey was just 26.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, 1977' 1977

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Harlem, NY, 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

In his hands, portraiture conveys contradiction – diffident joy, resistant sorrow – and tells the truth.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978' 1978

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Three Women at a Parade, Harlem, NY, 1978
1978
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“His art is grounded in the concept of citizenship, community and belonging, and especially in centring the experiences and histories of Black Americans at the forefront of our culture. His photographs actively work to provide space, voice and visibility for communities who have long been excluded from dominant narratives, especially in institutions like museums.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Boys at a Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985' 1985

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Boys at a Handball Court, Syracuse, NY, 1985
1985
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Throughout the 1980s, Bey continued to use a handheld 35 mm camera. This lightweight apparatus allowed him to respond intuitively and quickly to whatever captivated his eye, and his photographs during this time reflect his knowledge of contemporary street photography and his growing interest in capturing flux, movement, and the play of light and shadow. Although he continued to photograph people, he moved away from formal portraiture, instead endeavouring to capture individuals in more spontaneous ways.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985' 1985

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Clothes Drying on the Line, Syracuse, NY, 1985
1985
Gelatin silver print
20 x 24 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986' 1986

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Combing Hair, Syracuse, NY, 1986
1986
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

In 1985, during a residency at Light Work, a photography nonprofit affiliated with Syracuse University, New York, Bey photographed the city’s African American community. For him, it was both a political and aesthetic choice: “By then I felt that was part of my agenda: to make the African American subject a visible and resonant presence through my photographs […] it was as much about making a certain kind of photograph, and operating within a certain tradition, as it was a deliberate choice to foreground the black subject […] giving them a place … on the wall of galleries and museums.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman at Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

By the end of the 1980s, Bey had thoroughly digested the lessons of working spontaneously with a small camera and desired to work in a way that would allow him to engage more directly with his subjects. He began to make formal “street portraits” with a large-format (4 × 5-inch) camera and Polaroid Type 55 film, which produced both instant pictures that he gave to the sitters and negatives that he used to make large-scale, highly detailed prints that could be enlarged to create monumental portraits. Bey was increasingly ambivalent about the ethics of traditional documentary photography and sought more equitable, reciprocal relationships with his sitters. He began to approach the strangers he wished to portray openly and deliberately, giving, as he writes, “the black subjects [a space] to assert themselves and their presence in the world, with their gaze meeting the viewer’s on equal footing.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man Resting on an Exercise Bike, Amityville, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Girl Striking A Pose, Brooklyn, NY, 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Girl Striking A Pose, Brooklyn, NY, 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man with Buttons Brooklyn NY 1988' 1988

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man with Buttons Brooklyn NY 1988
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Woman Coming from the Store, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Woman Coming from the Store, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Young Man with His Hair Brush, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Young Man with His Hair Brush, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Alfonso, Washington, DC, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Alfonso, Washington, DC, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Woman Wearing Denim, Rochester, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Woman Wearing Denim, Rochester, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Man with a Towel, Brooklyn, NY 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Man with a Towel, Brooklyn, NY 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Poppy Brooklyn, NY, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Poppy, Brooklyn, NY, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Girl Holding a Hotdog and Gum, Brooklyn, NY, 1989' 1989

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Girl Holding a Hotdog and Gum, Brooklyn, NY, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990' 1990

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
A Couple in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, 1990
1990
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Few images of tenderness have such resounding power as this lush portrait of a young, stylish couple embracing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Note how perfectly their bodies fit together as he relaxes his shoulders, allowing her to easily wrap her arms around him protectively, declaring with the upward tilt of her chin and her direct gaze at us that they are together, united in love. Pictures as openly intimate as this one emerged from Bey’s deep and abiding interest in “wanting to describe the Black subject in a way that’s as complex as the experiences of anyone else.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Two Girls from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1990' 1990

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Two Girls from a Marching Band, Harlem, NY, 1990
1990
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery, and Rena Bransten Gallery
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

For more than four decades, renowned photographer Dawoud Bey has created powerful and tender photographs that portray underrepresented communities and explore African American history. From portraits in Harlem and classic street photography to nocturnal landscapes and large-scale studio portraits, his works combine an ethical imperative with an unparalleled mastery of his medium. The High Museum of Art celebrates his important contributions to photography as the exclusive Southeast venue for Dawoud Bey: An American Project, the artist’s first full career retrospective in 25 years.

Co-organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the exhibition features approximately 80 works that span the breadth of Bey’s career, from his earliest street portraits made in Harlem in the 1970s to his most recent series reimagining sites of the Underground Railroad (2017).

The High has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Bey, who was commissioned in 1996 for the Museum’s inaugural “Picturing the South” series, which asks noted photographers to turn their lens toward the American South. For his project, Bey collaborated with Atlanta high school students to create empathetic, larger-than-life portraits. Made with the monumental 20-by-24-inch Polaroid camera, these photographs explore the complexity of adolescence as a time of critical identity formation and expand the concept of portraiture. The High now holds more than 50 photographs by Bey, one of the most significant museum collections of his work.

“Bey’s portraits are remarkable for their keen sensitivity and for how they elicit and honour their subjects’ sense of self, which is partly an outcome of the artist’s collaborative practice,” remarked Sarah Kennel, the High’s Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography. “Given the museum’s long relationship with Bey and the strength of our holdings, we are thrilled to present this important retrospective. We look forward to sharing the artist’s photographs and his powerful and moving reflections on African American history and identity in their country with our visitors.”

Bey, born in 1953 in Queens, New York, began to develop an interest in photography as a teenager. He received his first camera as a gift from his godmother in 1968, and the next year, he saw the exhibition “Harlem on My Mind” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Widely criticised for its failure to include significant numbers of artworks by African Americans, the exhibition’s representation of Black subjects nonetheless made an impression on Bey and inspired him to develop his own documentary project about Harlem in 1975. Since that time, he has worked primarily in portraiture, making tender, psychologically rich and direct portrayals, often in collaboration with his subjects. More recently, he has explored seminal moments in African American history through both portraiture and landscape.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project includes work from the artist’s eight major series and is organised to reflect the development of Bey’s vision throughout his career and to highlight his enduring engagement with portraiture, place and history.

Press release from The High Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dawoud Bey: An American Project' at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dawoud Bey: An American Project at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Images courtesy of the artist and High Museum. Photos by Mike Jensen.

 

Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey
Photo: Sean Kelly Gallery

 

 

About Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey was born in Queens, New York, and began his career as a photographer in 1975 with a series of photographs, Harlem, USA, that were later exhibited in his first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979.

Since then his work has been featured in exhibitions at numerous institutions worldwide, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Brooklyn Museum; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Fogg Museum, Harvard University; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among many others.

His photographs are represented in collections worldwide, and his critical writings on photography have appeared in numerous publications and exhibition catalogues. Bey received the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 2017 and is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University and is currently Professor of Art and a Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Gerard, Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL, 2003' 2003

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Gerard, Edgewater High School, Orlando, FL, 2003
2003
Inkjet print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Behind his Class Pictures series:

“It was a sort of snapshot of America through its young people at that particular moment. I started working in Chicago, then to New York, California and Florida. I wanted it to be geographically representative of the country. I’ve always been acutely aware that photographs tell you a lot less than what they do tell you. There’s certain things you would never know just from looking at them. You wouldn’t know from a portrait if someone is an only child, whether they have siblings, who their parents are. There’s a lot of information outside of a photograph. For Class Pictures, I thought that was important to bring that information into the construct of work and to create a space of self-representation. The young people who I photographed could give a sense of who they were.”

Summer Evans. “Photographer Dawoud Bey Shines A Light On America’s Underrepresented Communities,” on the WABE website Nov 18, 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Usha, Gateway High School, San Francisco, CA, 2006' 2006

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Usha, Gateway High School, San Francisco, CA, 2006
2006
Inkjet print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Bey has long understood that the act of representation – as well as the corollary act of being seen – is both powerful and deeply political. In this series, he once again turned his attention to teenagers, a population he felt was underrepresented and misjudged, seen either as “socially problematic or as engines for a certain consumerism.” Class Pictures (2001-2006) originated during a residency at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, where Bey began working with local high school students. He later expanded it to capture a geographically and socioeconomically diverse slice of American adolescence.

Working in empty classrooms between class periods, Bey made formal colour portraits of teens that attend, carefully and tenderly, to their gestures and expressions. He also invited them to write brief autobiographical statements, giving his subjects visibility as well as voice. Class Pictures can also be understood as a play on words, for in several cases, Bey chose to photograph students at elite private schools as well as teens from nearby, poorer neighbourhoods, bringing together these subjects in a single space.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Don Sledge and Moses Austin' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Don Sledge and Moses Austin
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Inkjet prints
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan dynamited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, murdering four African American girls inside. Two Black boys were also killed later that same day in the violence that ensued. Bey’s series The Birmingham Project commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of this horrific event, rendering it painfully immediate. Bey made formal portraits of Birmingham children the same ages as the victims and adults fifty years older – the ages the victims would have been had they lived. He then paired the photographs in diptychs that both honour the community’s unthinkable loss and make tangible the continued impact of racism, violence, and trauma in the present.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Mary Parker and Caela Cowan' 2012

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Mary Parker and Caela Cowan
2012
From The Birmingham Project
Inkjet prints
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“Together the sitters for The Birmingham Project are simultaneously surrogates, mourners, witnesses, community, and agents of their own narratives. These subjects, then are not symbols but flesh and bone.”

 

In 2012, the project was created as a commission from the Birmingham Museum of Art. It memorialises the victims of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four African-American girls were killed in the bombing, and two boys were later killed in riots that followed.

“I decided to make portraits of young African-Americans in Birmingham who were the exact same ages as those six young people who had been killed that day. I wanted to give those young people a more tangible, less-mythic, palpable presence.” Bey continues, “It still felt somewhat complete. I wanted to figure out how to show the passage of time and the tragic loss of possibility. Then, I started thinking about making portraits of African-Americans in Birmingham who were the ages of the six young people would have been their age today. I begun pairing those portraits with those young people, which embodied 50 years.”

Summer Evans. “Photographer Dawoud Bey Shines A Light On America’s Underrepresented Communities,” on the WABE website Nov 18, 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Night Coming Tenderly, Black

Dawoud Bey’s large-scale photographs dive into art and literary history while trying to re-create the experience of slaves fleeing on the Underground Railroad.

“I consider myself to be making photographs both in conversation with the history of photography and also the history of Black representation within photography. I wanted to use what I learned early on from looking at photographs by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Walker Evans and Mike Disfarmer – along with what I learned from Roy DeCarava, who was African American – and apply all of that to my own African American subjects as I began to build my vocabulary of picture-making. Because I’m African American myself, and because so few representations of African Americans are made from inside that experience, I set out to make that my space, to make work that operated at the level of those other photographs but with Black subjects, since those were the people I knew best. I also wanted to add something to the history of Black expressive culture. …

Night Coming Tenderly, Black continues my interest in visualising African American history by visualising the past in the contemporary moment. It takes as its conceptual touchstones the photographs of DeCarava, which are about the Black subject and often printed very darkly, some almost black. The blackness of his prints is a very beautiful and materially lush blackness. And the Black subjects inhabit this wonderful material darkness in a way that is not foreboding but is beautiful.” ~ Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey. ‘Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)’ 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The photographs in this series are some of the most sensual and layered. These are sights that are at first confining then liberating when you understand them through the lens of history.

In their grandeur and mystery, they transform houses masked in darkness, bodies of water, and fields into an emblematic hope. A pristine fencepost and a homestead visible through the haze of the darkness; a wetland glistening in nightfall; a jungle thick with small trees; an image of Lake Erie, with the expansive sky and horizon forewarning the freedom that lies beyond.

 

The Underground Railroad

Night Coming Tenderly, Black contains 25 large-scale images of homesteads with wooded or grassy grounds that are believed to have formed the part of the said Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad is an actual invisible web of routes and safe houses believed to have made the final way station for more than 100,000 fugitive slaves escaping to Canada. But according to the artist himself, some of the images may be of actual Underground Railroad.

 

The meaning of the title

This series is also a tribute to poet Langston Hughes (1901-1967) and photographer Roy DeCarava (1919-2009), who each played significant roles in addressing the experience of African Americans by representing what DeCarava described as a world shaped by blackness. Bey was inspired by DeCarava’s incredible ability to print a spectrum of dark hues, making him picture landscapes of twilight uncertainty.

On the other hand, Hughes Langston wrote a poem titled Dream Variations in 1926, in which he yearned for a time when the black American worker, extremely tired by the daily hustle of hard labor and prejudice, might be truly free. However, this freedom, he imagined, would not be obtained in the glare of daylight, but instead under the ominous, protective cover of the night.

Upending a dominant literary conceit, blackness, rather than whiteness, functioned as an allegory for hope and transcendence. A night coming tenderly, black like me, (Hughes poem), helped the fight for racial equality and justice. The metaphor in the poem is central to Dawoud Bey’s series Night Coming Tenderly, Black.

 

Influenced by Roy DeCarava

Bey has never stopped waxing lyrical on the influence of the two figures that inspired his artistic career, especially Roy DeCarava, who was one of the most prominent photographers of his generation. The images he took were visually rich and redolent, and they pushed the aesthetic limits of photography…

Dawoud Bey noted that DeCarava’s images were characteristically printed in dark and rich colour range. In this context, the dark prints served as a symbol for black subjects and experience. Bey says:

“DeCarava used blackness as an affirmative value, as a kind of beautiful blackness through which his subjects both moved and emerged. His work was formative to my own thinking early on, and these dark landscapes are a kind of material conversation with his work, using the darkness of the landscape and the photographic print as an evocative space of blackness through which the unseen and imaginary black fugitive subject is moving.” …

The artist printed these images in a large size to encase the viewer and deliberately dark to reveal his subject matter: He took the photos of the sites in and near Cleveland associated with the Underground Railroad that guided the slaves to liberation.

Anonymous. “Dawoud Bey’s somber ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ project,” on the Public Delivery website  January 30, 2021 website [Online] Cited 02/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #11 (Bent Branches)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #11 (Bent Branches)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #12 (The Marsh)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #12 (The Marsh)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“I ranged far and wideout there since there were expansive rural landscapes that looked as they might have in the 18th and 19th centuries. The landscape and the history there have not been built over…

Some of the photographs, to the extent that we know, are actual Underground Railroad sites, and the majority of them are placed in the landscape that I identified in proximity to some of those locations, where I could make work that suggested the movement of fugitive slaves through the landscape…

I wanted the photographs to almost involuntarily pull you back to the experience of the landscape through which those fugitive black bodies were moving in the 19th century to escape slavery. So I had to learn, for the first time, how to make photographs in the kind of space…

It is a tender one, through which one moves. That is the space I imagined the fugitive black subjects moving through as they sought their self-liberation, moving through the dark landscape of America and Ohio toward freedom under cover of a munificent and blessed blackness.” ~ Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown's Tannery)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown’s Tannery)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #17 (Forest)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #17 (Forest)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Bey’s most recent work imagines the flight of enslaved Black Americans along the leg of the Underground Railroad that operated in Ohio – the last fifty or so miles before they reached the vast expanse of Lake Erie, on the other side of which lay Canada, and freedom.

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #19 (Creek and Trees)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #19 (Creek and Trees)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

Behind his Night Coming Tenderly, Black series:

“The photographs are meant to imagine or reimagine the path of self-liberation in Northeastern Ohio along what is called the ‘Underground Railroad’. Formerly slaved Africans, and then African-Americans moved towards freedom by way of Lake Eerie in Ohio. I began to think about the fugitive moving through this tender space of blackness.”

Anonymous. “Dawoud Bey’s somber ‘Night Coming Tenderly, Black’ project,” on the Public Delivery website  January 30, 2021 website [Online] Cited 02/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #20 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse I)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #20 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse I)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

The gelatin silver prints in Night Coming Tenderly, Black are moody and dim, overlaid with a sheen that is almost gritty in texture thanks to the coated paper they are printed on. The trees, fences, lakes, and buildings in the photos are initially obscured, purposefully made more difficult to see through Bey’s printing methods (which take advantage of the light sensitivity of silver particles as well as their ability to be chemically “toned” through the introduction of other substances). These images resist both reproduction and easy interpretation. That one also has to wait for one’s eyes to adjust to the darkness, before slowly traveling over the terrain of each picture, reminds the viewer that the formerly enslaved people who traversed these sites often did so under cover of darkness. Darkness here is multivalent: its obscuring power, which prevents viewers from immediately processing the whole of Bey’s photographs, aided formerly enslaved people in their escape. The Underground Railroad, as the artist has noted, occupies a semi-mythological place in American history, and some of the places Bey photographs are only cannot be confirmed to have been stops on the Railroad. Like the experience of slavery, these places are unrepresentable. They are half-shrouded locales that evade being captured on a map or in a photo.

Though these photographs are dark, they are shot in the daylight and processed in such a way as to make them initially appear to be taken at night. They bring to mind Hiroshi Sugimoto’s eerily beautiful “Seascapes” series (1980 – ongoing), which are shot at night, the film exposed for different lengths of time in order to reveal how light plays even after dark. Yet there is no analogous method for bringing night to the day. Bey may make his photos dark, but this is achieved through processing and glazing the finish image, which occurs after the initial act of taking the photograph. How can we account for Bey’s artificial night?

The philosopher François Laruelle’s 2011 book The Concept of Non-Photography suggests one answer to this question. In essence, Laruelle starts with the premise that works of art cannot and do not represent anything, be it objects, thoughts, concepts, or movements. He posits art as an entirely self-sufficient engagement with the world (which he calls the Real), independent even of viewer and creator. Art is a machine; the medium, processes, and even the artist are its materials. What art “shows,” Laurelle argues, is only the world according to itself – which he terms the world-in-painting, the world-in-photo, and so on. He turns to photography in part because of its connection to modern scientific advancement and its attempts literally to illuminate the world “objectively.” Non-photography aims to re-conceptualise the photographic flash, which Laruelle associates with the flash of logos or reason, as a form of potential insurrection against its traditional association with illumination, and against photography’s constant reproduction of the asymmetrical dichotomy between light and dark.

Anna Mirzayan. “”Artificial night”: on Dawoud Bey’s America,” on the Art Agenda website December 15 2020 [Online] Cited 01/03/2021

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #23 (Near Lake Erie)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #23 (Near Lake Erie)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

“I was thinking about this narrative of the Black subject — the unseen Black subject, in this case — a fugitive slave moving through the darkness of night,” Bey explains. “And that darkness of night being the kind of Black space that would lead to liberation.”

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)' 2017

 

Dawoud Bey (American, b. 1953)
Untitled #25 (Lake Erie and Sky)
2017
From the series Night Coming Tenderly, Black
Gelatin silver print
© Dawoud Bey

 

 

As a covert network of safe houses and churches, the sites of the Underground Railroad were by necessity secret, and Bey’s landscapes suggest, rather than document, the experience. Photographed by day but printed in shades of grey and black so deep they resemble nocturnes, the sensuous prints conjure a darkness at once ominous and lush. The series title, which is drawn from the last couplet of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variations” (1926), suggests a black night that envelops the fugitives in a darkness that serves as a protective embrace: “Night coming tenderly / Black like me.”

 

 

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09
Aug
19

Review: ‘Why Take Pictures?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 11th August 2019

Artists: Alan Constable, Lyndal Irons, Glenn Sloggett, Michelle Tran, David Wadelton
Curator: Madé Spencer-Castle

 

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Backstage before Parade of Champions' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons (Australian)
Backstage before Parade of Champions
2015
From the series Physie
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Picturing themselves

This is another strong exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, principally due to the integrity of the work and not the investigation of the theme for the exhibition, why take pictures?

I have always loved Alan Constable’s tactile cameras every since I first saw them. Constable is legally blind. He holds photographs of old cameras up to his eyes, a couple of inches away, and scans the images, committing them to memory. He then creates these most wonderful evocations of a seeing machine, almost as though he is transferring his in/sight into these in/operable, beautifully glazed structures. He twists two dimensional, photographic reality into these lumpy, misshapen sculptures, evocations of his memory and imagination. I have three of these cameras in my own collection. I treasure them.

Glen Sloggett’s works is, well… Glen Slogett’s work. What I mean by the statement is that you can always recognise his photographs through his signature as an artist. There is a delicious irony and dark humour present in his work… the cat / dead. The rose / a brothel. The scree of concrete / solidified. Slogett’s insightfulness into our existential condition is evidenced through his unique view of the world, pictured in thought provoking photographs. Nothing is quite as it seems. He has a fantastic eye and aesthetic. I remember the image Cheaper and Deeper (1996) from a book I saw many years ago and it so resonated with me. Just the sensibility of looking at these spaces and contexts. He pokes around in the strangeness of the world and reflects what he sees back to us: life hidden in plain sight, revealed in all its intricacies, in all its mundanity and glory. I really like his work.

Another artist I have a great affection for is David Wadelton. Again, the signature of his work is striking. You know it’s a Wadelton image. What I admire about his work is the persistence of his vision. His intellectual vision, his photographic vision. He sets out on a project and he puts his whole mind and soul into the work, documenting the shifting and changing spaces and places of Melbourne’s suburbs since 1975. What a great eye! The black and white objective newsagents, all Becher frontality, with this seeming emotional detachment when in fact each image is so emotionally charged – through the signage, and through the knowledge that these newsagents are disappearing from our city landscape. And then the colour, some might say kitsch, Suburban Baroque living rooms which picture “mid-century suburban interiors of the formerly working-class northern areas that were the destination of choice for many post-war immigrants from Europe.” Here a different technique, photographed at an angle, off to one side, from above, sometimes central, letting the spaces and colours speak for themselves. Now vanishing, these habitats redolent with pathos and longing for the motherland.

And then Lyndal Irons, an artist whose work I have never seen before. Again, beautifully composed images, the use of a limited colour palette and rouge highlights in Grooming Routine being particularly effective. There is something unnerving about the entire scenario – the fake tans, the too bright lipstick, the fervent admiration, the ecstatic posing… the winners having their photograph taken with their trophies while off to the side others watch (enviously?); the lines of young competitors and a photograph with the instructions: ‘Ideas For Photo Poses’ and ‘Make Sure The Photographer Can See your Number’. The whole charade reminds me of the hideous child beauty pageants in the good ol’ US of A. I would have liked to have seen more photographs from this body of work.

Where the exhibition fails is in its investigation into the theme, why take pictures? The exhibition does not interrogate with any rigour, in fact does not really scratch the surface of why we humans are so obsessed with taking photographs. Through the few lines of text that accompanies the exhibition (below), it offers a few titbits as way of remediation, a few possible ideas to cling to so as to answer the question: perhaps desire, perhaps obsession, curiosity, nostalgia and information. It then throws the photographic work of these artists at us as an answer, but what we are actually looking at is just representation, the outcome of the desire to picture, not an examination of the act itself. What the exhibition really needed was a thoroughly insightful text that examined our impulse to take pictures.

Here is a controversial statement. Every photograph is a self-portrait. What do I mean by this?

When we think back to the cave paintings of the Neolithic period, human beings picture the world around them by painting in colour on the rock that is earth. They picture themselves in that scene by painting what they know of the world around them. Through their imagination and creativity they place themselves in the scene – physically as hunters in the scene, and metaphorically through their relationship to the animals that they know and the objects that they carve, pictured on the cave walls. Theirs is a conscious decision to picture themselves as an infinite presence.

The same with photographs. Every time we press the shutter of a camera, it is a conscious decision to picture our relationship with the world. Through our will (to power), though our imagination and our desire, we place ourselves metaphorically (and physically when actually appear in the photograph) in every photograph. We stand behind the camera but imagine ourselves in that environment, have placed ourselves there to take the photograph. Every photograph is a self-portrait, one that establishes our relationship to the world, our identity, our values, who we are and how we react in each and every context.

These photographs are not memories at the time of their taking, although they make be taken under an impulse to memorialise. They will become memories, as when looking at old photo albums. They are not simply documents either, a recording of this time and place, because there is always the personal, the subjective relationship to the objective. Look at David Wadelton’s photographs of living rooms. Why was he present in all of these spaces? Just to observe, to document, to capture? No… he was their, to imagine, to create, to place himself at the scene, in the scene. Human beings make conscious choices to take photographs for all different kinds of reasons. But the one reason that is never mentioned is that, in reality, they are always picturing themselves.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Why Make Pictures? at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photographs: J. Forsyth

 

 

Why Take Pictures? returns to one of the fundamental questions in photography, to consider our desire-drive and obsession with taking photographs, the apparatus of the camera and diverse approaches of looking through, or at, the lens. Featuring work by Alan Constable (VIC), Michelle Tran (VIC), Lyndal Irons (NSW), Glenn Sloggett (VIC) and David Wadelton (VIC), Why Take Pictures? considers the divergent motivations and compulsions as to why we take images in the first place.

We all take pictures, leaving every one of us with an extensive collection of images, historically as physical artefacts, but now stored within our digital devices. These collections become vessels of information and nostalgia, desire and curiosity. Why Takes Pictures? interrogates how and why we build up these storehouses of images, as considered through the lens of five exceptional artists.

Traversing documentary, commercial, political and highly personal modes, Why Take Pictures? presents a broad cross-section of different approaches to making photographs. Whether documenting social environments in states of change, examining the discarded or overlooked, prying at the strange behaviour of humans; or through examining the obsession with the camera itself, the artists in Why Take Pictures? are driven to continue to take photographs, like an itch that can’t be scratched.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography 21/09/2019

 

Biographies

Alan Constable is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice spans drawing, painting and ceramics. His ceramic sculptures, which he began developing in 2007, reflects his life-long fascination with old cameras, which started at the age of eight when he would make replicas from cardboard cereal boxes. Constable’s finger impressions can be seen clearly on the clay surface, leaving the mark of the maker as a lasting imprint. Constable has been a regular studio artist at Arts Project Australia since 1991. Alongside selection in group exhibitions throughout Australia (including the Museum of Old and New Art in 2017), Constable has presented in a number of solo exhibitions including Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane; Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; South Willard (curated by Ricky Swallow), Los Angeles; Stills Gallery, Sydney; and Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne. Alan Constable is represented by Arts Projects Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney; and DUTTON, New York.

Hand-built from slabs of clay, Alan Constable’s charing sculptural cameras and optical devices … evoke and absolute obsession with the photographic apparatus. Legally blind, Constable creates his work through appropriating photographs from old books and magazines, holding the images close to his face and committing them to memory. Through recall, Constable reinterprets these images, transforming them from high-precision consumer objects, to tactile sculptures imbued with vitality, personality and warmth. Elegantly clunky, anthropomorphic and on the edge of the surreal, Constable’s compelling works all have ‘fictional’ apertures or viewfinders that can be physically seen through. Asking us to consider the functionality of vision, Constable’s ceramics have a human touch and sensibility that connects us directly to the devices we often consider merely utilitarian.

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2018

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled
2018
Earthenware and glaze
9 x 19 x 8cm
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York
Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia
Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2019

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled
2019
Earthenware and glaze
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York
Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia
Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Alan Constable. 'Not titled' 2019

 

Alan Constable (Australian, b. 1956)
Not titled
2018
Earthenware and glaze
Courtesy of the artist
Alan Constable is represented by Arts Project Australia, Melbourne; Darren Knight, Sydney; Dutton, New York
Image copyright the artist, courtesy Arts Projects Australia
Photo: Andrew Barcham

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Mermaid Beach' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons (Australian)
Mermaid Beach
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Lyndal Irons is a Sydney-based photographer and writer focused on local reportage, who is interested in seeking out parts of Australian society that are familiar and accessible, yet not often closely encountered. By recording social histories and building legacies using photographs and words, her work encourages curiosity and a deeper connection to daily life. Irons has presented solo exhibitions at the State Library of New South Wales (2015), the Australian Centre for Photography (2014), and Elizabeth Street Gallery (2014). Lyndal has been a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize (2017), the Bowness Prize (2015) and the Olive Cotton Award for Portraiture (2015). Lyndal Irons’ Physie series documents one of Australia’s oldest sporting institutions: physical culture (physie) and calisthenics.

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Fans' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons (Australian)
Fans
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Grooming Routine' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons (Australian)
Grooming Routine
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Junior National Repecharge' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons (Australian)
Junior National Repecharge
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Lyndal Irons. 'Ideas for Photo Poses' 2015

 

Lyndal Irons (Australian)
Ideas for Photo Poses
2015
From the series Physie
Archival inkjet print
37 x 55cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Pawn shop' 2018

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australian, b. 1964)
Pawn shop
2018
C-type print
120 x 100cm
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Glenn Sloggett has been exhibiting since the mid-90s. He won the prestigious Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award in 2008, and the inaugural John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship for an Emerging Artist in 2001. He has held numerous solo exhibitions, including Cheaper and Deeper, a national touring show organised by the Australian Centre for Photography (2007). Sloggett’s work was featured on the ABC program The Art Life, and has been included in significant survey exhibitions of Australian art, including Australian Vernacular Photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2014); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2013-2014); internationally touring Photographica Australis (2002–2004); and nationally touring New Australiana, Australian Centre for Photography (2001). His work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Victoria and Monash Gallery of Art.

Interested in failure as a mechanism, Glenn Sloggett’s series of medium format photograph made with his twin-lens Rolleiflex could almost have been taken on a single walk around the neighbourhood on a strange, sunlit day. Wryly infused with dark humour and intermittent text punctuations such as “ICE IS A BAD THING” and “DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN IN CARS”, Sloggett ask us to look beneath the surface of his documentary-style images. Why are people leaving their children in their cars? What precarious situation has driven someone to graffiti “is a bad thing” on this sign?

Sloggett’s work is at times bleak, and at others sublime. Looking closely, a cat that appears to be peacefully sunbaking has sunken eyes, an innocuous rose bush was taken in a brothel carpark. dumped concrete on the sidewalk looks like it has been churned up from a Friday night on the town.

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Industrial dumping' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australian, b. 1964)
Industrial dumping
2019
C-type print
120 x 100cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Slogget. 'Dead cat' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australian, b. 1964)
Dead cat
2019
C-type print
120 x 100cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Glenn Sloggett. 'Brothel car park' 2019

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australian, b. 1964)
Brothel car park
2019
C-type print
120 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist

 

Michelle Tran. 'Sachi' 2019

 

Michelle Tran (Australian, b. 1985)
Sachi
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

 

Michelle Tran is a fashion and portrait photographer, born and raised in Melbourne by Vietnamese refugee parents. She began her photographic studies at the Victorian College of the Arts with an exploration into cultural identity through portraiture. Commercially, she has applied her interest in people to fashion, creating an approach that is both delicate and candid. Making a connection with her subjects, Michelle puts people at ease in front of the camera. Her portfolio includes portraits of celebrities such as Kendrick Lamar and Christian Louboutin, while her fashion and advertising work spans across brands including Adidas, MECCA, Amazon, Moroccan Oil, L’Oréal and Myer. Michelle lives in Melbourne with her partner, daughter and two rabbits. Michelle Tran is represented by Hart & Co., Melbourne.

 

Michelle Tran. 'Madison Shauna' 2019

 

Michelle Tran (Australian, b. 1985)
Madison Shauna
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

Michelle Tran. 'Sachi In Shadow' 2019

 

Michelle Tran (Australian, b. 1985)
Sachi In Shadow
2019
Archival inkjet print
79 x 54 cm
Courtesy the artist and Hart & Co., Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Why Make Pictures?' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Why Make Pictures? at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the work of David Wadelton and his series Living Rooms (top), Milk Bars (middle) and Small business (bottom)

 

 

David Wadelton is a Melbourne-based painter and photographer who has documented the changing face of Melbourne’s Northern suburbs since 1975. Wadelton has held over 20 solo exhibitions, including three career surveys: Pictorial Knowledge, Geelong Art Gallery (1998); Icons Of Suburbia, McClelland Gallery, Langwarrin (2011) and The Northcote Hysterical Society, Bundoora Homestead Gallery (2015). Wadelton’s work has been included in Vision In Disbelief, 4th Biennale of Sydney (1982); Australian Culture Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2004); Far-Famed City of Melbourne, Ian Potter Museum of Art (2013); Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria (2014); Crossing paths with Vivian Maier, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2014); The Documentary Take, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2016); Romancing the Skull, Ballarat Art Gallery (2017) and Beyond boundaries – Discoveries in contemporary photography, Aperture Gallery, New York (2019).

 

David Wadelton. 'Coburg' 2018

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Coburg
2018
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017–2019

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Reservoir
2017-2019
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Pascoe Vale South' 2018

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Pascoe Vale South
2018
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Reservoir
2017
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Reservoir' 2017

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Reservoir
2017
From the series Living Rooms
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn' 2018

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
2018
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Broadway, Reservoir' 2019

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Broadway, Reservoir
2019
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

David Wadelton. 'Watsonia Road Watsonia' 2016

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Watsonia Road, Watsonia
2016
From the series Newsagents
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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04
Aug
19

Exhibition: ‘Shea Kirk: Vantages’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15 June - 11 August 2019

 

Shea Kirk. 'Dale Robertson (left and right view)' 2019

 

Shea Kirk (Australian)
Dale Robertson (left and right view)
2019
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Another impressive exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, this time by artist Shea Kirk in their first solo exhibition.

Photographed in a home-studio with plain backdrops (which remind me of photo-booth images and the white backgrounds of Richard Avedon) on dual large format cameras, I love the split screen vision of these stereoscopic portraits. The schism between left and right, as when you close and open your left and right eye to see something from a different point of view. I couldn’t get the stereoscopic viewer provided to work for me when looking through it… which is probably a good thing because I like the split between the images, those different vantage points, instead of the image being combined into a statuesque edifice.

(The definition of “vantage” is a point of view or position that is more superior or advantageous than another. Personally I don’t think any point of view, in terms of identity construction, should be superior to another.)

Where I think the exhibition is less successful is in the pose of some of the subjects. The press release states that the subjects “stare at us with a disarming self-awareness … presenting as though conscious of their own vulnerabilities – they are aware of what it means to represent themselves”, but all to often I get no sense of who these people really are, what their personality is, in their stillness and statuesqueness, in the time freeze snap of the camera shutter.

I am no great fan of dead pan photography, and here the subjects too often stare off into the distance, supposedly immersed in their own reverie, allowing the viewers eye to rove over their outer appearance, as though the edifice tells us all about who they are. This works well in the image of the nude women covered in tattoos, a magnificent image of strength and beauty but the technique falls flat in the image of Christiane D’Arc (2018, below) for example. I just don’t buy this vacant stare, or to put it another way, photography as mere representation.

The sitter might be aware of their own vulnerabilities and aware of what it means to represent themselves, but it’s not they who are engaged in deciphering the enigma. The best images give you more, for example the photographs of Dale Robertson (2019, above). Here, in the right hand side image, the subject stares straight at the camera engaging me directly, while the mystery of this human being is enhanced by the left hand portrait where he is staring away. What is he thinking, feeling? I get it, it works.

This is a fantastic exhibition for a first solo effort. What is going to be really interesting is to see how Kirk develops this work further. What direction will the work take, which pathways will the artist uncover on their journey of discovery. I would suggest reading the Robert Johnson books He, She and We if not already read. For any artist, these are exciting times!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Shea Kirk: Vantages' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Shea Kirk: Vantages' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Shea Kirk: Vantages' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Shea Kirk: Vantages' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Shea Kirk: Vantages' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Shea Kirk: Vantages at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photographs: J. Forsyth

 

 

Vantages is an ongoing series of stereoscopic portraits by Melbourne-based artist Shea Kirk. Working with dual large-format cameras to simultaneously capture two images from different perspectives, Kirk invites subjects to be photographed in his humble home-studio. Each portrait is exposed onto black and white sheet film through a slow and methodical process, enabling an intimate exchange that highlights the agency between photographer and subject. When viewed through a stereoscope, these dual-portraits can be seen three-dimensionally, rendering the subject hauntingly statuesque.

Often in states of undress and portrayed standing or sitting in front of simple backdrops, the subjects in Vantages stare at us with a disarming self-awareness, perhaps only possible in the selfie-obsessed, smart-phone age. Subjects present as though conscious of their own vulnerabilities – they are aware of what it means to represent themselves – and through the very nature of this dual imaging process, they resist being reduced to a single vantage point.

Vantages references a rich history of photographic portraiture, with a freshness that is distinctly contemporary. Vantages considers the significance of portraiture now, through Kirk’s powerfully contemplative, and beautifully realised dual images.

 

Biography

Shea Kirk is a Melbourne-based visual artist working with traditional photographic methods and techniques. Shea Kirk has been a finalist in the Olive Cotton Award (2019); National Photographic Portrait Prize (2019) and the Head On Portrait Prize (2018), and has participated in a number of group exhibitions across Victoria.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography 21/09/2019

 

Shea Kirk. 'Mohini Hillyer (left and right view)' 2017

 

Shea Kirk (Australian)
Mohini Hillyer (left and right view)
2017
Courtesy the artist

 

Shea Kirk. 'Christiane D'Arc (left and right view)' 2018

 

Shea Kirk (Australian)
Christiane D’Arc (left and right view)
2018
Courtesy the artist

 

Shea Kirk. 'Jacob Coppedge (left and right view)' 2019

 

Shea Kirk (Australian)
Jacob Coppedge (left and right view)
2019
Courtesy the artist

 

Shea Kirk. 'Paul Stillen (left and right view)' 2019

 

Shea Kirk (Australian)
Paul Stillen (left and right view)
2019
Courtesy the artist

 

Shea Kirk. 'Joao Quintao Marcolla (left and right view)' 2019

 

Shea Kirk (Australian)
Joao Quintao Marcolla (left and right view)
2019
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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01
Aug
19

Exhibition: ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 11th August 2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #5' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #5
2017-2019

 

 

This is the first posting on three strong exhibitions at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne… and my pick of the bunch.

I admire an artist who can tell a moving personal story using historic images. An artist who has the imagination, does the research, and works on the process to fulfil the conceptualisation of an idea… to tell that personal story in strong, emotive images that really engage the viewer. Sophie Gabrielle is one such artist.

Gabrielle moves these historic images into the present, and into contemporary relevance, through clear insight into the condition of their becoming. What I mean by that is, she knows her subject matter and she knows where she wants to go with the work. So much contemporary photography is so full of concept that the images are crap. They have no feeling, they have no emotion. Will they engage me a week down the track, or a month, or a year? Will they speak to me, will they reveal themselves to me over and over again? Probably not.

In these photographs Gabrielle combines sci-fi, Village of the Dammed photographs and images of botanicals (which are either medicinal or poisonous, a reflection of the alternate medicinal methods attributed to fighting cancer) with “traces” of her DNA, then re-photographing the image many times, and then degrading the emulsion of the negative in polluted water. In doing so, she pictures worlds in which people think that they are doing the right thing, only to later find that their world has been corrupted and has lost its moral certainty. In this case, Soviet era children blasted with ultraviolet light to cure vitamin D deficiency, or to rid them of freckles, inevitably leading to cancer down the track. The process is called heliotherapy, an archaic treatment for tuberculosis that involved UV light so the kids would produce vitamin D that would fight the bacteria. But as we now know in Australia, solarium and tanning beds have been banned because they significantly increase your risk of cancer.

And why would you want to cure someone of having freckles? Or to extrapolate further, for being left handed, or being gay, or having autism. To make them wear a yellow star or a pink triangle? According to the dictionary, a cure is a method or course of remedial treatment, as for disease. A means of correcting or relieving anything that is troublesome or detrimental. Troublesome or detrimental… or different!

Gabrielle describes Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat as “an exploration into the world of the unseen through optics, chemical interactions, and the investigative processes used to photograph something invisible to the naked eye.” Cancer. The Big C. Death. Chemotherapy. Radiation treatment. Leukemia. Melanoma. On and on. Invisible but ever. Present. Here. Now. And then she shows us photographs that seek to dissolve, to dis-solve what is present – freckles, DNA, emulsion, reality – into light. To find an answer to, explanation for, or means of effectively dealing with (a problem or mystery). I’ll let you guess what that mystery might be.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photographs: J. Forsyth

 

 

Through channelling her interest in psychology, science and perception, Sophie Gabrielle creates poetically arresting images that reflect the fragility of the human body, psyche and experience. Combining archival imagery from MRI scans, brain synaptic structures and science experiments from the 1930s and 1940s, Gabrielle creates haunting narratives that interweave the personal and clinical.

Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat is a dreamy and deeply personal exploration of the artists’ experiences with cancer, presenting medicinal botanicals and photographic portraits, alongside archival images from obscure medical research catalogues. Photographed through plates of glass to catch minute particles of her own skin – images are overlaid with the artists’ own DNA – creating interwoven, abstract self-portraits.

Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat is an exploration drawn from my experiences with cancer through optics and chemical interactions, and an investigative process to photograph that which is generally invisible to the naked eye.

This project started as a coping mechanism to address the impact cancer has had on my life over the past few years, after all the men in my family were diagnosed with stage four cancer. These works give a sense of the unsettled, fragile, daunting and overwhelming aspects that have culminated during this time in my life.”

~ Sophie Gabrielle, 2019

 

Biography

Sophie Gabrielle is a Melbourne based artist and curator working between analogue and digital photographic practices. Graduating from Photography Studies College in 2015, her work has been exhibited in Australia, Malaysia, New York, UK and Amsterdam. In 2018, Gabrielle was the first Australian chosen as a finalist for Foam Talent, Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam. In 2016, Gabrielle was a finalist for the Lensculture Emerging Talent Award.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography 21/09/2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #7' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #7
2017-2019

 

 

After discovering a number of her close family members were ill with the disease, she searched through physical and digital scientific archives connected to the various strains associated with each loved one. “I was interested in archives that were connected to my family’s own story of diagnosis, treatment, recovery and death,” she explains. The resulting images make up her body of work Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat, which Gabrielle describes as “an exploration into the world of the unseen through optics, chemical interactions, and the investigative processes used to photograph something invisible to the naked eye.”

As Gabrielle worked through the archives, she also worked through her own personal trauma and confusion. “It was an all-consuming process, both physically and emotionally. The images I was most drawn to ran parallel to the events happening in the lives of my family members during that painful time.” Each archival discovery pointed Gabrielle in another direction, so that she eventually found major points of comparison across multiple sets of images from a variety of different sources. “My father’s diagnosis of stage four prostate cancer made me reflect on the surgical procedures in the images, and my grandfather’s diagnosis of lung cancer drew me to x-rays, especially after seeing the dark clustered patterns of abnormal cells in the imagery. Also, the collection of botanicals are either medicinal or poisonous – a reflection of the alternate medicinal methods attributed to fighting cancer.”

Upon selecting each archival image, Gabrielle used historical processes to involve her own photographic practice in the work. After leaving each image under a glass plate to collect floating particles of dust and hair, she re-photographed each piece multiple times, creating negatives that incorporate flecks of the environment’s natural disruptions. “There was something healing about getting lost within the process of creating these images, transforming their scientific purpose into something personal and poetic. I left them to collect dust in places that were significant to me and my family.”

After re-photographing the images, Gabrielle submerged her negatives in polluted water, allowing the emulsion’s degradation to further highlight the lyrical features of illness. “I actually did it while sitting on a jetty in Penang, Malaysia,” she explains. “I was thinking about the clear water that runs from taps, and how this re-enters nature to become ill and polluted. It was this unseen danger that intrigued me, and I wanted to incorporate that into the work. The microbes in the polluted water ate away at the film, leaving their own marks upon the negatives before I made the prints.”

This incorporation of intervention and decay into her photographic process soon became an integral part of Gabrielle’s own healing process, affording her a clear state of mind to work through a number of complex emotions.

Extract from Cat Lachowskyj. “Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat,” on the Lens Culture website [Online] Cited 21/07/2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #1' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #1
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #13' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #13
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle (Australian)
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat
2017-2019

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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04
Jul
18

Exhibition: ‘I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection’ at Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 21st April – 8th July 2018

Curator: Christiane Kuhlmann, Curator Photography and Media Art; with Andrea Lehner-Hagwood, Curatorial Assistant, Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Masahisa Fukase, Takashi Hanabusa, Jun Jumoji, Daidõ Moriyama, Masaaki Nakagawa, Bishin Jumonji, Shunji Õkura, Issei Suda, Akihide Tamura, Shin Yanagisawa, Yoshihiro Tatsuki

 

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Lips from a Poster' 1975

 

Daidō Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Lips from a Poster
1975
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

 

Much as I love the grittiness and stark contrast of Japanese photography of the 1960-70s – its reaction against the pro-American optimism of The Family of Man exhibition that went to Tokyo in the 1950s, its rejection of journalistic illustration, its I-reality that is not a objective record but a personal story, “a poem composed in photography”, its spirit of ennui, a state of dissatisfaction with the status quo – there is also another, less edifying side to Japanese photography of this period.

Basically, it’s a male view of the world, any world, any reality, but always with the “I” at the front of it, the world of the male ego. A world where women are objectified, bound and gagged in pretty gruesome “erotic” sex scenes (not in this posting, but you can Google them online). No matter that the photographer had permission, these photographs are about male power and the male gaze. Nothing more, nothing less. A world where cameras pry on people having anonymous sex in the park in the dark. Let’s call it what it is, it’s misogynistic and voyeuristic.

The obverse of a concern for the sitter, or the landscape, or the object, can be observed (did you see what I did there… obverse / observe), in that there is a concern with the minutiae of life in extremis, rather than an empathy for it. Maybe that is the Japanese culture. Perhaps this microscopic analysis comes about because of the fast pace of their life, their mixture of state, religion, culture and capitalism, their violent history and the submissive place of women within that society (The traditional role of women in Japan has been defined as “three submissions”: young women submit to their fathers; married women submit to their husbands, and elderly women submit to their sons ~ Wikipedia)

There is something I cannot put my finger on about the power of the photograph to capture a dominance over women, the landscape, people, protests – a suppressed violence against the self?

I’m just thinking out loud here…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

The collections of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg include an outstanding and sizeable ensemble of Japanese photographs from the 1960s and 1970s. These works will be on view for the first time in many years in a series of exhibitions. The opening presentation is dedicated to the depiction of humans and perceptions of postwar Japanese society in transformation. A future second exhibition will focus on images of city and countryside.

In the history of Japanese photography, the idea of the “I-photo” is a kind of photographic adaptation of the literary convention of first-person narrative. The photographic image is conceived and employed as a medium articulating the photographer’s self as well as an instrument with which to scrutinise reality. A pioneer of postwar photography, Masahisa Fukase in the late 1960s created photographic series mixing documentary and fictional elements. His central motifs and models were his wife Yoko and their family. Nobuyoshi Araki, the best-known, most prolific, and probably also most provocative Japanese photography artist, launched his career as a fashion and advertising photographer in 1963. The collection contains highly personal photographic notes by him and his wife Yoko, who died early. Fukase, Araki, and the other Japanese “I-photographers” such as Issei Suda, Shin Yanagisawa, and Daidõ Moriyama regard the “I-photo” as a blend of truth and falsification that can elicit an emotional response and disconcert. The aesthetic of the pictures is characterised by hard black-and-white contrasts and lacerated abstract structures. It signals the artists’ rejection of the tradition of classical art photography while also probing the potentials of the medium itself. The Japanese photography scene is highly controversial; the spectrum of themes ranges from erotic depictions of bodies to political statements.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Daidō Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Untitled (l. a. r.)
c. 1970
Lips from a Poster
1975
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Daidō Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Stray Dog, Misawa
1971
From the series Hunter
Untitled
c. 1970
9 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Stray Dog, Misawa' 1971

 

Daidō Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Stray Dog, Misawa
1971
From the series Hunter
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan) 'National Highway 1 AT Dawn 1, Asahi-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture' 1968

 

Daidō Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
National Highway 1 AT Dawn 1, Asahi-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture
1968
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
6.50 x 9.72 in. (16.5 x 24.7cm)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

 

Daidō Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)

Daidō Moriyama is one of Japan’s leading contemporary photographers. He studied design and photography in Kōbe before moving to Tokyo in 1961 and deciding to focus entirely on photography. After a stint as Eikō Hosoe’s assistant, he went into business for himself as a photographer in 1964.

Like the art critic Kōji Taki and the photographers Yutaka Takanashi, Shōmei Tōmatsu, and Takuma Nakahira, Moriyama was a member of the group around the influential magazine Provoke (1968-1969). Although no more than three issues appeared in print, its importance in the history of the medium in Japan can hardly be overstated. The Provoke Manifesto declared that photography was capable of registering what could not be expressed in words. The visual style of the photographs Provoke would run was to be are-bure-boke, Japanese for “grainy, blurry, and out of focus” – a specification that still aptly describes Moriyama’s photographs; the same style is evident in his work for magazines such as Camera Mainichi, Asahi Journal, and Asahi Camera.

Moriyama’s inexhaustible signature theme is the city of Tokyo, but he has also worked elsewhere. In an interview, he once said: “For me cities are enormous bodies of people’s desire.” He still prowls the streets day after day, taking pictures of appealing or striking sights, never peering into his small compact camera’s viewfinder. Shots of traffic, of pedestrians and shop windows, of posters and details such as lips, eyes, or plants are recurrent motifs. Hard black-and-white contrasts lend his prints a strangely alien and otherworldly allure, but the depictions always remain anecdotal, as though from a dream. Moriyama’s photobooks may accordingly be read as photonovels of a sort. Japan A Photo Theater (1968) was the first book in this vein he published; his oeuvre has now grown to several hundred photobooks.

The Photographic Society of Japan, whose purpose is to promote photography in Japan, elected him its photographer of the year in 1983. In 2012, he received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement of the International Center of Photography, New York, which honours outstanding accomplishments in photography and visual art.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japanese, 1934-2012)
Untitled
1971
From the series Yoko
9 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper (Vintage prints)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Masahisa Fukase. 'Untitled' 1961-1970

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japanese, 1934-2012)
Untitled
1961-1970
From the series Yoko
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Masahisa Fukase, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery London

 

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japanese, 1934-2012)

Masahisa Fukase completed a PhD at the Institute of Photography at Nihon University, Tokyo, in 1956. He worked as a photographer for advertising agencies and various publishing houses until 1968 and then as a freelance photographer until his death in 2012. His work was included in the 1974 group exhibition New Japanese Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, followed by numerous solo and group shows all over the world. In 1976, he received the annual Ina Nobuo Award, which has been given out by the Nikon Salon in Tokyo since 1976. At the 1992 Higashikawa International Photo Festival, his exhibition Karasu (Ravens) earned him a Higashikawa Photography Award in the Special Award category.

In the 1960s, his photography is largely focused on his own life and that of his wife Yoko. She stars in pictures that show her in all sorts of situations in life, private as well as public. Fukase captures Yoko as his bride, in the nude, during sex, or as a tourist in the street. He is also interested in the passage of time and ageing in general. After separating from Yoko, Fukase started photographing ravens as symbols of loneliness and loss. The photobook Karasu (Ravens) became one of the most coveted works of its kind in postwar Japan; it was first reprinted just last year.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Bishin Jumonji (Japanese, b. 1947)
Untitled
1971
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Bishin Jumonji. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Bishin Jumonji (Japanese, b. 1947)
Untitled
1971
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Bishin Jumonji

 

Bishin Jumonji. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Bishin Jumonji (Japanese, b. 1947)
Untitled
1971
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Bishin Jumonji

 

 

Bishin Jumonji (Japanese, b. 1947)

After studying at the Tokyo College of Photography, Bishin Jumonji became an assistant to the photographer Kishin Shinoyama, who had risen to renown with publications about Kabuki theater, erotic depictions in photography magazines, and work in unusual book formats such as flipbooks. Since 1971, Jumonji has worked both freelance and as an advertising photographer. This was also when he began to take pictures for the series on view, Untitled. Shot around Tokyo, the works portray families, day-trippers, a quartet of rock musicians, dancers, or bodybuilders – in short, representatives of modern Japan. The details are chosen so that the heads and faces do not appear in the prints. This underscores the subjective quality of photography as such while also conveying the anonymity of life in the megalopolis.

Otto Breicha had seen the series as early as 1974, when it was featured in New Japanese Photography, a group exhibition John Szarkowski organised at the MoMA in New York. Breicha decided to include it in Neue Fotografie aus Japan, the follow-up show he mounted in Graz in 1977.

In 1990, Jumonji receives the Domon Ken Award, one of the most important Japanese photography prizes. The work of the honourees is showcased at the Ginza Nikon Salon, Tokyo, and the Domon Ken Museum of Photography, Sakata, the first museum in Japan dedicated to photography. Some of Jumonji’s pictures are published in international magazines including the German newsweekly Stern.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Akihide Tamura (Japanese, b. 1947)
Yokohama, 1966 (l.)
Yokosuka, 1969 (r.)
7 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
From the series Base
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan) 'Yokohama' 1966

 

Akihide Tamura (Japanese, b. 1947)
Yokohama
1966
From the series Base
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Akihide Tamura

 

 

Akihide Tamura (Japanese, b. 1947)

Akihide Tamura studied at the Tokyo College of Photography and got his degree in 1967. Even before he graduated, the academy’s director, the photography critic Shigemori Koen, recognised his unusual approach. In 1974, the MoMA in New York featured Tamura’s House series in its group exhibition New Japanese Photography and acquired it for the museum’s collection. Taken over the course of a year – from July to July – the pictures show houses in abandoned landscapes. The alternation of day and night and the cycle of the seasons play a prominent part in the series.

Tamura’s life was defined by the wrenching changes Japan underwent after World War II. His work is an astute photographic record of these metamorphoses. For the series Base (1966-1970), he captured landscapes, people, and combat aircraft and other military planes at several American bases south of Tokyo. In retrospect, he wrote: “When I was a photography student, I knew that the military base existed in a territory that had been created due to the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and the possibility of a nuclear war. I was shaken by the incredibly beautiful and yet insane fighter jets before my eyes. The contradiction between my fear that the world would vanish in an instant if someone were to push the nuclear button and the exotic and eerie spell the military base cast over me left me perpetually torn.”

The works on view are part of the major cycle Erehwon – the title is the word “nowhere” read backwards – that Tamura worked on between 1967 and 1973. The series combines combat aircraft taking off and hurtling off into the sky, their engines a pair of glowing eyes, with ghostly portraits of children that gradually fade into the dark. The composition reflects the photographer’s mindset, a hard-to-pin-down blend of admiration and fear.

 

 

Diverse and controversial, sometimes mysterious and often at odds with stereotypical ideas about Japan: there is much to discover in Japanese photography from the 1960s and 1970s. The Museum der Moderne Salzburg now presents its extensive and singular collection in a two-part exhibition series.

For the first time in many years, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg puts its collection of c. 600 original prints of Japanese photography from the 1960s and 1970s, which was purchased in the museum’s early years, on display. The series of two shows begins with IPhoto. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection, which presents works that focus on the depiction of the human being and the changes in postwar Japanese society.

“In this exhibition, my vigorous efforts to undertake a thorough review of our collections are bearing fruit, and so I am especially pleased that we are able to present our holdings of Japanese photography – a sizeable ensemble of outstanding works – which have not been seen by the public in a long time. The show also spotlights a chapter in the history of the museum, which started collecting and conserving photography early on. Otto Breicha, the museum’s first director, personally traveled to Japan to meet many of the artists and select works for the projected exhibition,” Sabine Breitwieser, Director of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, observes. Curator of Photography and Media Art Christiane Kuhlmann emphasises that “this effort to champion Japanese culture and acquire Japanese art for the nascent collection constitutes a pioneering achievement.” “At the time, the primary media in which Japanese photographers presented their pictures were photobooks and magazines,” Kuhlmann notes, “so that vintage prints in the quality and form at our disposal are now hard or impossible to come by. Breicha’s initiative to build a centre for contemporary photography in Austria was in part motivated by his experiences in Japan.”

In the early 1960s, Japan enters a period of fast-paced economic growth, becoming a leading technology manufacturer. A quarter-century after the end of the war and the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan hosts Expo’70, the first world’s fair to be held in an Asian country. Tokyo grows into an enormous megalopolis; construction on an international airport that will connect it to the entire world begins in 1971. These developments mark the definite end of the island nation’s decades-long isolation from the West, bringing rapid changes that affect Japanese society as well. In the 1960s, millions of Japanese citizens rally to protest against educational and land reforms and the security treaty with the former enemy, the United States of America. The Japanese photography scene devises a new and dynamic visual language that reflects the country’s more expansive self-image. Distinctive features include the reflection on perception, the quest for novel ways to express the self, and a revised definition of the photographic medium. Hard black-and-white contrasts and lacerated abstract structures are characteristic of the aesthetic of these pictures.

The idea of the “I-photo” is an adaptation of the term “I-novel,” which designates a genre of first-person narrative fiction in Japanese literature. Conceiving of themselves as authors, the photographers understand the “Iphoto” as the instrument of an exploration of reality. Japan’s photography scene is often highly controversial, with themes ranging from erotic depictions of bodies to political statements. Western observers are bound to find some pictures enigmatic and unsettling; they run counter to how Japan is generally imagined abroad. Yet it was Western art institutions that, in the 1970s, first included Japanese contemporary photography in their programming. Neue Fotografie aus Japan (New Photography from Japan) was the title of the first exhibition in Europe that Otto Breicha mounted in Graz in 1977; with I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg brings back the exhibits from that historic show, though with different emphases. The presentation includes works by the photographers associated with the magazine Provoke (1968-1969) in which reality seems to be dismantled into its constituent elements, as well as by artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki and Masahisa Fukase who pursued their own highly individual creative agendas. Also on display are pictures by the members of the Kompora group, who sought to render a lucid and accurate portrait of everyday life in a clinical visual idiom.

Press release from Museum der Moderne Salzburg

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (Japanese, b. 1937)
Untitled
c. 1970
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan) 'Untitled' c. 1970

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (Japanese, b. 1937)
Untitled
c. 1970
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Yoshihiro Tatsuki

 

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (Japanese, b. 1937)

Yoshihiro Tatsuki was born in 1937 in Tokushima, where his family had long run an established portrait studio. He studied at the Tokyo College of Photography (today’s Tokyo Polytechnic University) and graduated in 1958. Initially joining the advertising agency Adcenter in Tokyo as a photographer, Tatsuki went freelance in 1969, working for clients in the advertising, fashion, and publishing industries. In 1965, his series Just Friends and Fallen Angels, which had appeared in the photography magazine Camera Mainichi, earned him the emerging photographer’s award of the association of Japanese photography critics. The works garnered wide attention in Japan. Among his best-known creations are GIRL, EVES, Private Mariko Kaga, Aoi Toki, My America, and Portrait of Family.

Tatsuki has long focused on nude photography, combining traditional Japanese compositional templates with the characteristic poses of Western models. It is hard to tell whether he wants to debunk or cater to the – primarily Western – fantasy of the Geisha as concubine.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (Japanese, b. 1940)
Untitled
1971
From the series Sentimental Journey
7 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Untitled' 1971

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (Japanese, b. 1940)
Untitled
1971
From the series Sentimental Journey
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Yoko, my Love' Nd

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (Japanese, b. 1940)
Yoko, my Love
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper (Vintage print)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (Japanese, b. 1940)

Nobuyoshi Araki studied photography and film studies at Chiba University from 1959 until 1963. After completing his degree, he joined an advertising agency; in the spare time left by his work as a commercial photographer, he started developing his own photographic ideas.

1970, the artist declared, would be “The First Year of Araki.” Increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo that prevailed in established photography, he launched a variety of creative experiments. The popular photography that dominated the market in Japan at the time, he thought, traded in illusions and dishonesty, and so he proposed to change the situation and create a new kind of photography that would reveal the true face of a society undergoing rapid change.

In 1971, he was married to Yoko. His documentation of their honeymoon was published as the small photobook Sentimental Journey. The travelogue – several pictures from it are in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection – opens with a portrait of Yoko on the train. The title and this picture are a reference to Doris Day’s 1945 worldwide hit. The series continues with shots of places, sights, and, again and again, pictures of Yoko, in the street, nude, or having sex. As Araki sees it, the book is a new form of reportage about life. Taking photographs and living, to his mind, are synonymous. In a statement accompanying Sentimental Journey, he writes: “The I-novel comes closer to photography.” The title of our exhibition, I-Photo, alludes to this Japanese literary genre, in which the author’s experiences, rendered in as much realistic detail as possible, form the material out of which a fictional story is wrought.

In 1992, Camera Austria, Graz, hosted Araki’s first solo exhibition in Europe. He is famous for his widely debated photographs of erotic bondage, but also for his photobooks, which now number almost six hundred.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection featuring the work of Nobuyoshi Araki
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Takashi Hanabusa (born 1949 Kobe, Japan) 'Untitled' Nd

 

Takashi Hanabusa (Japanese, b. 1949)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Takashi Hanabusa

 

 

Takashi Hanabusa (Japanese, b. 1949)

Takashi (Lyu) Hanabusa was born in Osaka in 1949. After graduating from the Kuwasawa Design School, Tokyo, he joined the staff of the publishing house that produced the magazine Nippon Camera. In 1971, he became an assistant to the photographer Yutaka Takanashi, whose well-known series Tôshi-e (Towards the City) surveyed Tokyo as the Japanese began to embrace modern metropolitan life.

Hanabusa’s works build on this influence, documenting the city as a mysterious place defined by jarring contrasts between tradition and modernity, high tech and nature. His photographs are marked by deliberately ambiguous particulars, as when faces are obscured by shadows. The shots are framed so as to render bodies in fragments or bring out details in classic Japanese fabric patterns that European beholders cannot place.

Hanabusa has been a freelance photographer and member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society since 1973.

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (1943-2005) 'Selfportait, Against Wall of My Home' Nd

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (Japanese, 1943-2005)
Selfportait, Against Wall of My Home
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Masaaki Nakagawa

 

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (Japanese, 1943-2005)

Masaaki Nakagawa completed his studies of Japanese literature at Kōnan University, Kōbe, in 1966. He then worked for various advertising agencies and created fashion shots and reportages for magazines. From 1969 until his death in 2005, he was a freelance photographer in Tokyo and taught at the Kuwasawa Design School.

Otto Breicha described Nakagawa as a storyteller and compared him to the American photographer Duane Michals, whose notion that “things are queer” seems to inform his Japanese colleague’s work as well. Created in series, Nakagawa’s sequences of pictures, rather than aiming for an obvious punch line, appear to move in circles. In the series Self-Portrait against Wall of My Home, the photographer’s shadow looms on the wall, as do things the title identifies as his possessions. Yet the pictures remain vague, almost ghostly, and it is not clear what the focus is on. In this respect, Nakagawa joins the ranks of those conceptual photographers who employ photography as a tool of pictorial analysis, scrutinising the medium’s intrinsic technical-visual potential.

Masaaki Nakagawa was one of the photographers who assisted Otto Breicha during his research in Japan in preparation for the exhibition Neue Fotografie aus Japan.

 

Issei Suda (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Untitled' 1975-76

 

Issei Suda (Japanese, 1940-2019)
Untitled
1975-76
From the series Fûshi Kaden
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Issei Suda

 

 

Issei Suda (Japanese, 1940-2019)

Issei Suda was trained at the Tokyo College of Photography, from which he graduated in 1962. From 1967 until 1970, he worked as a stage photographer for the avant-garde theater ensemble Tenjō Sajiki, which was led by the writer and filmmaker Shūji Terayama.

In the late 1960s, Suda and others opposed to the style championed by the magazine Provoke founded the group Kompora. The label is a typical Japanese compound, a contraction of the English terms “contemporary” and “photography.” The group’s key point of reference was Contemporary Photographers: Toward a Social Landscape, an exhibition held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., in 1966. Their goal was to create lucid and accurate portrayals of everyday life in a clinical visual idiom. Despite the aspiration to cool objectivity, however, some of their pictures strike Western beholders as no less enigmatic and unsettling.

That is certainly the impression one gets from the works we present, a selection from the series Fûshi Kaden (1975-1976), which was published as a photobook – Suda’s first – by Asahi Sonorama in 1978. The series proposes a visual discourse on tradition and modernity. The enormous tension between Japan’s hyper-modern cities and the deep-rooted traditions lingering in rural areas is a theme that preoccupies Suda throughout his life. For Fûshi Kaden, he crisscrossed the country; many pictures were taken at the traditional festivals known as matsuri. The title is difficult to translate. It is a tribute to a theoretical disquisition on Nō theater penned in the early fifteenth century by one of its leading practitioners, the grand master Zeami Motokiyo. Sketching his vision of the beauty and style of drama, the author compares it to a flower that has not yet fully blossomed. But he also examines questions of inward perception and outward expression in theatrical performance. Issei Suda translates this vision into his mode of photography. The figures in his pictures sometimes seem to be involved in some kind of stage action and yet utterly unaware of it, as though only the photographer knew the director’s script.

Suda was a professor at the Osaka University of Arts and received the Domon Ken Award in 1997.

 

Shin Yanagisawa (1936-2008) 'Untitled' 1972

 

Shin Yanagisawa (Japanese, 1936-2008)
Untitled
1972
From the series In the Street, Toyama
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Estate of Shin Yanagisawa

 

 

Shin Yanagisawa (Japanese, 1936-2008)

Shin Yanagisawa, who was born in Tokyo in 1936, was a member of the eminent generation of Japanese photographers who, in the 1960s and 1970s, saw contemporary life in their country with fresh eyes, discovering themes for photography that still inform how we imagine Japan between tradition and modernity. Yanagisawa studied at the Tokyo College of Photography in Shibuya and then worked as a freelance photographer.

He was interested in the changing face of the landscape and the raw reality of nature as well as the many facets of life in the big city. The series Traces of the City (1965-1970) reflects the worldview of an entire generation; as early as 1979, it was the subject of a solo presentation in Tokyo. Yanagisawa also contributed work to numerous group shows, including the famous 15 Photographers Exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art (1974), which featured work by Daidō Moriyama und Yutaka Takanashi as well.

The shots we present are a selection from the series In the Street (1972) and show a group of dancers and performers in costumes that would seem to fit in seamlessly with our vision of traditional Japanese culture. Upon closer inspection, however, dissonant notes creep in, especially when individuals turn to face the camera directly or a flashlight illuminates the situation. They reveal Yanagisawa’s presence as the photographer or, more properly, author of the picture. He has abandoned the position of the uninvolved observer, and although he is not visible in the picture as such, he becomes an active participant in the action before the camera. This approach may be regarded as characteristic of the principle of I-photography.

After concluding his active career as a photographer, Shin Yanagisawa wrote about various aspects of photography.

 

Shunji Ōkura (born 1936 Ushigome, Japan) 'Untitled' Nd

 

Shunji Ōkura (Japanese, b. 1936)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Shunji Ōkura

 

 

Shunji Ōkura (Japanese, b. 1936)

A grandson of the Japanese painter Kawai Gyokudō, Shunji Ōkura graduated from Dokkyo High School, Tokyo, in 1956. In 1958, he became an assistant to the photographer Akira Satō while also starting out as a freelance photographer, creating fashion shots for the magazines Fukuso, Wakai Josei, and So-en. Numerous photographs appeared in periodicals such as Camera Mainici, Hanashin No Tokushu, and Sunday Mainichi.

In the photographs in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection, Ōkura devotes himself to a classic subject of photography: the children’s portrait. These are situation-bound snapshots taken a playground; no posing was involved. It is interesting to note how the photographer embraces the way children see the world. Some parts of the scene are invisible in the low-angle shots or obscured by other objects, while Ōkura’s portraits suggest profound empathy; we feel we get a sense of these children’s fears and anxieties.

 

 

Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
Phone: +43 662 842220

Opening hours:
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Wednesday: 10am – 8pm
Monday: closed

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24
Jun
18

Review: ‘DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER’ at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th May – 1st July 2018

Artists: Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens
Curator: Stephanie Sacco

 

 

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photo: Christian Capurro

 

 

It is a great pleasure to be able to post on my friend Carolyn Lewens’ joint exhibition with Pamela Bains, DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, both Visiting Fellows at Swinburne University’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

I have known Carolyn since we were both studying photography at Brighton Tech under the tutelage of Peter Barker in 1989. Nearly 30 years later, we are both still making art and writing about art, which says a lot for our perseverance and perspicacity as both artists and human beings. There are not a lot of us left from those days, photographers who are still being creative, still following the path of enquiry with dedication and insight into the condition of (our) becoming.

In this latest iteration, an exhibition which investigates our place in the universe, Carolyn and Pamela offer a “creative response to an astrophysics program that is searching for the fastest explosions in the universe… an immersive and stimulating space wherein fresh awareness of the cosmos and science is mediated via aesthetic and conceptual means.” As the catalogue essay by Associate Professor Christopher Fluke observes, “Science and Art are both highly creative endeavours, that cannot succeed without research, experimentation, and an acceptance that some ideas will not work.” And so with this exhibition also. Some ideas work, some ideas do not.

The highlight for me in the first two galleries were the model telescopes, observatories and types of star made by research staff and postgraduate students in weekly workshops with the two artists. It was fascinating to see how modern astronomers see their own building blocks, fantastical human creations, architectural marvels made specifically to capture faint electromagnetic signals from the sky; and stars that can only be “captured” on photographic plates which record features invisible to the human eye. Akin to naive or “outsider” art (I hate that term but there is no better one at present to describe the work), these sculptures possess an essential presence in the “hands on” nature of their construction. Only in the darkened third gallery does the work of the two main artists coalesce, cosmogrify (I know that’s not a real word, but we are “out of this world”, as in cosmography, the branch of science which deals with the general features of the universe) into a satisfying whole. And what an out of this world gallery it is!

Pamela’s wondrous paintings, full of colour and paint splatters, transmogrify their earthly origins into music from the stars, while the paintings themselves are physically transformed and printed as digital photographs: in other words, there is a double transmogrification of concept and aesthetics going on here, moving from hand to universe and from analog to digital. As Fluke states, “The death event and the life giving properties shared between supernovae and our own physical outcome often reside in the subtext of Pam’s work, offering scope for the contemplation of ourselves as celestial entities.” These “creations” are illuminated by spotlights on one side of gallery three, and their multi-hued presence play off Carolyn’s blue cyanotype photogram images digitally printed on cotton rag on the other side of the long gallery – the exchange of constructed cosmos’ making for a truly immersive, quite moving experience.

Carolyn’s camera-less photograms use cyanotype photography, a process invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in the early 1840s, so this process is entirely appropriate for her investigation into the “metaphors of light and the mysteries of shadows.” As Fluke notes, “The creations that emerge are a direct response to the presence or absence of light, generating a shadowy imprint of more complexity than we can perceive. Links to photosynthesis via the cyanotype process mean her work is more about life than death.” Carolyn uses objects and materials which are often dense – folded and layered – which she then over exposes in order to get detail in some areas of the image. The resultant cyanotypes are then digital remastered (but not manipulated) in Photoshop, so that the resultant prints do not loose that beautiful blue that is the signature of the cyanotype process. Here again, transmogrification becomes a happening concept – an idea, a concept uses photosynthesis, the light of the sun, to create images in an early photographic process which are then scientifically remastered into digital photographs.

In both artists work, there is evidence of the ineffable, the unknowable, which is what makes this gallery so special. These works have been created out of the explosions of human imagination and creativity (like little big bangs) after observing light from stars millions of miles away, light that may no longer exist since it takes millions of years to reach us here on Earth. The light that these artists and astronomers observe may no longer exist, it is just an after image of a physical presence that may be long gone. To then create these universal emanations as intimations of the retina of the eye, being underwater, in the womb, or being a plant (think the tactile qualities of Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs); or cells of the brain and spermatozoa, is a special thing. The nexus between the works and the universe make these associations quite breathtaking.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Pamela Bain, Carolyn Lewens and Town Hall Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Conveying the wonder of science through art, Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens explore the universe with Swinburne University’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, resulting in an odyssey of aesthetic and sensory experiences.

DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER is a creative response to an astrophysics program that is searching for the fastest explosions in the universe. The artists, present for real-time space observations, were stimulated by bombardments of astronomical imagery, data and technology that inspired these new bodies of work. The exhibition offers an immersive and stimulating space wherein fresh awareness of the cosmos and science is mediated via aesthetic and conceptual means.

 

 

Carolyn Lewens in front of her work 'In the Photic Zone' 2018

 

Carolyn Lewens in front of her work In the Photic Zone 2017 at the opening of the exhibition
Photo: ImagePlay

 

 

Pamela Bain in front of her work Electric Cosmic 2018 at the opening of the exhibition
Photo: ImagePlay

 

 

THG Artist Interview: Carolyn Lewens & Pamela Bain – DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER, 12 May – 1 July 2018

 

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery one at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation views of gallery one at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photos: Christian Capurro

 

 

Installation view of Pamela Bain’s work Candidate Light Collective 2018 (watercolour on cotton rag)
Photo: ImagePlay

 

Installation view of gallery two at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery two at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery two at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation views of gallery two at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photos: Christian Capurro

 

 

Augmented visions: the art of the dynamic universe

Associate Professor Christopher Fluke

.
The consistency of the night sky was important for the development of astronomy: a science of observation, record-keeping and prediction. Across human lifetimes, the stars maintained their positions with respect to an imagined celestial sphere. The planets – literally wandering stars – moved with respect to the fixed stars in their own regular cycles.

Much rarer, and sometimes a cause for alarm, were the unexpected events – an eclipse of the Sun or the sudden appearance of a new star in the immutable heavens. On 4 July 1054, Chinese astronomers recorded a bright light appearing in the constellation Taurus. So luminous that it was visible in the daylight for 20 days, it faded from view over the next two years. The cause of this transient celestial event was the explosion of a star 6500 light years away: a supernova event in our own Galaxy. Today, astronomers search the sky for other exploding stars – but in galaxies far beyond our own. Sophisticated telescopes capture the brief yet spectacular death throes of some of the biggest stars, revealing valuable information about the origin and evolution of all stars. The spark of inspiration for artists Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens was the Deeper Wider Faster project: a systematic search for short-lived, transient explosions. Led by Swinburne University of Technology’s Associate Professor Jeff Cooke and PhD student Igor Andreoni, Deeper Wider Faster requires the coordination of multiple observatories distributed around the Earth, all watching the same regions of the sky, waiting to catch a cosmic cataclysm.

While signalling the death of a star, a supernova is also a source of new life. At the heart of the explosion, nuclear processes create gold, silver, and other elements. Billions of years ago, supernovae created the elemental mixture that would collapse and coalesce into our Solar System: the raw materials for life. As Carl Sagan noted “we are made of star-stuff”.

The mutual composition shared by humans and the Universe has influenced Pamela’s work for some time. Her paintings capture the essence of the explosion and the aftermath. The interplay between light and dark and the shadowy in between also reveals a human presence via daubs of colour, paint splatters and brushstrokes amalgamating the artist with the Universe. While technical processes are later integrated, evidence of an organic origin remain. The death event and the life giving properties shared between supernovae and our own physical outcome often reside in the subtext of Pam’s work, offering scope for the contemplation of ourselves as celestial entities.

Many of the great astronomers of the Renaissance were also great artists, perhaps none more so than Galileo Galilei. Although not the first to draw the Moon through a telescope, Galileo’s sketches of the craters and shadows of the Moon were an essential step in overturning the conception that the Moon was a perfect object. Through drawing and illustration, astronomers could share, discuss and debate what was seen via the augmentation of lenses and mirrors. As telescopes grew in size, the increased level of detail they revealed challenged the skills of many astronomers. The quality of the interpretation was only as good as the talents of the astronomer-artist. During the 19th century, a move from subjectivity to objectivity in astronomical imaging took place. While not without their own challenges, photographic plates could record features invisible to the human eye, and the era of the astronomer-artist came to an end. The longer the exposure, the DEEPER and DARKER elements of the Universe could be seen.

The cyanotype photography used by Carolyn was invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in the early 1840s. While Herschel created the process to make blueprint copies of his notes, Carolyn’s camera-less photograms allow her to “investigate the metaphors of light and the mysteries of shadows.”

Physical engagement with processes of light and materiality is central to Carolyn’s work. The creations that emerge are a direct response to the presence or absence of light, generating a shadowy imprint of more complexity than we can perceive. Links to photosynthesis via the cyanotype process mean her work is more about life than death. There has always been a close connection between art and astronomy. Depictions of the night sky, accompanied by stories of the origin of the Universe, appear throughout human history. Complex motions of the celestial objects were often encoded in architecture. In Peru, the Thirteen Towers of Chankillo encode the Sun’s motion on the horizon throughout the year.

Modern astronomers build architectural marvels to capture faint electromagnetic signals from the sky. Large white domes huddle together on the tops of mountains far from the light pollution of cities, holding mirrors with diameters measured in metres. Elsewhere, an enormous parabolic dish sits incongruously in the Australian countryside, surrounded by sheep and the occasional poisonous snake.

The orchestration of observatories at the heart of Deeper Wider Faster is depicted in an animation in the Gallery, conceived by Pamela and Carolyn, and animated by James Josephides. Connections are made between geographical locations of observatories and their place in the electromagnetic spectrum. Radio waves, X-rays, infrared, ultraviolet and visible light are all the same phenomena. Yet each holds its own secret about the transient, dynamic Universe.

In a return to astronomy’s artistic roots, Pamela and Carolyn led weekly workshops with research staff and postgraduate students from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing. The opportunity to make model telescopes with Carolyn or learn to paint supernova with Pamela was taken up enthusiastically. Science and Art are both highly creative endeavours, that cannot succeed without research, experimentation, and an acceptance that some ideas will not work. The creative outputs of Swinburne’s astronomers are shown alongside the primary works of the exhibition.

Science and Art are both iterative experiences – it can be hard to say when either has come to an end. DEEPER DARKER BRIGHTER is an aesthetic and sensory response by Pamela Bain and Carolyn Lewens to Deeper Wider Faster. It implores us to reconsider the nature of the Universe, the light and the dark, and the augmented visions that astronomers use to capture the art of the dynamic Universe. This is the era of transient astronomy: the heavens are immutable no more.

.
Associate Professor Christopher Fluke
is a researcher with Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, and Director of Swinburne’s Advanced Visualisation Laboratory.

 

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

Installation view of gallery three at the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

Installation views of gallery three at the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photos: Christian Capurro

 

Pamela Bain. 'Electric Cosmos' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Electric Cosmos
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
140 x 186cm
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Pamela Bain. 'Explosion' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Explosion
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Pamela Bain. 'Nebula' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Nebula
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Pamela Bain. 'Through A Portal Lightly' 2018

 

Pamela Bain
Through A Portal Lightly
2018
From the Death and Creation series
Painting remastered onto archival digital print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Opening of the exhibition 'Deeper Darker Brighter' at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne

 

At the opening of the exhibition Deeper Darker Brighter at Town Hall Gallery, Hawthorn Arts Centre, Melbourne
Photo: ImagePlay

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Light Phenomenon 2' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Light Phenomenon 2
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Fast Burst' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Fast Burst
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Filamentous' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Filamentous
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Naked Retina 8' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Naked Retina 8
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Naked Retina 9' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Naked Retina 9
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Spiralling orbits' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Spiralling orbits
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'Light Remnants' 2017

 

Carolyn Lewens
Light Remnants
2017
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

Carolyn Lewens. 'In the Photic Zone' 2013-2018

 

Carolyn Lewens
In the Photic Zone
2013-18
Dimensions variable
Unique state cyanotype photogram image digitally remastered print on cotton rag
© image courtesy of the artist

 

 

Town Hall Gallery
Hawthorn Arts Centre
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Hawthorn VIC 3122
Phone: +61 3 9278 4770

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Saturday and Sunday 11am – 4pm
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05
Nov
17

Review: ‘An unorthodox flow of images’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Melbourne Part 2