Posts Tagged ‘feminist

20
Aug
18

Exhibition: ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 22nd June – 2nd September 2018

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona' 1940

 

Dorothea Lange
Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona
1940
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

Damaged, desperate and displaced

I am writing this short text on a laptop in Thailand which keeps jumping lines and mispelling words. The experience is almost as disorienting as the photographs of Dorothea Lange, with their anguished angles and portraits of despair. Her humanist, modernist pictures capture the harsh era of The Great Depression and the 1930s in America, allowing a contemporary audience to imagine what it must have been like to walk along blistering roads with five children, not knowing where your next meal or drink of water is coming from.

Like Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis from an earlier era, Lange’s photographs are about the politics of seeing. They are about human beings in distress and how photography can raise awareness of social injustice and disenfranchisement in the name of cultural change.

#dorothealange @barbicancentre

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

 

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

Dorothea Lange took this photograph in 1936, while employed by the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) program, formed during the Great Depression to raise awareness of and provide aid to impoverished farmers. In Nipomo, California, Lange came across Florence Owens Thompson and her children in a camp filled with field workers whose livelihoods were devastated by the failure of the pea crops. Recalling her encounter with Thompson years later, she said, “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction.”1 One photograph from that shoot, now known as Migrant Mother, was widely circulated to magazines and newspapers and became a symbol of the plight of migrant farm workers during the Great Depression.

As Lange described Thompson’s situation, “She and her children had been living on frozen vegetables from the field and wild birds the children caught. The pea crop had frozen; there was no work. Yet they could not move on, for she had just sold the tires from the car to buy food.”2 However, Thompson later contested Lange’s account. When a reporter interviewed her in the 1970s, she insisted that she and Lange did not speak to each other, nor did she sell the tires of her car. Thompson said that Lange had either confused her for another farmer or embellished what she had understood of her situation in order to make a better story.

Text from the MoMA Learning website

 

  1. Dorothea Lange, “The Assignment I’ll Never Forget,” Popular Photography 46 (February, 1960). Reprinted in Photography, Essays and Images, ed. Beaumont Newhall (New York: The Museum of Modern Art), 262-65
  2. Dorothea Lange, paraphrased in Karin Becker Ohm, Dorothea Lange and the Documentary Tradition (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1980), 79

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London showing Dorothea Lange’s photograph Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California 1936
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.” (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

The images were made using a Graflex camera. The original negatives are 4×5″ film. It is not possible to determine on the basis of the negative numbers (which were assigned later at the Resettlement Administration) the order in which the photographs were taken.

Text from The Library of Congress website

 

Florence Owens Thompson: The Story of the “Migrant Mother” 2014

Thompson’s identity was discovered in the late 1970s; in 1978, acting on a tip, Modesto Bee reporter Emmett Corrigan located Thompson at her mobile home in Space 24 of the Modesto Mobile Village and recognized her from the 40-year-old photograph.[10] A letter Thompson wrote was published in The Modesto Bee and the Associated Press distributed a story headlined “Woman Fighting Mad Over Famous Depression Photo.” Florence was quoted as saying “I wish she [Lange] hadn’t taken my picture. I can’t get a penny out of it, she didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures, she said she’d send me a copy. She never did.”[2]

Lange was funded by the federal government when she took the picture, so the image was in the public domain and Lange never directly received any royalties. However, the picture did help make Lange a celebrity and earned her “respect from her colleagues.”[11]

In a 2008 interview with CNN, Thompson’s daughter Katherine McIntosh recalled how her mother was a “very strong lady”, and “the backbone of our family”, she said: “We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something. She didn’t eat sometimes, but she made sure us children ate. That’s one thing she did do.”

Florence Owens Thompson on the WikiVisually website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'White Angel Breadline, San Francisco' 1933

 

Dorothea Lange
White Angel Breadline, San Francisco
1933
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

“There are moments such as these when time stands still and all you do is hold your breath and hope it will wait for you. And you just hope you will have enough time to get it organised in a fraction of a second on that tiny piece of sensitive film. Sometimes you have an inner sense that you have encompassed the thing generally. You know then that you are not taking anything away from anyone: their privacy, their dignity, their wholeness.” ~ Dorothea Lange 1963

Davis K F 1995, The photographs of Dorothea Lange, Hallmark Cards Inc, Missouri p. 20.

 

White angel breadline, San Francisco is Lange’s first major image that encapsulates both her sense of compassion and ability to structure a photograph according to modernist principles. The diagonals of the fence posts and the massing of hats do not reduce this work to the purely formal – the figure in the front middle of the image acts as a lightening rod for our emotional engagement.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

There was a real “White Angel” behind the breadline that served the needy men photographed by Dorothea Lange. She was a widow named Lois Jordan. Mrs. Jordan, who gave herself the name White Angel, established a soup kitchen during the Great Depression to feed those who were unemployed and destitute. Relying solely on donations, she managed to supply meals to more than one million men over a three-year period.

Jordan’s soup kitchen occupied a junk-filled lot in San Francisco located on the Embarcadero near Filbert Street. This area was known as the White Angel Jungle. The Jungle was not far from Lange’s studio. As she began to change direction from portrait to documentary photography, Lange focused her lens on the poignant scenes just beyond her window. White Angel Breadline is the result of her first day’s work to document Depression-era San Francisco. Decades later, Lange recalled: “[White Angel Breadline] is my most famed photograph. I made that on the first day I ever went out in an area where people said, ‘Oh, don’t go there.’ It was the first day that I ever made a photograph on the street.”

Text from the Arts Edge website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Drought Refugees' c. 1935

 

Dorothea Lange
Drought Refugees
c. 1935
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Family walking on highway - five children. Started from Idabel, Oklahoma, bound for Krebs, Oklahoma' June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange
Family walking on highway – five children. Started from Idabel, Oklahoma, bound for Krebs, Oklahoma
June 1938
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Cars on the Road' August 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Cars on the Road
August 1936
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Dust Bowl, Grain Elevator, Everett, Texas' June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange
Dust Bowl, Grain Elevator, Everett, Texas
June 1938
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

 

 

This summer, Barbican Art Gallery stages the first ever UK retrospective of one of the most influential female photographers of the 20th century, the American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). A formidable woman of unparalleled vigour and resilience, the exhibition charts Lange’s outstanding photographic vision from her early studio portraits of San Francisco’s bourgeoisie to her celebrated Farm Security Administration work (1935-1939) that captured the devastating impact of the Great Depression on the American population. Rarely seen photographs of the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War are also presented as well as the later collaborations with fellow photographers Ansel Adams and Pirkle Jones documenting the changing face of the social and physical landscape of 1950s America. Opening 22 June at Barbican Art Gallery, Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is part of the Barbican’s 2018 season, The Art of Change, which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing encompasses over 300 objects from vintage prints and original book publications to ephemera, field notes, letters, and documentary film. Largely chronological, the exhibition presents eight series in Lange’s oeuvre spanning from 1919 to 1957.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: “This is an incredible opportunity for our visitors to see the first UK survey of the work of such a significant photographer. Dorothea Lange is undoubtedly one of the great photographers of the twentieth century and the issues raised through her work have powerful resonance with issues we’re facing in society today. Staged alongside contemporary photographer Vanessa Winship as part of The Art of Change, these two shows are unmissable.”

Opening the exhibition are Lange’s little known early portrait photographs taken during her time running a successful portrait studio in San Francisco between 1919 and 1935. Lange was at the heart of San Francisco’s creative community and her studio became a centre in which bohemian and artistic friends gathered after hours, including Edward Weston, Anne Brigman, Alma Lavenson, Imogen Cunningham, and Willard van Dyke. Works from this period include intimate portraits of wealthy West Coast families as well as of Lange’s inner circle, counting amongst others photographer Roi Partridge and painter Maynard Dixon, Lange’s first husband and father of her two sons.

The Great Depression in the early 1930s heralded a shift in her photographic language as she felt increasingly compelled to document the changes visible on the streets of San Francisco. Taking her camera out of the studio, she captured street demonstrations, unemployed workers, and breadline queues. These early explorations of her social documentary work are also on display.

The exhibition charts Lange’s work with the newly established historical division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the government agency tasked with the promotion of Roosevelt’s New Deal programme. Alongside Lange, the FSA employed a number of photographers, including Walker Evans, Ben Shahn and Arthur Rothstein, to document living conditions across America during the Great Depression: from urban poverty in San Francisco to tenant farmers driven off the land by dust storms and mechanisation in the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas; the plight of homeless families on the road in search of better livelihoods in the West; and the tragic conditions of migrant workers and camps across California. Lange used her camera as a political tool to critique themes of injustice, inequality, migration and displacement, and to effect government relief.

Highlights in this section are, among others, a series on sharecroppers in the Deep South that exposes relations of race and power, and the iconic Migrant Mother, a photograph which has become a symbol of the Great Depression, alongside images of vernacular architecture and landscapes, motifs often overlooked within Lange’s oeuvre. Vintage prints in the exhibition are complemented by the display of original publications from the 1930s to foreground the widespread use of Lange’s FSA photographs and her influence on authors including John Steinbeck, whose ground-breaking novel The Grapes of Wrath was informed by Lange’s photographs. Travelling for many months at a time and working in the field, she collaborated extensively with her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor, a prominent social economist and expert in farm labour with whom she published the seminal photo book An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion in 1939, also on display in the exhibition.

The exhibition continues with rarely seen photographs of the internment of more than 100,000 American citizens of Japanese descent that Lange produced on commission for the War Relocation Authority following the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Lange’s critical perspective of this little discussed chapter in US history however meant that her photographs remained unpublished during the war and stored at the National Archives in Washington. It is the first time that this series will be shown comprehensively outside of the US and Canada.

Following her documentation of the Japanese American internment, Lange produced a photographic series of the wartime shipyards of Richmond, California with friend and fellow photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984). Lange and Adams documented the war effort in the shipyards for Fortune magazine in 1944, recording the explosive increase in population numbers and the endlessly changing shifts of shipyard workers. Capturing the mass recruitment of workers, Lange turned her camera on both female and black workers, for the first time part of the workforce, and their defiance of sexist and racist attitudes.

The exhibition features several of Lange’s post-war series, when she photographed extensively in California. Her series Public Defender (1955-1957) explores the US legal defence system for the poor and disadvantaged through the work of a public defender at the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland. Death of a Valley (1956-57), made in collaboration with photographer Pirkle Jones, documents the disappearance of the small rural town of Monticello in California’s Berryessa Valley as a consequence of the damming of the Putah Creek. Capturing the destruction of a landscape and traditional way of life, the photographs testify to Lange’s environmentalist politics and have not been displayed or published since the 1960s.

The exhibition concludes with Lange’s series of Ireland (1954), the first made outside the US. Spending six weeks in County Clare in western Ireland, Lange captured the experience of life in and around the farming town of Ennis in stark and evocative photographs that symbolise Lange’s attraction to the traditional life of rural communities.

An activist, feminist and environmentalist, Lange used her camera as a political tool to critique themes of injustice, inequality, migration and displacement that bear great resonance with today’s world, a prime example of which is her most iconic image the Migrant Mother (1936). Working in urban and rural contexts across America and beyond, she focused her lens on human suffering and hardship to create compassionate and piercing portraits of people as well as place in the hope to forge social and political reform – from the plight of sharecroppers in the Deep South to Dust Bowl refugees trekking along the highways of California in search of better livelihoods.

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is organised by the Oakland Museum of California. The European presentation has been produced in collaboration with Barbican Art Gallery, London and Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Press release from the Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Left: Dorothea Lange. Displaced Tennant Farmers, Goodlet, Hardeman Co., Texas 1937. ‘All displaced tenant farmers, the oldest 33. None able to vote because of Texas poll tax. They support an average of four persons each on $22.80 a month’. Second left: Dorothea Lange. Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle' June 1938

 

Dorothea Lange
Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle
June 1938
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California
Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Second left top: Dorothea Lange. Mexican field labourer at station in Sacramento after 5 day trip from Mexico City. Imported by arrangements between Mexican and US governments to work in sugar beets. 6 October 1942. Second left bottom: Dorothea Lange. Filipino Field Worker, Spring Plowing, Cauliflower Fields, Guadalupe, California. March 1937. Right: Dorothea Lange. Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma. 1936

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Filipino Field Worker, Spring Plowing, Cauliflower Fields, Guadalupe, California' March 1937

 

Dorothea Lange
Filipino Field Worker, Spring Plowing, Cauliflower Fields, Guadalupe, California
March 1937
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California
Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Damaged Child, Shacktown, Elm Grove, Oklahoma
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland
Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange. 'San Francisco, California. Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
San Francisco, California. Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets. Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-G-C122

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Centerville, California. This evacuee stands by her baggage as she waits for evacuation bus' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Centerville, California. This evacuee stands by her baggage as she waits for evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-G-C241

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. An evacuee is shown in the lath house sorting seedlings for transplanting' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. An evacuee is shown in the lath house sorting seedlings for transplanting. These plants are year-old seedlings from the Salinas Experiment Station
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-GC737

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Manzanar Relocation Center' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California
July 3, 1942
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Paul S. Taylor. 'Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains' c. 1935

 

Paul S. Taylor
Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains
c. 1935
Silver gelatin print
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Sacramento, California. College students of Japanese ancestry' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange
Sacramento, California. College students of Japanese ancestry who have been evacuated from Sacramento to the Assembly Center
1942
Silver gelatin print
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 210-GC471

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London
Photos: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

Barbican Art Gallery
Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

Opening hours:
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Sun: 11am – 11pm
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Barbican Art Gallery website

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18
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London Part 2

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 20th May 2018

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography is curated by Phillip Prodger PhD, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Poster for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Poster for the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Oh Clementina! the light, the stars!

There is enough text in the posting for me not to really have to say anything. It’s all there…

Art, influence, technology;
Classical, formal, diaristic;
Intimacy, mystery, atmospheric;
Motherhood, sexuality, feminist identity, nascent womanhood;
‘Profil perdu’ (French, ‘lost profile’, which refers to a portrait in which the profile cannot be seen), mirror, loss, duplication and replication, illusion, and fetish

… all woven into a performative, psychological, expressive and creative (self) portraiture.

The real stars of the show are most definitely the women… the avant-garde artists of their era.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery, London for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

This major exhibition is the first to examine the relationship between four ground-breaking Victorian artists: Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79), Lewis Carroll (1832-98), Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) and Oscar Rejlander (1813-75). Drawn from public and private collections internationally, the exhibition features some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history. Influenced by historical painting and frequently associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the four artists formed a bridge between the art of the past and the art of the future, standing as true giants in Victorian photography.

 

 

“The women are the real stars of this exhibition. Their pictures are bolder and bigger, more imaginative and more daring. They portray people with a raw reality that is not just the result of the collodion method but a powerful, visionary insight.

Hawarden’s pictures of Victorian women have an intimacy that transcends time and a mystery that asserts the autonomy of her subjects. They are feminist, and gothic too, in their eerie atmosphere. In an 1863-4 picture called ‘Photographic Study’, she poses a young woman by a mirror so that we see her twice. The “real” woman is in brooding profile while her reflection is a shadowy full-face image. The effect is spookily absorbing as we become witnesses to her melancholic introspection.

Hawarden’s ultra-sharp yet shadow-rich prints create unresolved stories featuring women free to show who they really are. None of them look happy. All are curiously defiant – these pictures anticipate those of the 1970s US artist Francesca Woodman. As portraits of women created by women, these Victorian photographers’ subversive creations have almost no precedents.

Not that Cameron looked to the handful of earlier women artists as models. She was trying to be a new Rembrandt: her portraits consciously compete with the masterpieces of the baroque age. While the painted portraits of male Victorian artists such as John Everett Millais and George Frederic Watts are period pieces at best, her great 1866 photograph Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty (Mrs Keene) with its subtle mix of resolution and suggestiveness brings us face to face with someone whose eyes hold ours and whose mind is as real to us as her tangled hair. There is a sensitivity to the magic of being human in Cameron’s portraits that makes her the greatest British artist of her time. This exhibition puts her in a brilliantly delineated context of experiment and imagination, the first avant-garde artist of the camera.”

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Extract from Jonathan Jones. “Victorian Giants: the Birth of Art Photography review – the triumph of the female gaze,” on The Guardian website Friday 2 March 2018

 

 

 

 

Clementina Hawarden

Her life cruelly cut short by pneumonia at the age of forty-two, Clementina Maude, Viscountess Hawarden produced some 800 photographs in her lifetime, nearly all are of her eight children posed in poignant tableaux. She began to photograph on her family’s estate, outside Tipperary, around 1857, later moving to Princes Gardens, London, near Hyde Park. Frequently compared to Cameron, she was much admired by Carroll, and on her death, Rejlander wrote her obituary. (Wall text)

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“I
n that vein, the greatest discovery in the exhibition is a thrillingly strange image by Hawarden, to my mind always the most intriguing photographer of the four. Hawarden was a Scottish countess who had ten children. She photographed all of her daughters repeatedly, and there were so many of them it’s hard to keep track. Her photographs, which are often classical in their formal qualities, nevertheless anticipate the diaristic work of the 20th century photographers Sally Mann and Nan Goldin. They often contain more than one girl, and often feature mirrors, so that everything is about multiplication or reflection – an effect that might also be seen as a form of self-portraiture in the mother of so many.” (Gaby Wood)

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Her photographic years were brief but prolific. Hawarden produced over eight hundred photographs between 1857 and her sudden death in 1864. During this time she gave birth to three of her eight children. Lady Hawarden’s photographic focus remained on her children. There is only one photograph believed to feature the Viscountess Hawarden, yet it could also be a portrait of her sister Anne Bontine.

A collection of 775 portraits were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 1939 by Hawarden’s granddaughter, Clementina Tottenham. The photographs were torn, or cut, from family albums for reasons that are still unclear. This accounts for the torn or trimmed corners which are now considered a hallmark of Hawarden’s work.

Carol Mavor writes extensively about the place of Hawarden’s work in the history of Victorian photography as well as contemporary interpretations of the work. She states, “Hawarden’s pictures raise significant issues of gender, motherhood, and sexuality as they relate to photography’s inherent attachments to loss, duplication and replication, illusion, fetish.” (Mavor, Carol (1999). Becoming: the photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden (1st ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.) (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study, 5 Princes Gardens (Clementina Maude)' 1863-1864

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study, 5 Princes Gardens (Clementina Maude)
1863-1864
from The Photographic Study Series by Clementina, Lady Hawarden
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Given by Lady Clementina Tottenham
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“Although her work has often been linked to that of Julia Margaret Cameron, the best known woman photographer of the Victorian epoch, Clementina Hawarden struck out into areas and depicted moods unknown to the art photographers of her age.” ~ Graham Ovenden 1974

 

This remarkable photograph shows a woman gazing into a mirror, but not at her own reflection. Instead, the picture was carefully arranged so that the woman’s face is seen in profile, while only her reflection looks back out of the mirror. Hawarden excelled at producing ambiguous narrative photographs such as this one, suggesting the rich inner life of the subject, without telling a clear story. The heroes of her pictures are nearly always women, who seem all but trapped in domestic interiors. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina Maude)' early 1860s

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina Maude)
early 1860s
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
20.1 x 14.4 cm (7 15/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
© Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Clementina, Lady Hawarden, is a poetic, if elusive, presence among nineteenth-century photographers. As a devoted mother, her life revolved around her eight children. She took up photography in 1857; using her daughters as models, she created a body of work remarkable for its technical brilliance and its original depiction of nascent womanhood. Lady Hawarden showed her work in the 1863 and 1864 exhibitions of the Photographic Society. With the exception of a few rare examples, her photographs remained in the possession of her family until 1939, when the more than eight hundred images were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Only recently have they been the objects of research, publication, and exhibition.

Clementina Maude, her mother’s preferred model, is seen here in a reflective pose against a star-studded wall. The casual placement of the shawl on the table and the girl’s loose hair contribute to the feeling of intimacy. In the airy room time seems to be suspended. The sensuous curves of the table legs, the soft weight of the crushed velvet, and the crispness of the starry wallpaper are enhanced by the skilful handling of the collodion technique. The composition, devoid of Victorian clutter, brings together light, shadow, and compositional elements in a spare and appealing interplay. In contrast to the prevailing fashion of giving literary or sentimental titles to portraits of young women, Lady Hawarden titled her works simply “Photographic Study.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude)' 1863-64

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude)
1863-64
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Hawarden frequently dressed up her sitters and arranged them in enigmatic narratives like this one. Although not derived from any known painting, the manner of dress, including the cloak and tricorn hat of the male figure (actually one of Hawarden’s daughters dressed up), suggest an eighteenth century reference. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Florence Elizabeth and Clementina Maude)' 1863-4

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Florence Elizabeth and Clementina Maude)
1863-4
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Working from upstairs rooms at 5 Princes Gardens, near to the South Kensington Museum (where both she and Julia Margaret Cameron were frequent visitors), Hawarden used light streaming from large floor to ceiling windows to illuminate her pictures. Her subjects were usually her children, especially her daughters Clementina, Florence, and Isabella Grace, whom she posed in domestic tableaux.

Both Carroll and Rejlander knew and admired Hawarden. On at least one occasion, Rejlander photographed her daughter Isabella Grace; after Hawarden’s death, he also photographed her youngest daughter, Antonia. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) Hawarden. 'Isabella Grace and Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens' c. 1863-4

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Hawarden Isabella Grace and Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens
c. 1863-4
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
Given by Lady Clementina Tottenham
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Virginia Dodier thinks that this photograph belongs to an ‘Orientalist’ series. Here, Lady Hawarden gives her drawing room a tent-like atmosphere. Such scenes were popularised by the painter J. F. Lewis, and Roger Fenton exhibited his photographic ‘Nubian Series’ in 1859. Dodier writes that the idea of Orientalism allowed European artists to ‘evoke sensuality on the premise of presenting quasi-ethnographical information about the customs of the East’. The idea of the fancy dress or allegorical portrait stems from an earlier tradition in English art. They are found, for example, in the work of the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92). (Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website)

 

 

Lady Clementina Hawarden: Themes & Style (extract)

With careful choice of props, clothing, mirrors, balcony, and posture, Hawarden produced exquisite studies of her adolescent daughters. The figures and dress are the main subject, carefully framed in the room, and often in front of the balcony. The city beyond often provides a blurred background.

The writer Carol Mavor in Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden suggests that the often provocative poses of Hawarden’s daughters are significant. The Victorians were bothered by the idea of sexuality and adolescence, and in 1861 the Offences Against the Person Act raised the age of consent from 10 to 12. This was also the year in which Hawarden began to make this kind of photograph, though there is no evidence that she was deliberately exploring this controversial topic.

Hawarden liked to use natural light in her studio at her South Kensington home, in a way that was seen at the time as ‘daring’. She placed mirrors to reflect light and used them to explore the idea of ‘the double’, just as other photographers (and occasionally Hawarden herself) used a stereoscopic camera to produce twin prints.

From around 1862 Hawarden concentrated on photographing her daughters in costume tableaux, a popular subject at the time. Costumes from the dressing up box are combined with dresses at the height of fashion to produce beautiful and detailed studies that confound the contemporary with the make-believe.

Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude)' 1859-61

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude)
1859-61
Uncut stereo albumen print

 

Figure 60 and 61 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 60 and 61 of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 112 and 113 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 112 and 113 of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Oscar Rejlander

According to his naturalisation papers, Rejlander was born in Stockholm on October 19, 1813. He was the son of Carl Gustaf Rejlander, a stonemason and Swedish Army Officer. During his youth, his family moved to the Swedish-speaking community in Rauma, Finland (then Russia). In the 1830s, he relocated to England, initially settling in Lincoln, England. In the 1850s he abandoned his original profession as a painter and portrait miniaturist, apparently after seeing how well a photograph captured the fold of a sleeve.

He set up as a portraitist in the industrial Midlands town of Wolverhampton, probably around 1846. In the early 1850s he learned the wet-collodion and waxed-paper processes at great speed with Nicholas Henneman in London, and then changed his business to that of a photography studio. He undertook genre work and portraiture. Rejlander also produced nude studies, mainly for use as studies by painters. There are no known erotic photographs of children by Rejlander. His so-called ‘Charlotte Baker’ photograph is a well-known forgery, produced by convicted child sex offender Graham Ovenden by Ovenden’s friend Howard Grey in the 1970s, rephotographed and printed to look antique by Ovenden. No person by the name Charlotte Baker ever seems to have posed for Rejlander.

Rejlander undertook many experiments to perfect his photography, including combination printing, which he did not invent; however, he created more elaborate and convincing composite photographs than any prior photographer. He had articles feature in the Wolverhampton Chronicle, on 15 November 1854 an article called “Improvement in Calotypes, by Mr. O.G. Rejlander, of Wolverhampton” it suggests that by 1854 he was experimenting with combination printing from several negatives. He was a friend of photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by the nom de plume Lewis Carroll), who collected Rejlander’s work and corresponded with him on technical matters. Rejlander later created one of the best known and most revealing portraits of Dodgson.

Rejlander participated in the Paris Exhibition of 1855. In 1856 he made his best-known allegorical work, The Two Ways of Life. This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images (akin to the use of Photoshop today, but then far more difficult to achieve) in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows a man being lured to paths of vice or virtue by good and bad angels. The image’s partial nudity, which showed real women as they actually appeared and not the idealised forms then common in Victorian art, was deemed ‘indecent’ by some. Rejlander was also accused of using prostitutes as models, although Rejlander categorically denied this and no proof was ever offered. Reservations about the work subsided when Queen Victoria ordered a 10-guinea copy to give to Prince Albert. Victoria and Albert would go on to purchase three copies of the work, all of which are now lost. …

Rejlander moved his studio to Malden Road, London around 1862 and largely abandoned her early experiments with double exposure, photomontage, photographic manipulation and retouching. Instead, he became one of Britain’s leading portraitists, creating pictures with psychological charge. He became a leading expert in photographic techniques, lecturing and publishing widely, and sold work through bookshops and art dealers. He also found subject-matter in London, photographing homeless London street children to produce popular ‘social-protest’ pictures such as “Poor Joe,” also known as “Homeless”. …

Rejlander’s ideas and techniques were taken up by other photographers and this, to some extent, justifies labelling him as the father of art photography.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Charles Darwin' 1871

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Charles Darwin
1871
Albumen print
© Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

Starting in the late 1860s, Charles Darwin began collecting photographs for use in the research that would eventually become his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Hoping to find authentic photographs, that captured emotional expressions as they actually occurred, he visited print shops and studios in London, and contacted several photographers hoping to commission new pictures. Few, if any, of the photographs he acquired met his ambitious expectations.

In April, 1871, Darwin wrote, ‘I am now rich in photographs, for I have found in London Rejlander, who for years has had a passion for photographing all sorts of chance expressions, exhibited on various occasions … instantaneously.’ Rejlander would go on to become the main contributor of photographs to Darwin’s book. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Two Ways of Life' 1856-7

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Two Ways of Life
1856-7
Albumen print, made from approximately 32 separate negatives
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

One of the most famous pictures in photographic history, Rejlander’s Two Ways of Life caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition in 1857. To make it, Rejlander combined some thirty-two separate negatives (there were variations between printings, and it is not always clear where negatives begin and end). Some viewers were offended by the nudes, whose bodies appear frank and realistic compared to the ideal fantasies painters were expected to produce. Others objected to its ambition, since Rejlander seemed to be saying that photography could be used to produce pictures just as meaningful, and as artistically composed, as any painting.

To make Two Ways of Life, Rejlander had to arrange the various subjects within it at the right size to maintain visual perspective. This was a challenge, since enlargement and reduction of negatives was not yet possible in the darkroom. The only way he could change the size of something in the negative was to rephotograph it.

This is the finest known print of the photograph, which is also known in a reduced form. The photograph is a parable featuring Rejlander himself, who stands in the middle, listening to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ angels luring him to paths of vice and virtue. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved the picture and bought three copies, none of which survive. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860 (detail)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia) (detail)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

 

Iphigenia was a daughter of King Agamemnon who appears in legends about the Trojan War. When her father accidentally offended the goddess Artemis, he was forced to sacrifice Iphigenia to appease the goddess so that she would allow his ships to sail to Troy. She was tricked into going to the town of Aulis under the pretence that she would marry the heroic warrior Achilles. In some versions she was killed, while in others she was rescued by Artemis. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Ariadne' 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Ariadne
1857
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Nude female study' c. 1867

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Nude female study
c. 1867
Albumen print
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/8 in. (196 mm x 138 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Rejlander produced a number of nude studies which he sold to painters for use as studies. He considered these pictures significant because they pointed up errors historically made by painters when depicting human anatomy. Although he was happy for painters to use photographs to improve their paintings, he also saw accuracy of depiction as one of the things that made photography special when compared to other art forms. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Virgin in prayer' c. 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)
c. 1857
albumen print
6 7/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (174 mm x 150 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This photograph is a based on the famous painting The Virgin in Prayer painted by the Italian Baroque painter Sassoferrato 1640-50, now in the collection of the National Gallery, London. The rise of public art spaces in Britain in the nineteenth century, including the National Gallery (1824), and the National Portrait Gallery (1856), provided inspiration for countless photographers. Rejlander was particularly enthusiastic about restaging famous paintings, often in order to demonstrate mistakes that painters had made in scale and perspective. The process was fun, and the results fuelled the debate about photography’s role among the arts. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)' c. 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)
c. 1857
Albumen print
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (196 mm x 146 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1860-1866
Albumen print
7 3/8 in. x 5 1/4 in. (188 mm x 134 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Untitled (unknown sitter, possibly Rejlander's wife, Mary)' c. 1863

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Untitled (unknown sitter, possibly Rejlander’s wife, Mary)
c. 1863
Printed by Julia Margaret Cameron
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron invited Rejlander to the Isle of Wight in 1863. Before the visit, Rejlander provided her with some of his own negatives, so that she could practise printing. She experimented with some, decorating them with ferns. This picture, which descended through Cameron’s family, was once believed to have been made by her. However, it is now recognised as one of the pictures Cameron printed from a Rejlander negative. The subject is one who frequently appears in Rejlander’s work, and may even have been his wife, Mary. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1863-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1863-1866
Albumen print
8 1/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (205 mm x 149 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''Sleep' (Mary Rejlander (née Bull))' c. 1855

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘Sleep’ (Mary Rejlander (née Bull))
c. 1855
Albumen print
6 1/8 in. x 6 5/8 in. (156 mm x 167 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Minnie Constable' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Minnie Constable
1860-1866
Albumen print
7 1/2 in. x 5 3/4 in. (192 mm x 146 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''Art must assist Photography' (Putto as Allegory of Painting)' 1856

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘Art must assist Photography’ (Putto as Allegory of Painting)
1856
Albumen print
4 3/4 in. x 3 5/8 in. (120 mm x 93 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Oscar Gustav Rejlander; Mary Rejlander (née Bull)' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Oscar Gustav Rejlander; Mary Rejlander (née Bull)
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 5/8 in. x 6 1/4 in. (219 mm x 158 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown woman' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown woman
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 in. x 5 3/4 in. (202 mm x 147 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''A devotee' (Unknown woman)' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘A devotee’ (Unknown woman)
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 5/8 in. x 6 1/4 in. (219 mm x 158 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Purify my heart' also known as 'The Little Sisters' c. 1862

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Purify my heart also known as The Little Sisters
c. 1862
Albumen print
5 in. x 4 1/8 in. (127 mm x 105 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This photograph shows two sisters side by side in profile, their hands clasped in prayer. One girl seems almost to be a mirror reflection of the other. Rejlander exhibited versions of this photograph with two different titles. Purify My Heart is a reference to the biblical passage James 4:8: ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.’ Lewis Carroll admired this photograph and purchased a copy for his personal collection. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1863-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1863-1866
Albumen print
8 1/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (205 mm x 149 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London, WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
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Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm

National Portrait Gallery website

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07
Jun
11

Review: ‘Time Machine: Sue Ford’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 7th April – 19th June 2011

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Many thankx to Mark Hislop for his help and the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1968
1968
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
selenium toned gelatin silver, printed 2011
22.8 x 24 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1974
1974
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
19.9 x 18 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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“Choosing to photograph oneself, one’s life and one’s time exemplified the now well-worn slogan ‘the person is political’. Ford’s self-examination across the decades is unflinching and exacting. As Janine Burke wrote in 1980, her ‘psychological history [is] etched in her face for everyone to see’. Burke concluded that Ford’s self-portraits are ‘as honest as one can ever be about oneself’.”

Helen Ennis. Faces are Maps: Sue Ford and Portraiture. 1

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“The search for the self is a journey into a mental labyrinth that takes random courses and ultimately ends at impasses. The memory fragments recovered along the way cannot provide us with a basis for interpreting the overall meaning of the journey. The meanings that we derive from our memories are only partial truths, and their value is ephemeral. For Foucault, the psyche is not an archive but only a mirror. To search the psyche for the truth about ourselves is a futile task because the psyche can only reflect the images we have conjured up to describe ourselves. Looking into the psyche, therefore, is like looking into the mirror image of a mirror. One sees oneself reflected in an image of infinite regress. Our gaze is led not toward the substance of our beginnings but rather into the meaninglessness of previously discarded images of the self.”

Patrick Hutton. Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self. 2

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This is a solid exhibition of the work of beloved Australian photographer Sue Ford, essential looking for anyone wanting to have an overview of Australian photography.

The beautifully hung exhibition flows like music, interweaving up and down, the photographs framed in thin, black wood frames. It features examples of Ford’s black and white fashion and street photography; a selection of work from the famous black and white Time series (being bought for their collection by the Art Gallery of New South Wales) – small, snapshot size double portraits, the first portraits taken during the 1960’s, the second around 1974, formalist portraits in which the sitter is closely cropped around head and shoulders with the photographer using the camera as objectively as possible, the double portrait used to display changes in identity over time; a selection of Photographs of Women – modern prints from the Sue Ford archive that are wonderfully composed photographs with deep blacks that portray strong, independent, vulnerable, joyous women (see last four photographs below); and the most interesting work in the exhibition, the posthumous new series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) that evidence, through a 47 part investigation using colour prints from Polaroids, silver gelatin prints printed by the artist, prints made from original negatives and prints from scanned images where there was no negative available, a self-portrait of the artist in the process of ageing (see the two photographs above and below this review).

One of my favourite photographs in the exhibition was Margaret with Emma, Redcliffs, Queensland, 1971. The black and white photograph features a grandmother with her granddaughter, close to each other, both wearing floral dresses of different pattern, both staring intently out of the image at what is possibly a television with a weatherboard backdrop. A dark form hovers at the upper left of the photograph adding a disturbing note to the image but it is the look on the grandmother’s face – a look of shock, enthralment, blankness with eyes wide, that is matched by the intensity on the granddaughter’s face as she stares intently – that transcends the distance between photograph and viewer, between grandmother and granddaughter across time and space. The process of looking and ageing captured by the ‘time machine’, the camera, in one single image. The viewer understands this photograph for we all experience the evidence of our bodies, our mortality. We relate intimately to how the photograph reanimates in the present this moment from the past, the momenti mori of the photograph, the little death becoming our future death.

This notion is particularly poignant in the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006), a work that Sue Ford was actively engaged with before her death. Smaller colour prints from negatives and Polaroids are here interspersed with black and white photographs up to about 8″ x 10″ in size: the series contains 12 chromogenic photographs, 7 silver gelatin photographs, 6 dye fusion photographs and 22 selenium-toned photographs (printed 2011). In dark, contrasty prints the artist has photographed herself looking down into the camera shooting into a mirror, looking directly into the mirror with camera, with the camera on a timer, with the camera in/visible, being shot by other people with the camera pointed directly at her, with the camera perpendicular to the artist shot by someone else, with Ford behind a movie camera, with multiple refractions in mirrors. Sometimes Ford even becomes the camera (as in the 1986 self-portrait below: I am the camera, the camera is me).

Ford becomes the “one who looks” knowingly at herself, sometimes the author of that observation, sometimes oblivious to it (until later when she has collected these images). As Burke and Ennis note, these photographs of self-examination across the decades are as honest as one can ever be about oneself. This a deeply political but also deeply psychoanalytical investigation: not to “take care of yourself” as a form of knowing as in Greco-Roman antiquity but “knowing yourself” as the fundamental principle of understanding yourself: a procedure of objectification and subjection in which the photograph ‘marks’ our status and the passage of time, that makes us who we are – photographs as vital techniques in the constitution of the self as subject.3

The mirror is frequently used in these photographs to portray the self. While it is true that these are strong, intimate, unflinching and exacting images in the use of the mirror the im(pose)tures of life are singled/doubled/tripled – a reflection of the psyche that lead to discarded images of the self that are of little use in understanding the substance of our beginnings or the overall interpretation of the journey. What they do offer is cumulative evidence of a deep, personal conviction into the inquiry: who am I?
Rembrandt famously painted, drew and etched himself hundreds of times in the process of ageing; Ford has likewise done the same. If, as Victor Burgin observes, “An identity implies not only a location but a duration, a history,”4 then the nature of photography (including Ford’s self-reflexive project), concerned as it is with space and time, becomes the mirror in a search for identity. Photography as a mirror on the world constantly repeats moments of illumination in a re/vision of eternal recurrence, a performance that is a hybrid site: both a homogenous (the same “I”) and heterogenous (a different “I”) site of self-representation, different every time we look. To that end I would like you to look at the self-portrait from 1976 (below). The artist is completely absent, her shilouette, her dark shadow swallowed whole by the blank photographic plate on the left hand side of the image as though Ford, the camera and an image of infinite regress have become one, eternally engulfed by space-time but open to re/view at any time.

Whether looking down, looking toward or looking inward these fantastic photographs show a strong, independent women with a vital mind, an élan vital, a critical self-organisation and an understanding of the morphogenesis of things that will engage us for years to come. Essential looking.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1986
1986
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
gelatin silver print, printed 2011
8.4 x 6.5 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Self-portrait 1976
1976
from the series Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006)
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
24 x 18 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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“On 16 April 2011, the first major exhibition of the work of the late SUE FORD for two decades will open at Monash Gallery of Art.

Sue Ford (1943-2010) was one of Australia’s most important photographers and filmmakers. Ford studied photography at RMIT and in 1974 was the first Australian photographer to be given a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Ford passed away in 2009. Before her death, she was working with Monash Gallery of Art on an exhibition of her work which would feature her final major project Self-portrait with camera (1960–2006). This series of 47 photographs has never been shown before, and presents a compelling self-portrait of an artist. It underscores the central role the camera played in Ford’s life. Self-portrait with camera will be shown alongside a survey of Ford’s black-and-white photographs from the 1960s and 70s and examples of her most iconic work, Time series (1960s–1970s).

The exhibition describes a period when photography was charged with political and personal meaning. As photographic historian and contributor to the publication accompanying the exhibition Helen Ennis states: “Ford’s approach to art making has always been straightforward … She does not cultivate a mysterious artistic persona [since] … her art practice is purposeful; it is the outcome of her view of art as a political activity that is democratic, liberating and relevant to contemporary society.”

As MGA Director and curator of the exhibition Shaune Lakin states: “This exhibition provides a great opportunity for Australian audiences to reassess the work of this important photographer, whose work was always at once political, beautiful and elegiac. In an era when the photograph has become a highly disposable thing, it is important to acknowledge its role as an agent of change and memory.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Lynne and Carol
1962
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
38.0 x 38.0 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–20
Carol, Little Collins St studio
1962
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
37.9 x 38.1 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
St Kilda
1963
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
38.0 x 38.0 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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Sue Ford (1943–2009)
Untitled [Bliss at Yellow House, King’s Cross, Sydney]
c. 1972-3
selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 2011
47.9 x 34.2 cm
courtesy Sue Ford Archive

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1. Burke, Janine. Self-portrait/self-image 1980-1981. Melbourne: Australian Directors’ Council, 1981. p.4 quoted in Ennis, Helen. “Faces are Maps: Sue Ford and Portraiture,” in Lakin, Shaune (ed.,). Sue Ford: Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006). Melbourne: Monash Gallery of Art, 2011, np.

2. Hutton, Patrick. “Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self,” in Martin, Luther and Gutman, Huck and Hutton, Patrick (eds.,). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock Publications, 1988, p.139.

3. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, quoted in Gutman, Huck. “Rousseau’s Confessions: A Technology of the Self,” in Martin, Luther and Gutman, Huck and Hutton, Patrick (eds.,). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock Publications, 1988, p.99.

4. Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p.36.

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Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm
Sat-Sun: 12pm-5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art 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: ‘Mask’ 1994

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