Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Parks

07
Nov
19

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 9th July – 10th November 2019

Curator: Amanda Maddox and Paul Roth

 

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Flavio' 1978

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Flavio
1978
Paper Closed: 21.6 × 15.1 cm (8 1/2 × 5 15/16 in.)
Collection of the Ryerson Image Centre
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Playing God can be a tricky business

 

 

“Playing God can be a tricky business”

There are some heartbreaking images (in particular by French/Brazilian photographer Henri Ballot), but in Parks photographs we never seem to hear Flavio’s voice – just his representation through the image. Despite Parks coming from a similar background of poverty and disenfranchisement and wanting the best for the boy, one can only wonder about the psychological effects of showing him the promised land and then having it all taken away.

The only time we come close to hearing Flavio’s wishes and his voice is in a snippet: “In spite of his wish to remain in the United States, Flávio was sent back to Brazil in 1963. Now 70 years old, he has never returned to the United States.”

Marcus

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Many thankx 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.

 

On assignment to document poverty in Brazil for Life magazine, American photographer Gordon Parks encountered one of the most important subjects of his career: Flávio da Silva. Parks featured the resourceful, ailing boy from an impoverished Rio favela (Portuguese for shantytown) and his family in the heart-rending 1961 photo essay “Freedom’s Fearful Foe.” It resulted in donations from Life readers but sparked controversy in Brazil. This exhibition explores the celebrated photo essay, tracing the extraordinary chain of events it triggered and Parks’ representation of Flávio over several decades.

 

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image (approx.): 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Family's Day Begins, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Family’s Day Begins, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.3 × 35.6 cm (10 3/4 × 14 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (The da Silva Children Climbing the Hillside), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (The da Silva Children Climbing the Hillside), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.7 × 23.2 cm (13 1/4 × 9 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by the Photographs Council, Trish and Jan de Bont, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Manfred Heiting, Lyle and Lisi Poncher, and Devon Susholtz and Stephen Purvis
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Mário da Silva, Crying after Being Bitten by Dog, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mário da Silva, Crying after Being Bitten by Dog, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20 × 13.3 cm (7 7/8 × 5 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Catacumba Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Catacumba Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 × 18.7 cm (7 1/16 × 7 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Flávio da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Flávio da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.7 × 22.2 cm (13 1/4 × 8 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 32.7 × 22.2 cm (12 7/8 × 8 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Abia and Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Abia and Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23 × 29.9 cm (9 1/16 × 11 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Nair da Silva, Holding Zacarias), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Nair da Silva, Holding Zacarias), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 30.5 × 22.9 cm (12 × 9 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Paulo Muniz (Brazilian, 1918-1994) 'Untitled (Gordon Parks and Flávio da Silva at Airport, Soon to Fly to United States), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative July 5, 1961, printed later

 

Paulo Muniz (Brazilian, 1918-1994)
Untitled (Gordon Parks and Flávio da Silva at Airport, Soon to Fly to United States), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative July 5, 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Framed: 72.9 × 57.6 cm (28 11/16 × 22 11/16 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation Courtesy of the artist’s estate/IMS

 

Unknown maker. 'Untitled (Four Officials Inspect Catacumba Favela)' August 7, 1967

 

Unknown maker
Untitled (Four Officials Inspect Catacumba Favela)
August 7, 1967
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.1 × 24 cm (7 1/8 × 9 7/16 in.)
Diários Associados Collection-Rio de Janiero/Instituto Moreira Salles

 

Unknown maker. 'Untitled (Removal of Residents' Possessions, Catacumba Hill, Avenida Epitácio Pessoa)' October 15, 1970

 

Unknown maker
Untitled (Removal of Residents’ Possessions, Catacumba Hill, Avenida Epitácio Pessoa)
October 15, 1970
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 × 18 cm (9 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.)
Diários Associados Collection-Rio de Janiero/Instituto Moreira Salles

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Flávio Catches His First Fish, Denver, Colorado' Negative about 1962, print about 1977

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Flávio Catches His First Fish, Denver, Colorado
Negative about 1962, print about 1977
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 25.4 × 20.3 cm (10 × 8 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)' Negative 1961-63; printed 1976

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)
Negative 1961-63; printed 1976
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 12.7 × 8.9 cm (5 × 3 1/2 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)' Negative 1961-63; printed 1976

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)
Negative 1961-63; printed 1976
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 8.9 × 12.4 cm (3 1/2 × 4 7/8 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Flávio Waves Goodbye to the Gonçalves Family from the Train That Will Take Him to New York, Denver, Colorado' Negative July 27, 1963, print about 1977

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Flávio Waves Goodbye to the Gonçalves Family from the Train That Will Take Him to New York, Denver, Colorado
Negative July 27, 1963, print about 1977
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 20.3 × 25.4 cm (8 × 10 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today an exhibition of photographs by celebrated artist Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006). On view July 9-November 10, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story explores one of the most important photo essays Parks produced for Life magazine and traces how its publication prompted an extraordinary sequence of events over several decades. The exhibition is co-organised by the Getty and the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, Canada in partnership with Instituto Moreira Salles, Brazil, and The Gordon Parks Foundation, New York.

“Gordon Parks’ photographs chronicling social justice, civil rights, and the African-American experience in the United States are both a vital historical document and a compelling body of artistic work,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “And, of all his varied projects, Parks considered the photographs of Flávio among his most important achievements. The great impact that it had, and still has today, can only be appreciated by presenting these photographs in their full socio-political context, which is what this exhibition does for the first time.”

An accomplished filmmaker, composer, writer and poet, Parks is best remembered for his prolific career as a photographer. He became the first African-American photographer on staff at Life magazine, where he covered subjects ranging from fashion to social injustice. In 1961 the magazine sent him to Brazil with a specific assignment: to document poverty in Rio de Janeiro for a special series on Latin America. Told to photograph the hardworking father of a large, impoverished household, Parks all but disregarded these instructions and turned his attention instead to one resident in particular – an industrious, severely asthmatic twelve-year-old boy named Flávio da Silva who lived in Catacumba, one of Rio’s working class neighbourhoods known as favelas.

Over the course of several weeks Parks photographed Flávio as he performed household chores and entertained his seven brothers and sisters – daily activities that were often interrupted by debilitating asthma attacks. Having himself grown up in abject poverty in Kansas, Parks felt deep sympathy for his subject and forged an emotional bond with him. Ultimately Parks advocated for a comprehensive photo essay dedicated to Flávio’s story in the pages of Life; editors responded by publishing a twelve-page piece, titled “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty,” in June 1961. The exhibition will include images from this spread, as well as outtakes from the assignment.

Within days of its publication in the magazine, Flávio’s story emerged as a blockbuster. Moved by Parks’ heartbreaking coverage, Life‘s readers wrote thousands of letters and spontaneously donated money to support the da Silva family and the revitalisation of the favela. Upon seeing the images, the president of the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital (CARIH) in Denver, Colorado offered to treat Flávio as a patient, free of charge. In July 1961, Life sent Parks back to Rio as part of the magazine’s follow-up efforts. After helping to move the da Silva family from Catacumba, Parks accompanied Flávio from Rio to the United States. For the next two years Flávio lived and received treatment at CARIH but spent most weekends with a Portugeuse-speaking host family who introduced him to various aspects of American culture.

Anticipating a compelling story about Flávio’s medical progress and experience in the U.S., Life assigned a local photographer, Hikaru “Carl” Iwasaki, to document the boy’s arrival in Denver, admission to the hospital, and acclimation at school. A selection of these images will be on view in the exhibition, including some that Life never published, alongside snapshots made by Flávio’s host father in Denver, José Gonçalves. In spite of his wish to remain in the United States, Flávio was sent back to Brazil in 1963. Now 70 years old, he has never returned to the United States.

When published in 1961, “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty” was also met with criticism, particularly within the Brazilian press. Outraged and determined to retaliate against Life‘s negative portrayal of the Catacumba favela and its residents, the Brazilian magazine O Cruzeiro sent staff photographer Henri Ballot to report on poverty in New York, where Life was headquartered. While exploring the Lower East Side in Manhattan, Ballot documented an immigrant family from Puerto Rico – Felix and Esther Gonzalez and their children – who lived in a derelict one-bedroom apartment. Arguing that poverty was equally endemic in the United States, O Cruzeiro published Ballot’s photographs in October 1961 in the photo essay “Nôvo recorde americano: Miséria” (New American Record: Misery). Photographs from this story, as well as from an investigative exposé on Parks’ reportage also published in O Cruzeiro in 1961, will be on view in the exhibition.

Over the years Parks periodically returned to Flávio as a subject. In 1976 he published Flávio, which recounted and updated the story through words and pictures. In the book’s introduction, Parks provided insight into his own conflicted engagement with certain photographic assignments that focused on people like the da Silva family, acknowledging that he “was perhaps playing God” by digging “deeper and deeper into the privacy of these lives, hoping … to reshape their destinies into something much better.” Following this admission, Parks returned to Brazil only once in the 1990s; it marked the last time Parks and Flávio saw each other prior to Parks’ death in 2006.

“Parks regarded poverty as ‘the most savage of all human afflictions,’ in no small part because he was born into destitution,” says Amanda Maddox, co-curator of the exhibition and an associate curator at the Getty Museum. “As a photographer he consciously wielded his camera as a weapon – his chosen term – in an attempt to combat economic and racial inequality. Viewed in this context, his documentation of Flávio da Silva – for Life and beyond – reveals the complexity of his empathetic approach and the inherent difficulties of representing someone else’s personal story – a story that resonated with many people over many years – in any form.”

In addition to more than 100 photographs, the exhibition will also include original issues of Life that featured Flávio’s story, previously unseen ephemera related to Flávio’s time in Denver, and private memos, correspondence, and records held by Life and Parks.

Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story is on view July 9-November 10, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is co-curated by Amanda Maddox, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Paul Roth, director of the Ryerson Image Centre. An accompanying book is available, published by Steidl Verlag, with essays by Maddox and Roth, as well as Sergio Burgi, curator at Instituto Moreira Salles; Beatriz Jaguaribe, professor of comparative communications, School of Communications, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro; and Maria Alice Rezende de Carvalho, professor of sociology, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum Cited 27/10/2019

 

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Ely-Samuel Gonzalez on His Bed, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Ely-Samuel Gonzalez on His Bed, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.5 × 15.8 cm (9 1/4 × 6 1/4 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Apartment Building Where the Gonzalez Family lives, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Apartment Building Where the Gonzalez Family lives, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 × 23.9 cm (6 5/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Child Playing Surrounded by Trash, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Child Playing Surrounded by Trash, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 × 24 cm (6 5/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Bedroom in the Gonzalez Family Apartment, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Bedroom in the Gonzalez Family Apartment, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.3 × 24 cm (7 3/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Child Crying at the Window, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Child Crying at the Window, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.2 × 18 cm (9 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Photographer Henri Ballot with Ely-Samuel (on the Left) and His Brothers, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Photographer Henri Ballot with Ely-Samuel (on the Left) and His Brothers, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 × 24.4 cm (7 × 9 5/8 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Maria Penha da Silva, Flávio's Grandmother, and Her Other Grandchildren, Reading 'Life', Guadalupe, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Maria Penha da Silva, Flávio’s Grandmother, and Her Other Grandchildren, Reading ‘Life’, Guadalupe, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 × 24 cm (6 5/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Aracy, a Neighbour of the da Silva Family, Pointing out Where the Photographs for Gordon Parks's Reportage Were Taken in the da Silvas' Former Home, Catacumba Hill, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Aracy, a Neighbour of the da Silva Family, Pointing out Where the Photographs for Gordon Parks’s Reportage Were Taken in the da Silvas’ Former Home, Catacumba Hill, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.8 × 15.9 cm (9 3/8 × 6 1/4 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (The da Silva Family), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1976, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (The da Silva Family), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1976, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 × 34 cm (9 × 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1976, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1976, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.3 × 23.5 cm (13 1/2 × 9 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1976

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1976
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Flávio da Silva Looking at Gordon Parks's Book 'Moments Without Proper Names', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1976

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Flávio da Silva Looking at Gordon Parks’s Book ‘Moments Without Proper Names’, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1976
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio and Cleuza da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1976

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio and Cleuza da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1976
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1999

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1999
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.3 × 25.4 cm (8 × 10 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1999

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1999
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 25.4 × 20.3 cm (10 × 8 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

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19
Oct
19

Exhibition: ‘Once. Again. Photographs in Series’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 9th July – 10th November 2019

Curator: Mazie Harris

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait
1918
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.4 × 8.6 cm (4 1/2 × 3 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Some fabulous photographs in series in this posting, which document transformations in landscapes or intimate portraits of people at different times in their lives… and some challenging ones as well. My favourite photographs in series are not represented: Duane Michals narrative fairytales; Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills; and Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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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.

 

Photographers often record change through images in series, registering transformations in the world around them. Artists featured in the exhibition photographed faces and places over minutes, months, or years. Historical and contemporary photographs prompt reflection on the ways the passage of time impacts how we see people and spaces.

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait' 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait
1923
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8.9 × 11.7 cm (3 1/2 × 4 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait' 1933

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8.9 × 11.4 cm (3 1/2 × 4 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Artists have long used cameras to record change, documenting transformations in landscapes or intimate portraits of people at different times in their lives. Once. Again. Photographs in Series, on view July 9-November 10, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, features historical and contemporary artists who have revisited people and places to make extended photographic series, prompting reflection on the impact of the passage of time – on photographers as well as their subjects.

The exhibition, drawn primarily from the collection of the Getty Museum, takes its cue from artist Gordon Parks’ trips to Brazil over several decades to document the life of Flávio da Silva. Parks’ photographs are on view in Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story, installed in the adjacent galleries of the Center for Photographs.

Photographing friends and family is a familiar pastime for many, and the exhibition includes the work of several artists who made masterful portraits of loved ones over the course of many years. Alfred Stieglitz photographed artist Georgia O’Keeffe frequently during their tumultuous 30 year relationship, and the photographs on view expose shifts in their rapport as well as changes in Stieglitz’s photographic style over time. Series by Harry Callahan of his wife Eleanor, Paul Strand of his wife, artist Rebecca Salsbury, and Julia Margaret Cameron of her niece Julia Jackson similarly offer fascinating reflections on the changes in relationships over time.

The exhibition also includes compelling contemporary portraits, including photojournalist Seamus Murphy’s record of the physical and emotional toll inflicted upon a family living in Afghanistan under rule of the Taliban, and Donna Ferrato’s documentation of a woman who fled an abusive relationship. Both series register the struggles as well as triumphs.

A number of artists in the exhibition document seasonal and man-made changes in the landscape. In a 1953 series by William A. Garnett, aerial photography is used to capture a walnut grove before and after the trees were felled to make way for a housing development. The startling perspective of Garnett’s images came to play an important role in the burgeoning environmental movement. Richard Misrach used his move to a new home in the hills above Berkeley, California, as an opportunity to take hundreds of photographs of the astonishing range of colours and atmospheric conditions surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset each evening. Several of his richly saturated sunset images are featured in the exhibition. Works by Roni Horn, Jem Southam, and Josef Sudek also trace changes in the natural world, to both political and poetic effect.

Transformations in the built environment also reveal the profound effects of the passage of time. LaToya Ruby Frazier documented the painful process of clearing the rooms of her family home in a series of self-portraits in which she cloaked herself in the familiar belongings of her loved ones. In order to spotlight socioeconomic changes in American neighbourhoods, Camilo José Vergara photographed the dramatic transformation of a single Harlem storefront over 40 years, as it changed hands, changed facades, and split into two establishments. Other artists in the exhibition, including John Divola and William Christenberry, chronicle the disintegration of architecture over time, creating evocative meditations on deterioration.

“‘Once again’ is a phrase repeated in a poem by William Wordsworth,” says Mazie Harris, assistant curator of photographs at the Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “He was fascinated by the powerful feeling that arises when revisiting a familiar place. He’s experiencing his surroundings in real time and yet is constantly aware of his memories of being there before. The photographers in this exhibition conjure that same sensation. They offer us the opportunity to see people and places afresh, even as we track the powerful changes wrought by time.”

Once. Again. Photographs in Series, is on view July 9-November 10, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Mazie Harris, assistant curator of photographs at the Getty Museum.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 11/08/2019

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976) 'The Window of My Studio' 1940-54

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
The Window of My Studio
1940-54
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.1 × 14.1 cm (8 11/16 × 5 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© I&G Fárová Heirs

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976) 'The Window of My Studio' 1940-54

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
The Window of My Studio
1940-54
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.1 × 10.3 cm (6 3/4 × 4 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© I&G Fárová Heirs

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976) 'The Window of My Studio' 1940-54

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
The Window of My Studio
1940-54
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.5 × 16.5 cm (9 1/4 × 6 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© I&G Fárová Heirs

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Walnut Grove Standing' March 21, 1953

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Walnut Grove Standing
March 21, 1953
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.3 × 26.7 cm (13 1/2 × 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of William A. Garnett

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Walnut Grove Bulldozed' March 21, 1953

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Walnut Grove Bulldozed
March 21, 1953
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.5 × 34.3 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of William A. Garnett

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Walnut Grove Uprooted by Bulldozers' March 22, 1953

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Walnut Grove Uprooted by Bulldozers
March 22, 1953
Gelatin silver print
Image (trimmed to mount): 34.1 × 26.5 cm (13 7/16 × 10 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of William A. Garnett

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Michael and Pam' 1973

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Michael and Pam
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 × 17.4 cm (7 1/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Milton Rogovin

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Michael and Pam' 1973

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Michael and Pam
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 × 17.4 cm (7 1/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Milton Rogovin

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Michael and Pam' 1973

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Michael and Pam
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 × 17.4 cm (7 1/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Milton Rogovin

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Yvonne and Daughter Sonya' 1974

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Yvonne and Daughter Sonya
1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18 × 17.3 cm (7 1/16 × 6 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Milton Rogovin

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Yvonne and Daughter Sonya' 1974

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Yvonne and Daughter Sonya
1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.2 × 17.2 cm (6 3/4 × 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Milton Rogovin

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011) 'Yvonne and Daughter Sonya' 1974

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909-2011)
Yvonne and Daughter Sonya
1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.1 × 16.8 cm (7 1/8 × 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Milton Rogovin

 

John Divola (American, born 1949) 'Zuma' 1977

 

John Divola (American, born 1949)
Zuma
1977
Chromogenic print
Image: 24.7 × 30.4 cm (9 3/4 × 11 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of the Wilson Centre for Photography
© John Divola

 

John Divola (American, born 1949) 'Zuma' 1977

 

John Divola (American, born 1949)
Zuma
1977
Chromogenic print
Image: 24.8 × 30.6 cm (9 3/4 × 12 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of the Wilson Centre for Photography
© John Divola

 

John Divola (American, born 1949) 'Zuma' 1977

 

John Divola (American, born 1949)
Zuma
1977
Chromogenic print
Image: 24.7 × 30.5 cm (9 3/4 × 12 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of the Wilson Centre for Photography
© John Divola

 

John Divola (American, born 1949) 'Zuma' 1977

 

John Divola (American, born 1949)
Zuma
1977
Chromogenic print
Image: 24.8 × 30.6 cm (9 3/4 × 12 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of the Wilson Centre for Photography
© John Divola

 

Camilo José Vergara (American, born Chile, 1944) '65 East 125th Street, Harlem' December 1977

 

Camilo José Vergara (American, born Chile, 1944)
65 East 125th Street, Harlem
December 1977
Chromogenic print
Image: 38.7 × 58.4 cm (15 1/4 × 23 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Bruce Berman and Lea Russo
© Camilo José Vergara

 

Camilo José Vergara (American, born Chile, 1944) '65 East 125th Street, Harlem' October 1980

 

Camilo José Vergara (American, born Chile, 1944)
65 East 125th Street, Harlem
October 1980
Chromogenic print
Image: 37.8 × 58.5 cm (14 7/8 × 23 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Bruce Berman and Lea Russo
© Camilo José Vergara

 

Camilo José Vergara (American, born Chile, 1944) '65 East 125th Street, Harlem' October 1981

 

Camilo José Vergara (American, born Chile, 1944)
65 East 125th Street, Harlem
October 1981
Chromogenic print
Image: 38.7 × 58.4 cm (15 1/4 × 23 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Bruce Berman and Lea Russo
© Camilo José Vergara

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959) 'Kabul: November 1994' 1994, print 2015

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959)
Kabul: November 1994
1994, print 2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 × 34.2 cm (8 7/8 × 13 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of David Knaus
© Seamus Murphy

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959) 'Ba Deli Family, Kabul: November 1996' 1996, print 2015

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959)
Ba Deli Family, Kabul: November 1996
1996, print 2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.4 × 34.5 cm (8 13/16 × 13 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of David Knaus
© Seamus Murphy

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959) 'Gulbahar, Kapisa Province: June 2003' 2003, print 2015

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959)
Gulbahar, Kapisa Province: June 2003
2003, print 2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.6 × 22.6 cm (13 5/8 × 8 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of David Knaus
© Seamus Murphy

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959) 'Gulbahar, Kapisa Province: May 2009' 2009, print 2015

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959)
Gulbahar, Kapisa Province: May 2009
2009, print 2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 × 34.4 cm (8 7/8 × 13 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of David Knaus
© Seamus Murphy

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959) 'Kabul: July 2010' 2010, print 2015

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959)
Kabul: July 2010
2010, print 2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 × 34.7 cm (8 7/8 × 13 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of David Knaus
© Seamus Murphy

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959) 'Kabul: July 2010' 2010, print 2015

 

Seamus Murphy (Irish, born 1959)
Kabul: July 2010
2010, print 2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 × 34.7 cm (8 7/8 × 13 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of David Knaus
© Seamus Murphy

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949) '10.29.97, 4:35 PM' 1997, print 1999

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949)
10.29.97, 4:35 PM
1997, print 1999
Chromogenic print
Image: 45.8 × 59 cm (18 1/16 × 23 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Pace/ MacGill Gallery, New York and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949) '2.21.98, 4:45 PM' 1998, print 2016

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949)
2.21.98, 4:45 PM
1998, print 2016
Chromogenic prin
Image: 152.4 × 188 cm (60 × 74 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Sharyn and Bruce Charnas
© Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949) '2.16.98, 5:20 PM' 1998, print 1999

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949)
2.16.98, 5:20 PM
1998, print 1999
Chromogenic print
Image: 46.2 × 58.9 cm (18 3/16 × 23 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Pace/ MacGill Gallery, New York and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949) '10.31.98, 5:22 PM' 1998, print 1999

 

Richard Misrach (American, born 1949)
10.31.98, 5:22 PM
1998, print 1999
Chromogenic print
Image: 46.3 × 58.9 cm (18 1/4 × 23 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Pace/ MacGill Gallery, New York and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles

 

LaToya Ruby Frazier (American, born 1982) Four photographs 2010

 

LaToya Ruby Frazier (American, born 1982)
Clockwise from top left: Wrapped in Gramps’ Blanket, 2010; In Grandma Ruby’s Velour Bottoms, 2010; Covered in Gramps’ Blanket, 2010; In Gramps’ Pajamas, 2010
Gelatin silver prints
Image (each): 43.5 × 58.4 cm (17 1/8 × 23 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© LaToya Ruby Frazier

 

Jem Southam (British, born 1950) 'December 1996'

 

Jem Southam (British, born 1950)
December 1996
1996
Chromogenic print
68.6 × 85.7 cm (27 × 33 3/4 in.)
Gift of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust
© Jem Southam

 

Jem Southam (British, born 1950) 'March 1998'

 

Jem Southam (British, born 1950)
March 1998
1998
Chromogenic print
68.6 × 85.7 cm (27 × 33 3/4 in.)
Gift of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust
© Jem Southam

 

Jem Southam (British, born 1950) 'January 2000'

 

Jem Southam (British, born 1950)
January 2000
2000
Chromogenic print
68.6 × 85.7 cm (27 × 33 3/4 in.)
Gift of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust
© Jem Southam

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949) 'Sarah Augusta' 2012

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949)
Sarah Augusta
2012
Pigment print
28.6 × 50.8 cm (11 1/4 × 20 in.)
Gift of The Kevin & Delia Willsey Collection
© Donna Ferrato

 

'Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949) Sarah Augusta Learning Self Defense' 2013

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949)
Sarah Augusta Learning Self Defense
2013
Pigment print
33.9 × 50.9 cm (13 3/8 × 20 1/16 in.)
Gift of The Kevin & Delia Willsey Collection
© Donna Ferrato

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949) 'Sarah after a Court Hearing' 2014

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949)
Sarah after a Court Hearing
2014
Pigment print
33.9 × 50.8 cm (13 3/8 × 20 in.)
Gift of The Kevin & Delia Willsey Collection
© Donna Ferrato

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949) 'Sarah and a member of B.A.C.A. discussing a strategy to protect the boys' 2014

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949)
Sarah and a member of B.A.C.A. discussing a strategy to protect the boys
2014
Pigment print
33.9 × 50.8 cm (13 3/8 × 20 in.)
Gift of The Kevin & Delia Willsey Collection
© Donna Ferrato

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949) 'Sarah' 2013

 

Donna Ferrato (American, born 1949)
Sarah
2013
Pigment print
50.8 cm x 33.9 (20 in. x 13 3/8)
Gift of The Kevin & Delia Willsey Collection
© Donna Ferrato

 

 

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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10
Jun
18

Exhibition: ‘(un)expected families’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2017 – 17th June 2018

 

Christopher Churchill (American, born in 1977) 'Hutterite Classroom, Gildford, MT' 2005

 

Christopher Churchill (American, born in 1977)
Hutterite Classroom, Gildford, MT
2005
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Elisa Fredrickson / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

It’s hard to get a sense of this exhibition from the media images, therefore difficult to make any constructive comment on the strength of the exhibition.

Apparently, “The exhibition’s gallery feels very domestic. Groups of photos hang on the walls – different sizes, colors, formats and frames – like you’d see in a living room or hallway. MFA curator Karen Haas confirms that evocation is absolutely intentional.

“Photographers from the very beginning have been fascinated by the way that the camera could capture images of loved ones, freeze them in time,” she says. “They form sort of reliquaries of memory, and these sorts of relationships to the objects – that idea of the photograph as a talisman-like object I think has been somewhat forgotten in our contemporary world.” …

Haas’ goal in creating this show is to illustrate how broad and diverse family configurations can be – without defining them. “The families that we’re born into, generational families,” she describes, “but also romantic unions, couples and chosen families – families we have chosen for ourselves.” And that includes the military and the church, Haas says. “I think the family is such a basic social construct – so basic to so many of our lives – that I hope that these kinds of images will really resonate with people.” (Text from The ARTery website)

Outsider family, insider family, single parent family, nuclear family, extended family, reconstituted family, childless family, gay family, step family, “family has always taken diverse forms: affluent and destitute, cohesive and fractured, expected and unexpected. Taken together, the photographs challenge visitors to consider what family means to them.”

But what is most important is this: “There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what is the best type of family structure. As long as a family is filled with love and support for one another, it tends to be successful and thrive. Families need to do what is best for each other and themselves, and that can be achieved in almost any unit.” (Types of Family Structure)

Families all have secrets, no matter how perfect they may seem to the outside world. Whether it be domestic violence behind closed doors or skeletons in the closet there is always more than meets the eye. And that’s where these photographs of families fail in their representation of the family. That, and the title of the exhibition – (un)expected families – because in the 21st century, nothing should be unexpected. By adding emphasis to the (un), the title merely propagates a form of discrimination, of outsider as different and therefore worthy of abuse because of that very difference. Expected families: we are all human beings and therefore anything is to be expected.

Marcus

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

 

Bringing together more than 80 pictures taken by American photographers from the 19th century to today, (un)expected families explores the definition of the American family – from the families we are born into to the ones we have chosen for ourselves. The works on view depict a wide range of relationships, including multiple generations, romantic unions, and alternative family structures. Using archival, vernacular, and fine art photographs, (un)expected families offers a variety of perspectives on the American family, from Dorothea Lange’s depiction of a migrant family at the time of the Dust Bowl to Louie Palu’s portraits of US Marines fighting in Afghanistan. The exhibition illustrates that the family has always taken diverse forms: affluent and destitute, cohesive and fractured, expected and unexpected. Taken together, the photographs challenge visitors to consider what family means to them. (un)expected families features celebrated practitioners like Nan Goldin, Carrie Mae Weems, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Harry Callahan, as well as a number of renowned Boston-area artists, such as David Hilliard, Nicholas Nixon, Abe Morell, and Sage Sohier.

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Home Workers, New York' 1915

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Home Workers, New York
1915
Lewis W. Hine/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965) 'Migrant family, Texas' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Migrant family, Texas
1936
Gelatin silver print
Sophie M. Friedman Fun
Dorothea Lange/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Louis Faurer (American, 1916-2001) 'Ritz Bar, New York' 1947-48

 

Louis Faurer (American, 1916-2001)
Ritz Bar, New York
1947-48
Estate of Louis Faurer/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Duane Michals (American, born in 1932) 'When he was young, he could not imagine being old. And now that he is old, he cannot imagine ever having been young' 1979

 

Duane Michals (American, born in 1932)
When he was young, he could not imagine being old. And now that he is old, he cannot imagine ever having been young
1979
Gelatin silver print
Duane Michals, courtesy of the DC Moore Gallery, New York, and Osmos, New York

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947) 'Yazoo City, Mississippi' 1979

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947)
Yazoo City, Mississippi
1979
Gelatin silver contact print
Museum purchase with funds donated by the National Endowment for the Arts and Richard L. Menschel, Bela T. Kalman, Judge and Mrs. Matthew Brown, Mildred S. Lee, and Barbara M. Marshall
© Nicholas Nixon, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nan Goldin (American, born in 1953) 'Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, New York' 1991

 

Nan Goldin (American, born in 1953)
Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, New York
1991
Cibachrome print
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund for Photography
© Nan Goldin
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. But in fact my pictures show me just how much I’ve lost.” ~ Nan Goldin

 

Tina Barney (American, born in 1945) 'Thanksgiving' 1992

 

Tina Barney (American, born in 1945)
Thanksgiving
1992
Chromogenic print
Contemporary Curator’s Fund, including funds donated by Barbara and Thomas Lee
Tina Barney/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Tina Barney
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Sage Sohier (American, born in 1954) 'Mum in her bathtub, Washington, D.C.' 2002

 

Sage Sohier (American, born in 1954)
Mum in her bathtub, Washington, D.C.
2002
Inkjet print
Living New England Artists Purchase Fund, created by the Stephen and Sybil Stone Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947) 'Tammy Hindle' 2006

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947)
Tammy Hindle
2006
Digital inkjet print
Gift of James N. Krebs
© Nicholas Nixon, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Julie Mack (American, born in 1982) 'Self-portrait (Julie) with family in SUV, Michigan' 2007

 

Julie Mack (American, born in 1982)
Self-portrait (Julie) with family in SUV, Michigan
2007
Chromogenic print
James N. Krebs Purchase Fund for 21st Century Photography
© Julie Mack. Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

David Hilliard  (America, born 1964) 'Rock Bottom' 2008

 

David Hilliard  (America, born 1964)
Rock Bottom
2008
Panorama Construction

 

 

Rock Bottom features, in the left panel, a close up sharp focus portrait of Hilliard’s father standing in a lake, with a severe and harsh facial expression, yet vulnerably placing his hands on his chest between his two sailor swallow’s tattoos. In the right panel, Hilliard himself appears somewhat further from the camera. With a gentler facial expression, the photographer contrasts with his tense patriarchal figure, but features a similar hairy chest and matching tattoos  –  giving the viewer a hint on the subject’s father-son relationship. The middle panel is exclusive for environmental portraiture and the creation of meaning in the composition: a sunny day at the lake, where the blue skies and soft clouds perfectly reflect on the water and separate the subject matters. The real meaning of the juxtaposition relies on the knowledge of Hilliard’s personal life and the presence of the middle panel: although the father accept his son’s homosexuality, the issue has clearly been a source of tension between them, creating both emotional and physical distance between the subject matters. Represented by the central panel, a stunning view divides the two generations both visually and metaphorically, symbolizing the idea of emotional distance in an atypical form.

Like most of Hilliard’s photographs, Rock Bottom exposes how physical distance is often manipulated to represent emotional distance. The presence of the middle panel, exclusively dedicated to environmental portraiture and the emphasis on the importance of our surroundings, also suggests the emotional distance between the subjects. The lack of elements and presence of great depth of field of the center panel insinuates that, regardless of the level of intimacy between the subject matters  – distance is always palpable.

Marina Pedrosa. “David Hilliard: Building Meaning Through Composition,” on the medium website [Online] Cited 22/08/2018

 

Julie Blackmon (American, born in 1966) 'Baby Toss' 2009

 

Julie Blackmon (American, born in 1966)
Baby Toss
2009
Elizabeth and Michael Marcus
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

LaToya Ruby Frazier (American, born in 1982) 'Mom' 2008

 

LaToya Ruby Frazier (American, born in 1982)
Mom
2008
Gelatin silver print
From “The Notion of Family” (Aperture, 2014)
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Caleb Cole (American, born in 1981) 'The Big Sister' 2012

 

Caleb Cole (American, born in 1981)
The Big Sister
2012
From the series Odd One Out (2010-Present)
Archival pigment print
49 × 68 cm (19 5/16 × 26 3/4 in.)
Museum purchase with funds donated by James N. Krebs

 

 

Bringing together more than 80 pictures taken by photographers from the 19th century to today, (un)expected families at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), explores the definition of the American family – from the families we’re born into to the ones we’ve chosen. The photographs in the exhibition, on view from December 9, 2017 through June 17, 2018, depict a wide range of relationships – multiple generations, romantic unions and alternative family structures – whether connected by DNA, shared life experiences, common interests or even a social media network. Encompassing both carefully staged portraits and serendipitous snapshots, the selection of vernacular, documentary and fine art photographs in (un)expected families illustrates that the concept of family has long taken many forms – a subject that has fascinated photographers since the invention of the camera – and challenges visitors to consider what family means to them. Drawn primarily from the MFA’s holdings, the exhibition includes photographs by celebrated artists such as Nan Goldin, Gordon Parks, Nicholas Nixon, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Tina Barney, Emmet Gowin and Bruce Davidson. Loans from private collections include Victorian-era “hidden mother” photographs of children and turn-of-the-century portraits of women in intimate relationships sometimes referred to as “Boston marriages.” Additionally, (un)expected families highlights many New England photographers whose work centers on familial relationships, debuting eight photographs – acquired specifically for the exhibition – by Zoe Perry-Wood, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Amber Tourlentes, Caleb Cole, Tanja Hollander, David Hilliard and Jeannie Simms. An interactive component of (un)expected families invites visitors to share thoughts about their own families on response cards. A selection will be displayed in the gallery on a rotating basis, and all will be archived as part of the permanent exhibition record. Additionally, a free family guide engages children with close looking and drawing activities. The exhibition is generously supported by an anonymous donor.

“Almost as soon as exposure times became short enough to make portraiture feasible, photographers have been drawn to capture likenesses of loved ones. Perhaps that power to freeze a moment in time is what explains why family photographs are so often described as the first thing one would save from a burning building,” said Karen Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs. “I find it particularly fascinating that there seems to be a growing interest among contemporary photographers to focus on families in their work – even as with the rise of smartphones and social media, our own personal pictures are increasingly relegated to the ether, rarely experienced as tangible objects.”

The images presented in (un)expected families span 150 years. Among the oldest pictures are photographs of “hidden mothers” (1860s-70s), depicting infants in the laps of concealed adults – a trick to keep the children still during long sittings or exposures. The mothers or nursemaids were draped with scarves or blankets, or hidden behind furniture or painted backdrops. Similarly, the contemporary photograph Nayla, Ted, Alexandra, Nick, March 30, 1995 (1995) by Cambridge-based Elsa Dorfman (born 1937) focuses solely on the children. While names of the parents are among those handwritten on the bottom of the large-scale Polaroid, only their legs are visible in the composition. Another contemporary photograph juxtaposed with the Victorian-era “hidden mothers,” which were made during a period of high infant mortality rates, is Tammy Hindle (2006) by Nicholas Nixon (born 1947). Part of Nixon’s series documenting a family’s heartbreaking loss of a child, the image shows the mother, Tammy, carrying a portrait of the baby, Claire, to the funeral service, their bodies appearing to magically merge in the reflection within the picture frame.

Father-and-son relationships are explored in images by Dawoud Bey (born 1953), Duane Michals (born 1932) and Jim Goldberg (born 1953), all of which incorporate texts that amplify the moving and often painful stories behind the images, as well as recently acquired photographs by David Hilliard (born 1964) and Arno Rafael Minkkinen (born 1945). Hilliard’s triptych Rock Bottom (2008) is one of an extended series of panoramic photographs that trace the shifting narrative of the gay artist’s complicated relationship with his father. The beautifully choreographed self-portrait visually links the two men, unmistakably related to each other and sporting identical swallow tattoos, across a serene expanse of lake. Minkkinen’s 31-12-86, Self-Portrait with Daniel, Andover (1986), recently gifted to the MFA by the artist, is one of a little-known series of portraits that he took of his son Daniel as the boy grew and matured from infancy to adolescence. The photograph shows Daniel sitting on a bed, bathed in raking light and looking directly at his father’s large-format camera. With his head hidden from view, Minkkinen’s outstretched arms perfectly echo the curve of the headboard and create a haunting embrace that speaks to a parent’s deep-seated desire to encircle and protect a child.

Seventeen photographs representing multiple generations of a family are arranged in a salon-style hang, ranging from intimate depictions of parents with children, such as Baby Toss (2009) by Julie Blackmon (born 1966); to pairs of siblings, such as Twins at WDIA, Memphis (about 1948) by Ernest C. Withers (1922–2007); to a 1925 panorama capturing an extended family reunion encompassing about 200 people. The display also features recently acquired photographs by Sage Sohier (born 1954) and Jeannie Simms (born 1967). Sohier’s Mum in her bathtub, D.C. (2002) is from an extended series devoted to her mother, a former fashion model who had posed for Richard Avedon and Irving Penn in the 1940s. Simms’ Arnie, Susan & Elijah, Jamaica Plain, MA (2015) is from a series documenting the lives of couples married in Cambridge after Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to issue same-sex marriage licenses on May 17, 2004.

Recently acquired works by Amber Tourlentes (born 1970), Zoe Perry-Wood (born 1959) and Jess Dugan (born 1986) also document the experience of LGBTQ couples, families and individuals. Tourlentes has regularly made LGBTQ family portraits on the Town Hall stage in Provincetown, Massachusetts, during its annual Family Week, sometimes revisiting the same subjects over the course of several years. Perry-Wood has spent the last decade photographing another annual event, the Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth (BAGLY) Prom, which offers a safe and celebratory occasion for young couples – an alternative to more traditional high-school proms. Allowing her subjects to pose in front of the camera in a studio-like setting, as seen in José and Luis (2015), Perry-Wood helps to give them a sense of personal agency and collective pride at a pivotal moment in their lives. Unlike Tourlentes and Perry-Wood, Dugan photographs her subjects – friends within the LGBTQ community – in natural light and the privacy of their own living spaces, exploring issues of gender, identity and social connection through large-format portraits such as Devotion, from the series Every Breath We Drew (2012).

With the invention of the small and affordable Kodak camera in the late 19th century, followed by the instant camera in the 1940s, many Americans no longer felt the need to visit formal portrait studios in order to record their personal lives. Among the casual snapshots featured in (un)expected families are Polaroids of Caroline Kennedy and her cousin Tina Radziwill, taken by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in the summer of 1972 and exhibited at the MFA for the first time. The artist – along with filmmaker Jonas Mekas and photographer Peter Beard – was hired by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to teach the children filmmaking and photography. Also on view are an album of photographs commemorating a fraternity at Baker University in Kansas (1910s) and six snapshots depicting “Boston marriages” (1920s-30s) – a turn-of-the-century term used to describe two women living together without the support of a man – romantic relationships in some cases and simply platonic partnerships in others.

Several groupings in the exhibition are centered on places of family life. Working roughly 50 years apart, one on New York’s Lower East Side and the other in Harlem, Lewis Hine (1874-1940) and Bruce Davidson (born 1933) both found the kitchen table an ideal site for their documentary photographs of tenement families in New York City. The groundbreaking Kitchen Table series (1990) by Carrie Mae Weems (born 1953) – featuring the photographer herself as the central figure, alongside lovers, children and friends – speaks to all those who have loved, quarrelled and come together around a communal table. Similarly, Tina Barney (born 1945) often acts as both guide and participant in her photographs – including Thanksgiving (1992) – which portray complex family moments in the wealthy East Coast social scene that she grew up in. In another selection of photographs by Julie Mack (born 1982), Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) and Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), the car is shown as a setting for a contemporary family self-portrait, a shelter for a homeless family in Los Angeles, and a vehicle for escape for migrant farm workers and their families during the Dust Bowl.

Alongside biologically related families and romantic unions, the exhibition highlights bonds among close-knit communities – “chosen families” – often documented by photographers embedded within the groups. Louie Palu (born 1968) spent several years covering the conflict in Afghanistan, producing portraits of U.S. Marines that capture the terrible toll of war etched on their faces and reflected in their eyes. Danny Lyon (born 1942) was a student at the University of Chicago when he first befriended members of the Chicago Outlaws, a notorious motorcycle club. For a number of years, he documented the individual gang members, their families and friends, as well as races, meetings, social gatherings, rides throughout the Midwest and even their funerals. Nan Goldin (born 1953) uses her camera as a form of diary to record the lives of friends, whom she considers a surrogate family. In Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo! in the bathroom, NYC (1991), Goldin represents two drag queens in New York City’s East Village, working in her characteristically direct, snapshot-like style. For the artist, who has lost many in her circle to HIV-AIDS, such images form tangible records of powerful human connections in fragile times.

Ethel Shariff in Chicago (1963) by Gordon Parks (1912–2006) and Hutterite Classroom, Gilford, MT (2005) by Christopher Churchill (born 1977) are among the photographs depicting religious communities. Ethel Shariff, the eldest daughter of longtime Nation of Islam head Elijah Mohammed, stands at the apex of Parks’ group portrait, surrounded by fellow members of the organization’s women’s corps. Churchill’s photograph is from a series of pictures on the theme of American faith – a project he undertook in the years just after 9/11. Traveling across the country, he visited various sacred landscapes, places of worship and religious communities including the Hutterites, a branch of the Anabaptists who trace their beginnings back to the Protestant Reformation. For Churchill, the series became an exploration into the very basic human need to be connected to something greater than ourselves. Similarly, Tanja Hollander (born 1972) traveled all over the world – across the U.S. and Europe, but also as far away as Kuala Lumpur and New Zealand – for five years, tracking down all of her hundreds of Facebook friends and making portraits of them set in their own homes. Shot with an iPhone or a simple point-and-shoot camera, these intimate pictures – two of which were acquired for the exhibition – present a fascinating commentary on the role of social media and interpersonal relationships in the 21st century.

Additional highlights of (un)expected families include photographs in a variety of formats. Caleb Cole (born 1981) is a local photographer particularly fascinated by the dynamics of family photographs found at estate sales and flea markets in which one of the subjects – in contrast to the rest of the smiling faces – appears especially sad or downcast. Cole digitally alters these vernacular images to isolate the single, lonely figure, all the while maintaining the shapes of the remaining sitters so that the “odd one out” is set off against the blank, white expanse of the group. In The Big Sister (2012), a recent acquisition, a young girl whose parents have just introduced her to a new baby looks dejectedly off into space as if desperately wishing she could return to her former status as an only child. Digital projections from the series To Majority Minority (2014-15) by Annu Palakunnathu Matthew (born 1964) are also based on found snapshots, sourced from photo albums of immigrant families that have come to the U.S. from all over the world. Working with the owners of these albums, Matthew digitises the images and then recreates the figures and their poses using contemporary family members in place of the original sitters. By presenting them as projections that seamlessly flow from one generation into another, the artist measures the passage of time through the faces of subsequent generations, and the accompanying texts tell stories inspired by the treasured photographs of their ancestors.

Press release from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Photographer unknown (American) 'Untitled [Hidden Mother]' c. 1860s-70s

 

Photographer unknown (American)
Untitled [Hidden Mother]
c. 1860s-70s
Hand-coloured tintype
Collection of Lee Marks and John C. DePrez, Jr., Shelbyville, Indiana
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Elaine Mayes (American, born in 1936) 'Group Portrait, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco' c. 1970

 

Elaine Mayes (American, born in 1936)
Group Portrait, Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco
c. 1970
Elaine Mayes/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ernest C. Withers (American, 1922–2007) 'Twins at WDIA, Memphis' about 1948

 

Ernest C. Withers (American, 1922–2007)
Twins at WDIA, Memphis
about 1948
Gelatin silver print
Sophie M. Friedman Fund / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Consuelo Kanaga (American, 1894-1978) 'She is a Tree of Life to Them' 1950

 

Consuelo Kanaga (American, 1894-1978)
She is a Tree of Life to Them
1950
Gelatin silver print
Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund
Consuelo Kanaga/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Ethel Shariff in Chicago' 1963

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ethel Shariff in Chicago
1963
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Gus and Arlette Kayafas in honor of Karen E. Haas / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Roswell Angier (American, born in 1940) 'Mr. and Mrs. Steve Mills, Pilgrim Theatre, Boston' 1973

 

Roswell Angier (American, born in 1940)
Mr. and Mrs. Steve Mills, Pilgrim Theatre, Boston
1973
Gelatin silver print
Polaroid Foundation Purchase Fund, reproduced with permission / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Jock Sturges (American, born in 1947) 'Misty Dawn and Alisa, Northern California' 1989

 

Jock Sturges (American, born in 1947)
Misty Dawn and Alisa, Northern California
1989
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Elizabeth Lea
© Jock Sturges
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909–2011) 'Felix and his Wife, Buffalo' 1992

 

Milton Rogovin (American, 1909–2011)
Felix and his Wife, Buffalo
1992
From the series Lower West Side Revisited
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Denise Jarvinen and Pierre Cremieux
© Milton Rogovin, Copyright 1952-2002 / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Louie Palu (Canadian, born in 1968) 'U.S. Marine Gysgt. Carlos "OJ" Orjuela, age 31. Garmsir, Helmand, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Louie Palu (Canadian, born in 1968)
U.S. Marine Gysgt. Carlos “OJ” Orjuela, age 31. Garmsir, Helmand, Afghanistan
2008
Inkjet print
Museum purchase with funds donated in honour of Linda and Alex Beavers
Louie Palu/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

And then there’s Louie Palu’s black and white portraits of Marines. These are some of the few single-person portraits among images of families or groups. Paired with a group photo, there is an initial sense of loneliness. But isolate the image and it’s a different story.

“In the military, you arrive alone and leave the military alone but live on a battlefield as part of a close group of people who will do everything to support you and are willing to risk their life to save yours,” he said. “When you are a soldier, your comrades can define a life-changing experience not a single member of your biological family will ever understand. When you come home, your mother, father, wife, brothers, sisters and children can never connect to that experience like your comrades can. When you are in a group, you are strong, and when you are alone, you are not.” (Text from the New York Times website)

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) 'Red Book: Tina Radziwill and Caroline Kennedy, Montauk' 1972

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Red Book: Tina Radziwill and Caroline Kennedy, Montauk
1972
Polaroid photograph
Sheet: 10.8 x 8.6 cm (4 1/4 x 3 3/8 in.)
Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY

 

Elsa Dorfman (American, born in 1937) 'Nayla, Ted, Alexandra, Nick, March 30, 1995' 1995

 

Elsa Dorfman (American, born in 1937)
Nayla, Ted, Alexandra, Nick, March 30, 1995
1995
Polaroid polacolor
Gift of Elsa Dorfman in memory of Dorothy Glaser
© Elsa Dorfman, 2013, all rights reserved / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Dawoud Bey (American, born in 1953) 'Kevin' 2005

 

Dawoud Bey (American, born in 1953)
Kevin
2005
From the series Class Pictures
Chromogenic print
Museum purchase with funds donated by the Friends of Photography and The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection
© Dawoud Bey
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Dawoud Bey (1953-) is a photographer known for his colour portraits of various subjects, perhaps most notably teenagers. This 2005 photograph is of a teen named Kevin and is from Bey’s series Class Pictures, which is a study of high school students across the country

 

Jess T. Dugan. 'Devotion' 2012

 

Jess T. Dugan
Devotion
2012
From the series Every Breath We Drew
Jess T. Dugan/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Jess T. Dugan

 

Tanja Hollander (American, born in 1972) 'Brittany Marcoux and Brian McGuire, Swansea, Massachusetts' 2012

 

Tanja Hollander (American, born in 1972)
Brittany Marcoux and Brian McGuire, Swansea, Massachusetts
2012
Inkjet print
Museum purchase with funds donated by James N. Krebs
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Tanja Hollander

 

 

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew
To Majority Minority – Thuan
2014-15

 

 

The word immigrant conjures up families passing through Ellis Island or young men climbing across the southwest border fence. The United States of America of yesterday, filled with immigrants of European descent is giving way to a new multi-coloured and multicultural America. By 2050 “minority” populations in the U.S. will become the majority of the population. In this new multi-coloured America, we need to reframe our understanding of our newest immigrants in terms of their cultures, religions and stories.

In this project, I explore the generational transition from immigrant to native within families, starting with portrait photographs from these immigrant’s albums. These old photographs reflect where they have come from, revealing family histories and shared stories of immigration. The final portrait animation helps us empathise with these new Americans beyond the stereotype of the family at Ellis Island or the presumed terrorist.

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 5 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 10 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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03
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ustExhibition dates: 17th January 2015 – 13th September 2015

Robert and Jane Burke Gallery (Gallery 335)

 

 

It’s been a really tough time writing the Art Blart recently, as my beloved Apple Pro tower that has served me so well over the years has died and gone to god. I have been making do with a small laptop, but tomorrow I pick up my new 27 inch iMac with Retina screen, to pair with my Eizo Flexscan monitor. I can’t wait!

I have so much admiration for the work of this man. The light, the sensitivity to the social documentary narrative just emanates from these images. You don’t need to say much, it’s all there in front of you. Just look at the proud profile of that old woman, Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas (1950, below), and you are instantly transported back to the slave fields and southern plantations of the 19th century. No words are necessary. The bony hands, gaunt cheeks and determined stare speak of a life hard lived.

Marcus

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

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“Gordon Parks (1912-2006), one of the most celebrated African-American photographers of all time, is the subject of a new exhibition of groundbreaking photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott (January 17 – September 13, 2015) traces Parks’ return to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas and then to other Midwestern cities, to track down and photograph each of his childhood classmates. On view in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, the exhibition’s 42 photographs were from a series originally meant to accompany a Life magazine photo essay – but for reasons unknown, the story was never published. The images depict the realities of life under segregation in 1950 – presenting a rarely seen view of everyday lives of African-American citizens in the years before the Civil Rights movement began in earnest. One of the most personal and captivating of all Parks’ projects, the images, now owned by The Gordon Parks Foundation, represent a rare and little-known group within Parks’ oeuvre. This exhibition, on view in the Robert and Jane Burke Gallery, is accompanied by a publication by Karen Haas, the MFA’s Lane Curator of Photographs, in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, which includes an introduction by Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book includes previously unpublished photographs as well as archival materials such as contact sheets and a portion of the 1927 yearbook from the segregated school Parks attended as a child.

“These personal and often touching photos offer a glimpse into the life of Gordon Parks and the prejudice that confronted African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “We’re grateful to The Gordon Parks Foundation for giving us the opportunity to display these moving works.”
Fort Scott, Kansas was an emotional touchstone for Gordon Parks and a place that he was drawn to over and over again as an adult, even though it held haunting memories of racism and discrimination. Parks was born in Fort Scott in 1912 to a poor tenant farmer family and left home as a teenager after his mother died and he found himself – the youngest of 15 children – suddenly having to make his own way in the world. By 1948, Parks was the first African-American photographer hired full time by Life magazine. One of the rare African-American photojournalists in the field, Parks was frequently given magazine assignments involving social issues that his fellow white photographers were not asked to cover. For an assignment on the impact of school segregation, Parks returned to Fort Scott to revisit early memories of his birthplace – many involving racial discrimination – and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom went to the same all-black elementary school that Parks had attended.  He was able to track down all but two members of the Plaza School Class of 1927, although only one was still living in Fort Scott at the time. As he met with fellow classmates, his story quickly shifted its focus to the Great Migration north by African Americans. Over the course of several days Parks visited with his childhood friends – by this time residing in Kansas City; Saint Louis; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Chicago – joining them in their parlors and on their front porches while they recounted their life stories to him. Organized around each of these cities and families, the exhibition features previously unpublished photographs as well as a seven-page draft of Parks’ text for the article.

“With the Back to Fort Scott story, Parks showed – really for the first time – a willingness to mine his own childhood for memories both happy and painful, something he would continue to do in a series of memoirs over the course of his long career” said Haas. “The experience also seems to have inspired him to write The Learning Tree in 1963, his best-selling novel about growing up poor and black in Kansas, that he transformed a few years later into a groundbreaking Hollywood movie – the first by an African American writer-director.”

Parks began his research in Fort Scott, where he found classmate Luella Russell. In addition to photographing Luella with her husband and 16-year-old daughter, Parks took photos of his own family and life around town – finding friends and acquaintances at the local theater, railway station and pool hall. Parks also visited the local baseball field at Othick Park, where he recorded a group of white spectators seated at one end of the bleachers watching a game, while two African-American girls in summer dresses stand at the other end, in an area loosely designated for the town’s black residents. Parks’ image of the girls at the ballpark, where black and white baseball teams sometimes competed against each other, subtly refers to the separation of the races that marked much of everyday life in Fort Scott.

Fort Scott had not changed dramatically since Parks’ youth. Parks attended the all-black Plaza School through the ninth grade  in 1927, and as he wrote in his draft for Life magazine: “Twenty-four years before I had walked proudly to the center of the stage and received a diploma. There were twelve of us (six girls and six boys) that night. Our emotions were intermingled with sadness and gaiety. None of us understood why the first years of our education were separated from those of the whites, nor did we bother to ask. The situation existed when we were born. We waded in normal at the tender age of six and swam out maladjusted… nine years later.”

After Fort Scott, Parks discovered three of his classmates in Kansas City and St. Louis – cities that were easily reached by rail and were often the first stops made by African Americans leaving smaller towns. Many left towns like Fort Scott in the hope of finding jobs and better futures for their children in these larger, more industrial cities. When Parks tracked down his classmates, he recorded their jobs and wages – the sort of detail that Life typically included in such pieces, allowing its readers to measure their own lives against a story’s subjects. In Kansas City, classmate Peter Thomason was working as a postal transportation clerk (a position, Parks noted, with a minimum salary of $3,700 a year), while in St. Louis, Parks recorded that classmate Norman Earl Collins was doing quite well, making $1.22 an hour at Union Electric of Missouri. Parks’ sympathetic images of Earl and his daughter, Doris Jean, may have been a conscious effort on Parks’ part to offset contemporary stereotypes of black families as less stable and strong than their white counterparts.

By 1950, Chicago was the de facto capital of African-American life in the US, with more black inhabitants than any other city in America – including three of Parks’ classmates. Parks discovered them residing only a mile or two apart from one another on the city’s South Side. Untitled, Chicago, Illinois (1950), depicts Parks’ classmate Fred Wells and his wife Mary in front of their apartment building in the Washington Park neighborhood. A number of the photographs in the exhibition repeat the simple compositional device seen here – featuring a classmate and his or her family, framed by the front door of their home. These images highlighted the families’ similarities to, rather than differences from Life‘s readers, who would have found such strong representations of black families at once surprising and reassuring.

In Detroit, Parks traced classmate Pauline Terry to the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. In Fort Scott, Pauline had married Bert Collins, who had run a restaurant during much of the 1930s. By 1950, they were settled in Detroit and had five children. Unlike Parks’ other classmates who had migrated north in search of opportunity, Pauline (yearbook ambition: “To be young forever; to be a Mrs.”) now had a large family and no longer worked outside the home. In the course of her conversation with Parks, she emphasized the importance of religion in their lives. Parks’ powerful portrait of the couple walking to Sunday services at the Macedonia Baptist Church, Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (1950) reinforces the seriousness of their faith.  The cigar-smoking Bert wears a sharp suit and straw boater and carries a well-worn Bible.

Once completed, Parks’ Fort Scott photo essay never appeared in Life. The reason for that remains a mystery, although the US entry into the Korean War that summer had a major impact on the content of its pages for some time. The magazine’s editors did try to resuscitate the story early in April of 1951 only to have it passed over by the news of President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur. In the end, all that survives, as far as written documentation of the Fort Scott assignment, are Parks’ project notes from his individual visits with his classmates in May and June of 1950; several telegrams sent by Life staffers regarding his friends’ whereabouts before his arrival; fact-checking when the piece was again slated to run in April 1951; and an annotated seven-page draft. Because the photos were never published, and most have never before been on view, the exhibition presents a unique opportunity to explore a body of work that is almost completely unknown to the public.

“The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to collaborate with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on this exhibition and publication highlighting a series of very personal, early works by the artist” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., the Foundation’s executive director. “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott allows us a focused look at a single Life magazine story and reveals a fascinating tale of Gordon Parks’ segregated beginnings in rural Kansas and the migration stories of his classmates, many of whom, like him, left in search of better lives for themselves and their families.””

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Columbus, Ohio' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Columbus, Ohio
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“The lives of the classmates – six girls and five boys who graduated from the segregated Plaza School in 1927, in what was then a town of 10,000 people – present a miniature snapshot of African-American aspiration and struggle in the years before Brown v. Board of Education or the civil rights movement.

Parks found Emma Jane Wells in Kansas City, Mo., where she sold clothes door-to-door to supplement her husband’s salary at a paper-bag factory. Peter Thomason lived a few blocks away, working for the post office, one of the best jobs available to black men at the time. But others from the class led much more precarious lives. Parks tracked down Mazel Morgan on the South Side of Chicago, in a transient hotel with her husband, who Parks said robbed him at gunpoint after a photo session. Morgan’s middle-school yearbook description had been ebullient (“Tee hee, tee ho, tee hi, ha hum/Jolly, good-natured, full of fun”), but in 1950 she told Parks, “I’ve felt dead so long that I don’t figure suicide is worthwhile anymore.”

The most promising of the classmates, Donald Beatty, lived in an integrated neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where he had a highly desirable job as a supervisor at a state agency and where Parks’s pictures show him – very much in the vernacular of Life magazine’s Eisenhower-era domestic scenes – happy and secure with his wife and toddler son and a brand-new Buick. But notes made by a Life fact-checker just a year later, when the magazine planned once again to run Parks’s article, recorded a tragedy, blithely and with no explanation: “Aside from the death of their son, nothing much has happened to them.”

Lorraine Madway, curator of Wichita State University’s special collections, said of the Fort Scott story: “There are those moments in an archive when you know you’ve found the gold, and this is one of them. It’s a wonderful example of micro-history. It’s not only that there is so much material written at a specific time in people’s lives, but then there are Parks’s reflections on it later.” …

Besides fact-checking notes, Parks’s own notes and a typewritten draft for what might have been his introduction to the photo spread, there is almost no other documentation surrounding the project, for which Parks shot about 30 rolls of 35-millimeter and medium-format film. And so the question of why it was not published might never be answered. In an essay for the show’s catalog, Ms. Haas speculates that it might have been doomed by its very newsworthiness, as national challenges to school segregation began gathering speed and Life waited – in the end too long – for just the right moment…

Parks carried his own psychic wounds from those years, which profoundly shaped his writing and approach to photography. But his feelings were always bittersweet. Though he lived for many years in New York City, he chose to be buried in his hometown, whose African-American population has declined even more markedly than its overall population. In a 1968 poem about his childhood, he wrote that he would miss “this Kansas land that I was leaving,” one of “wide prairies filled with green and cornstalk,” of the “winding sound of crickets rubbing dampness from wings” and “silver September rain.”

Then he added: “Yes, all this I would miss – /along with the fear, hatred and violence/We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.””

Extract from Randy Kennedy. “‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation,” on The New York Times website, December 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 29/08/2015.
Gordon Parks. 'Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 4.45 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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14
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Segregation Story’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 15th November 2014 – 21st June 2015

 

The more I see of this man’s work, the more I admire it.

A sense of history, truth and injustice; a sense of beauty, colour and disenfranchisement; above all, a sense of composition and knowing the right time to take a photograph to tell the story. It’s all there, right in front of us, in almost every photograph. Photographs of institutionalised racism and the American apartheid, “the state of being apart”, laid bare for all to see.

From the languid curl and mass of the red sofa on which Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama (1956) sit, which makes them seem very small and which forms the horizontal plane, intersected by the three generations of family photos from top to bottom – youth, age, family … to the blank stare of the nanny holding the white child while the mother looks on in Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956). I love the amorphous mass of black at the right hand side of the this image. From the neon delightful, downward pointing arrow of ‘Colored Entrance’ in Department Store, Mobile, Alabama (1956) to the ‘WHITE ONLY’ obelisk in At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama (1956). And so the story flows on like some great river, unstoppable, unquenchable…

But then we have two of the most intimate moments of beauty that brings me to tears as I write this, the two photographs at the bottom of the posting Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956). Just look at the light that Parks uses, this drawing with light. And then the use of depth of field, colour, composition (horizontal, vertical and diagonal elements) that leads the eye into these images and the utter, what can you say, engagement – no – quiescent knowingness on the children’s faces (like an old soul in a young body). This is a wondrous thing.

Notice how the photographer has pre-exposed the sheet of film so that the highlights in both images do not blow out. Pre-exposing the film lessens the contrast range allowing shadow detail and highlight areas to be held in balance. Also notice how in both images the photographer lets the eye settle in the centre of the image – in the photograph of the boy, the out of focus stairs in the distance; in the photograph of the three girls, the bonnet of the red car – before he then pulls our gaze back and to the right of the image to let the viewer focus on the faces of his subjects. In both photographs we have vertical elements (a door jam and a telegraph post) coming out of the red colours in the images and this vertically is reinforced in the image of the three girls by the rising ladder of the back of the chair. Masterful image making, this push and pull, this bravura art of creation.

Surely, Gordon Parks ranks up there with the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the High Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Many thanx also to Carlos Eguiguren for sending me his portrait of Gordon Parks taken in New York in 1985, which reveals a wonderful vulnerability within the artist.

 

 

Carlos Eguiguren. 'Gordon Parks, New York' 1985

 

Carlos Eguiguren
Gordon Parks, New York
1985
4 x 5 transparency film
© Carlos Eguiguren

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

This portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton Sr., aged 82 and 70, served as the opening image of Parks’s photo essay. The well-dressed couple stares directly into the camera, asserting their status as patriarch and matriarch of their extensive Southern family. Photography is featured prominently within the image: a framed portrait, made shortly after the couple was married in 1906, hangs on the wall behind them, while family snapshots, including some of the Thorntons’ nine children and nineteen grandchildren, are proudly displayed on the coffee table in the foreground.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia
1956
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Joanne Wilson, one of the Thorntons’ daughters, is shown standing with her niece in front of a department store in downtown Mobile. The pair is impeccably dressed in light, summery frocks. The jarring neon of the “Colored Entrance” sign looming above them clashes with the two young women’s elegant appearance, transforming a casual afternoon outing into an example of overt discrimination. Notice the fallen strap of Wilson’s slip. Though this detail might appear discordant with the rest of the picture, its inclusion may have been strategic: it allowed Parks to emphasize the humanity of his subjects.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

A group of children peers across a chain-link fence into a whites-only playground with a Ferris wheel. Although they had access to a “separate but equal” recreational area in their own neighborhood, this photograph captures the allure of this other, inaccessible space. The children, likely innocent to the cruel implications of their exclusion, longingly reach their hands out to the mysterious and forbidden arena beyond. The pristinely manicured lawn on the other side of the fence contrasts with the overgrowth of weeds in the foreground, suggesting the persistent reality of racial inequality.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

The Jim Crow laws established in the South ensured that public amenities remained racially segregated. These laws applied to schools, public transportation, restaurants, recreational facilities, and even drinking fountains, as shown here. The photograph documents the prevalence of such prejudice, while at the same time capturing a scene of compassion. Here, a gentleman helps one of the young girls reach the fountain to have a refreshing drink of water.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

“RARE PHOTOS BY GORDON PARKS PREMIERE AT HIGH MUSEUM OF ART

Featuring works created for Parks’ powerful 1956 Life magazine photo essay that have never been publicly exhibited.

The High Museum of Art presents rarely seen photographs by trailblazing African American artist and filmmaker Gordon Parks in Gordon Parks: Segregation Story on view November 15, 2014 through June 21, 2015.

The exhibition, presented in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, features more than 40 of Parks’ color prints – most on view for the first time – created for a powerful and influential 1950s Life magazine article documenting the lives of an extended African-American family in segregated Alabama. The series represents one of Parks’ earliest social documentary studies on color film. The High will acquire 12 of the color prints featured in the exhibition, supplementing the two Parks works – both gelatin silver prints – already owned by the High. These works augment the Museum’s extensive collection of Civil Rights era photography, one of the most significant in the nation.

Following the publication of the Life article, many of the photos Parks shot for the essay were stored away and presumed lost for more than 50 years until they were rediscovered in 2012 (six years after Parks’ death). Though a small selection of these images has been previously exhibited, the High’s presentation brings to light a significant number that have never before been displayed publicly. As the first African-American photographer for Life magazine, Parks published some of the 20th century’s most iconic social justice-themed photo essays and became widely celebrated for his black-and-white photography, the dominant medium of his era. The photographs that Parks created for Life’s 1956 photo essay The Restraints: Open and Hidden are remarkable for their vibrant color and their intimate exploration of shared human experience.

The images provide a unique perspective on one of America’s most controversial periods. Rather than capturing momentous scenes of the struggle for civil rights, Parks portrayed a family going about daily life in unjust circumstances. Parks believed empathy to be vital to the undoing of racial prejudice. His corresponding approach to the Life project eschewed the journalistic norms of the day and represented an important chapter in Parks’ career-long endeavor to use the camera as his “weapon of choice” for social change. The Restraints: Open and Hidden gave Parks his first national platform to challenge segregation. The images he created offered a deeper look at life in the Jim Crow South, transcending stereotypes to reveal a common humanity.

“Parks’ images brought the segregated South to the public consciousness in a very poignant way – not only in color, but also through the eyes of one of the century’s most influential documentarians,” said Brett Abbott, exhibition curator and Keough Family curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “To present these works in Atlanta, one of the centers of the Civil Rights Movement, is a rare and exciting opportunity for the High. It is also a privilege to add Parks’ images to our collection, which will allow the High to share his unique perspective with generations of visitors to come.”
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A Day in the Life

For The Restraints: Open and Hidden, Parks focused on the everyday activities of the related Thornton, Causey and Tanner families in and near Mobile, Ala. The images present scenes of Sunday church services, family gatherings, farm work, domestic duties, child’s play, window shopping and at-home haircuts – all in the context of the restraints of the Jim Crow South.

Key images in the exhibition include:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile Alabama (1956)
  • Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama (1956)
  • Department Store, Mobile Alabama (1956)
  • Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956)
  • Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956)
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About Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. He grew up poor and faced racial discrimination. Parks was initially drawn to photography as a young man after seeing images of migrant workers published in a magazine, which made him realize photography’s potential to alter perspective. Parks became a self-taught photographer after purchasing his first camera at a pawnshop, and he honed his skills during a stint as a society and fashion photographer in Chicago. After earning a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for his gritty photographs of that city’s South Side, the Farm Security Administration hired Parks in the early 1940s to document the current social conditions of the nation.

By 1944, Parks was the only black photographer working for Vogue, and he joined Life magazine in 1948 as the first African-American staff photographer. In 1970, Parks co-founded Essence magazine and served as the editorial director for the first three years of its publication. Parks later became Hollywood’s first major black director when he released the film adaptation of his autobiographical novel The Learning Tree, for which he also composed the musical score, however he is best known as the director of the 1971 hit movie Shaft. Parks received the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and received more than 50 honorary doctorates over the course of his career. He died in 2006.
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About The Gordon Parks Foundation

The Gordon Parks Foundation permanently preserves the work of Gordon Parks, makes it available to the public through exhibitions, books, and electronic media and supports artistic and educational activities that advance what Gordon described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.” The Foundation is a division of The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation.”

Press release from the High Museum of Art

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Store Front, Mobile Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Store Front, Mobile Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Black Classroom, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Black Classroom, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Although this photograph was taken in the 1950s, the wood-paneled interior, with a wood-burning stove at its center, is reminiscent of an earlier time. Parks’s photograph of the segregated schoolhouse, here emptied of its students, evokes both the poetic and prosaic: springtime sunlight streams through the missing slats on the doors, while scraps of paper, rope, and other detritus litter the uneven floorboards. One of the Thorntons’ daughters, Allie Lee Causey, taught elementary-grade students in this dilapidated, four-room structure. After Parks’s article was published in Life, Mrs. Causey, who was quoted speaking out against segregation, was suspended from her job. She never held a teaching position again.

 

 

High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street,
N.E. Atlanta, GA 30309

Opening hours:
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 10 am – 5 pm
Wednesday – 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday – 10 am – 5 pm
Friday – 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday – 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday – 12 noon – 5 pm

High Museum of Art website

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09
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument’ at The New Orleans Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2013 – 12th January 2014

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Another great photographer with a social conscience. Fantastic to observe the dynamics of the proof sheets and how the images were cropped for final publication. The angles, the angles of Red’s young brother are illuminating, to see how the photographer framed his subject, what worked, what didn’t. There is a relatively new boxed set of the complete works of this artist published by Stiedl titled Gordon Parks Collected Works (2012). Reasonably priced for a five volume set, I think this would be a must buy for any aficionado of his work.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The New Orleans 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.

“”The Making of an Argument” evaluates the editorial decisions made by the magazine and, in doing so, comments on how the context in which a picture is presented can drastically alter its message. “In order to meet the expectations set up by the subtitle and the opening text, an overwhelming majority of the pictures selected underscore violence, fear, frustration, aggression, or despair. Of the twenty-one images reproduced, only five strike a lighter note,” writes Russell Lord, the curator of photographs at NOMA. Lord also notes that the ways the images were cropped and darkened further functioned to convey the magazine’s intended message.”

Genevieve Fussell on The New Yorker website

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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This image shows both the full frame image that Gordon Parks shot and the cropped selection, framed in editor’s marking pen, that was ultimately published in Life magazine. The cropped version dramatically heightens the intensity of the image, bringing the viewer closer to the fight (see proof sheet below).

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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The opening spread of "Harlem Gang Leader," Life, November 1, 1948

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The opening spread of “Harlem Gang Leader,” Life, November 1, 1948

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“This exhibition explores the making of Gordon Parks’ first photographic essay for Life magazine in 1948, “Harlem Gang Leader.” After gaining the trust of one particular group of gang members and their leader, Leonard “Red” Jackson, Parks produced a series of photographs that are artful, poignant, and, at times, shocking. From this large body of work (Parks made hundreds of negatives) the editors at Life selected twenty-one pictures to print in the magazine, often cropping or enhancing details in the pictures in the process. Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument traces this editorial process and parses out the various voices and motives behind the production of the picture essay.

The exhibition considers Parks’ photographic practice within a larger discussion about photography as a narrative device. Featuring vintage photographs, original issues of Life magazine, contact sheets, and proof prints, the exhibition raises important questions about the role of photography in addressing social concerns, its use as a documentary tool, and its function in the world of publishing…

“This project raises important questions about the role of photography in addressing social concerns, its use as a documentary tool, and its function in the world of publishing,” said Susan M. Taylor, NOMA’s Director. “We are delighted to be working with The Gordon Parks Foundation on this exhibition since it is a project that addressed many of the major issues that Parks would explore throughout his career.”

In 1948, Gordon Parks began a professional relationship with Life magazine that would last twenty-two years. For his first project, he proposed a series of pictures about the gang wars that were then plaguing Harlem, believing that if he could draw attention to the problem then perhaps it would be addressed through social programs or government intervention. As a result of his efforts, Parks gained the trust of one particular group of gang members and their leader, Leonard “Red” Jackson, and produced a series of pictures of them that are artful, emotive, poignant, touching, and sometimes shocking. From this larger body of work, twenty-one pictures were selected for reproduction in a graphic and adventurous layout in Life magazine.

At each step of the selection process – as Parks chose each shot, or as the picture editors at Life re-selected from his selection – any intended narrative was complicated by another curatorial voice. Curator Russell Lord notes, “By the time the reader opened the pages of Life magazine, the addition of text, and the reader’s own biases further rendered the original argument into a fractured, multi-layered affair. The process leads to many questions: ‘What was the intended argument?’ and ‘Whose argument was it?’.”

Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument examines these questions through a close study of how Parks’ first Life picture essay was conceived, constructed and received.”

Press release from the NOMA website

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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The New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, LA 70124
T: (504) 658-4100

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm
Friday: 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

The New Orleans Museum of Art website

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16
Oct
13

‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 1

Kodachrome sheets 1941 – 1943

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-43. I absolutely adore these photographs. While today they might seem overly posed and almost surreal in their depiction of men and women at work in the factories of the home front during the Second World War, these are epic canvases of colour, light and form. While Eugène Atget’s photographs may well have been “Documents for artists”, I believe that Alfred Palmer’s photographs can be seen as “Documents for photographers.” They teach later generations the value of craft, of an understanding of the technical aspects of the medium (both camera and film) coupled with the imaginative use and capture of light, colour and pose. Look at the photograph Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach (October 1942, below) – have you ever seen such use of colour in the 1940s: red socks, blue slacks, beige shirt, green lunch box and silver background. Like one of those old films in Technicolor, just so beautiful!

While these photographs are masterpieces of formalism, lighting, tone, texture and control, they also transcend their subject matter. Observe the image P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California (c. 1942, below) for example, to comprehend how this master photographer saw this image, how he understood the potential of the subject matter to shine (on so many levels) and then was able to capture it and let it speak for itself. Considering the conditions under which he would have been working (in cramped factories) and the fact that he would have had to light everything himself, Palmer has recorded a remarkable body of work. All captured on the wonderful Kodachrome film in large format 4″x5″ sheets. What a loss to photography this film is.

These photographs deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are at present. Love em, love em, love them!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California' c. 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California
c. 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant' Photo published in 1942

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Alfred Palmer
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, plant
Photo published in 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.

October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain
October, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942' June, 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942
June, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Army tank driver at Fort Knox , Kentucky' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Army tank driver at Fort Knox, Kentucky
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant “Mike” Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred T. Palmer 1906 – 1993

“Born in San Jose, California, Palmer was an avid photographer from an early age, meeting the young Ansel Adams in Yosemite in 1916. He was hired on as a cadet on the Dollar Lines President Monroe. He was 19 years old. This would be the first of his 23 trips around the world in the next 32 years. Palmer became the official photographer and worked aboard Dollar Line, Matson and Moore-McCormack Lines ships around the world shooting 100s of images with his Graflex camera. He would trade with other crew members for daytime shifts so he could go ashore and photograph everything he saw.

In 1938, he packed cameras and darkroom equipment into his car and set out across America documenting everything that captured his interest from cows and pigs and corn to towns, cities, people and industry. He would develop the film in the bathrooms of the tourist homes and auto courts every night. He sold the negatives for a dollar each for use in educational books. He made contact prints of each one which are included in his vast portfolio of work.

In 1939 when Hitler attacked Poland the United States ranked twentieth as a world military power. In June of 1940 President Roosevelt and Congress passed a bill for the building of a major two ocean navy. At that time Roosevelt formed the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Palmer was chosen to head the photography department. To rally and inform citizens about the use of their tax dollars and resources, Palmer was sent out to photograph Americans building what Roosevelt termed the Arsenal of Democracy. Aware of the power of mass media, the OEM wanted to provide images which would vividly convey their story in high contrast photos for magazines and newspapers. At the OEM, Palmer’s boss, Robert Horton, would brainstorm assignments, sending him into restricted industrial and military facilities. Once in the field, Palmer worked independently. He developed a style of quickly seeing the picture and catching the essence. Through this style he was able to convey the gritty texture and geometry of industrial form combined with the strong emotion of men and women attentive to their work. His dramatic tonal ranges and sharp focus approach reflect the early influence of his mentor, Ansel Adams.

In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Palmer became official photographer for the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI). He also served as technical expert with final say on photographic equipment and processes. Now his images had to illustrate all aspects of the war effort, from industrial workers to conservation of resources and citizen participation. Palmer’s emphasis was on the typical American hard at work on the home front. His photographs were also an integral part of the “women power” campaign to change the public attitude toward women joining the work force. He showed women as patriotic, glamorous and capable, working on fighter planes as well as assembly lines. Palmer also focused on the dedication and dignity of the black labor force and worked with the chief of the News Bureau Negro Press.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was added as a joint agency with the OWI. Palmer and Roy Stryker shared creativity and conflict during those years in the dissident approaches to portraying America to herself. While Stryker’s unit showed a national self scrutiny of post depression America, Palmer sought to emphasize a moral building role through his photography. Palmer’s deep belief in promoting the spiritual strength of people permeates his entire career as photographer and filmmaker.

During his years with OWI Palmer worked with a number of significant photographers such as Esther Bubbly, Howard Leiberman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang and Edward Steichen. Palmer’s artistic style was recognized by Steichen, who featured his photographs in the historic traveling exhibit “Road to Victory”, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Alfred Palmer generated thousands of photographs that were widely published in the major magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. His works were praised for their exceptional symbolic power and striking use of intense contrasts conveying the courage and determination that Roosevelt sought to arouse in the nation. Much of the vast collection of Palmer’s photographs (including rare color transparencies) is housed in the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Alfred Palmer passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of life work that is unique in its very essence. This extensive collection of photographs and 16mm color film encompassing five decades of world cultures, World War II history and America’s maritime heritage becomes increasingly significant as a testimony to our humanity.”

Text from the Alfred T. Palmer website

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kodachrome-WEB

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A Kodachrome sheet film box that held 2 x half a dozen sheets of film in 2 sheet packages, from around the time Alfred Palmer would have been using the same film. Notice the ISO/ASA rating of 10. Expiry date of October 1944.

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Alfred Palmer. 'American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California , give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, factory' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, factory
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California 
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation' 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation.
“The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.”
1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(LOC)

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Alfred T. Palmer 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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