Posts Tagged ‘Joel Sternfeld After A Flash Flood


Exhibition: ‘Joel Sternfeld: Colour photographs since 1970’ at Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 7th October 2012


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



Joel Sternfeld. 'A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street, May 2000' 2000


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street, May 2000
© Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and The Friends of the High Line, New York


Joel Sternfeld. 'Ken Robson's Christmas Tree, January 2001' 2001


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Ken Robson’s Christmas Tree, January 2001
© Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and The Friends of the High Line, New York


Joel Sternfeld. 'After A Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California 1979' 1979


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
After A Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California 1979
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'Wet 'n Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980' 1980


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Wet ‘n Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979' 1979


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979
© Courtesy Buchmann Galerie Berlin, Luhring Augustine, New York and  the artist


Joel Sternfeld. 'McLean, Virginia, December 1978' 1978


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
McLean, Virginia, December 1978
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012



This exhibition offers the first survey of the US artist Joel Sternfeld’s work in Austria. The Albertina shows eleven series by the photographer dating from between the early 1970s and 2007. Influenced by William Eggleston, but also by the colour theories of the Bauhaus, Joel Sternfeld, who was born in New York in 1944, began to experiment with colour photography in the 1970s and soon developed his own style. He brought colour to bear on a subject that had a long photographic tradition in the United States: the American social landscape. A critical observer, Sternfeld travelled across the USA for years, capturing the country and its inhabitants in all their peculiarities and contradictions. Most of his pictures explore political and social issues by representing their subjects’ relationship to nature or the landscape around them. Sternfeld’s photographs combine a documentary objective with an artist’s view. Their visual language has its predecessors in Walker Evans and Robert Frank, who were advocates of black-and-white photography, though. Seen against this background, Sternfeld’s photographs are to be understood not only as a chronicle of the last forty years’ American history, but also evidence a development process in the course of which colour came to bring forth an entirely specific visual language.


Nags Head

Next to William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld ranks among the most important representatives of New Color Photography, a quite heterogeneous group of photographers who have relied on colour as a stylistic device for artistic photography since the 1970s. A perfectly natural means of expression today, colour was frowned upon in artistic photography in those days. While colour was used in popular photography, like in the fields of advertising and fashion, traditional artistic photographs were black-and-white. William Eggleston’s exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art New York in 1976, which was regarded as scandalous when it opened, proved to be a landmark event for the recognition of colour photography. Dating from 1975, Joel Sternfeld’s series Nags Head clearly testifies to the role of colour as a means of artistic expression. Precise colour areas are as important for the pictures’ composition as the motifs the photographer encountered on the beach of the town Nags Head in North Carolina.


First Pictures

Next to Nags Head, two series of colour photographs from the 1970s, Happy Anniversary Sweetie Face! and Rush Hour, stand for Joel Sternfeld’s early work. Following in the tradition of street photography, these series explore various scenes of American everyday culture in a humorous vein, capturing them in a seemingly spontaneous and random visual language. Supposed exposure mistakes and blurs as well as angles fragmentising the subjects suggest an intuitive and dynamic view of the world. The instantaneous character of the photographs manifests itself in the Rush Hour series in a particularly striking manner. Using a manual flash lighting up the faces of the passers-by for his compositions, Sternfeld emphasises the fleeting moment a photograph snatches from the continuum of time.

Colour proves to be key for the composition. Rich and full colour areas not only rhythmise and structure the arrangement, but represent pictorial values in their own right, which are not integrated in a homogeneous whole. This kind of photography which connects everyday motifs with the autonomy of colour has been influenced not least by William Eggleston, whom Sternfeld got to know in Harvard in 1976.


American Prospects

Sternfeld shot the series American Prospects while travelling through the United States in a Volkswagen bus for some years. Dating from between 1978 and 1987, the pictures explore people’s relationship to the American landscape as formed and informed by them. The microcosm of often bizarre everyday events that becomes visible here does more than just illustrate man’s problematic use and transformation of the landscape: it also offers a possibility for drawing conclusions on contemporary political and social conditions in the United States.

In American Prospects, Sternfeld frequently renders critical contents by relying on the sovereign use of sublime, vivid colour values and contrasts that seem to contradict the depicted serious circumstances. Colour, format, and static composition are grounded in Sternfeld’s use of a large-format camera. While he photographed his early series with a small-format camera, which allowed flexible movements and, thus, a spontaneous visual language, the more complicated handling of a large-format camera slows down the picture-taking process. Sternfeld selected his motifs very carefully and precisely planned his pictures’ composition in advance. Both the composition and the general motif of people in a landscape were essentially inspired by solutions of traditional painting like Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s and Jacob van Ruisdael’s.


Stranger Passing

Photographed within a period of fourteen years starting in 1987, Joel Sternfeld’s series Stranger Passing makes the human portrait its crucial issue. Depicted in situ, the subjects are characterised through their outward appearance, their clothes and poses, and the environs in which they present themselves. The pictures show a wide variety of social groups and milieus and centre on different life styles. Maintaining a reserved and detached view throughout, Sternfeld keeps a visible distance from his motifs and does not express a judgment – an artistic strategy already pursued by August Sander in his famous photographic project Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century) in the 1920s. But whereas Sander subsumed his models under their professional functions, Sternfeld focuses on representing the portrayed people’s individuality. Their often bizarre (self-) representation visualises comprehensive social contexts which, in total, offer a manifold and differentiated portrait of American society.


On This Site

Between 1993 and 1996, Joel Sternfeld photographed crime scenes hidden behind apparently everyday places. By depicting such places of destiny, Sternfeld has retrieved suppressed, concealed, or deliberately buried events for the collective memory and thus dismantled patriotic self-presentations of the US. The pictures reveal a conceptual approach to documentary photography. The comparatively neutral and detached shots show “only” the crime scenes and do not offer any details on the sequence of events. The particulars of the crime are to be found in a text which is part of the work. Image and text provide different contents, which the viewer is asked to put together.


Oxbow Archive

In Oxbow Archive (2005-2007), Sternfeld has made the scenery his sole subject by photographing an area near Northampton in Massachusetts through the changing seasons. The work explores the tradition of cultural norms and phenomena of US culture: the representation of landscapes in pictures has always been an essential dimension of American identity and cultural self-understanding. Wilderness and pristine nature are frequently depicted in stunning, idealised views – for which Ansel Adams and Edward Weston may be cited as examples. A famous painting by the American artist Thomas Cole from 1836 renders the region shown in Oxbow Archive as a heroic landscape in dramatic weather conditions seen from an elevated point of view. Sternfeld clearly rejects this visual language: he documents the uniqueness of the seasons’ changes beyond the sublime and picturesque of traditional landscape pictures from a low point of view and confronts the viewer with the clearly visible effects of man’s intervention in nature.


When it changed

After Sternfeld’s early series had already been informed by a socio-critical attitude, the projection When it changed unmistakably shows the photographer to be a documentarist with great political engagement. When it changed comprises fifty-three portraits of participants in a United Nations conference on climate change in Montreal in 2005. A text with prognoses and statements on climate change by scientists from the last twenty years provides a comment on the persons’ often serious and pessimistic faces.


Treading on Kings

For his project Treading on Kings Joel Sternfeld photographed the protests during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. During this meeting of the eight most powerful industrial nations in the world, which was accompanied by severe clashes between the demonstrators and the police, numerous protesters were wounded and one of the activists, Carlo Giuliani, was killed. Sternfeld’s thirty-three photographs portray the scenes of the confrontation as well as the protesters themselves. Accompanying texts offer statements by various participants of the demonstrations and explain the reasons for their engagement.


Walking the High Line

Walking the High Line (2000-2001) examines landscape as an indicator of ecologic and social transformations from a new perspective. The High Line is an abandoned railroad track in Manhattan, New York, a little over two kilometres long, which the photographer describes as a motific contrast between apparently untouched nature and urban development. While Sternfeld’s earlier series visualise the colonisation of nature by man, the relationship is reverted here. Nature has reconquered an urban space, the only sporadically visible rails hinting at the once busy traffic. In the case of Walking the High Line, the socio-political dimension characteristic of all of Sternfeld’s works has produced concrete results: the disused track was transformed into a public park in 2009 not least because of Sternfeld’s successful photographs.


Sweet Earth

The series Sweet Earth from 2006 shows Joel Sternfeld pursuing his photographic investigation of the American social landscape. Informed by the atmosphere of the 1990s, of the period immediately following the collapse of the Communist states, the photographs confront us with models of alternative communities. Texts provide us with information on the social experiments and their political, ecological, or religious reasons. By visualising historical and contemporary utopias, the artist offers a historical survey spanning from nineteenth-century communities to the counterculture of the 1960s and today’s new forms of living together. By confronting the viewer with heterogeneous life plans, Sternfeld not only fathoms the different values of present-day American society, but also questions the background and development of social norms and conventions.

Press release from the Albertina website


Joel Sternfeld. 'Washington D.C., August 1974' 1974


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Washington D.C., August 1974
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'Summer Interns Having Lunch, Wall Street, New York, August 1987' 1987


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Summer Interns Having Lunch, Wall Street, New York, August 1987
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'New York City (#1)' 1976


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
New York City (#1)
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'Young Man Gathering Shopping Carts, Huntington, New York, July 1993' 1993


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Young Man Gathering Shopping Carts, Huntington, New York, July 1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'A Woman at Home in Malibu After Exercising, California, August 1988' 1988


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
A Woman at Home in Malibu After Exercising, California, August 1988
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012


Joel Sternfeld. 'A Woman Out Shopping with Her Pet Rabbit, Santa Monica, California, August 1988' 1988


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
A Woman Out Shopping with Her Pet Rabbit, Santa Monica, California, August 1988
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012



Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm

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Exhibition: ‘Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 8th June 2009


Carelton Watkins. 'View from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite' 1865-66

Carelton Watkins. 'View from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite' 1865-66

Carelton Watkins. 'View from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite' 1865-66


Carelton Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Views from the Sentinel Dome, Yosemite
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Museum of Modern Art, New York



The Museum of Modern Art presents Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West, a survey of 138 photographic works dating from 1850 to 2008 that chart the West’s complex, rich, and often compelling mythology via photography. The exploration of a large part of the American West in the mid-nineteenth century by European Americans coincided with the advent of photography, and photography and the West came of age together. The region’s seemingly infinite bounty and endless potential symbolised America as a whole, and photography, with its ability to construct persuasive and seductive images, was the perfect medium with which to forge a national identity. This relationship has resulted in a complex association that shapes the perception of the West’s social and physical landscape to this day. With political, cultural, and social attitudes constantly shifting in the region over the last 150 years, Into the Sunset further examines the way photographers have responded to these changes. The exhibition is organised by Eva Respini, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, and is on view in the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the third floor from March 29 to June 8, 2009.

Organised thematically rather than chronologically, Into the Sunset brings together the work of over 70 photographers, including Robert Adams, John Baldessari, Dorothea Lange, Timothy O’Sullivan, Cindy Sherman, Joel Sternfeld, Carleton E. Watkins, and Edward Weston, among others. The exhibition draws extensively from MoMA’s collection, along with private and public collections in the United States, and features new acquisitions from Adam Bartos, Katy Grannan, and Dennis Hopper, with each work also on view for the first time at the Museum.

Ms. Respini states: “Ranging from grand depictions of paradise to industrial development, from pictures taken on the road to prosaic suburban scenes, the photographs included in Into the Sunset do not all picture the West from the same point of view, or even perhaps, picture the same West. Rather, each is one part in a continually shifting and evolving composite image of a region that has itself been growing and changing since the opening of the frontier.”

Into the Sunset begins with the birth of photography and the American West. In the mid-nineteenth century, the region’s seemingly infinite bounty and endless potential symbolised America as a whole, and Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) captured the grand depictions of an American paradise in his photographs of Yosemite Valley in California. Arguably the world’s first renowned landscape photographer, Watkins made his first photographs there in 1861 – large sized prints made with an 18-by-22-inch mammoth plate camera, well suited to the grandeur of the land. Included are the three contiguous photographs that make up his extraordinarily detailed View from the Sentinel Dome (1865-66).

The exhibition balances the early work of landscape photographers with the twentieth century focus on the failure of the West’s promised bounty. In Joel Sternfeld’s (American, b. 1944) After a Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California (1979), the photographer documents the impact of a natural disaster, specifically a landslide, shot with neutral tones softly camouflaging the extent of flash flood on this suburban neighbourhood. And in Karin Apollonia Müller’s (German, b. 1963) Civitas (1997), the photographer shows a very different view of California than that of Watkins, with Müller revealing a contemporary Los Angeles as a littered wasteland of freeways and anonymous glass towers.

As highways and interstate travel became more prevalent, the automobile and the open road became synonymous with the region, with Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) as the first great photographer of these open roads. Included is Weston’s iconic Hot Coffee, Mojave Desert (1937), a humorous black-and-white photograph of a road sign revealing a greater thematic shift to the highway and its signage as an inescapable element in picturing the West in the twentieth century.

Once the West became more populated, photographers began to showcase humans’ effects on the land, including images of industrial development. In the 1950s William Garnett (American, 1916-2006) was hired by a real estate company to record the efficiency of mass-produced housing. For this series, Lakewood, California (1950), Garnett took photographs of the neighbourhood from an airplane, resulting in images that are completely devoid of people and focus on the progress of mass-produced construction. However, the series subsequently came to represent all that was wrong with such development and the massive sprawl of the West in the eyes of its critics.

Photographs of the people of the West represent a diversity of archetypes: gold miners and loggers, Native Americans, cowboys, suburbanites, city dwellers, starlets, dreamers, and drifters. Into the Sunset explores these archetypes, and their mutability into the twenty-first century. Included is Half Indian/Half Mexican (1991), from the photographer James Luna (Native American, Pooyukitchum/Luiseno, b. 1950), an artist of Native American ancestry. This tongue-in-cheek self-portrait captures in profile both an identity photograph and a mug shot, and works as a counterpoint to the tokenised portrayals of Native Americans from the past 150 years.

A similar reevaluation of past archetypes occurs in Richard Prince’s (American, b. 1949) Cowboy series from 1980, with one work from the series included in the exhibition. For that series Prince famously photographed Marlboro advertisements, cutting out the text, cropping the images, and enlarging them, highlighting the artifice of the virile image of the cowboy and its potency as a deeply ingrained figure in American mythology.

The suburbs and their inhabitants have been a rich subject for photographers of the West, and included are Larry Sultan’s (American, b. 1946) Film Stills from the Sultan Family Home Movies (1943-1972), in which Sultan chose individual frames from his family’s home movies and enlarged them. Although the images feature the activities that epitomise suburban life, a sense of unease lurks beneath the surface of these images; cropped and grainy, they resemble surveillance or evidence photographs.

Into the Sunset concludes with the theme of the failed promise of Western migration. Dorothea Lange’s well-known 1936 photograph Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, photographed when Lange was employed by the Farm Security Administration, is included and documents the conditions of the West in rural areas during the Great Depression. Her photographs had a humanist purpose and resulted in putting a face on the hardships of that era.

This tradition of capturing the downtrodden of the West continues into this century with Katy Grannan (American, b. 1969), a photographer who recently completed a series of new pioneers, individuals struggling to define themselves in the West of today. In Nicole, Crissy Field Parking Lot (I) (2006), a woman, “Nicole,” poses seductively on a gravel parking lot, with her makeup-streaked face and harsh light alluding to her perilous existence on the fringe of society.”

Text from the MoMA website [Online] Cited 12/04/2009 (no longer online)

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.



Joel Sternfeld. 'After a Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California' 1979


Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
After a Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California
Chromogenic colour print, printed 1987
15 15/16 x 20″ (40.5 x 50.8 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Beth Goldberg Nash and Joshua Nash



During the 1970s, Joel Sternfeld’s work reflected a trend towards a newly dispassionate, less idealised approach to nature and culture. His photographs have a seductive beauty, even though they often focus on those places where the natural and man-made worlds come together in uncomfortable ways. Working with a large-format camera and luminous colour to create images that are frequently ironic or even humorous, his compositions appear simple but in fact are surprisingly complex and often unsettling. In this photograph of a suburban California neighbourhood in the aftermath of a flash flood, the lovely monochrome tones trick us into not immediately seeing the car that has toppled into the gaping sinkhole or realising that the buildings above could be on the verge of falling, too.

Text from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website


Apollonia Müller. 'Civitas' 1997


Apollonia Müller
From Angels in Fall
Chromogenic colour print
19 3/4 x 24 1/2″ (50.1 x 62.2 cm)
Gift of Howard Stein
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2018 Karin Apollonia Müller


William Garnett. 'Foundations and Slabs, Lakewood, California' 1950


William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Foundations and Slabs, Lakewood, California
Gelatin silver print
18.9 × 23.8 cm (7 7/16 × 9 3/8 in.)
© J. Paul Getty Museum


William Garnett. 'Grading, Lakewood, California' 1950


William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Grading, Lakewood, California
Gelatin silver print
18.9 × 24 cm (7 7/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
© J. Paul Getty Museum


William Garnett. 'Trenching, Lakewood, California' 1950


William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Trenching, Lakewood, California
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 x 9 7/16 in.
© J. Paul Getty Museum



“I was hired commercially to illustrate the growth of that housing project. I didn’t approve of what they were doing. Seventeen thousand houses with five floor plans, and they all looked alike, and there was not a tree in sight when they got through.”

“I was discharged and heard you could hitchhike on the transport taking GIs home. The airplane was full, but the captain let me sit in the navigator’s seat so I had a command view. I was amazed at the variety and beauty of these United States. I had never seen anything like that – in a book, in school, or since then. So I changed my career.”

William A. Garnett



Lakewood, located on the outskirts of Los Angeles, was the location for the second major postwar housing development built in the United States. Some 17,500 tract houses were constructed assembly-line style on 3,500 acres of cleared farmland. Mass production made the houses affordable, so a greater number of people could take part in the American dream of home ownership. The developers hired William Garnett to document different phases of the subdivision’s construction from his Cessna airplane. He often photographed his subjects early in the day, so the angled light would emphasise their otherwise flat-looking forms. The photographs serve a utilitarian purpose but also demonstrate Garnett’s impeccable sense of design. In Trenching Lakewood, California, stacked lumber appears for the foundations, utility poles are installed, and the main roads are carved out. …

William Garnett took his first cross-country flight after serving as a United States Army Signal Corps cameraman during World War II. What he saw below inspired him to learn how to pilot a plane so he could photograph the American landscape. Garnett’s aerial photographs resemble abstract expressionist paintings or views through a microscope. As landscapes, they do not have the conventional grounding of a horizon line. All reveal astonishing patterns that are not seen from the ground. Garnett honed his elegant design sensibility well before earning a pilot’s license. Before the war, he attended Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Later, he headed the Pasadena Police Department’s photography lab. In the 1940s and 1950s, he began to rack up flying hours around Los Angeles, speaking out about the area’s increasing air pollution. He illustrated Nathaniel Owings’s American Aesthetic, a book about land-use practices. During ten thousand hours of flying, Garnett simultaneously piloted a plane while photographing out the window – traveling above every state and many parts of the world. His light 1956 Cessna plane allowed him to fly to just the right location to capture subjects with precision. At first, he experimented with a variety of camera formats and films but found that two 35mm cameras (one loaded with black-and-white film, the other with colour film) best suited his needs. Garnett’s work defies the stereotype of aerial photography as purely scientific and devoid of artistry. He became the first aerial photographer to earn a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship.

Anonymous. “Historical Witness, Social Messaging,” from the J. Paul Getty Museum Education Department [Online] Cited 13/01/2019


William Garnett. 'Framing, Lakewood, California' 1950


William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Framing, Lakewood, California
Gelatin silver print
18.4 × 24.1 cm (7 1/4 × 9 1/2 in.)
© J. Paul Getty Museum




James Luna (American, 1950-2018)
Half Indian/Half Mexican (installation view)
Gelatin silver print



James Luna (February 9, 1950 – March 4, 2018) was a Payómkawichum, Ipi, and Mexican-American performance artist, photographer and multimedia installation artist. His work is best known for challenging the ways in which conventional museum exhibitions depict Native Americans. With recurring themes of multiculturalism, alcoholism, and colonialism, his work was often comedic and theatrical in nature. In 2017 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.


Richard Prince. 'Untitled (Cowboy)' 1989


Richard Prince (American, b. 1949)
Untitled (Cowboy)
Chromogenic print
127 x 177.8cm (50 x 70in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, and Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2000
© Richard Prince



In the mid-1970s Prince was an aspiring painter who earned a living by clipping articles from magazines for staff writers at Time-Life Inc. What remained at the end of the day were the advertisements, featuring gleaming luxury goods and impossibly perfect models; both fascinated and repulsed by these ubiquitous images, the artist began rephotographing them, using a repertoire of strategies (such as blurring, cropping, and enlarging) to intensify their original artifice. In so doing, Prince undermined the seeming naturalness and inevitability of the images, revealing them as hallucinatory fictions of society’s desires.

“Untitled (Cowboy)” is a high point of the artist’s ongoing deconstruction of an American archetype as old as the first trailblazers and as timely as then-outgoing president Ronald Reagan. Prince’s picture is a copy (the photograph) of a copy (the advertisement) of a myth (the cowboy). Perpetually disappearing into the sunset, this lone ranger is also a convincing stand-in for the artist himself, endlessly chasing the meaning behind surfaces. Created in the fade-out of a decade devoted to materialism and illusion, “Untitled (Cowboy)” is, in the largest sense, a meditation on an entire culture’s continuing attraction to spectacle over lived experience.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


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


Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 x 8 9/16″ (28.3 x 21.8 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York



Dorothea Lange took this photograph on assignment for the U.S. government’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) program, formed during the Great Depression to provide aid to impoverished farmers. FSA photographers documented the conditions that Americans faced throughout the course of the Great Depression, a period of economic crisis. Lange’s photograph suggests the impact of these harsh conditions on a 32-year-old mother of seven. She took a number of pictures of the mother with her children and chose this image as the most effective. Her keen sense of composition and attentiveness to the power of historical images of the Madonna and Child have helped this photograph transcend its original documentary function and become an iconic work of art.

Text from the MoMA website


Katy Grannan. 'Nicole, Crissy Field Parking Lot (I)' 2006


Katy Grannan (American, b. 1969)
Nicole, Crissy Field Parking Lot (I)
Pigmented inkjet print
40 x 50″ (101.6 x 127 cm)
Cornelius N. Bliss Memorial Fund
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Katy Grannan


Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #43' 1979


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #43
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 7/16″ (19.2 x 24 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Sid R. Bass
Museum of Modern Art, New York



Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills is a suite of seventy black-and-white photographs in which the artist posed in the guises of various generic female film characters, among them, ingénue, working girl, vamp, and lonely housewife. Staged to resemble scenes from 1950s and ’60s Hollywood, film noir, B movies, and European art-house films, the printed images mimic in format, scale, and quality the often-staged “stills” used to promote films. By photographing herself in such roles, Sherman inserts herself into a dialogue about stereotypical portrayals of women. Whether she was the one to release the camera’s shutter or not, she is considered the author of the photographs. However, the works in Untitled Film Stills are not considered self-portraits.

Text from the MoMA website


Bill Owens (American, b. 1938) 'We're really happy. Our kids are healthy, we eat good food, and we have a really nice home' 1972


Bill Owens (American, b. 1938)
We’re really happy. Our kids are healthy, we eat good food, and we have a really nice home
Gelatin silver print
8 1/16 x 9 15/16″ (20.4 x 25.3 cm)
Gift of the photographer
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Bill Owens



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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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