Posts Tagged ‘Helen Levitt

11
Aug
19

Text: Marcus Bunyan. “Nothing emerges from nothing,” Foreword to ‘We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans’ 2019

August 2019

Publisher: Australian Scholarly Publishing
ISBN: 9781925801859
Hardback
Purchase

 

 

Book cover to 'We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans' 2019

 

Book cover to We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans. Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019.

 

 

The book We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans has now been published by Australian Scholarly Publishing and is available to purchase from their website.

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who worked on the book, and an especially big thank you to the wonderful Jenner Zimmer who edited the book and without whose help it would not be the book it turned out to be. Her research in tracking down who the people were in the photographs, their correct names, the location of some of the photographs, and her layout of the book, was magnificent to say the least. Through her excellent work, we can now place these photographs not only in a personal context, but in an important historical context in relation to the development of the civil rights movement in Australia directly after the Second World War.

The book is a reflection of the times, an insight into the nascent civil rights movement of the late 1940s-1950s that reached full bloom in the 1960s. As I observe in the foreword below it also becomes a reflection on how photography and friendship go hand in hand… and how this transformative process leads us to reassess our relationship to the world through the act of taking photographs.

Marcus

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

 

Foreword

Nothing emerges from nothing

 

 

“… every human being is a poet, a masker, a warrior, a dancer: and in his innocent artistry he projects, against the turmoil of the street, an image of human existence.”

.
Helen Levitt. In the Street 1948.1

 

 

The gift of friendship between two people is a truly magical thing, a relationship built on the nurturing of respect between them, over time. The alchemical gift of a photograph does not arrive fully formed in a moment, for its magic is grounded in the context of its taking, informed by the wisdom, vision and creativity of the photographer. How Joyce Evans was touched by a connection between photography and friendship is another transformative process, one that leads her to reassess her relationship to the world through the act of taking photographs. Nothing ever emerges from nothing.

My friendship with Joyce Evans began when a joint acquaintance who knew of our love of photography introduced us. Over numerous years since – through trips to Sydney to see Joyce’s favourite photographer Julia Margaret Cameron; through visits to many exhibitions where we have discussed our reactions to the work (often with completely opposing views); through vigorous debate about the merits of different artists; through her promotion of Australian photography; and through her deep knowledge of the world, of life, and of art – I have come to know and love this vibrant and intelligent women. To begin to understand this complex human being and her approach to photography and life. The photographs, text and poetry in this book show evidence of the early maturing of this spirit of life.

Imagine being a nineteen year old who has been studying in America after the end of the Second World War, who has arrived in poverty-stricken England to meet friends who were mutually interested in the peace movement. Imagine travelling across Europe by car with those same friends, as mass migrations of people across Europe were still happening after the war, staying in youth hostels, to camp outside the city of Vienna. Then to cross the “Iron Curtain” and journey with thousands of other people from eight-two countries around the world to the city of Budapest for the Second World Festival of Youth and Students – a festival movement that grew out of the ashes of the war to proclaim, to shout, that youth would never again allow the horrors of fascism to terrorise the world. What a journey of discovery, love, friendship, excitement and danger that must have been!

Using her intelligence and the informed nature of her artistic being to define what interested her most, Joyce documented what she saw of the world around her.2 In so doing, these early photographs set the stage for concerns that have remained consistent in her work to this very day: peace, freedom, place, identity and humanity. While the photographs are a mirror of the times, portraying the improvisational vitality of everyday life, they also represent how the mind of the photographer can be embodied in the physical world, providing a glimpse into that most secret room of all – the core beliefs of a human being, their humanity, their soul.

The Australian photographer Max Dupain stated that the ‘mission of the photograph is to clarify the subject’.3 But perhaps the mission of the photograph is also to help clarify the identity of the artist. As the Austrian-born American photographer Inge Morath eloquently observes:

“Photography is a strange phenomenon. In spite of the use of that technical instrument, the camera, no two photographers, even if they were at the same place at the same time, come back with the same pictures. The personal vision is usually there from the beginning; result of a special chemistry of background and feelings, traditions and their rejection, of sensibility and voyeurism. You trust your eye and you cannot help but bare your soul. One’s vision finds of necessity the form suitable to express it.”4

.
The form that Joyce found so early in her life was the music and poetry of humanist photographs, images that are subjective, lyrical, and reveal a state-of-mind. Here is passion and belief in the life of human beings, and the exquisiteness, beauty (and death) of the lived moment. You could label them “social documentary photography” if you were so inclined, but labels don’t capture the frisson of the creative process nor the joyous outcome of Joyce’s portraits. It’s as though Joyce, in a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, is making love to the world through her images: neither rational nor cerebral they evoke sensations and feelings, of being here and there, in that past space and time, now, all these years later. These were epic days of change and transformation – of nations, of continents, of cultures and of people. There was death and destruction but there was also such happiness, hope and joy.

Further, what her photographs also depict is the rise of an informed Australian social consciousness after the Second World War. Her important historical and personal photographs shine a light on forgotten people, times, places and actions, such as the broad based youth movements opposition to the atomic bomb, associations and friendships which eventually form the basis for the progressive social and political protest movements of the 1960s. The voices raised later in support of feminism, gay liberation, free love and Vietnam anti-war protests did not appear fully formed, for there was a history of activism… a slow build, a groundswell of public opinion that was the basis for such emerging actions. Nothing ever emerges from nothing.

As much as Joyce’s photographs engage the viewer in memory, they also engage in the moment, both past and present. Not only an engagement with the history and nostalgia of the images, but in their present day hope and joy. It is such a pleasure to see these strong images, of people now old, still young, a moving image of humanity. This is the heart of the matter: a moving image of humanity. The photographs represent an understanding of (a) life, well formed and well lived, of a courageous and visionary woman who told it her way, who still tells it her way to this day.

I have a deep sense of gratitude for both our friendship and for Joyce Evans’ prescient vision in recording these remarkable stories so that they can be shared today. At the time they had such high hopes, for their lives and for the future, energy that eventually morphed into something else (as is its want). This leaves these images, written memory, as both poem and testimonial to the uncertainty of human dreams and to the percipience of the artist who embodied and enabled them… in feeling, in love and in spirit. Nothing ever emerges from nothing. Good on ya Bert!

Dr Marcus Bunyan
Melbourne, February 2019

 

Endnotes

  1. Helen Levitt (ed.,). In the Street. Directed by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb and James Agee. Black and white film, 14 mins. 1948 (VHS) New York: Arthouse, Inc., 1996.
  2. Joyce was ever attentive to the power of the historical for she had been studying the Baroque painters in Paris and on her travels through Italy, evidence of which can be seen in the grouping of human figures in her photographs.
  3. Anonymous label. “Max Dupain, (Factory chimney stacks) 1940,” on the National Gallery of Australia website [Online] Cited 15/02/2019.
  4. Inge Morath, Sabine Folie and Gerald Matt. Inge Morath, Life as a Photographer. Munich: Gina Kehayoff Verlag, 1999, p. 13.

 

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Good on yer Bert' 1949

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Good on yer Bert
1949
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Untitled [Budapest crowd]' 1949

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Budapest crowd
1949
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Stalin banner, Budapest' 1949

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Stalin banner, Budapest
1949
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Farewell to Delegates' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Farewell to Delegates
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Farewell to Delegates Townsend' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Farewell to Delegates
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Joyce with camera' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Joyce with camera
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Joyce onboard ship' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Joyce onboard ship
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Joyce with lifeboat' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Joyce with lifeboat
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Faith Bandler' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Faith Bandler
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Edward 'Woods Lloyd' Drummond' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Edward ‘Woods Lloyd’ Drummond
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

Description

Some think it all happened in the 1960s but Joyce Evans, acclaimed photographer of Australia’s land and its people, goes back to her youth and memories of her many adventures as a student activist. In 1949, aged 19, she set sail for Soviet-occupied Budapest to join the post-war demonstrations at ‘The World Festival of Youth and Students for Peace’. It was a time when young Australians dreamed of change and travelled to war-torn Europe in the hope of peace becoming the new reality. Among them were many who would later become important figures in Australia’s government, legal profession, diplomatic corps and academia. People like Frank Hardy, John Bluthal, Faith Bandler, Clyde Holding, Irving Saulwick and Richard Woolcott appear in Joyce Evans’ photographs of these events.

This story, with its cast of endearing and passionate characters, records voyages across battle-scarred Europe, clashes with draconian authorities, daring escapes, betrayals, lost idealism and a wealth of unlikely friendships. It describes the adventures of a youthful cohort who felt empowered and believed it could fulfil its dream of world-wide peace. Joyce says: ‘If such a dream existed then, such high hopes can be reclaimed by the youth of today!’

Text from the Australian Scholarly Publishing website [Online] Cited 08/08/2019

 

World Federation of Democratic Youth

The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) is an international youth organisation, recognised by the United Nations as an international youth non-governmental organisation, and has historically characterised itself as anti-imperialist and left-wing. WFDY was founded in London in 1945 as a broad international youth movement, organised in the context of the end of World War II with the aim of uniting youth from the Allies behind an anti-fascist platform that was broadly pro-peace, anti-nuclear war, expressing friendship between youth of the capitalist and socialist nations. The WFDY Headquarters are in Budapest, Hungary. The main event of WFDY is the World Festival of Youth and Students. The last festival was held in Sochi, Russia, in October 2017. It was one of the first organisations granted general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

 

History

On 10 November 1945, the World Youth Conference, organised in London, founded the World Federation of Democratic Youth. This historic conference was convened at the initiative of the World Youth Council which was formed during World War II to encourage the fight against fascism by the youth of the allied nations. The conference brought together, for the first time in the history of the international youth movement, representatives of more than 30,000,000 young people of diverse different political ideologies and religious beliefs from 63 nations. It adopted a pledge for peace.

Shortly after, with the onset of the Cold War and Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, the organisation was accused by the US State Department of being a “Moscow front”. Many of the founding organisations quit, leaving mostly youth from socialist nations, national liberation movements, and communist youth. Like the International Union of Students (IUS) and other pro-Soviet organisations, the WFDY became a target and victim of CIA espionage as well as part of active measures conducted by the Soviet state security.

The WFYD’s first General Secretary, Alexander Shelepin, was a former leader of the Young Communist International which had been dissolved in 1943. Shelepin had been a guerilla fighter during World War II (after his work with the WFDY, he was appointed head of Soviet State Security). Both the WFDY and IUS vocally criticised the Marshall Plan, supported the Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948 and the new People’s Democracies in Europe. They opposed the Korean War.

The main event of the WFDY became the World Festival of Youth and Students, a massive political and cultural celebration for peace and friendship between the youth of the world. Most, but not all, of the early festivals were held in socialist nations in Europe.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

World Festival of Youth and Students

The World Festival of Youth and Students is an international event, organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), a United Nations-recognised international youth non-governmental organisation, jointly with the International Union of Students since 1947. Initially pluralist, the event became an outlet for Soviet propaganda for foreign audiences during the Cold War.

The festival has been held regularly since 1947 as an event of global youth solidarity for democracy and against war and imperialism. The largest festival was the 6th, held in 1957 in Moscow, when 34,000 young people from 131 countries attended the event. This festival also marked the international debut of the song “Moscow Nights”, which subsequently went on to become perhaps the most widely recognised Russian song in the world. Until the 19th festival in Sochi, Russia in 2017 (with 185 countries participating), the largest festival by number of countries with participants was the 13th, held in 1989 in Pyongyang when 177 countries attended the event.

The World Federation of Democratic Youth was founded to bring together young people of both the socialist and capitalist countries to promote peaceful cooperation and mutual rejection of war. However, with the onset of the Cold War soon after, the organisation and the festivals became a matter of contention within the rivalry. Because of the enormous expenditure and coordination required to support a youth festival, most of the early festivals were held in cities in the socialist countries of Europe. However, many festivals, both then and more so since, have been held in non-socialist countries, affirming the commitment to peaceful coexistence between the peoples living under the different systems. The most recent festival took place in Sochi, Russia, from 13 to 22 October 2017.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

2nd World Festival of Youth and Students

The Second World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) was held in 1949, in Budapest, a city still recuperating from World War II. The 2nd WFYS was one of three major youth events held in Hungary in 1949, along with the World University Summer Games and the World Youth Congress. It was organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students

On August 14, 1949, 20,000 young people from 82 countries, gathered in the Ujpest Stadium, inaugurating the festival. For two weeks, the participants took part in cultural, sport, and political activities. The festival expressed its solidarity for the “anti-colonialist struggle” of the peoples of Indonesia, Malaysia and French Indochina and also for the “anti-fascist struggle” of the Spanish and Greek peoples. It was the first time that a delegation from what would become East Germany took part.

It featured a sports programme, including an athletics competition.

The motto of the festival was: Youth Unite! Forward for Lasting Peace, Democracy, National Independence and a better future for the people!

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'No Coal for War, May Day March' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
No Coal for War, May Day March
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Reduce Armaments Ban Atomic Bomb, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Reduce Armaments Ban Atomic Bomb, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Pictured image-right, Professor Bernard Rechter.

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'University Labour Club banner, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
University Labour Club banner, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

In far-left, John Clendenin, philosopher and president of University of Melbourne SRC. Banner-bearer Jill Warwick, later a TV Producer, vice-president UniMelb SRC.

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Want Peace and Freedom, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Want Peace and Freedom, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Richard 'Dicky' Woolcott, delegate to conference, at NUAUS encampment' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Richard ‘Dicky’ Woolcott, delegate to conference, at NUAUS encampment
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'John O'Neil' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
John O’Neil
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Jenny Lloyd and Clyde Holding' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Jenny Lloyd and Clyde Holding
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

Joyce Evans Photographer website

Australian Scholarly Publishing website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

20
Jul
19

Exhibition: ‘Under the Mexican Sky: A Revolution in Modern Photography’ at the Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 28th July 2019

 

Edward Weston. 'Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches

 

Shown with Modotti are Federico Marín, who was Diego Rivera’s brother-in-law and physician, and Jean Charlot, who is here seen making a sketch on Tina’s back.

 

 

If there is one period and two countries that I love more than anything else in the history of medium, it is the avant-garde photography of the interwar years in France and the photography of Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s.

American, French and Italian photographers were drawn like bees to a honey pot to the blossoming artistic scene in Mexico City and the country in general. They soaked up the unique Mexican culture, its atmosphere of work, religion, beauty, death, poverty, and sensuality – its churches, religious icons, sculptures, festivals, pottery, and people – the land, the mountains and the inhabitants all photographed in this dazzling light. They photographed in an “international modernism” style (the supposed revolution in modern photography named in the title), expatriate photographers in a hospitable but impoverished land. But this was not their land, for this was not their country.

While Strand “modified his 5×7 Graflex camera, adding a special prism extension that enabled him to clandestinely shoot a subject at a 90° angle from the front of his camera”, surreptitiously making portraits as he had done in his New York subway portraits; while Weston documents the murals of Mexican culture at a distance, the clay pots as an abstract composition, and the traditional art and craft Tehuana dress as idealised icon; while Modotti comes closer with her political statements and constructed still life; it is only the Mexican artist Manuel Álvarez Bravo that steals my heart.

His work exudes the spirit of the country through its sensitivity and connection to the earth from which he was born. The light and form in Bravo La Siesta de los Peregrinos; the light and form in Retrato de lo Eterno. I have studied his work quite thoroughly. He is the blessed one. Through his music, he captures the light and life of Mexico, the spirit of the eternal, “the sunlight [as] a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.” His work is the art of the People.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Hands in the Water of the Mind

The water of the mind     has filled with forms.
Come, come closer now,    elusive as
an anemone or a jellyfish     a criminal, a saint;

dip your hand in and pull    from the tormented water
angles and profiles,         an incessant music,

the murmur of the sky,     the mouth of the earth,
the crown of the breeze,     the rings of fire,

the bodies of the lynxes,     the wings of the bat,
the glasses and the pillow,     the brightness of hunger.

David Huerta

.
Many thankx to the Palmer 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.

 

In the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), expatriate photographers flocked to the blossoming artistic scene in Mexico City. Los Angelino Edward Weston reinvented his approach to the medium during three years there in the 1920s. In exploring the development of international modernism into the next decades, this exhibition features rare photographs by Italian Tina Modotti, New Yorkers Helen Levitt and Paul Strand, French master Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Mexico’s own Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

 

 

“For six months I worked at still photographs of Mexico, made about sixty platinum prints, completed and mounted them. Among other things I made a series of photographs in the churches, of the Christs and Madonnas, carved out of wood by the Indians. They are among the most extraordinary sculptures I have seen anywhere, and have apparently gone relatively unnoticed. These figures so alive with the intensity of the faith of those who made them. That is what interested me, the faith, even if it is not mine; a form of faith, to be sure, that is passing, that has to go. But the world needs a faith equally intense in something else, something more realistic, as I see it. Hence my impulse to photograph these things, and I think the photographs are pretty swell.”

.
Paul Strand

 

“At first the brilliance of technique is commented on. Laymen say: What reality! How three-dimensional. Photographers say: What texture! What a scale of values! What print quality! This is a first reaction and the least significant one. All this virtuosity is at the service of what Strand has to express, the felt idea behind the photograph.”

.
Leo Hurwitz

 

“Popular Art is the art of the People. A popular painter is an artisan who, as in the Middle Ages, remains anonymous. His work needs no advertisement, as it is done for the people around him. The more pretentious artist craves to become famous, and it is characteristic of his work that it is bought for the name rather than for the work – a name that is built up by propaganda. Before the Conquest all art was of the people, and popular art has never ceased to exist in Mexico.”

.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo

 

 

Charles Betts Waite. 'The Iguana' 1901

 

Charles Betts Waite (American, 1861-1927)
The Iguana
1901
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 x 7 7/8 inches

 

 

In this playful study, the shadows dominate: the bowl of vittles atop the man’s shadow suggest a sombrero shielding a sleeping man’s face during an afternoon siesta.

[Waite] traveled to Mexico City and in May 1897 established a photography studio there, during the Porfirio Díaz government. He became part of Porfirian society, taking photographs of many in the ruler’s circle. He was among a group of expatriate photographers (such as Winfield Scott and fellow San Diegans Ralph Carmichael and Percy S. Cox) working in Mexico in the first decade of the 20th century. Waite traveled throughout Mexico, exploring archaeological sites and the countryside.

[Waite’s life] corresponds with that of adventurers, brave explorers with romantic spirits and materialistic outlooks, who toured the hitherto unknown world, discovering their riches and inventing paradises.” ~ Francisco Montellano, author of C. B. Waite, fotógrafo

His works were published in books, travel magazines, and on post cards, having contracted with the Sonora News Company. He also worked for several Mexican newspapers, and he documented United States scientific expeditions in Mexico. The images often included scenic Mexican images and the country’s native residents. Many of Waite’s photographs depict railroads, parks, archaeological sites, and business enterprises.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Tina Modotti. 'Experiment in Related Form' 1924

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Experiment in Related Form
1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 3/8 inches

 

 

This is one of only two known photomontages by Modotti, in which a single image of six wine glasses is enlarged and cropped and then superimposed onto itself.

 

Edward Weston. 'Ollas de Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ollas de Oaxaca
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 x 10 inches

 

 

An olla is a clay pot or jar. Weston wrote that his first thought of Oaxaca “is always of the market, – and the market means first of all loza – crockery! I bought and bought – dishes, jars, jugettes, – of the dull black or grey-black ware, and of the deep green glaze ware… Very well do these people reproduce, make use of the essential quality of the material, – splendidly do they observe and utilise to advantage the very essence of a form. A race of born sculptors!”

 

Edward Weston. 'Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

 

“I was fascinated by the stone mosaics at Mitla, for besides a variation on the Greek fret, there was a unique pattern – oblique lines of dynamic force – flashes of stone lightning, which remain my strongest memory.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I.

 

Edward Weston. 'Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two clay pitchers' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two clay pitchers
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches

 

 

These studies of pre-Columbian and folk-art statuary and pottery, done for Anita Brenner’s Idols Behind Altars project, taught Weston the art of the table-top still life. As such, they were the direct precursor to the iconic shells, peppers, and cabbages that occupied him immediately upon his return to Los Angeles in December 1926.

 

Edward Weston. 'Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 8 ¼ inches

 

 

The Tarascan people flourished from 1100 A.D. to 1530 A.D. After the Spanish Conquest, missionaries organised the Tarascan empire into a series of craft-oriented villages. Their artistic traditions survive today in the Lake Pátzcuaro region.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Jean Charlot' 1923

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Jean Charlot
1923
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Anita Brenner and Tina Modotti remained friendly rivals in Mexico City’s close-knit artistic expatriate community throughout the 1920s. Their intertwined social life revolved around the French-Mexican painter Jean Charlot, who had been a principal assistant to Rivera. Charlot was Weston’s closest friend in Mexico as well as Brenner’s paramour and professional collaborator. In a diary entry in 1927, Brenner made a three-column table captioned “Actively Friends; Actively Enemies; and Actively Both.” Modotti’s name appears in the third column.

This sensitive Modotti portrait is inscribed by Charlot to Brenner, “You are bad tempered / I am worst tempered / Does that explain the sweet / Hours we passed together”

 

Tina Modotti. 'Elisa Kneeling' 1924

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Elisa Kneeling
1924
Vintage palladium print
8 7/8 x 6 5/8 inches

 

 

The power of Modotti’s portrait of her young chambermaid is due to the contrast between her beatific face and her coiled hands, which suggest a lifetime of hard manual labor.

 

Edward Weston. 'Anita ("Pear-Shaped Nude")' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Anita (“Pear-Shaped Nude”)
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

“I was shaving when A[nita] came, hardly expecting her on such a gloomy, drizzling day. I made excuses, having no desire, no ‘inspiration’ to work … but she took no hints, undressing while I reluctantly prepared my camera…. And then appeared to me the most exquisite lines, forms, volumes – and I accepted, – working easily, rapidly, surely…

Reviewing the new prints, I am seldom so happy as I am with the pear-like nude of A[nita]. I turn to it again and again. I could hug the print in sheer joy. It is one of my most perfect photographs.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

 

Edward Weston. 'Excusado' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Excusado
1926
Gelatin silver print, 1930s
10 x 8 inches

 

 

“‘Form follows function.’ Who said this I don’t know, but the writer spoke well! I have been photographing our toilet, that glossy enamelled receptacle of extraordinary beauty. It might be suspicioned that I am in a cynical mood to approach such subject matter… My excitement was absolute aesthetic response to form… I was thrilled! – here was every sensuous curve of the ‘human form divine’ but minus imperfections.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

Weston was particularly amused when his chambermaid placed a bouquet of flowers in the bowl, in a well-meaning effort to create a more fitting subject for her employer’s lens.

 

Edward Weston. 'Casa de Vecindad' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Casa de Vecindad
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 ½ inches

 

 

A casa de vecindad or “neighborhood house” was a community home or tenement. This one had once been “a fine old convent,” wrote Weston. “The light was made perfect by the collective noise of cats and dogs, children laughing and crying, women gabbling and vendors calling.”

 

Edward Weston. 'Arches, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Arches, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Guadalajara, Barranca de los Oblatos: Rocky Trail' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Guadalajara, Barranca de los Oblatos: Rocky Trail
1925
Vintage palladium print
10 x 8 inches

 

 

Mexico City in the 1920s-30s was the scene of one of the great artistic flowerings of the twentieth century. Like Paris in the aftermath of World War I, Mexico City after the decade-long Mexican Revolution served as a magnet for international artists and photographers. Foremost among the expatriate photographers was the Los Angelino, Edward Weston, who embedded himself in the artistic milieu surrounding the muralist painters Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. Weston reinvented his approach to picture-making during his three years in Mexico, 1923-26. The soft-focus painterliness that had characterised his studio portraiture in the ‘teens melted away under the brilliant Mexican sun, to be replaced by crystalline landscapes as well as evocative still life that prefigured his later shells and peppers. Meanwhile his paramour and protégée, the Italian silent film star Tina Modotti, created photographs that would place her in the pantheon of great photographers of the era. This exhibition features rare vintage Mexican masterworks by both Weston and Modotti from the 1920s, as well as stellar photographs from the 1930s by the New Yorker Paul Strand, the Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson, and by Mexico’s own self-taught master of the camera, Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Already in the first two decades of the 20th century, immigrant photographers had played an outsize role in Mexican photography. German-born Hugo Brehme published picturesque views of Mexican life and landscape in local and international tourist magazines, including National Geographic. Brehme’s fellow German émigré, Carl Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, meticulously photographed Mexico’s colonial architecture; his daughter Frida would marry Diego Rivera and become a legendary painter and personality. A third talented immigrant photographer was the Californian C.B. Waite, who moved to Mexico City in 1897 and opened a photo studio. At their best, as in The Iguana from 1901, seen here, Waite’s genre studies prefigure by a quarter century the exotic Surrealism that would characterise the work of Modotti, Álvarez Bravo, and Cartier-Bresson.

In 1923, C.B. Waite left Mexico and retired to Glendale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Coincidentally, within a few months, Glendale’s leading photographer, Edward Weston, would make that same journey in the opposite direction. Weston sought to escape from the personal and professional distractions that he felt were deterring him from an aesthetic breakthrough. His love affair with Tina Modotti made him realise that he would never be a conventional husband. In August, 1923, Weston left the port of Los Angeles and sailed to Mexico on the S.S. Colima, accompanied by Modotti, who agreed to run his studio in exchange for photography lessons.

The Weston-Modotti home in Mexico City became a gathering place for writers, painters and photographers. This was the time of the Mexican Renaissance, a cultural movement that celebrated the country’s modern artists as well as its popular and indigenous arts. Under the presidency of Álvaro Obregón, the education minister José Vasconcelos sponsored an ambitious program of progressive public art, most notably the mural movement which was led by Diego Rivera, who was in all ways a larger-than-life character.

While Weston never second-guessed his decision to give up the steady income from studio portraiture, he and Tina faced constant money problems during their three years together in Mexico. Financial salvation came in the unlikely guise of a brash 19-year-old anthropology student, Anita Brenner. Born to a mercantile family with roots in both Texas and Mexico, Brenner befriended Weston and Modotti in Mexico City and hired them to furnish 400 photographs for her book, Idols Behind Altars. This was to be the first serious art-historical treatise on pre-Columbian art, Spanish Colonial architecture, and contemporary Mexican folk art. Weston and Modotti rose to the task with gusto, criss-crossing southern Mexico from Oaxaca to Guadalajara in search of prime examples of these genres.

Weston was first introduced to pulquerías, or working-class bars, by Diego Rivera, who was writing an article on pulquería mural painting for Mexican Folkways magazine. Weston was impressed by the vitality of these anonymous murals, writing:

“The aspiring young painters of Mexico should study the unaspiring paintings – popular themes – popular art – which adorn the humble pulquería… brave matadores at the kill – white veiled ladies, pensive beside moonlit waters – an exquisitely tender group of Indians … and all the pictured thoughts, nearest and dearest to the heart of the people.”

When Modotti left Mexico in 1930, she gifted her large-format view cameras to her close friend and protégé, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. With a seven-decade career, he is considered Mexico’s greatest photographer. “I was born in the city of Mexico, behind the Cathedral, in the place where the temples of the ancient Mexican gods must have been built, February fourth, 1902,” he wrote, invoking the magical realism that infuses his most iconic photographs. As a teenager he studied painting at the Academia San Carlos, the same art school that Rivera and Orozco had attended. “Interested since always in art, I committed the common error of believing that photography would be the easiest,” he confessed. In addition to Modotti, another important early mentor was the painter Rufino Tamayo, who counselled Álvarez Bravo against the “surface nationalism” of political art, such as that of Rivera, Orozco, or indeed Modotti herself: “Art is a way of expression that has to be understood by everybody, everywhere. It grows out of the earth, the texture of our lives and our experiences.” Tamayo’s words became Álvarez Bravo’s touchstones.

In 1934, Álvarez Bravo befriended the young painter-turned-photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had come to Mexico to spend the year photographing in the brilliant natural light not often found in his native Paris. At a technical level their approach to photography diverged: Álvarez Bravo, like Weston and Modotti, favoured traditional large-format view cameras, while Cartier-Bresson, the progenitor of the “decisive moment,” was an early proponent of the hand-held 35mm Leica camera. Yet their common interest in capturing the “accidental theater of the street” outweighed these differences. “Cartier-Bresson and I did not photograph together but we walked the same streets and photographed many of the same things,” Álvarez Bravo recalled. They exhibited together in 1935 in a show entitled Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photographs, first at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and then at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. This seminal exhibit was the first time that “street photography” had been placed in a serious fine art setting. Reviewing that show, poet Langston Hughes wrote: “In a photograph by Cartier-Bresson, as in modern music, there is a clash of sunlight and shadow, while in Bravo, the sunlight is a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.”

Text from the Palmer Museum of Art

 

Edward Weston. 'Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Charrito, pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Charrito, pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two children with pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two children with pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 6 ¾ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

 

“Few had seen this church of Tupátaro, far from tourist tracks. The ceiling was entirely lacquered, even the beams – a notable achievement in colour, design and craftsmanship. That was a hard day of work. Exposures were prolonged to even fifteen minutes with additional flash light, the while I must remain quite still upon a rickety balcony for fear of jarring the camera, which was real torture with more fleas biting and crawling than I ever knew could jump from a few square feet of space.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

 

Brett Weston. 'Tin roofs, Mexico' 1926

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Tin roofs, Mexico
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 9 ½ inches

 

 

Edward Weston’s son Brett joined him in his final year in Mexico. Brett was himself a child prodigy photographer, as evidenced by this sensitively balanced and exquisitely printed abstract masterwork, taken when he was fourteen years old.

Theodore Brett Weston (December 16, 1911, Los Angeles – January 22, 1993, Hawaii) was an American photographer. Van Deren Coke described Brett Weston as the “child genius of American photography.” He was the second of the four sons of photographer Edward Weston and Flora Chandler.

Weston began taking photographs in 1925, while living in Mexico with Tina Modotti and his father. He began showing his photographs with Edward Weston in 1927, was featured at the international exhibition at Film und Foto in Germany at age 17, and mounted his first one-man museum retrospective at age 21 at the De Young Museum in San Francisco in January, 1932.

Weston’s earliest images from the 1920s reflect his intuitive sophisticated sense of abstraction. He often flattened the plane, engaging in layered space, an artistic style more commonly seen among the Abstract Expressionists and more modern painters like David Hockney than other photographers. He began photographing the dunes at Oceano, California, in the early 1930s. This eventually became a favourite location of his father Edward and later shared with Brett’s third wife Dody Weston Thompson. Brett preferred the high gloss papers and ensuing sharp clarity of the gelatin silver photographic materials of the f64 Group rather than the platinum matte photographic papers common in the 1920s and encouraged Edward Weston to explore the new silver papers in his own work. Brett Weston was credited by photography historian Beaumont Newhall as the first photographer to make negative space the subject of a photograph. Donald Ross, a photographer close to both Westons, said that Brett never came after anyone. He was a true photographic equal and colleague to his father and “one should not be considered without the other.”

“Brett and I are always seeing the same kinds of things to do – we have the same kind of vision. Brett didn’t like this; naturally enough, he felt that even when he had done the thing first, the public would not know and he would be blamed for imitating me.” Edward Weston – Daybooks – May 24, 1930.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias were early promoters of traditional Mexican art and craft; their extensive collection now resides at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum. This striking portrait of Rosa in traditional Zapotec dress was appropriated by Diego Rivera for his painting Tehuana Woman, 1929.

Born in Los Angeles, Rosa Rolanda was a dancer with the Marion Morgan dance troupe and the Ziegfeld Follies. She married the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, who was the leading caricaturist of the jazz age. While Rosa and Miguel were accompanying Edward and Tina on one of their trips for Anita Brenner, they taught Rosa the basics of photography. Later, Man Ray would teach her his technique of cameraless photograms. With such tutelage, it is no surprise that Rosa became a gifted photographer in her own right.

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 6 3/4 inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Palma Bendita' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Palma Bendita
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

The branches of the palma bendita, or “blessed palm,” were believed to have been strewn on the road before Christ during his entry into Jerusalem and are blessed on Palm Sunday, an important Mexican holiday.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Campesinos (Workers' Parade)' 1926

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Campesinos (Workers’ Parade)
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 3/8 x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Modotti’s iconic Campesinos has the same formal structure – circular forms filling the picture frame – as Weston’s Olla Pots of Oaxaca made the same year. But Modotti’s picture adds a political dimension that Weston would by nature recoil from. Modotti’s increasingly fervent politicisation contributed to the dissolution of her relationship with Weston, who was fundamentally apolitical. Weston returned to Los Angeles at the end of 1926; Modotti would remain in Mexico another four years.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn, Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn, Sickle
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 ¾ x 7 ½ inches

 

 

This politically-charged still life, and its companion piece Bandolier, Corn and Guitar, were made the year Modotti formally joined Mexico’s Communist Party. At the time she was modelling for Diego Rivera, a fellow traveler. Modotti’s likeness appears in several of Rivera’s most famous Revolutionary murals; she would also be blamed for the break-up of his marriage to Lupe Marín.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn and Guitar' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn and Guitar
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

Tina Modotti. 'Women of Tehuantepec' 1929

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Women of Tehuantepec
1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 7 ¼ inches

 

 

This is one of Modotti’s final masterworks. The following year she would be expelled from Mexico for sedition, due to her work on behalf of the Communist Party. She settled in Russia, giving up photography for relief work with International Red Aid. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, she joined the fray. She returned to Mexico under a pseudonym in 1939, and died of a heart attack three years later, at age 45, her life the stuff of legend.

 

Manuel Álvarez. 'La Siesta de los Peregrinos' (the siesta of the migrants) 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Siesta de los Peregrinos (the siesta of the migrants)
1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 9 3/8 inches

 

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (February 4, 1902 – October 19, 2002) was a Mexican artistic photographer and one of the most important figures in 20th century Latin American photography. He was born and raised in Mexico City. While he took art classes at the Academy of San Carlos, his photography is self-taught. His career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s with its artistic peak between the 1920s and 1950s. His hallmark as a photographer was to capture images of the ordinary but in ironic or Surrealistic ways. His early work was based on European influences, but he was soon influenced by the Mexican muralism movement and the general cultural and political push at the time to redefine Mexican identity. He rejected the picturesque, employing elements to avoid stereotyping. He had numerous exhibitions of his work, worked in the Mexican cinema and established Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana publishing house. He won numerous awards for his work, mostly after 1970. …

Álvarez Bravo’s photography career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s. It formed in the decades after the Mexican Revolution (1920s to 1950s) when there was significant creative output in the country, much of it sponsored by the government wanting to promote a new Mexican identity based on both modernity and the country’s indigenous past.

Although he was photographing in the late 1920s, he became a freelance photographer full-time in 1930, quitting his government job. That same year, Tina Modotti was deported from Mexico for political activities and she left Alvarez Bravo her camera and her job at Mexican Folkways magazine. For this publication, Alvarez Bravo began photographing the work of the Mexican muralists and other painters. During the rest of the 1930s, he established his career. He met photographer Paul Strand in 1933 on the set of the film “Redes”, and worked with him briefly. In 1938, he met French Surrealist artist André Breton, who promoted Alvaréz Bravo’s work in France, exhibiting it there. Later, Breton asked for a photograph for the cover of catalog for an exhibition in Mexico. Alvarez Bravo created “La buena fama durmiendo” (The good reputation sleeping), which Mexican censors rejected due to nudity. The photograph would be reproduced many times after that however.

Alvarez Bravo trained most of the next generation of photographers including Nacho López, Héctor García and Graciela Iturbide. From 1938 to 1939, he taught photography at the Escuela Central de Artes Plásticas, now the National School of Arts (UNAM). In the latter half of the 1960s he taught at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Retrato de lo Eterno' (Portrait of the Eternal) 1935

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 3/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'The Spider of Love, Mexico City' 1934

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
The Spider of Love, Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
6 ½ x 9 ¾ inches

 

 

“I was very lucky. I had only to push the door open. It was so voluptuous, so sensual. I couldn’t see their faces. It was miraculous – physical love in all its fullness. Tonio grabbed a lamp, and I took several shots. There was nothing obscene about it. I could never have got them to pose – a matter of decency.” ~ Cartier-Bresson

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City' 1934

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
9 1/8 x 13 ¾ inches

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Niña con Leña' (Girl with Firewood) 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Niña con Leña (Girl with Firewood)
1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 x 9 5/8 inches

 

 

Helen Levitt’s photographs of Mexico City, taken in 1941, are a notable exception to her otherwise exclusive focus on New York City during her long career (1930s through 1970s). But the principal subject matter of Levitt’s work was the same in both metropolises: the lives of children in working-class neighbourhoods. In this evocative image, the children’s play is undeterred by their poverty, which is evidenced by their bare feet, the dirt road, and the dilapidated buildings. Levitt studied with the noted photographer Walker Evans; her work was also influenced by the other artists in the present exhibition: like Cartier-Bresson, she favoured the hand-held Leica camera; like Paul Strand, she used a secret sideways lens that enabled her to photograph surreptitiously.

Levitt printed her Mexican photographs only after returning to New York, where they added to her blossoming reputation. Her first one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art included sixteen photographs from Mexico, including a variant of this image (below).

 

Helen Levitt. 'Mexico City' 1941

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
Mexico City
1941
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ¼ x 9 5/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Mexico' 1963

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Mexico
1963
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ¾ x 6 ½ inches

 

 

Paul Strand

Paul Strand achieved early recognition as a protégé of Alfred Stieglitz, the New York photographer and gallerist. In 1917 Stieglitz devoted the final two issues of his Camera Work magazine to Strand’s high modernist photography, which was heavily influenced by avant garde artists such as Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso. Stieglitz praised Strand’s work as “brutally direct” and “devoid of all flim-flam.”

By 1932, when Strand drove his Model A Ford from Taos to Mexico, his style had evolved dramatically. Abstraction had given way to humanism, reflecting the influence of his high school photography teacher, the eminent social documentarian Lewis Hine. Strand was now concerned with how people lived, and especially with those aspects of life that “make a place what it is.” Mexico was a logical destination for Strand, whose political concern for the common man intersected with the proletarian goals of the Mexican Revolution.

Over the next several months Strand photographed people and places in rural small towns across southern Mexico, from Michoacán in the West to Oaxaca in the East, unconsciously retracing Edward Weston and Tina Modotti’s footsteps from the 1920s. Strand’s work in Mexico set the tone for the photographic journeys to out-of-the-way destinations in Europe and Africa that would occupy the rest of his long career.

For these Mexican portraits, Strand modified his 5×7 Graflex camera, adding a special prism extension that enabled him to clandestinely shoot a subject at a 90° angle from the front of his camera. The subjects of these portraits, absorbedly watching the Yankee photographer at work, were unaware that he was actually aiming his camera at them. Strand had pioneered this technique as a young photographer on the streets of New York.

Strand originally printed his Mexican photographs as platinum prints. The prints shown here are hand-pulled photogravures created for a 1940 portfolio Photographs of Mexico. In his introduction to the portfolio, Strand describes the prints as “a step forward in the art of reproduction processes,” attributing their quality to the production team’s combined two centuries of experience.

 

Paul Strand. 'Near Saltillo' 1932

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Near Saltillo
1932
Vintage photogravure
5 x 6 3/8 inches

 

 

“When you leave the Texas border for about 70 miles – flat desert, it could still be Texas. Then suddenly appear the mountains of the North around Monterrey and Saltillo – amazing mountains. They are a continuation of the American spur – our Rockies I suppose – but how different – utterly fantastic shapes, like mountains in fairy books. And I never saw the forms within each individual mountain – defined – come right at you as those in the North.” ~ Paul Strand to painter John Marin

 

Paul Strand. 'Gateway - Hidalgo' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Gateway – Hidalgo
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/8 x 8 inches

 

 

“What have come to be known as ‘Strand clouds’ – heavy, lowering shapes holding rain and threat of storm – appear in a great many of his photographs. A friend of Strand’s remembers him cursing under his breath whenever fluffy, cottony cloud formations, which he referred to as ‘Johnson & Johnson,’ took over the sky; they never appear in his prints.” ~ Calvin Tomkins

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Hidalgo' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy – Hidalgo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 3/8 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Man with Hoe - Los Remedios' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man with Hoe – Los Remedios
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ¼ x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Plaza - State of Puebla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Plaza – State of Puebla
1933
Vintage photogravure
5 x 6 3/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Church, Cuapiaxtla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Church, Cuapiaxtla
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 3/8 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Man - Tenancingo' 1933 

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man – Tenancingo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Girl and Child - Toluca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Girl and Child – Toluca
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Uruapan' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy – Uruapan
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/8 x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 x 8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo with Thorns - Huexotla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo with Thorns – Huexotla
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Tlacochoaya - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Tlacochoaya – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Virgin - San Felipe - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Virgin – San Felipe – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 1/8 inches

 

 

Palmer Museum of Art
The Pennsylvania State University
Curtin Road
University Park, PA 16802

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Saturday
10.00 am to 4.30 pm
Sunday
Noon to 4.00 pm
Closed Mondays and some holidays

Palmer Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

03
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘The world is beautiful: photographs from the collection’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Exhibition dates: 4th December 2015 – 10th April 2016

 

Despite a focus on the camera’s relationship to the beauty and pure form of the modern world – “the attraction and charm of the surface” – these photographs are more than just being skin deep. In their very straightforwardness the photographs propose a “rigorous sensitivity to form revealed patterns of beauty and order in the natural and man-made alike.” But more than the portrayal of something we would not see if it were not for the eye of the photographer, the lens of the camera, the speed of the film, the sensitivity of the paper, the design of the architect, the genetics of nature … is the mystery of life itself.

Modernist structures and mass-produced objects in plants and animals can never beat a good mystery. Just look at Man Ray’s Woman with closed eyes (c. 1928, below) or the look in the eyes of Robert Frank’s son, Pablo. You can never pin that down. While form may be beauty, mystery will always be beautiful.

Marcus

.
Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

“German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch was a pioneering figure in the New Objectivity movement, which sought to engage with the world as clearly and precisely as possible.

Rejecting the sentimentality and idealism of a previous generation, Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) emerged as a tendency in German art, architecture and literature in the 1920s. Applying this attitude to the field of photography, Renger-Patzsch espoused the camera’s ability to produce a faithful recording of the world. ‘There must be an increase in the joy one takes in an object, and the photographer should be fully conscious of the splendid fidelity of reproduction made possible by his technique’, he wrote.

This selection reflects the range of subjects that Renger-Patzsch returned to throughout his career. It includes his early wildlife and botanical studies, images of traditional craftsmen, formal studies of mechanical equipment, commercial still lifes, and landscape and architectural studies. His images of the Ruhr region, where he moved in 1928, document the industrialisation of the area in almost encyclopaedic detail. All of his work demonstrates his sustained interest in the camera’s relationship to the beauty and complexity of the modern world.

In 1928 Renger-Patzsch published The World is Beautiful, a collection of one hundred photographs whose rigorous sensitivity to form revealed patterns of beauty and order in the natural and man-made alike. Embodying a new, distinctly modern way of looking at the world, the book established Renger-Patzsch as one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century.”

Text by Emma Lewis on the Tate website

 

The world is beautiful is an exhibition of photographs taken over the last 100 years from the National Gallery of Australia’s magnificent photography collection, including work by Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Max Dupain, Bill Henson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Man Ray, Cindy Sherman and many more.

It draws its title from one of the twentieth-century’s great photographic moments, the publication of Albert Renger-Patzsch’s book The world is beautiful in 1928. Renger-Patzsch’s approach embodied his belief that ‘one should surely proceed from the essence of the object and attempt to represent it with photographic means alone’.

Inspired by this confidence in the medium, the exhibition looks at the way the camera interacts with things in the world. One of photography’s fundamental attributes is its capacity to adopt a range of relationships with its subject, based on the camera’s physical proximity to it. Indeed, one of the most basic decisions that a photographer makes is simply where he or she places the camera. The pictures in this exhibition literally take you on a photographic trip, from interior worlds and microscopic detail to the cosmic: from near to far away.

Together, these photographs capture some of the delight photographers take in turning their cameras on the world and re-imaging it, making it beautiful through the power of their vision and their capacity to help us see the world in new ways.”

Text from the National Gallery of Australia website

 

Near

Close up, the world can be surprising. There is an undeniable intensity and focus that comes with getting up close to people and objects. It is rude to stare, but photography has no such scruples.

Pioneers of the medium attempted to photograph organic forms through a microscope, making once-hidden worlds accessible. The pleasure photographers take in getting up close to their subject has followed the medium’s progress. This was especially the case during the twentieth century, when advances in photographic technology and profound shifts in our relationship to space brought about by events such as war often turned our attention away from the outside world.

For many photographers, the camera’s capacity to subject people and objects to close scrutiny has provided a way of paring back vision to its essence, to view the world unencumbered by emotion and sentiment. For others, getting up close is not just about physical proximity; it is also about psychological and emotional states that are otherwise difficult to represent. Experiences such as intimacy, love and emotional connection, as well as disquiet, anxiety and hostility, can all be suggested through the use of the close-up. Photographers have also used it literally to turn inwards, escaping into the imagination to create dreamworlds. The camera-eye really can see what the human eye cannot. (Text from the National Gallery of Australia website)

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch. 'Mantelpavian [Hamadryas Baboon]' c. 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Mantelpavian [Hamadryas Baboon]
c. 1925
Gelatin silver photograph
23.8 x 16.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

“In photography one should surely proceed from the essence of the object and attempt to represent it with photographic terms alone.” Albert Renger-Patzsch

Renger-Patzsch’s primary interest was in the object as a document, removed from its usual context and unencumbered with sentiment. Die Welt ist schön [The world is beautiful], published in Munich in 1928, is one of the great photographic books in the history of photography and its influence across the world was profound. It is an astounding study of the world, celebrating beauty wherever the photographer found it – in modernist structures and mass-produced objects or in plants and animals. The connection and continuity of industry to the natural world is conveyed by emphasising underlying structural and formal similarities. The Gallery has a major holding of works by Renger-Patzsch, including a copy of Die Welt ist schön and 121 vintage prints, most of which were reproduced in the book.

Renger-Patzsch was always firmly committed to the principle of the photograph as a document or record of an object. While the title for his most famous contribution to photography came from his publisher, he wanted his now-iconic 1928 book Die Welt ist schön (The world is beautiful) to be titled simply Die Dinge (Things). In 1937 he wrote that the images in his book, ‘consciously portray the attraction and charm of the surface’. Indeed, the power of these pictures resides in their straightforwardness. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Edward Weston (USA 1886-1956) 'Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico' 1924

 

Edward Weston (United States of America 1886 – 1958)
No title (Guadalupe, Mexico, 1924): from “Edward Weston fiftieth anniversary portfolio 1902-1952”.
1924
Gelatin silver photograph
20.7 h x 17.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1981

 

 

In 1923 Weston travelled from San Francisco to Mexico City with his son, Chandler and his model and lover, Tina Modotti. The photographs he made there represented a startling, revolutionary breakthrough. Everything got stripped down to its essence, with objects isolated against neutral backgrounds. For these heroic head shots, he moved out of the studio, photographing in direct sunlight, from below and with a hand-held camera. They are monumental but still full of life: Weston was excited by the idea of capturing momentary expressions, in people he found ‘intense and dramatic’. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Man Ray (United States of America 1890 - France 1976) 'No title (Woman with closed eyes)' c. 1928

 

Man Ray (United States of America 1890 – France 1976)
No title (Woman with closed eyes)
c. 1928
Gelatin silver photograph
Not signed, not dated. Stamp, verso, l.r., “Man Ray / 81 bis. Rue / Campagne Premiere / Paris / XIV”.
Image 8.9 h x 12.8 w cm sheet 8.9 h x 12.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1984

 

Robert Frank. 'Pablo' 1959

 

Robert Frank (Switzerland born 1924 – emigrated to United States 1947)
Pablo
1959
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 20.8 h x 31.0 w cm sheet 27.0 h x 35.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

Frank set out on a two-year road trip across the States in 1955. The images he made of race and class divisions, poverty, alienated youth and loneliness expose America’s dark soul. Others, such as this haunting image of his son, Pablo, were more personal. A selection appeared in The Americans, published in Paris in 1958 and in the States the following year. Many saw it as a bitter indictment of the American Dream, others saw an evocative, melancholic vision of humanity that is deeply moving. As Jack Kerouac commented in his introduction to the American edition, Frank ‘sucked a sad, sweet, poem out of America’. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australia 1949 – 1980)
Vale Street
1975
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 20.2 h x 30.3 w cm sheet 40.5 h x 50.4 w cm
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

“I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated, maybe it’s a way of bringing people together I don’t want to exploit people. I care about them.”

Carol Jerrems, 1977

.
Carol Jerrems became prominent in the 1970s as part of a new wave of young photographers. Influenced by the counter-culture values of the 1960s, they used art to comment on social issues and engender social change. Jerrems photographed associates, actors and musicians, always collaborating with her subjects, thereby declaring her presence as the photographer. Vale Street raises interesting questions about what is artifice and what is real in photography. She deliberately set up this image, employing her aspiring actress friend and two young men from her art classes at Heidelberg Technical School. Vale Street has achieved an iconic status in Australian photography; the depiction of a confident young woman taking on the world is an unforgettable one. It is an intimate group portrait that is at once bold and vulnerable. In 1975 it was thought to be an affirmation of free love and sexual licence. The image also appears to be about liberation from society’s norms and taboos – ‘we are all three bare-chested, we have tattoos and so what?’

The implication that this scene is perfectly natural is reinforced by locating the figures in a landscape. The young woman is strong and unafraid of the judgement of the viewer. The necklace around her neck is an ankh – a symbol of the new spiritualty of the Age of Aquarius and a re-affirmation of the ancient powers of women.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Nude lying on a love seat' c. 1936

 

Paul Outerbridge (United States of America 1896 – 1958; Paris 1925-28, Berlin and London 1928)
Nude lying on a love seat
c. 1936
Carbro colour photograph
30.2 h x 41.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

Like the Australian-born Anton Bruehl, Paul Outerbridge studied at the Clarence White School of Photography in New York. White was keen to see photography establish itself as a practical art that could be used in the service of the rapidly expanding picture magazine industry. Within a year of enrolling in the school, Outerbridge’s work was appearing in Vogue and Vanity Fair. During his lifetime, Outerbridge was known for his commercial work, particularly his elegant, stylish still-life compositions which show the influence of earlier studies in painting. He was also admired for the excellence of his pioneering colour work, which was achieved by means of a complicated tri-colour carbro process.

Much of Outerbridge’s fame now rests on work that he made following more private obsessions. His fetishistic nude photographs of women are influenced primarily by eighteenth-century French painters such as Ingres. Although the depiction of nudes was a genre pursued from the inception of photography, Outerbridge’s interest in breaking down taboos resulted in this material, if known at all, being passed over or vilified in his lifetime. Outerbridge sought to express what he described as an ‘inner craving for perfection and beauty’ through these often mysterious, languid and richly toned images. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014)

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #92' 1981

 

Cindy Sherman (United States of America born 1954)
Untitled #92
1981
Type C colour photograph
61.5 h x 123.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1983

 

 

This is one of 12 Centerfolds made by Sherman in 1981. The Centerfolds present Sherman posing in a range of situations, each suggesting heightened emotional states and violent narratives; these associations are augmented by the uncomfortably tight framing and the panoramic format used by Sherman across the series. Initially commissioned for the art magazine Artforum, the Centerfolds were never published because they were deemed, with their apparently voyeuristic points of view, to reaffirm misogynist views of women. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939) 'Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi)' 1980

 

William Eggleston (United States of America born 1939)
Greenwood, Mississippi
(1973) prtd 1979
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 29.5 h x 45.4 w cm sheet 40.2 h x 50.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

With its intense red, Eggleston’s picture of the spare room in a friend’s home is one of the most iconic of all colour photographs. Often called The red room, this photograph was intended to be shocking: Eggleston described the effect of the colour as like ‘red blood that is wet on the wall’. But the radicalness of the picture is not just in its juicy (and impossible to reproduce) redness; it is also found in the strange view it provides of a domestic interior, one that Eggleston has described as a ‘fly’s eye view’. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Magnolia Blossom' 1925

 

Imogen Cunningham (United States of America 1883 – 1976)
Magnolia Blossom
1925
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 17.1 h x 34.6 w cm mount 38.2 h x 50.7 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1978

 

 

During the 1920s, raising three young sons, Cunningham began to focus on her immediate surroundings. This restricted environment encouraged Cunningham to develop a new way of working, as she began to place her camera closer to the subject: to zebras on a trip to the zoo, to snakes brought to her by her sons, and perhaps most famously to the magnolia blossoms and calla lilies she grew in her garden. Observing what she termed the ‘paradox of expansion via reduction’, the intensity and focus attendant to this way of seeing flooded her work with sensuality and reductive power. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Olive Cotton. 'Skeleton Leaf' 1964

 

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911 – 2003)
Skeleton leaf
1964
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 50.4 h x 40.8 w cm sheet 57.8 h x 47.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1987

 

 

This leaf skeleton – a leaf that has had its pulp removed with heat and soda – was probably photographed in front of a window in Cotton’s home near Cowra, NSW. Since the 1930s Cotton had been drawn to the close study of nature, and many of her best photographs feature close-ups of flowers, tufts of grass and foliage. This photograph is notable because it was taken in the studio, and reflects the austerity and simplicity that pervaded Cotton’s work in the decades after the Second World War. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Lee Friedlander (United States of America born 1934) 'Nashville, 1963' 1963

 

Lee Friedlander (United States of America born 1934)
Nashville, 1963
1963
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 28.2 h x 18.7 w cm sheet 35.3 h x 27.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1981

 

 

Middle distance

The further away we move from a subject, the more it and its story open up to us. While the close-up or compressed view tends to be very frontal (the camera presses up against the subject), the defining characteristic of much mid-century photography was its highly mobile relationship to space: its extraordinary capacity to survey and to organise the world.

The space between the camera and its subject can suggest impartiality and detachment. Documentary photographers and photojournalists, for example, open their cameras up to their subjects, as if to ‘let them speak’. But the depiction of the space between the camera and its subject, and the way that it is rendered through the camera’s depth of field, can also reflect decision making on the part of the photographer. By adjusting the camera’s settings, and thus choosing to render part of the subject in focus, the photographer can direct our focus and attention to certain parts of an image. In this way, photographers put forward an argument based on their world view. Photography can change the way we think about the world. (Text from the National Gallery of Australia website)

 

Ilse Bing. 'Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1931' 1931

 

Ilse Bing (Germany 1899 – United States of America 1998; France 1930-1941 United States from 1941)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1931
Gelatin silver photograph
Signed and dated recto, l.r., pen and ink “Ilse Bing/ 1931”
Image 22.3 h x 28.2 w cm sheet 22.3 h x 28.2 w cm mount 35.0 h x 41.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1989

 

 

Bing took up photography in 1928 and quickly developed a reputation as a photojournalist and photographer of modernist architecture. Inspired by an exhibition of modern photography and the work of Paris-based photographer Florence Henri, Bing moved to Paris 1930 and quickly became associated with the city’s photographic avant-garde. Bing worked exclusively with the fledgling Leica 35mm-format camera; her interest in the pictorial possibilities of the hand-held Leica can clearly be seen in this striking view of the Eiffel Tower. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Walker Evans (United States of America 1903 - 1975) 'Graveyard and steel mill, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania' 1935

 

Walker Evans (United States of America 1903 – 1975)
Graveyard and steel mill, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
19.1 h x 24.0 w cm sheet 20.2 h x 25.2 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

Gary Winogrand. 'World´s Fair', New York, 1964

 

Garry Winogrand (United States of America 1928 – Mexico 1984)
World’s Fair, New York
1964
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 21.8 h x 32.7 w cm mount 37.4 h x 50.1 w cm
Image rights: © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1978

 

 

Winogrand had a tremendous capacity to photograph people in public spaces completely unawares. This image records a group of visitors to the 1964 World’s Fair; it focuses on three young women – Ann Amy Shea, whispering into the ear of Janet Stanley, while their friend Karen Marcato Kiaer naps on Stanley’s bosom. The figures fill the space between the picture’s fore- and middle-grounds, to the extent of allowing the viewer to examine people’s expressions and interactions in close detail. This in turn allows us to encroach on the personal space of people we don’t know. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Diane Arbus, 'Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962'

 

Diane Arbus (New York, United States of America 1923 – 1971)
Child with toy hand grenade, in Central Park, New York City
1962
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 20.0 h x 17.2 w cm sheet 32.8 h x 27.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

During workshops with Lisette Model, Arbus was encouraged to develop a direct, uncompromising approach to her subjects. She did this using the square configuration of a medium-format camera which Arbus most usually printed full frame with no cropping. Model also convinced Arbus, who had been interested in myth and ritual, that the more specific her approach to her subjects, the more universal the message. In many ways this image of a boy caught hamming it up in Central Park, with his contorted body and grimacing face, captures and prefigures many of the anxieties of America during the sixties, a country caught in an unwinnable war in Vietnam and undergoing seismic social change. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (France 1908 - 2004) 'Rue Mouffetard, Paris' 1954 prtd c. 1980

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (France 1908 – 2004)
Rue Mouffetard, Paris
1954 prtd c. 1980
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 35.9 h x 24.2 w cm sheet 39.4 h x 29.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1982

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1972

 

Helen Levitt (United States of America 1913 – 2009)
New York
1972
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 23.9 h x 36.2 w cm sheet 35.6 h x 42.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1984

 

 

“The streets of the poor quarters of the great cities are, above all, a theatre and a battleground.” Helen Levitt

Inspired by seeing work by Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1935, Levitt took to the streets. Children became her most enduring subject. Like Evans, Levitt was famously shy and self-effacing, seeking to shoot unobserved by fitting a prism finder on her Leica. Her approach eschews the sensational; instead she is interested in capturing small, idiosyncratic actions in the everyday. Her images were often shot through with a gentle, lyrical humour though a dark strangeness also surfaces at times. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1972

 

Helen Levitt (United States of America 1913 – 2009)
New York
1972
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 23.4 h x 35.6 w cm sheet 35.4 h x 42.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1984

 

Ernst Haas (1921-1986). 'Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA' 1969

 

Ernst Haas (Austria 1921 – United States of America 1986; United States from 1951)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
1969
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 44.9 h x 67.8 w cm sheet 52.3 h x 75.7 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2000

 

 

For Haas, colour photography represented the end of the grey and bitter war years and he started seriously working in the medium after moving to America in 1951. Work on his photoessay, Land of Enchantment and film stills assignments for The Misfits, The Bible and Little Big Man took Haas to the Southwest. The desert landscape of Albuquerque, located on Route 66, had been totally transformed by progress since the 1920s. Photographing the street after rain, Haas has signified that evolution by way of his distinctive ability to translate the world into shimmering energy. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Faraway

Photography has a long-standing interest in faraway places. In 1840, right in photography’s infancy, astronomical photography was launched when the first photograph of the moon was made. As photographic imaging technology has improved, so has the medium’s capacity to make faraway places accessible to us.

Photography can bring foreign places and people closer to home, or collect together images of places and structures that are located in different places. It can also attempt to give a picture to experiences that are otherwise difficult to grasp or represent, such as complex weather events or transcendental phenomena.

Against the odds, there are photographers who make images that are about what cannot be seen. Faraway is often used as a metaphor for thinking about the ineffable and the inexplicable. Science and spirit go hand-in-hand. ‘The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious’, Albert Einstein believed. Photographers can take us to new worlds. (Text from the National Gallery of Australia website)

 

Ansel Adams. 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (San Francisco, California, United States of America 1902 – Carmel, California, United States of America 1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
1941
Ansel Adams Museum Set
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 38.6 h x 49.0 w cm mount 55.6 h x 71.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

Adams became the most famous landscape photographer in the world on the back of his images of America’s West. While mass tourism was invading these wilderness areas, Adams’s photographs show only untouched natural splendour. His landscapes are remarkable for their deep, clear space, distinguishable by an uncanny stillness and clarity. The story of Moonrise is legendary: driving through the Chama River Valley toward Española, Adams just managed by a few seconds to catch this fleeting moment before the dying sunlight stopped illuminating the crosses in the graveyard. Through hours of darkroom manipulation and wizardry, Adams created an image of almost mystical unworldliness. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Tracey Moffatt (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia born 1960) 'Up in the sky' 1997

 

Tracey Moffatt (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia born 1960)
Up in the sky [Up in the sky – a set of 25 photolithographs]
1997
No. 8 in a series of 25
Photolithograph
Image 61.0 h x 76.0 w cm sheet 72.0 h x 102.0 w cm
KODAK (Australasia) PTY LTD Fund 1997
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Up in the sky is unusual in Moffatt’s oeuvre for being shot out of doors on location. Her photomedia practice is informed by an upbringing watching television, fascinated by film and pop culture. This series takes many of its visual cues from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accattone of 1961 as well as the Mad Max series – the references, twisted and re-imagined, are like half-forgotten memories. She addresses race and violence, presenting a loose narrative set against the backdrop of an outback town. The sense of unease is palpable: Moffatt here is a masterful manipulator of mood. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Laurence Aberhart (Aotearoa New Zealand born 1949) 'Taranaki, from Oeo Road, under moonlight, 27-28 September 1999' 1999

 

Laurence Aberhart (Aotearoa New Zealand born 1949)
Taranaki, from Oeo Road, under moonlight, 27-28 September 1999
1999
Gelatin silver photograph
19.4 h x 24.3 w cm
Gift of Peter Fay 2005
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

For four decades, Aberhart has photographed the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island, including its settled landscape and its most distinctive feature, the sacred TeMounga (Mount) Taranaki. Using an 8 x 10-inch view camera, Aberhart has over time built up an important archive documenting the social geography and landscape of the Taranaki. Aberhart describes the conical mountain as a ‘great physical and spiritual entity’ and sees his photographs of it as a counterbalance to the countless images of the mountain that circulate on tea towels and postcards. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

 

National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place, Canberra
Australian Capital Territory 2600
Tel: (02) 6240 6411

Opening hours:
Open daily 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
(closed Christmas day)

National Gallery of Australia website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

21
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Now You See It: Photography and Concealment’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 1st September 2014

 

Many thankx to the Metropolitan 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.

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899-1968 New York) 'Charles Sodokoff and Arthur Webber Use Their Top Hats to Hide Their Faces' January 27, 1942, printed c. 1983

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899-1968 New York)
Charles Sodokoff and Arthur Webber Use Their Top Hats to Hide Their Faces
January 27, 1942, printed c. 1983
Gelatin silver print
31.8 x 41.4 cm. (12 1/2 x 16 5/16 in.)
Gift of Aaron and Jessica Rose, 1983
Rights and Reproduction: © Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972) 'Occasion for Diriment' 1962

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972)
Occasion for Diriment
1962
Gelatin silver print
18.0 x 18.7 cm (7 1/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Rogers Fund, 1967
© The Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard was a photographer and optician who spent the last two decades of his life in Lexington, Kentucky, producing an eccentric body of work at some remove from the photographic mainstream. He often posed his family and friends in enigmatic tableaux with props such as dolls and rubber masks, imbuing his images with a haunting Surrealist sensibility. The curious title of this photograph stems from Meatyard’s passion for odd names, puns, and peculiar words and phrases. Diriment is a made-up word, a Lewis Carroll-like compound of “dire” and “merriment” that suggests a mood of high-spirited fun and hilarity fraught with anxious undertones.

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born Aberdeen, Washington, 1934) 'Shadow, New York City' 1966, printed 1973

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born Aberdeen, Washington, 1934)
Shadow, New York City
1966, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
16.0 x 24.1 cm. (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1990

 

Robert Frank (American, born Zurich, 1924) 'Covered Car - Long Beach, California' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Zurich, 1924)
Covered Car – Long Beach, California
1955
Gelatin silver print
21.4 x 32.7 cm (8 7/16 x 12 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

 

“Photography is a medium prized for its capacity to expose, lay bare, make visible. For many artists, the camera is, above all, a tool for revealing what would otherwise remain unnoticed. As Diane Arbus once said: “I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.” At the root of this artistic impulse is a keen fascination with that which is hidden, obscure, or hitherto unseen. This exhibition presents a selection of contemporary photographs and video from the permanent collection that variously explores the medium’s dynamic interplay between concealment and revelation.

Some of the artists featured here use the camera to reveal subjects or places ordinarily hidden, as in Vera Lutter’s majestic view of the interior of a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant or Miguel Rio Branco’s lush image of a tapestry’s seamy underside. Others address instances of geopolitical obfuscation: Fazal Sheikh’s aerial photographs of the Negev desert in southern Israel record the traces of Bedouin villages that have been transformed into forests or farmland, while Mishka Henner collects images of stylishly censored high-security sites on Google Earth. In Vault (2011), Thomas Demand takes his inspiration from current events, meticulously re-creating a storeroom in which thirty missing works of art were discovered during a recent police raid.

The tension between publicity and privacy – the simultaneous desire to be looked at and to evade the merciless gaze of the camera – animates the work of artists as diverse as Arbus, Lutz Bacher, Jack Pierson, and Taryn Simon. In her video, The Nightingale (2003), Grace Ndiritu explores the tradition of the veil and its complex poetics of exposure and effacement. Complementing the contemporary works on view is a selection of earlier photographs in which the primary subject is hidden or obscured – a brief anthology of playfulness, shame, and seduction.

 

Fazal Sheikh (American, born 1965) 'Desert Bloom' (various numbers) 2011

 

Fazal Sheikh (American, born 1965)
Desert Bloom (various numbers)
2011
Excerpt from the Erasure Trilogy
Inkjet print
Image: 40 × 60 cm (15 3/4 × 23 5/8 in.) Sheet: 52.1 × 72.1 cm (20 1/2 × 28 3/8 in.) Frame: 73.7 × 53.3 cm (29 × 21 in.)
Purchase, Jane P. Watkins Gift, 2013

 

In 2011 the French photographer Frederic Brenner invited eleven prominent photographers to spend six months in residence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, or West Bank, to explore the area’s complexity and to create bodies of work that might broaden and reframe the conversation about the region. Among those invited was Sheikh, an artist best known for his sensitive black-and-white portraits of people living in displaced and marginalized communities around the world. Sheikh’s project takes the form of a trilogy titled Erasure, of which Desert Bloom is the central part. The images were made during several months of flying above the Negev desert and are intended to articulate the rapid transformation of the region. On the one hand, they invoke the Israeli endeavor to “make the desert bloom,” and on the other, they reveal traces of the Negev’s history: the construction of towns for the Bedouin, the natural erosion of the land, the demolition of local dwellings, the remains of military installations, the afforestation campaigns of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the transformation of nomadic desert regions into farmland.

 

demand-vault-WEB

 

Thomas Demand (German, born 1964)
Vault
2012
Chromogenic print
220 x 276.9 cm (86 5/8 x 109 in.)
Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund; Alfred Stieglitz Society, The Fledgling Fund, through Diana Barrett and Robert Vila, Joseph M. and Barbara Cohen Foundation Inc. and Hideyuki Osawa Gifts, 2013
© Thomas Demand / Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Demand’s photographs of the paper constructions he builds in his studio are typically based on photographs related to politically charged real-world events. He begins with an existing image, usually culled from the news media, which he translates into a three-dimensional life-sized model made of colored paper and cardboard. The models are then carefully lit and photographed, after which they are destroyed. Three times removed from the scenes they depict, Demand’s works are masterpieces of pictorial ambiguity that occupy a mesmerizing middle ground between reality and artifice.

Vault is based on a police photograph of a storeroom at the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, where thirty paintings and sculptures that had been missing for decades were discovered during a police raid in 2011. The missing artworks belong to the heirs of a French Jewish family displaced during the Holocaust. In Demand’s picture, as in the photograph on which it is based, the framed paintings – which include works by Degas, Manet, and Morisot – are turned to face the walls and remain tantalizingly hidden from view.

 

Vera Lutter (German, born Kaiserslautern, 1960) 'Pepsi Cola Interior II: July 6-13, 2000' 2000

 

Vera Lutter (German, born Kaiserslautern, 1960)
Pepsi Cola Interior II: July 6-13, 2000
2000
Gelatin silver print
Overall installation: 90 3/4 in. × 14 ft. 3/4 in. (230.5 × 428.6 cm) Sheet (A): 90 in. × 55 3/4 in. (228.6 × 141.6 cm) Sheet (B): 90 in. × 55 3/4 in. (228.6 × 141.6 cm) Sheet (C): 90 in. × 55 3/4 in. (228.6 × 141.6 cm) Frame (each): 90 3/4 × 56 1/4 in. (230.5 × 142.9 cm)
Purchase, Joseph M. and Barbara Cohen Foundation Inc. Gift, 2001
© Vera Lutter

 

While the basis for Lutter’s technique – the camera obscura – is older than photography itself, her images and subject matter are wholly modern. This enormous negative print was made inside a room-sized pinhole camera that Lutter built in a derelict Pepsi-Cola bottling plant on the East River in Hunters Point, Queens. After pinning three huge sheets of photographic paper opposite the camera’s pinhole aperture, she worked inside the camera to monitor and manipulate the light during the weeklong exposure. The bottling plant itself closed in 1999 and was later demolished.

 

Mishka Henner (British, born 1976) 'Staphorst Ammunition Depot, Overijssel' 2011, printed 2014

 

Mishka Henner (British, born 1976)
Staphorst Ammunition Depot, Overijssel
2011, printed 2014
From the series Dutch Landscapes
Inkjet print
31 1/2 × 35 7/16 in. (80 × 90 cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2014
© Mishka Henner

 

In his “Dutch Landscapes” series, Henner selects and reproduces images of the Netherlands found on Google Earth. The multicolored shapes punctuating these landscapes were created not by the artist but at the behest of the Dutch government. When Google Earth was introduced in 2005, satellite imagery of the entire planet became freely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. This sudden visibility created concerns among many governments, who required Google – or its image suppliers – to obscure the details of sites deemed vital to national security. While most nations employed standard techniques, such as blurring, pixilation, or digital cloning, the Dutch chose to conceal hundreds of sites – including royal palaces, army barracks, and fuel depots – with bold, multicolored polygons. “There is of course an absurdity to these censored images,” Henner has written, “since their overt, bold and graphic nature only draws attention to the very sites that are meant to be hidden. Yet this contradiction seems perfectly apt for the absurd fear of terror that has come to dominate the cultural landscape of the last decade.”

 

 

Now You See It: Photography and Concealment, an installation of 25 works at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, focuses on the dynamic interplay between concealment and revelation in contemporary photography and video art. The featured works, all from the Museum’s Department of Photographs, range from a late 19th-century photograph by Pierre-Louis Pierson to a recently acquired work by Thomas Demand.

The installation presents works by artists who use the camera to reveal subjects or places ordinarily hidden from view, as well as works that explore broader themes of secrecy and obscured or partial vision. A highlight of Now You See It is Thomas Demand’s photograph Vault (2012). The image is based on a police photograph of a storeroom at the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, where 30 paintings and sculptures that had been missing for decades were discovered during a police raid in 2011. In Demand’s picture, as in the photograph on which it is based, the framed art works are turned to face the walls, remaining tantalizingly hidden from view. Other highlights include Vera Lutter’s haunting view of the seldom seen interior of the Pepsi Cola bottling plant in Queens, New York, Pepsi Cola Interior II: July 6-13 (2000), and Fazal Sheikh’s Desert Bloom (2011), a series of aerial photographs of the Negev desert. In Grace Nditru’s acclaimed video The Nightingale (2003), the artist explores the tradition of the veil and its complex associations of exposure and effacement. Accompanied by a recording of the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, Ndiritu evokes a rapid-fire series of cultural references as she performs a hypnotic, Scheherazade-like series of gestures and movements with a piece of fabric, swiftly transforming it from turban to blindfold, and do-rag to noose to niqab. The tension between publicity and privacy, inherent in the field of photography, is explored in works by artists as diverse as Diane Arbus, Lutz Bacher, Jack Pierson, and Taryn Simon. The 20th-century photographs on view present the theme of concealment in a literal way and include Weegee’s Charles Sodokoff and Arthur Webber Use Their Top Hats to Hide Their Faces (January 27, 1942) and Helen Levitt’s Kids in a Box, on the Street, New York City (c. 1942).

Now You See It: Photography and Concealment is organized by Mia Fineman, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) [Kids in a Box, on the Street, New York City] c. 1942

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
[Kids in a Box, on the Street, New York City]
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
Image approx.: 9 × 6 in. (22.9 × 15.2 cm)
Promised Gift of Mrs. Robert O. Levitt
© Estate of Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) [Kids on the Street Playing Hide and Seek, New York City] c. 1942

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
[Kids on the Street Playing Hide and Seek, New York City]
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 × 6 3/4 in. (24.8 × 17.1 cm)
Promised Gift of Mrs. Robert O. Levitt
© Estate of Helen Levitt

 

Attributed to Juliette Alexandre-Bisson (French, 1861-1956) [Birth of Ectoplasm During Séance with the Medium Eva C.] 1919-20

 

Attributed to Juliette Alexandre-Bisson (French, 1861-1956)
[Birth of Ectoplasm During Séance with the Medium Eva C.]
1919-20
Gelatin silver print
11.8 x 8.9 cm (4 5/8 x 3 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

Bill Wasilevich (American, active 1940s) 'Jimmy "One Eye" Collins After Arraignment' 1946

 

Bill Wasilevich (American, active 1940s)
Jimmy “One Eye” Collins After Arraignment
1946
Gelatin silver print
18.6 x 14.4 cm (7 5/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008
© Steve Schapiro/Corbis

 

 

Grace Ndiritu (British, born 1976)
The Nightingale
2003
Video
Gift of the artist, 2009
© 2003 Grace Ndiritu, Courtesy Grace Ndiritu and LUX, London

 

Before a camera fixed on her face and neck and accompanied by a recording of the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, Ndiritu performs a hypnotic, Scheherazade-like series of gestures and movements with a piece of fabric, swiftly transforming it from turban to blindfold, from do-rag to noose to niqab. Both jubilant and unsettling, the video evokes a rapid-fire series of cultural references, counterposing the enforced modesty of the Islamic world with Western fantasies of exoticism. Ndiritu, who studied textiles at the Winchester School of Art, acquired this simple red-and-white scarf while traveling in India and carried it with her as a talisman through years of global exploration.

 

Jack Pierson (American, born 1960) 'The Lonely Life' 1992

 

Jack Pierson (American, born 1960)
The Lonely Life
1992
Chromogenic print
Frame: 76.2 × 101.6 cm (30 × 40 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000
© Jack Pierson

 

In 1994, Pierson was invited by the Whitney Museum of American Art to show his photographs alongside a group of works by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) that the artist selected from their vast holdings. Like Hopper, Pierson creates works that are inherently cinematic in their scope and effects; both are primarily concerned with mood, atmosphere, and exhibit a particularly urban kind of melancholy. His greatest asset, however, is an almost overwhelmingly lush palette, which he uses to depict objects of desire or scenes that are unabashedly sensual and emotional. An excellent example of the artist’s high-key chromaticism, The Lonely Life describes the unique brand of loneliness shared by the performer and the fan, both of whom (like Pierson) are doomed to experience existence solely through the intoxications of art.

 

Pierre-Louis Pierson (French, 1822-1913) 'Scherzo di Follia' 1861-67, printed c. 1930

 

Pierre-Louis Pierson (French, 1822-1913)
Scherzo di Follia
1861-67, printed c. 1930
Gelatin silver print from glass negative
39.8 x 29.8 cm (15 11/16 x 11 3/4 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

 

Virginia Oldoini, Countess Verasis de Castiglione (1837-1899), created a sensation when she appeared on the social scene in Paris in 1855, having been sent by the Italian statesman Cavour to secretly win Napoleon III over to the cause of Italian unity by “any means she chose.” Within months, the statuesque beauty was the mistress of Napoleon III and a much-talked-about ornament of the lavish balls so prevalent during the period. After the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, she led an increasingly secluded existence, which gave rise to fantastic speculation about her affairs. As the years went by, her mental stability declined and she ventured out only at night, shrouded in veils.

The countess’s raging narcissism found in photography the perfect ally; Pierre-Louis Pierson produced over seven hundred different images of her. In a reversal of roles, the sitter would direct every aspect of the picture, from the angle of the shot to the lighting, using the photographer as a mere tool in her pursuit of self-promotion and self-expression.

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
T: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Friday and Saturday: 9.30 am – 9.00 pm*
Sunday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

30
May
14

Exhibition / text: ‘Vivian Maier (1926-2009). A Photographic Revelation’ at Château de Tours

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2013 – 1st June 2014

 

“Maier doesn’t have a partner to dance with. She sees something well enough, whereas Lee Friedlander expects something. If there is an idea out there in the ether she grabs onto it in a slightly derivative way. Maier states that these things happened with this subject matter but with Arbus, for example, she meets something extra/ordinary and alien – and goes beyond, beyond, beyond.”

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan May 2014

 

 

The next best thing

The photographs of Vivian Maier. Unknown in her lifetime (nanny as secretive photographer), her negatives discovered at an auction after her death – some developed, all scanned, in some cases cropped, the medium format images then printed. The latest “must have” for any self respecting photography collection, be it private or public. But are they really that good?

To be unequivocal about it, they are good – but, in most cases, they are not “great”. Maier is a very good photographer but she will never be a great photographer. This might come as a surprise to the legions of fans on Facebook (and the thousands of ‘Likes’ for each image), those who think that she is the best thing since sliced bread. But let’s look at the evidence – the work itself.

The photographs can seen on the Vivian Maier Official website and I have spent quite a lot of time looking at them. As with any artist, there are some strong images and some not so strong ones but few reach ‘master’ status. The lighting is good, the use of low depth of field, the location and the presence of the people she photographed are all there, as are the influences that you recite in your mind as to the people her photographs remind you of: Lewis Hine, Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt, Lee Friedlander et al. Somehow through all this she makes the photographs she takes her own for she has a “rare sense of photographic vision” as Edward Petrosky expressed it on my LinkedIn page, but ultimately they don’t really take you anywhere. It’s like she has an addiction to taking photographs (a la Gary Winogrand), but no way of advancing her art to the next level.

Vivien Maier’s photographs stand out because she hasn’t withheld enough within them. What do I mean by that? Let’s look at some examples to explain what I mean…

Included in the postings are two comparisons: Vivian Maier, June 19, 1961, Chicago IL, 1961 / Lee Friedlander, Stony Point, New York, 1966; and Vivian Maier, New York, Nd 1966 / Berenice Abbott, New York at Night, 1932. As with most of Maier’s photography, she relies on intuition when taking a photograph and a bloody good intuition it is too. This intuition usually stands her in good stead and she almost always gets the shot, but there is an underlying lack of structure to her images. Here I am talking as much about psychological structure as physical structure, for both go hand in hand.

If we compare the Maier with the Friedlander we can say that, if we look at the windows in the Friedlander, every one is a masterpiece! From the mother and son at left with the white-coated marchers, to the central window with the miniature house, dog and tree, to the dark-suited marchers at right. Everything feels compelling, intricate weavings of a narrative that the viewer has to try and make sense of. Each part of the Friedlander image is absolutely necessary for that picture… whereas there are so many things in the Vivien Maier that belong in other pictures ie. a good picture but a lot that doesn’t belong in that picture. Things that should have been held back, by making another image somewhere else. Her narrative is confusing and thus the eye is also confused.

A similar scenario can be observed when comparing the photographs of New York at night by Abbott and Maier. Abbott’s photograph is a tight, orchestrated and muscular rendition of the city which seethes with energy and form. Maier’s interpretation fades off into nothingness, the main arterials of the city leading the eye up to the horizon line and then [nothing]. It is a pleasant but wishy-washy photograph, with all the energy of the city draining away in the mind and in the eye.

One of Maier’s photographs that most resonates with me is September 1953, New York, NY (1953, below). This IS a masterpiece. There is a conciseness of vision here, reminiscent of Weston’s Nude of 1938 with its link to the anamorphic structure of his photographs of peppers. There is nothing auxiliary to the purpose of the photograph, yet there is that indefinable something that takes it out of itself. The dirt of the clothes, under the fingers, the ring on the hand, the shape that no human should be in and its descent onto the pavement, the despair of that descent captured in the angle of the camera looking down on the victim. The photograph has empathy, promotes understanding and empathy in the viewer. Most of us have been there. Other photographs that approach a higher perspective are Maier’s self-portraits, in which there is a conscious exploration of her reflection in/of the world: a slightly dour, serious figure reflected back from the world into the lens of the camera – a refracted identity, the phenomenon of self as light passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another, between living, the camera and memory.

But too often Maier’s photographs are just so… obvious. Did she wait long enough for the composition to reveal itself to her more, god what’s the word, more ambiguously. Maier doesn’t have a partner to dance with. She sees something well enough, whereas Lee Friedlander expects something. If there is an idea out there in the ether she grabs onto it in a slightly derivative way. Maier states that these things happened with this subject matter but with Arbus, for example, she meets something extra/ordinary and alien – and goes beyond, beyond, beyond.

What we can say is that Maier’s vision is very good, her intuition excellent, but there is, critically, not that indefinable something that takes her images from good to great. This is the key thing – everything is usually thrown at the image, she withholds nothing, and this invariably stops them taking that step to the next level. This is a mighty difficult step for any artist to take, let alone one taking photographs in the shadows. Personally I don’t believe that these images are a “photographic revelation” in the spirit of Minor White. What is a revelation is how eagerly they have been embraced around the world as great images without people really looking deeply at the work; how masterfully they have been promoted through films, books, websites and exhibitions; how Maier’s privacy has been expunged in the quest for dollars; and how we know very little about her vision for the negatives as there are no extant prints of the work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Edward Weston. 'Nude' 1936

 

Edward Weston
Nude
1936

 

Vivian Maier. 'September 1953, New York, NY' 1953

 

Vivian Maier
September 1953, New York, NY
1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'June 19, 1961, Chicago IL' 1961

 

Vivian Maier
June 19, 1961, Chicago IL
1961
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Stony Point, New York, 1966' 1966

 

Lee Friedlander
Stony Point, New York, 1966
1966
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York' Nd

 

Vivian Maier
New York
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898 - 1991) 'New York at Night' 1932

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898 – 1991)
New York at Night
1932
Gelatin silver print
12 7/8 x 10 9/16″ (32.7 x 26.9 cm)

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY, 18 Octobre 1953' 1953

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY, 18 Octobre 1953
1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian-Maier-New-York-NY-c-1953-WEB

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY
c. 1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'St East nº108, New York , NY, September 28, 1959' 1959

 

Vivian Maier
St East nº108, New York , NY, September 28, 1959
1959
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“Vivian Maier was the archetypal self-taught photographer with a keen sense of observation and an eye for composition. She was born in New York in 1926, but spent part of her childhood in France before returning to New York in 1951 when she started taking photos. In 1956, she moved to Chicago, where she lived until her death in 2009.

Her talent is comparable with that of the major figures of American street photography such as Lisette Model, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. The exhibition presented at the Château de Tours by the Jeu de Paume, in partnership with the Municipality of Tours and diChroma photography, is the largest ever exhibition in France devoted to Vivian Maier. It includes 120 black and white and colour gelatin silver prints from the original slides and negatives, as well as extracts from Super 8 films she made in the 60s and 70s. This project, which is sourced from John Maloof’s collection, with the valuable assistance of Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York, reveals a poetic vision that is imbued with humanity.

John Maloof discovered Vivian Maier’s astonishing photos completely by chance in 2007 at an auction in Chicago. At the time, this young collector was looking for historical documentation about a specific neighbourhood of the city and he bought a sizeable lot of prints, negatives and slides (of which a major part had not even been developed) as well as some Super 8 films by an unknown and enigmatic photographer, Vivian Maier. By all accounts, Vivian Maier was a discreet person and somewhat of a loner. She took more than 120,000 photos over a period of thirty years and only showed this consequential body of work to a mere handful of people during her lifetime.

Vivian Maier earned her living as a governess, but all her free time and every day off was spent walking through the streets of New York, then later Chicago, with a camera slung around her neck (first of all box or folding cameras, later a Leica) taking photos. The children she looked after describe her as a cultivated and open-minded woman, generous but not very warm. Her images on the other hand bear witness to her curiosity for everyday life and the attention she paid to those passers – by who caught her eye: facial features, bearing, outfits and fashion accessories for the well-to-do and the telltale signs of poverty for those who were less fortunate.

While some photos are obviously furtively taken snapshots, others bear witness to a real encounter between the photographer and her models, who are photographed face-on and from close up. Her photos of homeless people and people living on the fringe of society demonstrate the depth of her empathy as she painted a somewhat disturbing portrait of an America whose economic boom was leaving many by the wayside.

Vivian Maier remained totally unknown until her death in April 2009. She had been taken in by the Gensburgs, for whom she had worked for almost seventeen years, and many of her possessions as well as her entire photographic output had been placed in storage. It was seized and sold in 2007 to settle unpaid bills.

Her biography has now been reconstructed, at least in part, thanks to a wealth of research and interviews carried out by John Maloof and Jeffrey Goldstein after the death of Vivian Maier. Jeffrey Goldstein is another collector who purchased a large part of her work. According to official documents, Vivian Maier was of Austro-Hungarian and French origin and her various trips to Europe, in particular to France (in the Alpine valley of Champsaur where she spent part of her childhood) have been clearly identified and documented. However, the circumstances that led her to take an interest in photography and her life as an artist remain veiled in mystery.

Photography seemed to be much more than a passion: her photographic activity was the result of a deeply felt need, almost an obsession. Each time she changed employers and had to move house, all her boxes and boxes of films (that she hadn’t had developed for want of money), as well as her archives comprising books and press cuttings about various stories in the news, came along too.

Vivian Maier’s body of work highlights those seemingly insignificant details that she came across during her long walks through the city streets: odd gestures, strange figures and graphic arrangements of figures in space. She also produced a series of captivating self-portraits from her reflection in mirrors and shop windows.”

Press release from the Château de Tours

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-portrait' Nd

 

Vivian Maier
Self-portrait
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago' Nd

 

Vivian Maier
Chicago
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Florida, 9 January 1957' 1957

 

Vivian Maier
Florida, 9 January 1957
1957
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago, IL, January, 1956' 1956

 

Vivian Maier
Chicago, IL, January, 1956
1956
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago, August 22, 1956' 1956

 

Vivian Maier
Chicago, August 22, 1956
1956
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Château de Tours
25 Avenue André Malraux
37000 Tours

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 2 pm – 6 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 3 pm – 6 pm

Vivian Maier Official website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

24
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’ at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

Exhibition dates: 28th June 2013 – 5th January 2014
1st floor West, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)

Browse the exhibition and related works on the exhibition website

.

The next two weeks sees a lot of exhibitions finish their run on the 5th January 2014.

Here is a bumper posting which contains one of my favourite photographs of all time: Danny Lyon’s Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville (1966, below). From a distance, this looks to be a very interesting exhibition on a large topic, delineated for the viewer into four main sections. The task of the curator cannot have been easy, picking 113 images to represent a “democracy” of images out of a collection of over 7,000 images. Of course there can never be a true “democracy” of images as some will always be more valued within our culture than others. There is a meritocracy in this exhibition which features images by masters of the medium but this is balanced by the inclusion of images by anonymous photographers, little known photographers and vernacular and street photography.

What is most impressive is the specially developed website which includes many images from the different sections of the exhibition. These images are of good quality and, along with relevant text, help the viewer place the images in context. Related content is also suggested from the full photographic collection at The Smithsonian which has been placed online with good image quality. This is a far cry from many exhibitions at state galleries in Australia where there are hardly any dedicated exhibition websites. Most of the photographic collection from these galleries is not available online and if it has been scanned, the image quality is generally poor. How many times have I searched a state gallery or library collection and come up with the answer: “Image not available” ?

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

.

“More often, though, the moments, places, people and views that have been collected here feel offhand and stumbled upon, telling a fragmentary, incomplete tale. Sometimes it’s literally a glance, as in “Girl Holding Popsicle,” a 1972 image by Mark Cohen, who rarely even looked through his viewfinder. Other times, it’s more like a long stare, as in William Christenberry’s 1979 “China Grove Church – Hale County, Alabama,” a locale that the Washington-based artist and Alabama native returned to again and again. These 113 pictures are, at the same time, quietly telling, revealing bits of America in oblique, prismatic ways.”

Part of Michael O’Sullivan’s review of the exhibition in The Washington Post.

.

.

American Characters

Photographers have captured the texture of everyday life since the medium’s arrival in the United States in 1839. Photographic portraits have made both the iconic and the commonplace serve as stand-ins for all of us, forging a shared language of political and social understanding. In charting the passing parade of history – the faces of the anonymous and the famous; evolving stories of immigration, disenfranchisement, and assimilation; as well as emblematic objects and celebrated landmarks lodged within our collective memory – photographs reveal the complexities of America.

.

Unidentified artist. '[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]' c. 1855

.

Unidentified artist
[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
Plate: 2 3/4 x 3 1/4 in. (6.9 x 8.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.193

.

Larry Sultan (born New York City 1946 - died Greenbrae, CA 2009) 'Portrait of My Father with Newspaper' 1988

.

Larry Sultan (born New York City 1946 – died Greenbrae, CA 2009)
Portrait of My Father with Newspaper
1988
Chromogenic print
Image: 28 5/8 x 34 5/8 in. (72.7 x 87.9 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Nan Tucker McEvoy, 1989.58
© 1988, Larry Sultan

.

In Portrait of My Father with Newspaper, Irving Sultan reads the Los Angeles Times as light pours in behind him. This carefully composed portrait reveals the artist’s father almost entirely through reflections and shadows. Thin newsprint shields his body from the camera, while only a vague profile of his face is discernible on the right half of the spread. Prompted by the discovery of a box of home movies, Larry Sultan embarked on an eight-year enquiry into his parents’ lives. He stayed in their home for weeks at a time, interviewing them about their marriage and photographing their domestic activities.

.

Eugene Richards (born Boston, MA 1944) 'First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)' 1976

.

Eugene Richards (born Boston, MA 1944)
First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5 cm) sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.1168
© 1974, Eugene Richards

.

Mark Cohen (born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1943) 'Girl Holding Popsicle' 1972, printed 1983

.

Mark Cohen (born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1943)
Girl Holding Popsicle
1972, printed 1983
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 14 x 17 in. (35.5 x 43.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dene and Mel Garbow, 1992.73.4
© 1972, Mark Cohen

.

In Girl Holding Popsicle a young girl twists shyly as she poses before a graffiti-inscribed brick wall. Mark Cohen took this photograph spontaneously as he passed through a back alley. Cohen does not hesitate to get assertively close to the strangers he meets in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Many of his photographs are made without looking through a viewfinder, and so remain a mystery even to Cohen until they are developed.

.

Unidentified artist. '[Gold Nugget]' c. 1860s

.

Unidentified artist
[Gold Nugget]
c. 1860s
Albumen silver print
Image: 2 1/8 x 3 5/8 in. (5.4 x 9.2 cm) sheet: 2 3/8 x 3 7/8 in. (6.1 x 9.8 cm) irregular
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, 2006.36.1

.

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 - died New York City 1896) 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865, printed early 1880s

.

Mathew B. Brady (born Lake George, NY 1823 – died New York City 1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 6 1/2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 22.9 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment, 2007.6

.

Kevin Bubriski (born North Adams, MA 1954) 'World Trade Center Series, New York City' 2001

.

Kevin Bubriski (born North Adams, MA 1954)
World Trade Center Series, New York City
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18 x 18 in. (45.7 x 45.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 2003.65.1
© 2001, Kevin Bubriski

.

In the weeks and months following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, Kevin Bubriski photographed people who gathered at Ground Zero. Frozen in awe, struck with disbelief, and overcome with loss, people stood before the destroyed building site to confront the horrible tragedy. More than ten years later, Bubriski’s photographs preserve the emotional impact of this infamous day through images of those who witnessed its aftermath first-hand.

.

Deborah Luster (born Bend, OR 1951) '01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds' 2008-2012

.

Deborah Luster (born Bend, OR 1951)
01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds
2008-2012
Gelatin silver print
55 x 55 in. (139.7 x 139.7 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2013.43, © 2010, Deborah Luster

.

This photograph, from a series that documents contemporary and historical homicide sites in New Orleans, presents Deborah Luster’s interpretation of the last view of the crime victim lying face up on the ground. The title is the entry from the New Orleans Police blotter, but the photograph is Luster’s meditation on looking, seeing, and the power of images to haunt our imagination.

.

Unidentified artist. '[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]' c. 1865

.

Unidentified artist
[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 14 1/8 x 11 in. (35.9 x 28.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.220

.

Anthony Barboza (born New Bedford, MA 1944) '"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, boxer' 1981

.

Anthony Barboza (born New Bedford, MA 1944)
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, boxer
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (35.2 x 35.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Kenneth B. Pearl, 1997.118.2, © 1981, Anthony Barboza

.

Edward S. Curtis (born Whitewater, WI 1868 - died Los Angeles, CA 1952) 'Girl and Jar - San Ildefonso' 1905

.

Edward S. Curtis (born Whitewater, WI 1868 – died Los Angeles, CA 1952)
Girl and Jar – San Ildefonso
1905
Photogravure
Sight 16 5/8 x 12 1/4 in. (12.3 x 31.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the United States Marshal Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1988.5.18

.

Between 1900 and 1930, Edward S. Curtis traveled across the continent photographing more than seventy Native American tribes. The photographs, compiled into twenty volumes, presented daily activities, customs, and religions of a people he called “a vanishing race.” Curtis hoped to preserve the legacy of Native peoples in lasting images. To this end, Curtis often costumed his subjects and set up scenes, mixing tribal artifacts and traditions to match his romantic vision of the people he studied. In this intimate portrait, a young Tewa woman named Povi-Tamu (“Flower Morning”) balances a large jug with help from a hidden fiber ring. She is from the San Ildefonso Pueblo of New Mexico, which is famed for its rich tradition of fine pottery. Curtis associated the serpentine design of the vessel with the serpent cult, which he noted was central to Tewa life.

.

Oliver H. Willard (died 1875) 'Portrait of a Young Woman' c. 1857

.

Oliver H. Willard (died 1875)
Portrait of a Young Woman
c. 1857
Salted paper print
8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (22.5 x 17.1 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, 1999.29.1

.

.

Spiritual Frontier

The earliest photographs made in America describe an awesome land blessed with such an abundance of natural beauty that it seemed heaven sent. Images of waterfalls, mountains, and vast open spaces conveyed the beauty, the grandeur, the sublimity, and dynamics of a great spiritual endeavor. In the nineteenth century photographers pictured wilderness landscapes that symbolized American greatness. More recently, photographers have described a landscape no less romantic, but now recalibrated to account for the interaction of nature and culture.

.

Eadweard Muybridge (born Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1830 - died Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1904) 'Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point' 1872

.

Eadweard Muybridge (born Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1830 – died Kingston-upon-Thames, England 1904)
Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point
1872
Albumen silver print
Sheet: 17 x 21 1/2 in. (43.2 x 54.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs, 1994.89.1

.

Eadweard Muybridge went to great lengths to photograph the best possible views of the West. He chopped down trees if they obstructed his camera, and ventured to “points where his packers refused to follow him.” Muybridge was determined to produce the most comprehensive photographs ever made of Yosemite and the surrounding region. His views were sold widely in both large-format prints and stereograph cards, which are viewed through a device that creates the illusion of three-dimensional space. This allowed Muybridge to transport his audience, if just for a moment, to a faraway place caught on film.

.

Robert Frank (born Zurich, Switzerland 1924) 'Butte, Montana' 1956, printed 1973

.

Robert Frank (born Zurich, Switzerland 1924)
Butte, Montana
1956, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.2 x 33.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1974.31.2

.

Robert Adams (born Orange, NJ 1937) 'New Housing, Longmont, Colorado' 1973

.

Robert Adams (born Orange, NJ 1937)
New Housing, Longmont, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 6 x 7 5/8 in. (15.1 x 19.3 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.9
© 1973, Robert Adams

.

As both a photographer and writer, Robert Adams is committed to describing the western American landscape as both awe-inspiring and scarred by man. In New Housing, Longmont Colorado, Adams contrasted the vast space of the distant landscape view with a foreground image of the wall of a newly constructed suburban tract house. Adams invites a consideration of the balance between myth and reality and the land as home as well as scenic backdrop.

.

Charles L. Weed (born New York City 1824 - died Oakland, CA 1903) 'Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California' 1865

.

Charles L. Weed (born New York City 1824 – died Oakland, CA 1903)
Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California
1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 15 1/2 x 20 1/4 in. (39.4 x 51.4 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs, 1994.89.5

.

Like Carleton Watkins, his better-known competitor, Charles Weed recognized the pictorial dividend to be gained by showing Yosemite’s glorious geological features in duplicate, using the valley’s lakes as reflecting ponds. Weed first traveled to what was then known as “Yo-Semite,” in 1859, but with a relatively small camera; he returned in 1865 with a larger model capable of using what were called mammoth plates. Like Watkins, he sold his prints to buyers eager to own a photograph of majestic natural beauty.

.

Ansel Adams (born San Francisco, CA 1902 - died Monterey, CA 1984) 'Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley' 1926-1927, printed 1927

.

Ansel Adams (born San Francisco, CA 1902 – died Monterey, CA 1984)
Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
1926-1927, printed 1927
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (30.2 x 25.1 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1992.101.3, © 2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

.

At just over 4,700 feet above the valley, Half Dome is the most iconic rock formation in Yosemite National Park. Adams squeezed the monolith into the frame to emphasize the majesty of its scale and the drama of its cliff. As it thrusts out of the brilliant white snow, Half Dome stands as a symbol of the unspoiled western landscape. Ansel Adams made his first trip to the Sierra Nevada mountain range when he was fourteen years old, and he returned every year until the end of his life, often for month-long stretches. Throughout his career Adams traveled widely – from Hawaii to Maine – to photograph the most picturesque vistas in America. After his death in 1984, a section of the Sierra Nevada was named the Ansel Adams Wilderness in his honor.

.

John Pfahl (born New York City 1939) 'Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York' 1989

.

John Pfahl (born New York City 1939)
Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York
1989
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 1991.27.3, © 1989, John Pfahl

.

John Pfahl’s photographs embody the conflict between progress and preservation. Throughout the 1980s he focused on oil refineries and power plants. He chose the sites strategically based on their location in picturesque landscapes, where he observed a “transcendental” connection between industry and nature. In Goodyear #5 a nuclear power plant occupies the horizon. The setting sun provides a romantic color palette as light filters through clouds of billowing steam. The landscape is reduced to an abstract composition that celebrates color and texture. Pfahl’s intention with this series, titled Smoke, was to “make photographs whose very ambiguity provokes thought.” This photograph complicates popular notions of power plants by revealing an uncommonly beautiful view of a controversial structure.

.

.

“A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the numerous ways in which photography, from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital works, has captured the American experience. The photographs presented here are selected from the approximately 7,000 images collected since the museum’s photography program began thirty years ago, in 1983. Ranging from daguerreotype to digital, they depict the American experience and are loosely grouped around four ideas: American Characters, Spiritual Frontier, America Inhabited, and Imagination at Work.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by American poet Walt Whitman’s belief that photography provided America with a new, democratic art form that matched the spirit of the young country and his belief that photography was a quintessentially American activity, rooted in everyday people and ordinary things and presented in a straightforward way. Known as the “poet of democracy,” Whitman wrote after visiting a daguerreotype studio in 1846: “You will see more life there – more variety, more human nature, more artistic beauty… than in any spot we know.” At the time of Whitman’s death, in 1892, George Eastman had just introduced mass market photography when he put an affordable box camera into the hands of thousands of Americans. The ability to capture an instant of lasting importance and fundamental truth mesmerized Americans then and continues to inspire photographers working today. Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the museum’s pioneering photography collection, the exhibition examines photography’s evolution in the United States from a documentary medium to a full-fledged artistic genre and showcases the numerous ways in which it has distilled our evolving idea of “America.”

The exhibition features 113 photographs selected from the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Edward S. Curtis, Timothy H. O’SullivanBerenice AbbottDiane ArbusRoy DeCaravaWalker Evans,Irving PennTrevor Paglen, among others, as well as vernacular works by unknown artists. A number of recent acquisitions are featured, including works by Ellen CareyMitch EpsteinMuriel HasbunAlfredo Jaar, Annie Leibovitz, Deborah Luster, and Sally Mann. Landscapes, portraits, documentary-style works from the New York Photo League and images from surveying expeditions sent westward after the Civil War are among the images on display, and explore how photographs have been used to record and catalogue, to impart knowledge, to project social commentary, and as instruments of self-expression.

Photography’s arrival in the United States in 1840 allowed ordinary people to make and own images in a way that had not been previously possible. Photographers immediately became engaged with the life of the emerging nation, the activity of new urban centers, and the possibilities of unprecedented access to the vast western frontier. From the nineteenth to the twentieth century, photography not only captured the country’s changing cultural and physical landscape, but also developed its own language and layers of meaning.

A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is organized around four major themes that defined American photography. “American Characters” examines the ways in which photographs of individuals, places, and objects become a catalogue of our collective memory and have contributed to the ever-evolving idea of the American character. “Spiritual Frontier” investigates early ideas of a vast, inexhaustible wilderness that symbolized American greatness. “America Inhabited” traces the nation’s rapid industrialization and urbanization through images of speed, change, progress, immigration, and contemporary rural, urban, and suburban landscapes. “Imagination at Work” demonstrates how photography’s role of spontaneous witness gradually gave way to contrived arrangement and artistic invention. The exhibition is organized by Merry Foresta, guest curator and independent consultant for the arts. She was the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999.

.

Connecting online
A complementary website designed for viewing on tablets includes photographs on view in the exhibition, an expanded selection of works from the museum’s collection and a timeline of American photography. It is available through tablet stations in the exhibition galleries, online, and on mobile devices.”

Press release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website

.

.

America Inhabited

Photography’s early presence in America coincided with the rise of an industrial economy, the growth of major urban population centers, and the fulfilling of what some saw as the Manifest Destiny of spanning the continent from sea to sea. Images of progress and industry, as well as of city and suburbs, quickly added themselves to photography’s catalogue of places and people. Some of these images reflect idealistically, and at times nostalgically, on the beauty and humanity of our own backyards. Others stand as social documents that can be seen as critical and ironic, inviting outrage as well as compassion about the way we now live our lives.

.

Helen Levitt (born New York City 1913 - died New York City 2009) 'New York' c. 1942, printed later

.

Helen Levitt (born New York City 1913 – died New York City 2009)
New York
c. 1942, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 1/8 x 10 1/2 in. (18.1 x 26.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1984.16.4, © 1981, Helen Levitt

.

Caught before they run off into the streets, three masked youngsters pause on their front stoop. Expressive postures and mysterious disguises give this trio a theatrical quality. Helen Levitt, who found poetry in the uninhibited gestures of children, used a right-angle viewfinder to capture boys and girls roaming freely and playing with found objects. Working in New York City during the years surrounding World War II, her photographs show the drama of life that unfolded on the sidewalks of poor and working-class neighborhoods.

.

Louis Faurer (born Philadelphia, PA 1916 - died New York City 2001) 'Broadway, New York, N.Y.' 1949-1950, printed 1980-1981

.

Louis Faurer (born Philadelphia, PA 1916 – died New York City 2001)
Broadway, New York, N.Y.
1949-1950, printed 1980-1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 9/16 in. (21.3 x 32 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of David L. Davies and John D. Weeden and museum purchase, 2002.47.6, © Estate of Louis Faurer

.

Danny Lyon (born New York City 1942) 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville' 1966, printed 1985

.

Danny Lyon (born New York City 1942)
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville
1966, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (22.2 x 32.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Marshall Langhorne, 1988.52.8, Photo courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery and Dektol.wordpress.com

.

William Eggleston (born Memphis, TN 1939) 'Tricycle (Memphis)' about 1975, printed 1980

.

William Eggleston (born Memphis, TN 1939)
Tricycle (Memphis)
about 1975, printed 1980
Dye transfer print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Amy Loeserman Klein, 1985.87.12

.

An ordinary tricycle is made monumental in this playful color photograph. Taken from below, it suggests a child’s perspective – elevating this rusty tricycle to a symbol of innocence and freedom. The quiet Memphis suburb in the background typifies the safe neighborhoods where children could spend hours playing after school. This print was made with the expensive and exacting dye imbibition process, which was typically used for fashion and advertising at the time. Eggleston began experimenting with color photography in the mid-1960s. Inspired by trips to a commercial photography lab, he developed an approach that imitates the random, imperfect style of amateur snapshots to describe his immediate surroundings combined with a keen interest in the effects of color.

.

Tina Barney (born New York City 1945) 'Marina's Room' 1987

.

Tina Barney (born New York City 1945)
Marina’s Room
1987
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 52.3 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1989.5, © 1987, Tina Barney, Courtesy Janet Borden, Inc.

.

Aaron Siskind (born New York City 1903 - died Providence, RI 1991) 'Untitled' 1937, printed later

.

Aaron Siskind (born New York City 1903 – died Providence, RI 1991)
Untitled
1937, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Tennyson and Fern Schad, courtesy of Light Gallery, 1990.73.4, © 1940, Aaron Siskind

.

In this untitled photograph Aaron Siskind focused on the regular grid of boarded-up windows on a derelict tenement building. Once portals into intimate domestic spaces, the windows represent loss in a community plagued by poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. Building upon the traditions of social documentary photographers before him, Siskind used his camera to raise public awareness of Harlem’s struggle, even as he created a modernist work of art.

.

Walker Evans (born St. Louis, MO 1903 - died New Haven, CT 1975) 'Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead' 1936, printed 1974

.

Walker Evans (born St. Louis, MO 1903 – died New Haven, CT 1975)
Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead
1936, printed 1974
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 9 3/8 x 12 in. (23.9 x 30.5 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Lee and Maria Friedlander, 2006.13.1.8

.

During the summer of 1936, Walker Evans joined writer James Agee in rural Alabama to work on a magazine assignment on cotton farming. Evans and Agee met with three tenant farm families and documented every detail of their experiences. The result, which the magazine declined to publish, was released as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941. It contains some of the most iconic and contentious photographs to document the Great Depression. Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead reads like a modern novel. Every crack in the wood, every speck of paint tells part of the story. Evans drew special attention to the scarcity of cooking tools at the family’s disposal. These everyday utensils illustrate a metaphor for the struggle to meet basic needs.

.

Judy Fiskin (born Chicago, IL 1945) 'Long Beach Pike (broken fence)', from the 'Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project' 1980

.

Judy Fiskin (born Chicago, IL 1945)
Long Beach Pike (broken fence), from the Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (6.2 x 6.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.505, © 1980, Judy Fiskin

.

For this series, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Art’s Long Beach Documentary Survey Project, Judy Fiskin focused on the Long Beach Pike, an amusement park that was demolished soon after she made the photographs. By printing in high contrast and restricting the scale of her prints, Fiskin reduced form to its bare essentials. Devoid of superfluous detail, these photographs appear more like conjured images than documents of reality. Judy Fiskin systematically catalogues the world of architecture and design in order to study variations of historical styles. Her series carefully investigate esoteric subjects such as military base architecture, “dingbat” style houses in southern California, and the art of flower arranging.

.

Berenice Abbott (born Springfield, OH 1898-died Monson, ME 1991) 'Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn' 1936

.

Berenice Abbott (born Springfield, OH 1898-died Monson, ME 1991)
Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn
1936
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 18 x 14 3/8 in. (45.7 x 36.6 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the Evander Childs High School, Bronx, New York through the General Services Administration, 1975.83.10

.

Berenice Abbott returned home in 1929 after nearly eight years abroad and found herself fascinated by the rapid growth of New York City. She saw the city as bristling with new buildings and structures which seemed to her as solid and as permanent as a mountain range. Aiming to capture “the past jostling the present,” Abbott spent the next five years on a project she called Changing New York. In Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn, Abbott presented a century of history in a single image. The Brooklyn Bridge, once a marvel of modern engineering, seems dark and heavy compared with the skeletal structure beneath it. The construction site at center suggests the never-ending cycle of death and regeneration. And the Manhattan skyline, veiled and weightless, hangs just out of reach, its shape accommodating the ambitious spirit of American modernism.

.

Robert Disraeli (born Cologne, Germany 1905 - died 1987) 'Cold Day on Cherry Street' 1932

.

Robert Disraeli (born Cologne, Germany 1905 – died 1987)
Cold Day on Cherry Street
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 28.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mr. and Mrs. G. Howland Chase, Mrs. James S. Harlan (Adeline M. Noble Collection), Lucie Louise Fery, Berthe Girardet, and Mrs. George M. McClellan, 1990.19.9, © 1932, Robert Disraeli

.

.

Imagination at Work

Nineteenth-century French commentator Alexis de Tocqueville observed that in America, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Yet the idea that “seeing is believing” is deeply ingrained in the American character. By yoking together style and subject under the guise of the real, today’s photographers borrow from photography’s rich past while embracing the conceptual framework of contemporary art. They read reality as something on the surface of a picture or, more complexly, as something located in the mind of its beholder.

.

Sonya Noskowiak (born Leipzig, Germany 1900 - died Greenbrae, CA 1975) 'Calla Lily' c. 1930s

.

Sonya Noskowiak (born Leipzig, Germany 1900 – died Greenbrae, CA 1975)
Calla Lily
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 7 3/8 x 9 3/4 in. (18.8 x 24.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible through Deaccession Funds, 1986.54

.

Ray K. Metzker (born Milwaukee, WI 1931) 'Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)' 1966

.

Ray K. Metzker (born Milwaukee, WI 1931)
Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)
1966
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 25 3/8 x 17 3/4 in. (64.5 x 45.0 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1984.57.1, © 1966, Ray K. Metzker

.

Ray Metzker’s Composites series, begun in 1964, connected in a dramatic fashion his interests in contrasts of light and shadow, his strong sense of design, and his earlier explorations of the multiple image. Metzker studied at Chicago’s Institute of Design, where a rigorously formal, problem-solving approach to photography was taught. For this series he assembled grids of individual photographs to create complex image-fields. When viewed from a distance, this work reads as an abstract, rhythmic pattern of light and dark. On closer inspection, however, many crisply descriptive images are revealed. The Composites function somewhat like short filmstrips. The mystery of these brief narratives is exaggerated by the repetitive design and provides a unique opportunity, in Metzker’s words, “to deal with complexity of succession and simultaneity, of collected and related moments.”

.

Irving Penn (born Plainfield, NJ 1917 - died New York City 2009) 'Mud Glove - New York' 1975, printed 1976

.

Irving Penn (born Plainfield, NJ 1917 – died New York City 2009)
Mud Glove – New York
1975, printed 1976
Platinum-palladium print
Sheet and image: 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (75.5 x 56.5 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the artist, 1988.83.39

.

Irving Penn was one of the most important and influential photographers of the twentieth century. In a career that spanned almost seventy years, Penn worked across multiple genres, from celebrity portraits to fashion, from still lives to images of native cultures in remote places of the world. Throughout his career Penn also worked on a series of photographs of discarded objects: things that had been lost, neglected, or misused. Printed in platinum, these detailed photographs of objects such as a lost glove found in the gutter, are Penn’s photographic memento mori, offering beauty compromised by age or disuse.

.

Edward Weston (born Highland Park, IL 1886 - died Carmel, CA 1958) 'Pepper no. 30' 1930

.

Edward Weston (born Highland Park, IL 1886 – died Carmel, CA 1958)
Pepper no. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.3 x 19.2 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase, 1985.56

.

Imogen Cunningham (born Portland, OR 1883 - died San Francisco, CA 1976) 'Auragia' 1953, printed c. 1960s

.

Imogen Cunningham (born Portland, OR 1883 – died San Francisco, CA 1976)
Auragia
1953, printed c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, 2007.37.2

.

Ellen Carey (born New York City 1952) 'Dings and Shadows' 2012

.

Ellen Carey (born New York City 1952)
Dings and Shadows
2012
Chromogenic print
Sheet and image: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Linda Cheverton Wick and Walter Wick, 2013.29
© 2012, Ellen Carey

.

Ellen Carey created the series she calls Dings and Shadows by exposing photosensitive paper to light projected through primary and complementary color filters. The artist first folds and crushes paper; then after exposing the paper to light from a color enlarger, flattens it out again for processing. In doing so, Carey dissects the process of developing film, and evokes the hand-crafted nature of early photographic techniques.

.

.

Some images from the Timeline on the website

1843

Daguerreotypists Albert S. Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes begin a partnership, establishing Southworth & Hawes as the most highly regarded portrait studio in Boston, Mass. The studio caters to the city’s elite, and is visited by Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, among many other influential people of the time.

.

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'A Bride and Her Bridesmaids' 1851

.

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes
A Bride and Her Bridesmaids
1851
Daguerreotype
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Walter Beck, 2000.110

.

1853

The New York Daily Tribune estimates that in the United States, three million daguerreotypes are being produced annually.

.

Unidentified artist. 'Mother and Son' c. 1855

.

Unidentified artist
Mother and Son
c. 1855
Daguerreotype with applied color
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.192

.

1857

Julian Vannerson and Samuel Cohner make the first systematic photographs of Native American delegations to visit Washington, D.C. They photograph ninety delegates representing thirteen tribes who conduct treaty and other negotiations with government officials.

.

Julian Vannerson. 'Shining Metal' 1858

.

Julian Vannerson
Shining Metal
1858
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

.

1861

American Civil War begins with shots fired on Fort Sumter by Confederate troops. Portrait photographer Mathew Brady is given permission by President Abraham Lincoln to photograph the First Battle of Bull Run, but comes so close to the battle that he narrowly avoids capture. Using paid assistants Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, George N. Barnard, and others, Brady’s studio makes thousands of photos of the sites, material, and people of the war. Civilian free-lance photographer Egbert Guy Fowx sells numerous negatives to Brady’s studio, which publishes and copyrights many of them. Many other images are credited to Fowx, including this group of Union officers.

.

Egbert Guy Fowx. 'New York 7th Regiment Officers' c. 1863

.

Egbert Guy Fowx
New York 7th Regiment Officers
c. 1863
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.53

.

1867

Eadweard Muybridge begins trip to photograph in Yosemite Valley. He publishes his photographs under the name “Helios,” which is also the name of his San Francisco studio. An exhibition of more than 300 photographic portraits of Native American delegates to Washington, D.C., opens in the Smithsonian Castle. Clarence R. King begins direction of the U.S. Geological Expedition of the Fortieth Parallel, appointing Timothy O’Sullivan as the official photographer. Photographer Carleton Watkins joins the survey in 1871.

.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan. 'Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan
Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.142

.

1869

Andrew J. Russell’s album, The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views across the Continent; Taken along the Line of the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, Volume I, is published. George M. Wheeler begins direction of the United States Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wheeler makes fourteen trips to the West over the next eight years. Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan accompanies him in 1871, 1873, and 1874.

.

Andrew Joseph Russell. 'Sphinx of the Valley' 1869

.

Andrew Joseph Russell
Sphinx of the Valley
1869
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1994.91.164

.

1967

The Friends of Photography is founded in Carmel, California, by Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Brett Weston, and others, with the aim of promoting creative photography and supporting its practitioners. It remains in existence until 2001.

.

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)' 1973

.

Brett Weston
Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)
1973
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.1659
© 1973, Brett Weston

.

1975

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opens at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y. It includes photographs by Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel Jr.

.

Frank Gohlke. 'Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973' 1973, printed 1994

.

Frank Gohlke
Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973
1973, printed 1994
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2010.15.3
© 1973, Frank Gohlke

.

.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 7.00 pm daily

Smithsonian American Art Museum website

A Democracy of Images website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

21
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th April 2012 – 29th April 2013

.

Another fascinating exhibition and a bumper posting to boot (pardon the pun!)

A panoply of famous photographers along with a few I had never heard of before (such as Georges Hugnet) are represented in this posting. As the press blurb states, through “key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, ‘The Shaping of New Visions’ offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices.”

The large exhibition seems to have a finger in every pie, wandering from the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis, through “New Vision” photography in the 1920s, experimental film, Surrealism, Constructivism and New Objectivity, Dada, Rayographs, photographic avant-gardism, photocollages, photomontages, street photography of the  1960s, colour slide projection performance, through New Topographics, self-published books, and conceptual photography, featuring works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. “The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history.”

Without actually going to New York to see the exhibition (I wish!!) – from a distance it does seem a lot of ground to cover within 5 galleries even if there are 250 works. You could say this is a “meta” exhibition, drawing together themes and experiments from different areas of photography with rather a long bow. Have a look at the The Shaping of New Visions exhibition checklist to see the full listing of what’s on show and you be the judge. There are some rare and beautiful images that’s for sure. From the photographs in this posting I would have to say the distorted “eyes” have it…

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

.

.

.

László Moholy-Nagy
Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray) (excerpt)
1930

.
This short film made by László Moholy-Nagy is based on the shadow patterns created by his Light-Space Modulator, an early kinetic sculpture consisting of a variety of curved objects in a carefully choreographed cycle of movements. Created in 1930, the film was originally planned as the sixth and final part of a much longer work depicting the new space-time.

.

.

Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
Manhatta
1921
Film
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

.
In 1920 Paul Strand and artist Charles Sheeler collaborated on Manhatta, a short silent film that presents a day in the life of lower Manhattan. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass, the film includes multiple segments that express the character of New York. The sequences display a similar approach to the still photography of both artists. Attracted by the cityscape and its visual design, Strand and Sheeler favored extreme camera angles to capture New York’s dynamic qualities. Although influenced by Romanticism in its view of the urban environment, Manhatta is considered the first American avant-garde film.

.

.

Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)
1929
Film
1 hr 6 mins 49 secs

.
Excerpt from a camera operators diary
ATTENTION VIEWERS:
This film is an experiment in cinematic communication of real events
Without the help of Intertitles
Without the help of a story
Without the help of theatre
This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature

.

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

.

Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971 – 1973
Photographed by Philip Steinmetz
Halftone reproductions on 51 cards
4 ½ x 7 in. each
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
© Eleanor Antin

.

Josef Albers. 'Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)' 1931

.

Josef Albers
Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)
1931
Twelve gelatin silver prints
Overall 11 11/16 x 16 7/16″ (29.7 x 41.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Josef Albers Foundation, Inc.
© 2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

.

August Sander. 'Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)' 1928

.

August Sander
Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)
1928
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 x 9″ (17.9 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

.

Dziga Vertov. 'Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)' (still) 1929

.

Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera) (still)
1929
35mm film
65 min ( black and white, silent)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Film

.

Man Ray. 'Rayograph' 1922

.

Man Ray
Rayograph
1922
Gelatin silver print (photogram)
9 3/8 x 11 3/4″ (23.9 x 29.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

.

William Klein (American, born 1928) 'Gun, Gun, Gun, New York'  1955

.

William Klein (American, born 1928)
Gun, Gun, Gun, New York 
1955
Gelatin silver print
10 1/4 x 13 5/8″ (26 x 34.6 cm)
Gift of Arthur and Marilyn Penn

.

Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974) 'Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]' c. 1935

.

Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974)
Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]
c. 1935
Collage of photogravure, lithograph, chromolithograph and gelatin silver prints on gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 9 7/16″ (30.2 x 24 cm)
Gift of Timothy Baum in memory of Harry H. Lunn, Jr.

.

Martha-Rosler-Red-Stripe-Kitchen-from-the-series-House-Beautiful-Bringing-the-War-Home-1967-1972

.

Martha Rosler
Red Stripe Kitchen
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful 
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 18 1/8″ (60.3 x 46 cm)
Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund

.

.

“The Museum of Modern Art draws from its collection to present the exhibition The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook on view from April 18, 2012, to April 29, 2013. Filling the third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, this installation presents more than 250 works by approximately 90 artists, with a focus on new acquisitions and groundbreaking projects by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Germaine Krull, Dziga Vertov, Gerhard Rühm, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Daido Moriyama, Robert Heinecken, Edward Ruscha, Martha Rosler, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Paul Graham, and The Atlas Group/Walid Raad. The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Punctuated by key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, The Shaping of New Visions offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices. The shaping of what came to be known as “new vision” photography in the 1920s bore the obvious influence of “lens-based” and “time-based” works. The first gallery begins with photographs capturing the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis by Berenice Abbott, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz, presented next to the avant-garde film Manhatta (1921), a collaboration between Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.

The 1920s were a period of landmark constructions and scientific discoveries all related to light – from Thomas Edison’s development of incandescent light to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and light speed. Man Ray began experimenting with photograms (pictures made by exposing objects placed on photosensitive paper to light) – which he renamed “rayographs” after himself – in which light was both the subject and medium of his work. This exhibition presents Man Ray’s most exquisite rayographs, alongside his first short experimental film, Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason, 1923), in which he extended the technique to moving images.

In 1925, two years after he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus school in Weimar Germany, László Moholy-Nagy published his influential book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film) – part of a series that he coedited with Bauhaus director Walter Gropius – in which he asserted that photography and cinema are heralding a “culture of light” that has overtaken the most innovative aspects of painting. Moholy-Nagy extolled photography and, by extension, film as the quintessential medium of the future. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the movement of objects and light through space led him to construct Light-Space Modulator, the subject of his only abstract film, Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray, 1930), which is presented in the exhibition next to his own photographs and those of Florence Henri.

The rise of photographic avant-gardism from the 1920s to the 1940s is traced in the second gallery primarily through the work of European artists. A section on Constructivism and New Objectivity features works by Paul Citroën, Raoul Hausmann, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, El Lissitzky, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and August Sander. A special focus on Aleksandr Rodchenko underscores his engagement with the illustrated press through collaborations with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Tretyakov on the covers and layouts of Novyi LEF, the Soviet avant-garde journal of the “Left Front of the Arts,” which popularized the idea of “factography,” or the manufacture of innovative aesthetic facts through photomechanical processes. Alongside Rodchenko, film director Dziga Vertov redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the perfectible lens of the camera led to the creation of a novel perception of the world. The exhibition features the final clip of Vertov’s 1929 experimental film Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), in which the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once. This gallery also features a selection of Dada and Surrealist works, including rarely seen photographs, photocollages, and photomontages by Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, George Hugnet, André Kertész, Jan Lukas, and Grete Stern, alongside such avant-garde publications as Documents and Littérature.

The third gallery features artists exploring the social world of the postwar period. On view for the first time is a group of erotic and political typo-collages by Gerhard Rühm, a founder of the Wiener Gruppe (1959-60), an informal group of Vienna-based writers and artists who engaged in radical visual dialogues between pictures and texts. The rebels of street photography – Robert Frank, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, and Garry Winogrand – are represented with a selection of works that refute the then prevailing rules of photography, offering instead elliptical, off-kilter styles that are as personal and controversial as are their unsparing views of postwar society. A highlight of this section is the pioneering slide show Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (1971-74). Capturing the lively beat, humor, and drama of New York’s street theater, Levitt’s slide projection is shown for the first time at MoMA since its original presentation at the Museum in 1974.

Photography’s tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, which is divided into two sections. One section features “new topographic” works by Robert Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, along with a selection of Edward Ruscha’s self-published books, in which the use of photography as mapmaking signals a conceptual thrust. This section introduces notable works from the 1970s by artists who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool. Examples include Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots (1971-73), Mel Bochner’s Misunderstandings (A theory of photography) (1970), VALIE EXPORT’s Einkreisung (Encirclement) (1976), On Kawara’s I Got Up… (1977), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting (1974), all works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. The other section features two major and highly experimental recent acquisitions: Martha Rosler’s political magnum opus Bringing the War Home (1967-72), developed in the context of her anti-war and feminist activism, for which the artist spliced together images of domestic bliss clipped from the pages of House Beautiful with grim pictures of the war in Vietnam taken from Life magazine; and Sigmar Polke’s early 1970s experiments with multiple exposures, reversed tonal values, and under-and-over exposures, which underscore the artist’s idea that “a negative is never finished.” The unmistakably cinematic turn that photography takes in the 1980s and early 1990s is represented with a selection of innovative works ranging from Robert Heinecken’s Recto/Verso (1988) to Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s breakthrough Hustler series (1990-92).

The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history. Tapping into forms of archival reconstitution, The Atlas Group/Walid Raad is represented with My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (1996-2004), an installation of 100 pictures of car-bomb blasts in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) that provokes questions about the factual nature of existing records, the traces of war, and the symptoms of trauma. A selection from Harrell Fletcher’s The American War (2005) brings together bootlegged photojournalistic pictures of the U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, throwing into sharp focus photography’s role as a documentary and propagandistic medium in the shaping of historical memory. Jules Spinatsch’s Panorama: World Economic Forum, Davos (2003), made of thousands of still images and three surveillance video works, chronicles the preparations for the 2003 World Economic Forum, when the entire Davos valley was temporarily transformed into a high security zone. A selection of Paul Graham’s photographs from his major photobook project a shimmer of possibility (2007), consisting of filmic haikus about everyday life in today’s America, concludes the exhibition.”

Press release from the MOMA website
Online slideshow of images

.

On Kawara. 'I Got Up At...' 1974-75

.

On Kawara
I Got Up At…
1974-75
(Ninety postcards with printed rubber stamps)
.
The semi autobiographical I Got Up At… by On Kawara is a series of postcards sent to John Baldessari. Each card was sent from his location that morning detailing the time he got up. The time marked on each card varies drastically from day to day, the time stamped on each card is the time he left his bed as opposed to actually waking up. Kawara’s work often acts to document his existence in time, giving a material form to which is formally immaterial. The series has been repeated frequently sending the cards to a variety of friends and colleagues.

.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30' 1990-92

.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30
1990-92
Chromogenic color print
24 x 35 15/16″ (61 x 91.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. E.T. Harmax Foundation Fund
© 2012 Philip-Lorca diCorcia, courtesy David Zwirner, New York

.

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

.

Helen Levitt
Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (detail)
1971-74
40 color slides shown in continuous projection
Originally presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 26-October 20, 1974

.

Atlas Group, Walid Raad. 'My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines' (detail) 1996-2004

.

Atlas Group, Walid Raad
My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (detail)
1996-2004
100 pigmented inkjet prints
9 7/16 x 13 3/8″ (24 x 34 cm) each
Fund for the Twenty-First Century

.

Daido Moriyama. 'Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu' 1967

.

Daido Moriyama
Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu
1967
Gelatin silver print
18 7/8 x 28″ (48.0 x 71.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Daido Moriyama

.

VALIE EXPORT. 'Einkreisung (Encirclement)' 1976

.

VALIE EXPORT
Einkreisung (Encirclement)
1976
From the series Körperkonfigurationen (Body Configurations)
Gelatin silver print with red ink
14 x 23 7/16″ (35.5 x 59.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Carl Jacobs Fund
© 2012 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Austria

.

Grete Stern. No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams) 1949

.

Grete Stern
No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 9″ (26.6 x 22.9 cm)
Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin
© 2012 Horacio Coppola

.

Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Mariette Althaus)' c. 1975

.

Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Mariette Althaus)
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print (red toned)
9 1/4 x 11 13/16″ (23.5 x 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Edgar Wachenheim III and Ronald S. Lauder
© 2012 Estate of Sigmar Polke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

.

Martha Rosler. 'Hands Up / Makeup' 1967-1972

.

Martha Rosler
Hands Up / Makeup
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 13 15/16″ (60.4 x 35.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund
© 2012 Martha Rosler

.

Robert Heinecken. 'Recto/Verso #2' 1988

.

Robert Heinecken
Recto/Verso #2
1988
Silver dye bleach print
8 5/8 x 7 7/8″ (21.9 x 20 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund
© 2012 The Robert Heinecken Trust

.

Berenice Abbott. 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman' Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950

.

Berenice Abbott
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950
Gelatin silver print, 12 3/4 x 10 1/8″ (32.6 x 25.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frances Keech Fund in honor of Monroe Wheeler
© 2012 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

.

Raoul Hausmann. 'Untitled' February 1931

.

Raoul Hausmann
Untitled
February 1931
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 4 7/16″ (13.6 x 11.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2012 Raoul Hausmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

.

Claude Cahun. 'Untitled' c. 1928

.

Claude Cahun
Untitled
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
4 9/16 x 3 1/2″ (10 x 7.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and anonymous promised gift
© 2012 Estate of Claude Cahun

.

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo)' No. 10 October 1927

.

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo) No. 10
October 1927
Letterpress
10 3/8 x 7 1/4″ (26.3 x 18.4 cm)
Publisher: Ogonek, Moscow
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Judith Rothschild Foundation

.

.

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday, 10.30 am – 8.00 pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




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

Join 2,529 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Archives

Categories