Posts Tagged ‘contemporary portrait photography

04
Oct
18

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Expressions’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 7th October 2018

 

Erich Salomon (German, 1886-1944) '[Portrait of Madame Vacarescu, Romanian Author and Deputy to the League of Nations, Geneva]' 1928

 

Erich Salomon (German, 1886-1944)
[Portrait of Madame Vacarescu, Romanian Author and Deputy to the League of Nations, Geneva]
1928
Gelatin silver print
29.7 × 39.7 cm (11 11/16 × 15 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

In 1928, pioneering photojournalist, Erich Salomon photographed global leaders and delegates to a conference at the League for the German picture magazine Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. In a typically frank image, Salomon has shown Vacarescu with her head thrown back passionately pleading before the international assembly.

Elena Văcărescu or Hélène Vacaresco (September 21, 1864 in Bucharest – February 17, 1947 in Paris) was a Romanian-French aristocrat writer, twice a laureate of the Académie française. Văcărescu was the Substitute Delegate to the League of Nations from 1922 to 1924. She was a permanent delegate from 1925 to 1926. She was again a Substitute Delegate to the League of Nations from 1926 to 1938. She was the only woman to serve with the rank of ambassador (permanent delegate) in the history of the League of Nations. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

 

From a distance…

For such an engaging subject, this presentation looks to be a bit of a lucky dip / ho hum / filler exhibition. You can’t make a definitive judgement from a few media images but looking at the exhibition checklist gives you a good idea of the overall organisation of the exhibition and its content. Even the press release seems unsure of itself, littered as it is with words like posits, probes, perhaps (3 times) and problematic.

Elements such as physiognomy are briefly mentioned (with no mention of its link to eugenics), as is the idea of the mask – but again no mention of how the pose is an affective mask, nor how the mask is linked to the carnivalesque. Or how photographs portray us as we would like to be seen (the ideal self) rather than the real self, and how this incongruence forms part of the formation of our identity as human beings.

The investigation could have been so deep in so many areas (for example the representation of women, children and others in a patriarchal social system through facial expression; the self-portrait as an expression of inner being; the photograph as evidence of the mirror stage of identity formation; and the photographs of “hysterical” women of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris; and on and on…) but in 45 works, I think not. The subject deserved, even cried out for (as facial expressions go), a fuller, more in depth investigation.

For more reading please see my 2014 text Facile, Facies, Facticity which comments on the state of contemporary portrait photography and offers a possible way forward: a description of the states of the body and the air of the face through a subtle and constant art of the recovering of surfaces.

Marcus

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Many thanks to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The human face has been the subject of fascination for photographers since the medium’s inception. This exhibition includes posed portraits, physiognomic studies, anonymous snapshots, and unsuspecting countenances caught by the camera’s eye, offering a close-up look at the range of human stories that facial expressions – and photographs – can tell.

 

 

Nancy Burson (American, born 1948) 'Androgyny' 1982

 

Nancy Burson (American, born 1948)
Androgyny
1982
Gelatin silver print
21.6 × 27.7 cm (8 1/2 × 10 7/8 in.)
© Nancy Burson
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Composite image of portraits of six men and six women

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006) 'Demonstration, New York City' 1963

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006)
Demonstration, New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
25.9 × 35.4 cm (10 3/16 × 13 15/16 in.)
© Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Brigitte and Elke Susannah Freed

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968) 'Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' Negative May 1943; print about 1950

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968)
Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Negative May 1943; print about 1950
Gelatin silver print
26 × 34.4 cm (10 1/4 × 13 9/16 in.)
© International Center of Photography
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Emmett Leo Kelly (December 9, 1898 – March 28, 1979) was an American circus performer, who created the memorable clown figure “Weary Willie”, based on the hobos of the Depression era.

Kelly began his career as a trapeze artist. By 1923, Emmett Kelly was working his trapeze act with John Robinson’s circus when he met and married Eva Moore, another circus trapeze artist. They later performed together as the “Aerial Kellys” with Emmett still performing occasionally as a whiteface clown.

He started working as a clown full-time in 1931, and it was only after years of attempting to persuade the management that he was able to switch from a white face clown to the hobo clown that he had sketched ten years earlier while working as a cartoonist.

“Weary Willie” was a tragic figure: a clown, who could usually be seen sweeping up the circus rings after the other performers. He tried but failed to sweep up the pool of light of a spotlight. His routine was revolutionary at the time: traditionally, clowns wore white face and performed slapstick stunts intended to make people laugh. Kelly did perform stunts too – one of his most famous acts was trying to crack a peanut with a sledgehammer – but as a tramp, he also appealed to the sympathy of his audience.

From 1942–1956 Kelly performed with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he was a major attraction, though he took the 1956 season off to perform as the mascot for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. He also landed a number of Broadway and film roles, including appearing as himself in his “Willie” persona in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). He also appeared in the Bertram Mills Circus.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848) 'Mrs Grace Ramsay and four unknown women' 1843

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848)
Mrs Grace Ramsay and four unknown women
1843
Salter paper print from Calotype negative
15.2 x 20.3 cm (6 x 8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Connecticut Newsgirls' c. 1912-1913

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Connecticut Newsgirls
c. 1912-1913
Gelatin silver print
11.8 × 16.8 cm (4 11/16 × 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910) '[Mme Ernestine Nadar]' 1880-1883

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910)
[Mme Ernestine Nadar]
1880-1883
Albumen silver print
Image (irregular): 8.7 × 21 cm (3 7/16 × 8 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910) '[Mme Ernestine Nadar]' 1880-1883 (detail)

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910)
[Mme Ernestine Nadar] (detail)
1880-1883
Albumen silver print
Image (irregular): 8.7 × 21 cm (3 7/16 × 8 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879) 'Ophelia' Negative 1875; print, 1900

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Ophelia
Negative 1875; print, 1900
Carbon print
35.2 x 27.6 cm (13 7/8 x 19 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born 1947) 'W. Canfield Ave., Detroit' 1982

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born 1947)
W. Canfield Ave., Detroit
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image (irregular): 19.7 × 24.6 cm (7 3/4 × 9 11/16 in.)
© Nicholas Nixon
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker (German) 'Close-up of Open Mouth of Male Student' c. 1927

 

Unknown maker (German)
Close-up of Open Mouth of Male Student
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
5.7 x 8.4 cm (2 1/4 x 3 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Alec Soth (American, born 1969) 'Mary, Milwaukee, WI' 2014

 

Alec Soth (American, born 1969)
Mary, Milwaukee, WI
2014
Inkjet print
40.1 × 53.5 cm (15 13/16 × 21 1/16 in.)
© Alec Soth/Magnum Photos
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Richard Lovett

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984) 'Los Angeles' January 1960

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Los Angeles
January 1960
Gelatin silver print
22.6 × 33.9 cm (8 7/8 × 13 3/8 in.)
© 1984 The Estate of Garry Winogrand
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

From Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, to Edvard Munch’s The Scream, to Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, the human face has been a crucial, if often enigmatic, element of portraiture. Featuring 45 works drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, In Focus: Expressions, on view May 22 to October 7, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, addresses the enduring fascination with the human face and the range of countenances that photographers have captured from the birth of the medium to the present day.

The exhibition begins with the most universal and ubiquitous expression: the smile. Although today it is taken for granted that we should smile when posing for the camera, smiling was not the standard photographic expression until the 1880s with the availability of faster film and hand-held cameras. Smiling subjects began to appear more frequently as the advertising industry also reinforced the image of happy customers to an ever-widening audience who would purchase the products of a growing industrial economy. The smile became “the face of the brand,” gracing magazines, billboards, and today, digital and social platforms.

As is evident in the exhibition, the smile comes in all variations – the genuine, the smirk, the polite, the ironic – expressing a full spectrum of emotions that include benevolence, sarcasm, joy, malice, and sometimes even an intersection of two or more of these. In Milton Rogovin’s (American, 1909-2011) Storefront Churches, Buffalo (1958-1961), the expression of the preacher does not immediately register as a smile because the camera has captured a moment where his features – the opened mouth, exposed teeth, and raised face – could represent a number of activities: he could be in the middle of a song, preaching, or immersed in prayer. His corporeal gestures convey the message of his spirit, imbuing the black-and-white photograph with emotional colour. Like the other works included in this exhibition, this image posits the notion that facial expressions can elicit a myriad of sentiments and denote a range of inner emotions that transcend the capacity of words.

In Focus: Expressions also probes the role of the camera in capturing un-posed moments and expressions that would otherwise go unnoticed. In Alec Soth’s (American, born 1969) Mary, Milwaukee, WI (2014), a fleeting expression of laughter is materialised in such a way – head leaning back, mouth open – that could perhaps be misconstrued as a scream. The photograph provides a frank moment, one that confronts the viewer with its candidness and calls to mind today’s proliferation and brevity of memes, a contemporary, Internet-sustained visual phenomena in which images are deliberately parodied and altered at the same rate as they are spread.

Perhaps equally radical as the introduction of candid photography is the problematic association of photography with facial expression and its adoption of physiognomy, a concept that was introduced in the 19th century. Physiognomy, the study of the link between the face and human psyche, resulted in the belief that different types of people could be classified by their visage. The exhibition includes some of the earliest uses of photography to record facial expression, as in Duchenne de Boulogne’s (French, 1806-1875) Figure 44: The Muscle of Sadness (negative, 1850s). This also resonates in the 20th-century photographs by Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) of Allie Mae Burroughs, Hale County Alabama (negative 1936) in that the subject’s expression could be deemed as suggestive of the current state of her mind. In this frame (in others she is viewed as smiling) she stares intently at the camera slightly biting her lip, perhaps alluding to uncertainty of what is to come for her and her family.

The subject of facial expression is also resonant with current developments in facial recognition technology. Nancy Burson (American, born 1948) created works such as Androgyny (6 Men + 6 Women) (1982), in which portraits of six men and six women were morphed together to convey the work’s title. Experimental and illustrative of the medium’s technological advancement, Burson’s photograph is pertinent to several features of today’s social media platforms, including the example in which a phone’s front camera scans a user’s face and facial filters are applied upon detection. Today, mobile phones and social media applications even support portrait mode options, offering an apprehension of the human face and highlighting its countenances with exceptional quality.

In addition to photography’s engagement with human expression, In Focus: Expressions examines the literal and figurative concept of the mask. Contrary to a candid photograph, the mask is the face we choose to present to the world. Weegee’s (Arthur Fellig’s) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968) Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (about 1950) demonstrates this concept, projecting the character of a sad clown in place of his real identity as Emmett Kelly.

The mask also suggests guises, obscurity, and the freedom to pick and create a separate identity. W. Canfield Ave., Detroit (1982) by Nicholas Nixon (American, born 1947) demonstrates this redirection. Aware that he is being photographed, the subject seizes the opportunity to create a hardened expression that conveys him as distant, challenging, and fortified, highlighted by the opposing sentiments of the men who flank him. In return, the audience could be led to believe that this devised pose is a façade behind which a concealed and genuine identity exists.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875) 'Figure 44, The Muscle of Sadness' Negative 1854-1856; print 1876

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875)
Figure 44, The Muscle of Sadness
Negative 1854-1856; print 1876
From the book Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine ou Analyse Electro-Physiologique de l’Expression des Passions
Albumen silver print
11 x 9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Duchenne de Boulogne

Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (de Boulogne) (September 17, 1806 in Boulogne-sur-Mer – September 15, 1875 in Paris) was a French neurologist who revived Galvani’s research and greatly advanced the science of electrophysiology. The era of modern neurology developed from Duchenne’s understanding of neural pathways and his diagnostic innovations including deep tissue biopsy, nerve conduction tests (NCS), and clinical photography. This extraordinary range of activities (mostly in the Salpêtrière) was achieved against the background of a troubled personal life and a generally indifferent medical and scientific establishment.

Neurology did not exist in France before Duchenne and although many medical historians regard Jean-Martin Charcot as the father of the discipline, Charcot owed much to Duchenne, often acknowledging him as “mon maître en neurologie” (my teacher in neurology). … Duchenne’s monograph, the Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine – also illustrated prominently by his photographs – was the first study on the physiology of emotion and was highly influential on Darwin’s work on human evolution and emotional expression.

In 1835, Duchenne began experimenting with therapeutic “électropuncture” (a technique recently invented by François Magendie and Jean-Baptiste Sarlandière by which electric shock was administered beneath the skin with sharp electrodes to stimulate the muscles). After a brief and unhappy second marriage, Duchenne returned to Paris in 1842 in order to continue his medical research. Here, he did not achieve a senior hospital appointment, but supported himself with a small private medical practice, while daily visiting a number of teaching hospitals, including the Salpêtrière psychiatric centre. He developed a non-invasive technique of muscle stimulation that used faradic shock on the surface of the skin, which he called “électrisation localisée” and he published these experiments in his work, On Localized Electrization and its Application to Pathology and Therapy, first published in 1855. A pictorial supplement to the second edition, Album of Pathological Photographs (Album de Photographies Pathologiques) was published in 1862. A few months later, the first edition of his now much-discussed work, The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy, was published. Were it not for this small, but remarkable, work, his next publication, the result of nearly 20 years of study, Duchenne’s Physiology of Movements, his most important contribution to medical science, might well have gone unnoticed.

 

The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression

Influenced by the fashionable beliefs of physiognomy of the 19th century, Duchenne wanted to determine how the muscles in the human face produce facial expressions which he believed to be directly linked to the soul of man. He is known, in particular, for the way he triggered muscular contractions with electrical probes, recording the resulting distorted and often grotesque expressions with the recently invented camera. He published his findings in 1862, together with extraordinary photographs of the induced expressions, in the book Mecanisme de la physionomie Humaine (The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression, also known as The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy).

Duchenne believed that the human face was a kind of map, the features of which could be codified into universal taxonomies of mental states; he was convinced that the expressions of the human face were a gateway to the soul of man. Unlike Lavater and other physiognomists of the era, Duchenne was skeptical of the face’s ability to express moral character; rather he was convinced that it was through a reading of the expressions alone (known as pathognomy) which could reveal an “accurate rendering of the soul’s emotions”. He believed that he could observe and capture an “idealized naturalism” in a similar (and even improved) way to that observed in Greek art. It is these notions that he sought conclusively and scientifically to chart by his experiments and photography and it led to the publishing of The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy in 1862 (also entitled, The Electro-Physiological Analysis of the Expression of the Passions, Applicable to the Practice of the Plastic Arts. in French: Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, ou Analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions applicable à la pratique des arts plastiques), now generally rendered as The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression. The work compromises a volume of text divided into three parts:

  1. General Considerations,
  2. A Scientific Section, and
  3. An Aesthetic Section.

These sections were accompanied by an atlas of photographic plates. …

Duchenne defines the fundamental expressive gestures of the human face and associates each with a specific facial muscle or muscle group. He identifies thirteen primary emotions the expression of which is controlled by one or two muscles. He also isolates the precise contractions that result in each expression and separates them into two categories: partial and combined. To stimulate the facial muscles and capture these “idealized” expressions of his patients, Duchenne applied faradic shock through electrified metal probes pressed upon the surface of the various muscles of the face.

Duchenne was convinced that the “truth” of his pathognomic experiments could only be effectively rendered by photography, the subject’s expressions being too fleeting to be drawn or painted. “Only photography,” he writes, “as truthful as a mirror, could attain such desirable perfection.” He worked with a talented, young photographer, Adrien Tournachon, (the brother of Felix Nadar), and also taught himself the art in order to document his experiments. From an art-historical point of view, the Mechanism of Human Physiognomy was the first publication on the expression of human emotions to be illustrated with actual photographs. Photography had only recently been invented, and there was a widespread belief that this was a medium that could capture the “truth” of any situation in a way that other mediums were unable to do.

Duchenne used six living models in the scientific section, all but one of whom were his patients. His primary model, however, was an “old toothless man, with a thin face, whose features, without being absolutely ugly, approached ordinary triviality.” Through his experiments, Duchenne sought to capture the very “conditions that aesthetically constitute beauty.” He reiterated this in the aesthetic section of the book where he spoke of his desire to portray the “conditions of beauty: beauty of form associated with the exactness of the facial expression, pose and gesture.” Duchenne referred to these facial expressions as the “gymnastics of the soul”. He replied to criticisms of his use of the old man by arguing that “every face could become spiritually beautiful through the accurate rendering of his or her emotions”, and furthermore said that because the patient was suffering from an anesthetic condition of the face, he could experiment upon the muscles of his face without causing him pain.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875) 'Figure 44, The Muscle of Sadness' Negative 1854-1856; print 1876 (detail)

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875)
Figure 44, The Muscle of Sadness (detail)
Negative 1854-1856; print 1876
From the book Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine ou Analyse Electro-Physiologique de l’Expression des Passions
Albumen silver print
11 x 9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Duchenne and his patient, an “old toothless man, with a thin face, whose features, without being absolutely ugly, approached ordinary triviality.” Duchenne faradize’s the mimetic muscles of “The Old Man.” The farad (symbol: F) is the SI derived unit of electrical capacitance, the ability of a body to store an electrical charge. It is named after the English physicist Michael Faraday

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875) 'Figure 27, The Muscle of Pain' Negative 1854-1856; print 1876

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875)
Figure 27, The Muscle of Pain
Negative 1854-1856; print 1876
From the book Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine ou Analyse Electro-Physiologique de l’Expression des Passions
Albumen silver print
11 x 9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875) 'Figure 27, The Muscle of Pain' Negative 1854-1856; print 1876 (detail)

 

Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne (French, 1806-1875)
Figure 27, The Muscle of Pain (detail)
Negative 1854-1856; print 1876
From the book Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine ou Analyse Electro-Physiologique de l’Expression des Passions
Albumen silver print
11 x 9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Storefront Churches, Buffalo, preacher head in hand, eyes closed' 1958-1961

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Storefront Churches, Buffalo, preacher head in hand, eyes closed
1958-1961
Gelatin silver prin
11 × 10.5 cm (4 5/16 × 4 1/8 in.)
© Milton Rogovin
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Dr. John V. and Laura M. Knaus

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Allie Mae Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama' Negative 1936; print 1950s

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Allie Mae Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama
Negative 1936; print 1950s
Gelatin silver print
24.3 × 19.2 cm (9 9/16 × 7 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Allie Mae Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama' Negative 1936; print 1950s (detail)

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Allie Mae Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama (detail)
Negative 1936; print 1950s
Gelatin silver print
24.3 × 19.2 cm (9 9/16 × 7 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Depression-era photography

In 1935, Evans spent two months at first on a fixed-term photographic campaign for the Resettlement Administration (RA) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From October on, he continued to do photographic work for the RA and later the Farm Security Administration (FSA), primarily in the Southern United States.

In the summer of 1936, while on leave from the FSA, he and writer James Agee were sent by Fortune magazine on assignment to Hale County, Alabama, for a story the magazine subsequently opted not to run. In 1941, Evans’s photographs and Agee’s text detailing the duo’s stay with three white tenant families in southern Alabama during the Great Depression were published as the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. The critic Janet Malcolm notes that as in the earlier Beals’ book there was a contradiction between a kind of anguished dissonance in Agee’s prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans’s photographs of sharecroppers.

The three families headed by Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle, lived in the Hale County town of Akron, Alabama, and the owners of the land on which the families worked told them that Evans and Agee were “Soviet agents,” although Allie Mae Burroughs, Floyd’s wife, recalled during later interviews her discounting that information. Evans’s photographs of the families made them icons of Depression-Era misery and poverty. In September 2005, Fortune revisited Hale County and the descendants of the three families for its 75th anniversary issue. Charles Burroughs, who was four years old when Evans and Agee visited the family, was “still angry” at them for not even sending the family a copy of the book; the son of Floyd Burroughs was also reportedly angry because the family was “cast in a light that they couldn’t do any better, that they were doomed, ignorant.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria, 1901-1983) '[War Rally]' 1942

 

Lisette Model (American, born Austria, 1901-1983)
[War Rally]
1942
Gelatin silver print
34.4 × 27.6 cm (13 9/16 × 10 7/8 in.)
© Estate of Lisette Model
Courtesy Baudoin Lebon/Keitelman
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Robert Capa (American, born Hungary, 1913-1954) 'Second World War, Naples' October 2, 1943

 

Robert Capa (American, born Hungary, 1913-1954)
Second World War, Naples
October 2, 1943
Gelatin silver print
17.6 × 23.8 cm (6 15/16 × 9 3/8 in.)
© International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

View of a group of woman with pained expressions on their faces with several holding handkerchiefs and one holding a card photograph of a young man

 

Unknown maker (American) '[Smiling Man]' 1860

 

Unknown maker (American)
[Smiling Man]
1860
Ambrotype
8.9 x 6.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Baron Adolf de Meyer (American, born France, 1868-1946) '[Ruth St. Denis]' c. 1918

 

Baron Adolf de Meyer (American, born France, 1868-1946)
[Ruth St. Denis]
c. 1918
Platinum print
23.3 × 18.7 cm (9 3/16 × 7 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Woodbury & Page (British, active 1857-1908) '[Javanese woman seated with legs crossed, basket at side]' c. 1870

 

Woodbury & Page (British, active 1857-1908)
[Javanese woman seated with legs crossed, basket at side]
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
8.9 × 6 cm (3 1/2 × 2 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Photography in Australia, the Far East, Java and London

In 1851 Woodbury, who had already become a professional photographer, went to Australia and soon found work in the engineering department of the Melbourne waterworks. He photographed the construction of ducts and other waterworks as well as various buildings in Melbourne. He received a medal for his photography in 1854.

At some point in the mid-1850s Woodbury met expatriate British photographer James Page. In 1857 the two left Melbourne and moved to Batavia (now Jakarta), Dutch East Indies, arriving 18 May 1857, and established the partnership of Woodbury & Page that same year.

During most of 1858 Woodbury & Page photographed in Central and East Java, producing large views of the ruined temples near Surakarta, amongst other subjects, before 1 September of that year. After their tour of Java, by 8 December 1858 Woodbury and Page had returned to Batavia.

In 1859 Woodbury returned to England to arrange a regular supplier of photographic materials for his photographic studio and he contracted the London firm Negretti and Zambra to market Woodbury & Page photographs in England.

Woodbury returned to Java in 1860 and during most of that year travelled with Page through Central and West Java along with Walter’s brother, Henry James Woodbury (born 1836 – died 1873), who had arrived in Batavia in April 1859.

On 18 March 1861 Woodbury & Page moved to new premises, also in Batavia, and the studio was renamed Photographisch Atelier van Walter Woodbury, also known as Atelier Woodbury. The firm sold portraits, views of Java, stereographs, cameras, lenses, photographic chemicals and other photographic supplies. These premises continued to be used until 1908, when the firm was dissolved.

In his career Woodbury produced topographic, ethnographic and especially portrait photographs. He photographed in Australia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and London. Although individual photographers were rarely identified on Woodbury & Page photographs, between 1861 and 1862 Walter B. Woodbury occasionally stamped the mounts of his photographs: “Photographed by Walter Woodbury, Java.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968) 'The Critic' November 1943

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968)
The Critic
November 1943
Gelatin silver print
25.7 x 32.9 cm (10 1/8 x 12 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

“I go around wearing rose-colored glasses. In other words, we have beauty. We have ugliness. Everybody likes beauty. But there is an ugliness…” ~ Weegee, in a July 11, 1945 interview for WEAF radio, New York City

While Weegee’s work appeared in many American newspapers and magazines, his methods would sometimes be considered ethically questionable by today’s journalistic standards. In this image, a drunk woman confronts two High Society women who are attending the opera. Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh and Lady Decies appear nonplussed to be in close proximity to the disheveled woman. Weegee’s flash illuminates their fur wraps and tiaras, drawing them into the foreground. The drunk woman emerges from the shadows on the right side, her mouth tense and open as if she were saying something, hair tousled, her face considerably less sharp than those of her rich counterparts.

The Critic is the second name Weegee gave this photograph. He originally called it, The Fashionable People. In an interview, Weegee’s assistant, Louie Liotta later revealed that the picture was entirely set up. Weegee had asked Liotta to bring a regular from a bar in the Bowery section of Manhattan to the season’s opening of the Metropolitan Opera. Liotta complied. After getting the woman drunk, they positioned her near the red carpet, where Weegee readied his camera to capture the moment seen here.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Hopi Indian, New Mexico' Negative, c. 1923; print, 1926

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965)
Hopi Indian, New Mexico
Negative, c. 1923; print, 1926
Gelatin silver print
18.4 x 19.7 cm (7 1/4 x 7 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland

 

 

Dorothea Lange made this portrait study not as a social document but rather as a Pictorialist experiment in light and shadow, transforming a character-filled face into an art-for-art’s-sake abstraction. This image bridges the two distinct phases of Lange’s work: her early, soft-focus portraiture and her better-known documentary work of the 1930s. (Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website)

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Street Scene, New Orleans' 1936

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Street Scene, New Orleans
1936
Gelatin silver print
15.6 x 16.8 cm (1 1/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Photograph - New York' Negative 1916; print June 1917

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Photograph – New York
Negative 1916; print June 1917
Photogravure
22.4 × 16.7 cm (8 13/16 × 6 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

“I remember coming across Paul Strand’s ‘Blind Woman’ when I was very young, and that really bowled me over … It’s a very powerful picture. I saw it in the New York Public Library file of ‘Camera Work’, and I remember going out of there over stimulated: That’s the stuff, that’s the thing to do. It charged me up.” ~ Walker Evans

The impact of seeing this striking image for the first time is evident in Walker Evans’s vivid recollection. At the time, most photographers were choosing “pretty” subjects and creating fanciful atmospheric effects in the style of the Impressionists. Paul Strand’s unconventional subject and direct approach challenged assumptions about the medium.

At once depicting misery and endurance, struggle and degradation, Strand’s portrait of a blind woman sets up a complex confrontation. “The whole concept of blindness,” as one historian has noted, “is aimed like a weapon at those whose privilege of sight permits them to experience the picture. . . .”

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Subway Portrait' 1938-41

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
13.2 x 16 cm (5 3/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Camille Silvy (French, 1834-1910) '[Madame Camille Silvy]' c. 1863

 

Camille Silvy (French, 1834-1910)
[Madame Camille Silvy]
c. 1863
Albumen silver print
8.9 × 6 cm (3 1/2 × 2 3/8 in.)
Gift in memory of Madame Camille Silvy born Alice Monnier from the Monnier Family
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Mikiko Hara (Japanese, born 1967) '[Untitled (Making a Void)]' Negative 2001; print about 2007

 

Mikiko Hara (Japanese, born 1967)
[Untitled (Making a Void)]
Negative 2001; print about 2007
Chromogenic print
© Mikiko Hara
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966) 'Sisters Violeta, 21, and Massiel, 15, at the Limited in a mall, San Francisco, California' Negative 1999; print 2008

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966)
Sisters Violeta, 21, and Massiel, 15, at the Limited in a mall, San Francisco, California
Negative 1999; print 2008
48.9 × 32.5 cm (19 1/4 × 12 13/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Daido Moriyama (Japanese, born 1938) 'Self-portrait' 1997

 

Daido Moriyama (Japanese, born 1938)
Self-portrait
1997
Gelatin silver print
13.2 x 16 cm (5 3/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Purchase with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Daido Moriyama

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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16
Jan
14

Text: ‘Facile, Facies, Facticity’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan; Exhibition: ‘About Face: Contemporary Portraiture’ at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 9th August 2013 – 19th January 2014

 

Rachel Herman, American 'Hannah and Tim' 2007

 

Rachel Herman (American)
Hannah and Tim
2007
Inkjet print (printed 2012)
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

Facile, Facies, Facticity

 

“The structure of presentation – point-of-view and frame – is intimately implicated in the reproduction of ideology (the ‘frame of mind’ of our ‘points-of-view’). More than any other textual system, the photograph presents itself as ‘an offer you can’t refuse’.”

.
Victor Burgin 1

 

Facies simultaneously signifies the singular air of a face, the particularity of its aspect, as well as the genre or species under which this aspect should be subsumed. The facies would thus be a face fixed to a synthetic combination of the universal and the singular: the visage fixed to the regime of representation, in a Helgian sense.

Why the face? – Because in the face the corporeal surface makes visible something of the movements of the soul, ideally. This also holds for the Cartesian science of the expression of the passions, and perhaps also explains why, from the outset, psychiatric photography took the form of an art of the portrait.”

.
Georges Didi-Huberman 2

 

How shallow contemporary portrait photography has become when compared to the sensual portraits of Julia Margaret Cameron, the grittiness of Gordon Parks or the in your face style of Diane Arbus. I think the word facile (from Latin facilis ‘easy’, from facers ‘do, make’) with its link to the etymologically similar word ‘face’ (Old Latin facies) is a good way to describe most of the photographs in this posting. These simplistic, nihilistic portraits, with their contextless backgrounds and head on frontally (also the name of an insipid Australian portrait photography prize), are all too common in contemporary portraiture. People with dead pan expressions stare at the camera, stare off camera. The photographs offer little insight and small engagement for the viewer. If these photographs are representative of the current ‘frame of mind’ of our ‘points-of-view’ vis a vis the construction of identity then the human race is in deep shit indeed. As we accept an offer that we can’t refuse – the reflexivity of selfies, an idealised or passive image of ourselves reflected back through the camera lens º we uncritically accept the mirror image, substituting passive receptivity for active (critical) reading. We no longer define and engage critically with something we might call ‘photographic discourse’:

“A discourse can be defined as an arena of information exchange, that is, as a system of relations between parties engaged in communicative activity. In a very important sense the notion of discourse is a notion of limits. That is, the overall discourse relation could be regarded as a limiting function, one that establishes a bounded arena of shared expectations as to meaning. It is this limiting function that determines the very possibility of meaning. To raise the issue of limits, of the closure affected from within any given discourse situation, is to situate oneself outside, in a fundamentally metacritical relation, to the criticism sanctioned by the logic of the discourse…

A discourse, then, can be defined in rather formal terms as the set of relations governing the rhetoric of related utterances. The discourse is, in the most general sense, the context of the utterance, the conditions that constrain and support its meaning, that determine its semantic target.”3

 

These photographs have few conditions that support their meaning. The context of their utterances is constrained by their own efficacy and passivity. Paul Virilio, speaking of contemporary images, describes them as ‘viral’. He suggests that they communicate by contamination, by infection. In our ‘media’ or ‘information’ society we now have a ‘pure seeing’; a seeing without knowing.4 A seeing without knowing… quite appropriate for these faceless images, images that contaminate how we observe humans living in the world. Of course, one can be involved in logical criticism of the discourse from within but that still gives the discourse power. By situating yourself outside the conditions that constrain the discourse, you can criticise from a different perspective, “seeing something new” as an active, temporal protension of seeing. “Such is the fundamental instability of the pleasure of seeing, of Schaulust, between memory and threat.”5 We may glance, instead of staring (as the subject of these portraits blankly stare back) – the glance becoming a blow of the eye, the acting-out of seeing.6

Here is a possible way forward for contemporary photographic portraiture: a description of the states of the body and the air of the face through a subtle and constant art of the recovering of surfaces, an inquiry that always seeks depth – conceptual depth – in the filmy fabric or stratum of the cameras imaging of the constructed subject. In other words an inquiry into the source, the etiology and logic of the subjects own being – through the glance, not the passive gaze. Even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity, that knowledge can slip away from itself into what Georges Didi-Huberman calls the paradox of photographic resemblance.7

“Thus photography is ultimately an uncertain technique (see Barthes. Camera Lucida. p. 18), changeable and ill-famed, too. Photography stages bodies: changeability. And at one moment or another, subtly, it belies them (invents them), submitting them instead to figurative extortion. As figuration, photography always poses the enigma of the “recumbence of the intelligible body,” even as it lends itself to some understanding of this enigma, and even as this understanding is suffocated…

And when one comes to pose oneself, before a photograph, paradoxical questions: whom does this photographed face resemble? Exactly whose face is being photographed? In the end, doesn’t a photograph resemble just anyone? Well, one cannot, for all that, simply push resemblance aside like a poorly posed problem. Rather, one points a finger at Resembling as an unstable, vain, and phantasmatic temporal motion. One interrogates the drama of imaginary evidence.

For “to resemble,” or Resembling, is the name for a major concern about time in the visible. This is precisely what exposes all photographic evidence to anxiety, and beyond it, to staging, compromises, twisted meanings, and simulacra. And this is how photography circumvents itself – in its own sacrilege. It blasphemes it own evidence because evidence is diabolical. It ruins evidence, from a theater.”8

 

Only through slippage may we stumble upon the uncertainty of the soul in the uncertainty of the photographic technique. Only through the facticity of the face, the “thrownness” – Heidegger’s Geworfen, which denotes the arbitrary or inscrutable nature of Dasein, being there or presence, that connects the past with the present, just as photographs do – of the individual rendered in the lines of the human face can we engage with the intractable conditions of human existence. Not a bland resemblance-filled anxiety (the hair covering the face, the face in suburban ephemera, the compressed face pressed up against the condensation-filled window), but an unstable signification that has been passionately re(as)sembled in the anxiety of photographic evidence. Only then can contemporary portrait photography make visible something of the movements of the soul, ideally.

.
“Into this world we’re thrown /
Like a dog without a bone”
(Jim Morrison, Riders on the Storm, 1971)

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Endnotes

  1. Burgin, Victor (ed.,). Thinking Photography. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982, p. 146
  2. Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 49
  3. Burgin, pp. 84-85
  4. Virilio, Paul. “The Work of Art in the Electronic Age,” in Block No. 14, Autumn, 1988, pp. 4-7 quoted in McGrath, Roberta. “Medical Police,” in Ten.8 No. 14, 1984 quoted in Watney, Simon and Gupta, Sunil. “The Rhetoric of AIDS,” in Boffin, Tessa and Gupta, Sunil (eds.,). Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology. London: Rivers Osram Press, 1990, p. 143
  5. Didi-Huberman, op. cit., pp. 27-28
  6. Ibid., “Coup d’oeil, signifying “glance,” literally means the “blow of an eye.” Here as elsewhere, Didi-Huberman draws on the notion of the glance as a blow. He also works with the various meanings of trait, including trait, line, draught, and shaft of an arrow” – Translator
  7. Didi-Huberman, op. cit., p. 59
  8. Didi-Huberman, op. cit., p. 65

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

 

 

Anna Shteynshleyger, Russian (b. 1977) 'City of Destiny (Covered)' 2007

 

Anna Shteynshleyger, (Russian, b. 1977)
City of Destiny (Covered)
2007
Inkjet print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Lise Sarfati, French (b. 1958) 'Emily, 2860 Sunset Blvd.' 2012

 

Lise Sarfati (French, b. 1958)
Emily, 2860 Sunset Blvd.
2012
Chromogenic print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

2011-67-54_Soth-MotherAndDaughter_front_WEB

 

Alec Soth (American, b. 1969)
Mother and daughter, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1999
1999

 

LaToya Ruby Frazier, American (b. 1982) 'Momme' 2008

 

LaToya Ruby Frazier (American, b. 1982)
Momme
2008
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

This exhibition will explore the breadth and global diversity of contemporary photographic portraiture since 2000, highlighting recent acquisitions to the museum’s permanent collection.

About Face will include works by twenty-nine artists from the United States, England, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Iran and South Africa. Though each of these photographers approaches portrait-making differently, certain thematic threads resonate throughout the show, including questions of racial, cultural, ethnic, class and gender identity; the relationship between individuals and typologies; the way photographic processes themselves inform meaning; the relevance of historical precedents to contemporary practice; and the impact of media stereotypes on self-presentation. Considered collectively, the works in About Face offer a provocative and engaging forum for considering the question: how do we define portraiture today?

The project will present two distinct, simultaneous exhibitions: About Face, our in-gallery exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins, and Making Pictures of People, a digital exhibition presented online for web-based audiences worldwide. Visitors will be able to access the Flak Photo exhibition via touch screens in the gallery and on mobile devices outside the museum. The goal of our collaboration is twofold: to celebrate the complementary experiences of engaging with photographs as objects and as images, and to connect museum visitors in Kansas City with an international community deeply engaged in thinking about portraiture and contemporary photographic practice.

“Contemporary photographers approach portraiture from multiple perspectives, and this show reflects that diversity,” said April M. Watson, who co-curated this exhibition with Jane L. Aspinwall (both are Associate Curators of Photography). “Some portraits emphasise the construction of identity through race, gender and class, while others question the relationship between individuality and typology, or the impact of the media on self-presentation. At the core is the relationship between the photographer and his or her subject, and how that interaction translates in the final portrait.” Adds Aspinwall: “Some of these photographers use antiquated processes such as the daguerreotype and tintype to make portraits of contemporary subjects. These historical resonances add an interesting dimension to the show.

Press release from the  Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

 

Richard Learoyd, English (b. 1966) 'Erika' 2007

 

Richard Learoyd (English, b. 1966)
Erika
2007
Ilfachrome print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation in honour of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Jocelyn Lee, American (b. Italy, 1962) 'Untitled (Julia and Greenery)' 2005

 

Jocelyn Lee (American, b. Italy 1962)
Untitled (Julia and Greenery)
2005
Chromogenic print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Jim Goldberg, American (b.1953) 'Prized Possession, Democratic Republic of Congo' 2008

 

Jim Goldberg (American, b.1953)
Prized Possession, Democratic Republic of Congo
2008
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

2012-17-93_Winship-Hakkari8_WEB

 

Vanessa Winship (British, b. 1960)
Hakkari 8
2007-2008
Inkjet print (printed 2008)
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Pieter Hugo, South African (b. 1976) 'Annebelle Schreuders (1)' 2012

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Annebelle Schreuders (1)
2012
Inkjet print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Sage Sohier, American (b. 1954) '12-Year Old Boy with His Father' 2009

 

Sage Sohier (American, b. 1954)
12-Year Old Boy with His Father
2009
Inkjet print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Michael Wolf, American (b. 1954) 'Tokyo Compression #18' 2010

 

Michael Wolf (American, b. 1954)
Tokyo Compression #18
2010
Inkjet print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Tomoko Sawada, Japanese (b. 1977) 'Recruit/BLACK' 2006

 

Tomoko Sawada (Japanese, b. 1977)
Recruit/BLACK
2006
Chromogenic print
Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Photography Society

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Wednesday 10am – 5pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 10am – 5pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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26
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Series of Portraits. A century of photographs’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 1st April – 17th July 2011

 

Many thankx to Michaela Hille for her help and to Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Nan Goldin. 'All by Myself' 1993-1996 (detail)

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
All by Myself (detail)
1993-1996
Project installation with 89 color slides and programmed soundtrack, running time: 5 min. 33 sec
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Nan Goldin. 'All by Myself' 1993-1996 (detail)

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
All by Myself (detail)
1993-1996
Project installation with 89 colour slides and programmed soundtrack, running time: 5 min. 33 sec
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Kyungwoo Chun (Korean, b. 1969) 'Thirty-Minute Dialogue #1' 2000

 

Kyungwoo Chun (Korean, b. 1969)
Thirty-Minute Dialogue #1
2000
Gelatin silver print
40 x 50 cm
© Kyungwoo Chun

 

August Sander. 'Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914' 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914
1914, printed 1962
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 21.9 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

.

August Sander. 'Notar, Köln, 1924' 1924

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Notar, Köln, 1924
1924, printed 1962
Gelatin silver print
29.1 x 20.5 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) [Farmer, Westerwald (Bauer, Westerwald)] 1910

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
[Farmer, Westerwald (Bauer, Westerwald)]
1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The first section of People of the Twentieth Century is dedicated to the farmer. It begins with a Stammappe, or portfolio of archetypes. Usually three-quarter-length portraits, the photographs depict old farming men, women, and couples seated in their homes or against a natural backdrop. Each is captioned to suggest the fundamental role played by the individual in a balanced society. Sander referred to this farmer as the “earthbound man.” Other archetypes include the “philosopher,” the “fighter or revolutionary,” and the “sage.” All had female counterparts, while couples were labeled as “propriety and harmony.”

Identifying this figure as the “earthbound man,” Sander forged an implicit reference to the soil as a source of livelihood. The farmer’s hands grasp the cane, which keeps him upright and connected to the earth.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 04/02/2020

 

Helmar Lerski

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Old Working Woman from Germany (left)
1928-31
Gelatin silver print

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Beggar from Saxony (right)
1928-31
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The portraits in Lerski’s Everyday Heads show unemployed workers whom the photographer met at a Berlin job centre where he hired them to sit for him. Old Working Woman from Germany 1928-31 is a close-up shot of a woman’s face, eyes down and mouth shut as though she is quietly contemplating something outside of the picture’s frame (left, above). It is impossible to tell whether this meditative look, a common feature of his portraits, was suggested by Lerski but it is evident that he was in control of nearly every aspect of his pictures. An experienced movie cameraman, he used artificial light reflected by mirrors and screens to give his models an aura and monumentality that people would be familiar with from expressionist feature films. Oblique angles, in line with modernist sensibilities, helped to reinforce the impression of grandeur. He also cropped the images and introduced extra screens so as to eliminate the space around his models heads, and any details from what remained of the background. This also served on occasions to compromise the integrity of the subject’s face though, in other cases, he preferred to blur the contours of the face using strong shadows, as can be seen in Beggar from Saxony 1928-31 (right, above). The results produced a general notion of everyday people rather than an endorsement of individuality as praised in traditional portraiture. Like Sander and Retzlaff, Lerski only gave the individuals’ professions in the captions, and was keen not to exemplify their class affiliation or social rank. The pictures provide no information about either, focusing instead on the face. In this way Lerski enhanced the common human dignity normally ignored in ‘everyday’ faces, and more especially in those humiliated by unemployment during the post-1929 economic crisis.

Wolfgang Brückle. “Face-Off in Weimar Culture: The Physiognomic Paradigm, Competing Portrait Anthologies, and August Sander’s Face of Our Time,” in Tate Papers No.19 Spring 2013 [Online] Cited 04/20/2020

 

Michael Schmidt. From the 81-part series 'Women' 1997-1999

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Aus der 81-teiligen serie Frauen
From the 81-part series Women
1997-1999
Gelatin silver print
44.1 x 29.9 cm
© Michael Schmidt
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Montemor, Portugal, May 1, 1994
1994
C-Print, 35,2 x 27,8 cm
© Rineke Dijkstra
Foto/Photo: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Haus der Photographie/Sammlung F. C. Gundlach, Hamburg

 

 

The exhibition comprises 400 exhibits and reflects on important artistic positions in photographic portraiture. During the eventful 20th century portrait photography continually redefines itself, between dissolution of the traditional concept of the subject in the masses and the pursuit of individuality and identity – culturally, socially and in terms of gender. Portraiture is one of the traditional genres in art and was one of the driving forces behind the invention of photography in the 19th century. The image of the human being is subject to constant change, which is also reflected in photography. In postmodern society mass media create ever-changing ideals according to various requirements in tune with a quick succession of trends. Art photography responds to the changes and reflects the development sometimes with spectacular results while it questions the medium of photography itself. The exhibition presents 35 carefully chosen international artists, who through history have opened up a dialogue among themselves; they are referencing each other’s work, and are received and interpreted in ever new contexts. On show are works by Diane Arbus, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Roni Horn, Jurgen Klauke, Annie Leibovitz, Helmar Lerski, Irving Penn, Judith Joy Ross, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and others. An exhibition in cooperation with the Sammlung Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung on the occasion of the 5th Photography Triennial in Hamburg.

“The PORTRAIT-PHOTOGRAPH is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, London, 1984, p. 13). The photographic portrait does indeed combine contrary interests. The relationship between photographer and sitter is crucial. The third factor is the viewer, who is already being considered during the process of photographing. In the knowledge of the particular psychological situation resulting from the presence of a camera, Richard Avedon laconically stated: A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed.” The sitters’ reactions to the camera differ, depending on how experienced they are. Fact is: It is not possible to not communicate, as Paul Watzlawick’s research on communication shows. People demean themselves, even if they withdraw or turn away.

The confrontation climaxes in the principle of frontality, which remains valid today although it is constantly being tried and questioned. The project Serial Portraits invites the visitor on a journey through time starting from the beginnings with Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes, David Octavius Hill’s (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson’s (1821-1848) talbotypes up to the digital present with Michael Najjar’s (b. 1966) cyborgs, and wondering whether classical portraiture has come to its end.

The beginning includes a model case, where due to the long exposure necessary the models do not live out of the moment but into the moment, as Walter Benjamin said (Little History of Photography, 1931). Thirty-Minute Dialogue by Kyungwoo Chun (b. 1969) from 2000 is examining the synthesis of expression, which is necessitated by the models’ keeping still for so long. An exposure time of half an hour allows the work to penetrate the depths of the pictorial space.

The creativity of the 1920s and the New Vision inspires a “visual vocabulary” appropriate for modernity. Its different forms can be seen in the individual responses of photographers such as August Sander (1876-1964). Being a typical studio photographer, he works on a typology of “man of the 20th century”, beginning with the agricultural type, his Stammappe (engl.: Germinal Portfolio) being a memorial to the latter. Helmar Lerski (1871-1956) takes a different stance; having originally worked in film, he is photographing his Everyday Heads in extreme close-ups. Making use of effective lighting in his studio, he invites unknown sitters from the street and fashions characteristic heads.

Sander’s oeuvre represents a turning point for comparative vision as a genuine principle in series. Considering photography of the 1920s and questioning the photographer’s position as well as the medium itself, author-photography in the 1970s is developing a new idea of documentary. Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is testing the limits, when he presupposes that photography can merely reflect the surface of things. Bernhard Fuchs is adding a personal touch when he is seeking out the places of his own past. The great portrait photographer Irving Penn is cornering his celebrities in a corner of his studio and allows them to find their place, according to their inclinations and abilities to self-represent.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) is holding a one-sided dialog, certainly not giving equal weight to the photographer’s interests and that of her models. While the frontality signals the conventionally due deference, the complex composition of her pictures is dominated by the superior gaze directed at the supposedly others, the freaks of bourgeois society. Until now Arbus is misinterpreted as a documentary photographer. It is being ignored that photography inevitably presents a specific view of reality and that the viewer’s position has been carefully constructed within the picture.

Only pictures that have been taken without the awareness of those represented document a found situation at the same time as they present a monologue. Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) chose this method for his series Menschen im Fahrstuhl (engl.: People in an Elevator), which he completed in just one day. In a moment of pause people can reflect and are not forced to react to being observed. In his pictures the photographer respects their individuality without judging social differences.

Examples for comparability as principle in a series can be found early on. Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes as unique copies of the members of parliament in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt from 1848/1849 were later reproduced as lithographs and distributed in portfolios. These politicians were the direct successors to the galleries of ancestral portraits in stately homes, whereby the new medium was democratic. Rudolph Duhrkoop’s Hamburgische Männer und Frauen amAnfang des XX. Jahrhunderts (engl.: Men and Women of Hamburg in the Early XXth Century) represent the citizens in this tradition.

Since 1975 Nicholas Nixon (b. 1974) is extending the series The Brown Sisters every year. His study is observing changes, while Hans-Peter Feldmann (b. 1941) is representing a century through 101 average people in his sequence 100 Jahre (engl.: 100 Years). It is fascinating, how the uniqueness of each person even if they remain anonymous is transported in the photographic portrait. Judith Joy Ross’ (b. 1946) series Protesting the U. S. War in Iraq documents a seriousness in the sitters’ faces, the political dimension of which can only be fully grasped with the information on the context. As with every photograph the title or accompanying text is part of the message.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg website

 

Michael Najjar (German, b. 1966) 'Stephan_2.0' from the 'nexus project part I' 1999

 

Michael Najjar (German, b. 1966)
Stephan_2.0 from the nexus project part I
1999
Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec
140 x 100 cm / 56 x 40 in, edition of 6

 

 

Nexus Project

The series “nexus project part I” investigates the implications of the future enhancement of the human brain with miniaturised computer chips, infiltrated in the neuronal structures of the human organism.

Such a development will give birth to a new form of life – the cyborg, a hybrid compound of human and machine. A new set of questions are raised concerning issues of difference and identification between biologically correct beings and technically or genetically enhanced humans.

This development brings with it a host of new concerns: What impact will neuro-implants have on human consciousness? How will society cope with this kind of being, and what implications will they have for our social and cultural interaction?

“nexus project part I” consists of eight photographic portraits. These have undergone a digital modification of the iris, which gives the portrait faces an intimidating, almost inhuman look whilst at the same time it exerts a strong direct fascination on the viewer.

The highly charged poles of tensions and cross-tensions between fascination and intimidation also shape the para-meters in which the future development of human being to hybrid organism will take place.

Text from the Michael Najjar website [Online] Cited 04/02/2020

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010) 'Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)' 1969

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010)
Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010) 'Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)' 1969

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010)
Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)' 1981

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)' 1981/82

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)
1981/82
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag' 1981

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Roni Horn. 'Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)' 2005

 

Roni Horn (American, b. 1955)
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

Roni Horn. 'Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)' 2005

 

Roni Horn (American, b. 1955)
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946) 'Jane C. Keller, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania' from the series 'Protest the War' 2006

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Jane C. Keller, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War
2006
Gelatin silver print

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946) 'Lynn Estomin, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania' from the series 'Protest the War' 2006

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Lynn Estomin, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War
2006
Gelatin silver print

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.
1980
Gelatin silver print

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Boston' 2012

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters, Boston
2012
Gelatin silver print

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850) 'Heinrich Jakob Venedey' 1848

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850)
Heinrich Jakob Venedey
1848
Daguerreotype
20.8 x 15.4 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

 

 

Hermann Biow was an important German daguerreotypist in the early days of photography. Biow became known through his portrait photography during his lifetime. He portrayed politicians, celebrities and wealthy citizens, including Franz Liszt, Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich Wilhelm IV. He is also known for his parliamentarian portraits of the first German National Assembly in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt in 1848/49. Today Biow is primarily seen as the founder of German documentary photography.

A daguerreotype of Heinrich Jakob Venedey from 1848 made by Hermann Biow in Frankfurt. Venedey (1805-1871) was a member of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in 1848/49 as a deputy for Hessen-Homburg. The lawyer belonged to the factions Deutscher Hof and Westendhall of the National Assembly. (Text translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850) 'Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes' 1848

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850)
Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes
1848
Daguerreotype
20.4 x 14.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

 

 

A daguerreotype of Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes (that’s Gerhard Compes) from 1848 by Hermann Biow in Frankfurt. Compes was a member of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in 1848/49 as a deputy for the 19th province of Rhineland (Siegburg). The Cologne lawyer belonged to the Württemberger Hof faction of the National Assembly. (Text translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (C. Bernhard)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (C. Bernhard)
1985
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
© Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (T. Ruff)' 1983

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (T. Ruff)
1983
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday until 9 pm

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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28
May
11

Exhibition: ‘When the Curtain Falls: Margarita Broich – Photographs’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 18th March – 30th May 2011

 

Many thankx to the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Margarita Broich. Vaginal Davis, Performance, Rising Stars, Falling Stars, Arsenal, Berlin, 13.11.2010

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Vaginal Davis
Performance, Rising Stars, Falling Stars, Arsenal, Berlin, 13.11.2010

2010
© Margarita Broich

 

Margarita Broich. Martin Wuttke with poodle Taxi, Gretchens Faust, Berliner Ensemble, 11-05-2009

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Martin Wuttke with poodle Taxi
Gretchens Faust, Berliner Ensemble, 11.05.2009

2009
© Margarita Broich

 

Margarita Broich. Veronica Ferres, Unter Bauern, 1.9.2008

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Veronica Ferres
Unter Bauern, 01.09.2008

2008
© Margarita Broich

 

Margarita Broich. Melanie and Daniela Reichert, Unter Bauern, 27-08-2008

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Melanie and Daniela Reichert
Unter Bauern, 27.08.2008

2008
© Margarita Broich

 

Margarita Broich Rosebud, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin, 21-12-2001

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Margarita Broich
Rosebud, Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin, 21-12-2001

2001
© Margarita Broich

 

 

As an actress Margarita Broich is one of the big names, but it may come as a surprise to many that she is also a photographer. For the first time the Martin-Gropius-Bau is showing an exhibition of her work consisting of over 60 portraits of her fellow artists, including Ben Becker, Kate Winslet, Veronika Ferres, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Christoph Schlingensief, Thomas Quasthoff and many more. Margarita Broich has captured those fleeting moments when the actor sheds the role in the intervals or a few minutes after the end of a performance. The role can still be discerned on the features of the players when they are still surrounded by the world of scenery and mirrors but not acting any more. They have been sought out in changing rooms, theatre foyers, or with the make-up artist, taking off their make-up while still surrounded by the tools of their transformation.

Broich portrays the artists with the instinct of a colleague. Her photographs capture famous artists from her circle of acquaintances at those moments when they are returning from the stage after playing their role. However matter-of-fact the situation of the subject may occasionally appear, each photograph has its own charm. The beholder is granted glimpses of scenes that must be among the most intimate in show business: whether they show Martin Wuttke with a blonde, Andy Warhol mane and his poodle, Taxi, smoking a cigarette after a performance of “Gretchens Faust”, or Klaus Maria Brandauer at the end of a 10-hour Wallenstein epic, sitting on a stool with a bottle of beer, the snapshots are full of tension.

Born in Neuwied in 1960, Margarita Broich initially studied photo design in Dortmund and worked as a theatrical photographer at the Bochum Schauspielhaus (Theatre) under Claus Peymann, before studying dramatic art herself at Berlin’s College of Arts. Since then she has appeared in numerous German-language stage performances and television dramas, working with such directors as Claus Peymann, Robert Wilson and, earlier, with Christoph Schlingensief.

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website [Online] Cited 26/05/2011 no longer available online

 

Margarita Broich. Kate Winslet, The Reader, 20-04-2008

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Kate Winslet
The Reader, 20-04-2008

2008
© Margarita Broich

 

Margarita Broich. Klaus Maria Brandauer Wallenstein, Berliner Ensemble in the Preuss-Halle, Berlin, 09-06-2007

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Wallenstein, Berliner Ensemble in the Preuss-Halle, Berlin, 09-06-2007

2007
© Margarita Broich

 

Margarita Broich. Ben Becker Jedermann, Salzburger Festspiele, 17-08-2010

 

Margarita Broich (German, b. 1960)
Ben Becker
Jedermann, Salzburger Festspiele, 17-08-2010
2010
© Margarita Broich

 

 

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

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

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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