Posts Tagged ‘Minamata

24
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘W. Eugene Smith – Photographs A retrospective’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 27th August – 27th November 2011

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This man is legend. He created some of the most memorable and moving photographs in the history of the medium. Once seen, for example his seminal photograph Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (1971), they are never forgotten. Look at the photographs below, really look deeply at them. The compositions are flawless, peerless. Smith’s use of chiaroscuro makes his images sing and flow, like a Bach fugue. In spite of everything, “in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it.”

Through that courage he left us a body of work that will live forever as masterpieces of the art of photography. Applause.

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

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W. Eugene Smith
Dance of the Flaming Coke
1955
Gelatin silver print
20.6 x 33 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Untitled
1955
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 34 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Albert Schweitzer, Aspen, Colorado
1949
Gelatin silver print
24.7 x 33.2 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Steel Mill Worker, Pittsburgh
1955
Gelatin silver print
15.1 x 21.5 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Guardia Civil, Spain
1950
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 32.1 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
The Wake
1950
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 33.1 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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“W. Eugene Smith, who was born in 1918 in Wichita, Kansas, and died in 1978 in Tucson, Arizona, first made a name for himself as a politically and socially committed photojournalist in the USA in the 1940s. Many of his photographic reports appeared in Life, the leading picture magazine that had been launched in New York in 1936. Smith saw in photography more than just an illustration to a text and had often asked editors for a greater say in the composition of a photo-essay. His painstakingly researched and emotionally moving features set new standards of photojournalism in the 1940s and 1950s.

Smith had begun to take photographs as a fifteen-year-old, having been inspired by his mother, a keen amateur photographer. In 1936, following the suicide of his father as a result of the Great Crash, Smith initially enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. But he dreamed of becoming a photographer and moved to New York, where he attended the New York Institute of Photography. He embarked on his professional career in 1937 as a photo reporter for Newsweek.

A year later he began to work as a freelance for the Black Star Agency, and his pictures appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Collier’s, Time and Life. With Life he was to have a close association that went on for years.

When the USA found itself at war at the end of 1941 Smith initially took propaganda shots for the magazine Parade to support the American troops. Then, as a correspondent for Flying magazine, he took part in reconnaissance flights, taking photos from the air. In 1944 he was back on the staff of Life – this time as a war correspondent – documenting the battle of Saipan and the American landings on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In the course of the fighting the style of his photos changed. Instead of being gung ho they tended to focus on the terrible sufferings of the civilian population and were shot in a way that involved the viewer emotionally. On 22 May 1945 Smith himself was seriously injured, forcing him to submit to a series of operations that went on until 1947.

His new lease of life was symbolized by the first photograph he took after his wound. A Walk to Paradise Garden depicts his two youngest children walking towards a sun-bathed clearing. “While I followed my children into the undergrowth and the group of taller trees – how they were delighted at every little discovery! – and observed them, I suddenly realized that at this moment, in spite of everything, in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it.” (1954)

After his recovery he went back to work for Life again. Documentary features showing the dedicated work of ordinary people were particularly popular with readers. In The Country Doctor (1948) he accompanied a young country doctor from the Denver area on his rounds for several weeks. His report Nurse Midwife (1951) on the black midwife Maud Callen was produced against a background of racial discrimination and the brazen activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the Deep South. In developing the prints Smith adjusted the lighting so as to enhance the emotional atmosphere – during a birth, for example – and so arouse sympathy for the selfless efforts of the midwife. His social commitment, however, did not always meet with approval, as in the case of the unpublished report (1950) on the re-election campaign of Clement Attlee, the candidate of the British Labour Party.

Life intended the report to strengthen indirectly the position of the Conservatives by presenting the results of Attlee’s nationalization policies in a critical light. Smith’s coverage, however, aroused sympathy for Attlee’s programme and the candidate himself. Smith had more success with his Spanish Village feature (1951). He wanted to convey an impression of living conditions under a fascist regime. After obtaining the necessary shooting permission, he spent two months studying the Spanish countryside before finally selecting a remote village in the Estremadura as his subject. Not a few of the photographs, with their chiaroscuro and clearly structured composition, are reminiscent of classical paintings and convey by means of this stylistic device a sense of the hardships but also the beauty of life there.

Smith’s feature on the work of Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné was to be his last for Life whose refusal to give him a say in the selection and layout of pictures had become unacceptable, and he left the periodical after the appearance of his photo essay Albert Schweitzer – Man of Mercy in November 1955.

A career alternative offered itself in the shape of membership of Magnum, the photographers’ agency founded in 1947. Stefan Lorant commissioned Smith to do an extensive feature on the city of Pittsburgh and its iron foundries, which occupied him for the next few years and nearly exhausted his financial and personal resources. Instead of the 100 prints agreed with Lorant, there arose 13,000 shots out of which he wanted to compose an essay which would be entirely in line with his convictions. In 1958 88 photographs were published in Popular Photography’s Annual Guide, although the essay never appeared in its entirety.

In 1957 Smith, who was known for his excessive devotion to his work, had left his family and moved to 821 Sixth Avenue in New York. The house was visited and used for rehearsals by many well-known jazz musicians, and Smith, who was a passionate music lover, photographed and documented this creative milieu over the next few years, while also keeping an audio record on 1,740 tapes, which were only discovered among his posthumous effects in 1998. At the same time he photographed street scenes from his window while also working on the construction of a psychiatric clinic in Haiti.

In 1961 a commission from the Cosmos PR Agency to photograph the company Hitachi Ltd. took Smith to Japan for a year. This was followed in 1963 by a book which contrasted modern Japan with its deeply rooted traditions. A decade later he again turned to the forced modernization of Japan and its grave consequences with a shocking series about the Minamata epidemic which had been triggered by the environmental pollution caused by the chemical concern Chisso, which had discharged mercurial waste into the sea near the town of Minamata. The Committee for the Defence of the Victims hired Smith to document the human and ecological dimensions of the catastrophe, and the photographer, who threw himself heart and soul into the project, moved with his second wife, Aileen Mioko Smith, to Minamata. In the course of his researches he was beaten up by company security guards and severely injured. The pictures he took, which appeared in Life and his book Minamata: A Warning to the World largely contributed to publicizing the scandal.

By the early 1970s Smith’s photographic work was attracting the attention of museums. His photo A Walk to Paradise Garden had already been selected by Edward Steichen as a symbolic climax to the exhibition The Family of Man (1955), but it was not until 1971 that the first retrospective Let Truth Be the Prejudice was held in the Jewish Museum in New York. In 1977 Smith, by this time seriously ill, moved to Tucson, Arizona, to take up a teaching post at the university there in what was to be the last year of his life.”

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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W. Eugene Smith
Dr. Ernest Ceriani Following the Loss of a Mother and Child During Childbirth
1948
Gelatin silver print
28 x 20.2 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Untitled
1954
33.5 x 23.6 cm
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
The Spinner
1950
Gelatin silver print
32.4 x 23 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Maude – Delivery
1951
32.7 x 25 cm
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Untitled
1954
Gelatin silver print
34.6 x 25.2 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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10963 Berlin
T: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
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Tuesday closed

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05
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 14th November 2010

 

Many thankx to the The J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

 

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

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006)
New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
24.6 x 16.4 cm (9 11/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
© Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918 - 1978). 'Industrial Waste from the Chisso Chemical Company' 1972

 

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918 – 1978)
Industrial Waste from the Chisso Chemical Company
1972
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 34 cm (9 5/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
Minamata photographs by W. Eugene Smith & Aileen M. Smith – © Aileen Smith
H. Christopher Luce. Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York, New York

 

 

In the decades following World War II, an independently minded and critically engaged form of photography began to gather momentum. Situated between journalism and art, its practitioners created extended photographic essays that delved deeply into topics of social concern and presented distinct personal visions of the world. On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, June 29 – November 14, 2010, Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties looks in depth at projects by a selection of the most vital photographers who have contributed to the development of this documentary approach. Passionately committed to their subjects, these photographers have captured both meditative and searing images, from the deep south in the civil rights era to the war in Iraq in 2006. Their powerful visual reports, often published extensively as books, explore aspects of life that are sometimes difficult and troubling but are worthy of attention.

“This exhibition focuses on the tradition of socially engaged photographic essays since the 1960s,” explains Brett Abbott, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition. “Working beyond traditional media outlets, these photographers have authored evocative bodies of work that transcend the realm of traditional photojournalism.”

Engaged Observers is structured around suites of photographs from the following projects: “Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield, “The Mennonites” by Larry Towell, “Streetwise” by Mary Ellen Mark, “Black in White America” by Leonard Freed, “Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979” by Susan Meiselas, “Vietnam Inc.” by Philip Jones Griffiths, “The Sacrifice” by James Nachtwey, “Migrations: Humanity in Transition” by Sebastião Salgado, and “Minamata” by W. Eugene and Aileen M. Smith.

Although one does not always associate style with photojournalism, where objectivity and neutrality are traditionally valued, aesthetics have been an important consideration for all of the photographers represented in the exhibition. One of the strengths of this tradition has been its ability to harness artistic decisions in reporting on the world. Meiselas chose colour film for her Nicaragua project because she felt it better conveyed the spirit of the revolution as she experienced it. Salgado noted that the solemn beauty so characteristic of his approach is important in conjuring a persistent grace among his migrant subjects, allowing him to present them in a dignified way while calling attention to their plight. Nachtwey used tight framing of messy conglomerations of tubes, instruments, and arms in The Sacrifice as a way of conjuring the atmosphere of controlled chaos that he experienced in trauma centers in Iraq. In this kind of work, subject and style, message and delivery, are deliberately intertwined.

All of the photographers in this exhibition use a series of images to address conceptual issues. For instance, Freed was concerned with bridging cultural divides to engender support of basic civil rights, while Griffiths denounced violent commercialisation; Salgado pointed to the effects of globalisation, while the Smiths addressed the related issue of industrial pollution; Meiselas engaged and countered the fragmented process by which we receive news and understand history, while Towell challenged the meaning of “newsworthy” and explored, as did Greenfield, how cultural values affect life; Nachtwey found the human toll of war unacceptable, and Mark, the idea of homeless street kids in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Many of the photographers have published books to further convey their socially engaged messages. Books allow for a greater depth of reporting than magazine articles since their length can be tailored to the needs of a particular project. And because they can be read in private, books are conducive to extended contemplation and the slow absorption of ideas, both of which are important to understanding projects that are broad in scope and have layers of meaning that, in many cases, were developed over the course of years. Moreover, they provide photographers authorial control over the presentation of their work. Each artist has the ability to decide how pictures are captioned and with what information.

A final section of the exhibition is devoted to tracing the origins of the documentary photography tradition, touching on American Civil War photographs by Alexander Gardner, turn-of-the-century activism by Lewis Hine, Depression-era photography, and photojournalism in pre-World War II picture magazines. This section also looks closely at the formation of Magnum Photos. Founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Besson, and several other photographers, Magnum provided a new platform for an independent documentary approach to photojournalism and became one of the world’s most prestigious photographic organisations. Magnum was structured to allow its members to pursue stories of their own choosing, spend as much time as they wanted on a particular topic, and be as involved as they desired in the editing, captioning, and publication of their work. The organisation was meant to harness commercial assignments as a base from which to pursue independent work, and the concept has given rise to generations of independent photographers, including many of those in Engaged Observers.

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 28/12/2019

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903 - 1975). 'Sharecropper's Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Woods and His Family' 1936

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Sharecropper’s Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Woods and His Family
1936
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 24.3 cm (7 5/8 x 9 9/16 in.)
© The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936 - 2008) "Vietnam" 1967

 

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936-2008)
Vietnam
1967
Gelatin silver print
21.3 x 31.8 cm (8 3/8 x 12 1/2 in.)
© The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation / Magnum Photos
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Limits of friendship. A Marine introduces a peasant girl to king-sized filter-tips. Of all the U.S. forces in Vietnam, it was the Marines that approached Civic Action with gusto. From their barrage of handouts, one discovers that, in the month of January1967 alone, they gave away to the Vietnamese 101,535 pounds of food, 4,810 pounds of soap, 14,662 books and magazines, 106 pounds of candy, 1,215 toys, and 1 midwifery kit. In the same month they gave the Vietnamese 530 free haircuts.

 

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948) "The Sacrifice" negative 2006 - 2007; print 2010

 

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948)
The Sacrifice
negative 2006-2007; print 2010
Inkjet print
111.8 x 983 cm (44 x 387 in.)
© James Nachtwey
James Nachtwey, New York, New York

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944) "Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India" negative 1995; print 2009

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944)
Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India
negative 1995; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 51.4 cm (13 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
© Sebastião Salgado
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Photographic essays

Leonard Freed

BLACK IN WHITE AMERICA

“Photography shows the connection between things, how they relate. Photography is not entertaining, this is not decoration, this is not advertising. Photographing is an emotional thing, a graceful thing. Photography allows me to wander with a purpose.”

Leonard Freed (American, 1923-2006), interview in Worldview, 2007

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While working in Germany in 1962, photographer Leonard Freed happened to notice a black American soldier guarding the divide between East and West as the Berlin Wall was being erected. It was not the partition between the forces of Communism and Capitalism that captured Freed’s imagination, however. Instead, he was haunted by the idea of a man standing in defence of a country in which his own rights were in question. The experience ignited the young photographer’s interest in the American civil rights movement raging on the other side of the globe. In June 1963 Freed headed back to the United States to embark on a multiyear documentary project, published in about 1968 as Black in White America, that would become the signature work of his career.

The Black in White America series is a kind of visual diary with a moralising purpose. It is highly personal and socially engaged with an implicit goal of effecting change through communication. While Freed made pictures of important events in the civil rights struggle, including the 1963 March on Washington, he quickly found that his interests lay not in recording the progress of the civil rights movement per se but in exploring the diverse, everyday lives of a community that had been marginalised for so long. Penetrating the fabric of daily existence, his work portrays the common humanity of a people persevering in unjust circumstances. His sensitive and empathetic approach sought not to stimulate outrage but to foster understanding and bridge cultural divides as a means of transcending racial antipathy.

 

Lauren Greenfield

FAST FORWARD and GIRL CULTURE

“Girl Culture has been my journey as a photographer, as an observer of culture, as part of the media, as a media critic, as a woman, as a girl… I was… thinking about my chronic teenage dieting, my gravitation toward good-looking and thin friends for as long as I can remember, and the importance of clothes and status symbols in the highly materialistic, image-oriented Los Angeles milieu in which I grew up.”

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966), Girl Culture, 2002

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Photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has built her reputation as a chronicler of mainstream American culture. In 2002 she published a photographic project, Girl Culture, that delves into the ways consumer society affects the lives of women in America. Of central concern to Greenfield was the exhibitionist tendencies of contemporary American femininity. Visiting girls of all ages at home, in doctors’ offices, and out with friends,

Greenfield examined personal issues of public consequence, providing an intense and intimate exploration of girls’ relationships to their bodies and the effects of popular culture on self-image.

Many of her pictures and accompanying interviews focus on what she refers to as “body projects,” the daily grooming rituals undertaken in an effort to express identity through appearance. Others look at the social and consumerist influences from which these young women take their cues as well as the difficulty of living up to such expectations.

Girl Culture grew out of an earlier study, Fast Forward, that critically surveyed what life is like for children growing up in Los Angeles. The work revolves around her perception of an early loss of innocence among her young subjects and traces Hollywood’s role as a homogenising force in their lives.

Greenfield’s lens becomes a mirror in which to reflect upon ourselves. Together Fast Forward and Girl Culture sensitively explore how culture leaves its imprint on individuals.

 

Philip Jones Griffiths

VIETNAM INC.

“The “bang-bang” aspect of any war is the least likely to offer any explanation of the underlying causes. My task is to discover the why, so it’s the actions surrounding the battlefields that present the best clues.”

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936-2008), Aperture, spring 2008

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A lifelong desire to leave the world a better place drove Philip Jones Griffiths, whose work is marked by a fiercely independent approach, deep engagement with his subjects, and a skeptical view of authority. Vietnam Inc., the photographer’s critical 1971 account of America’s armed intervention in Southeast Asia, is one of the most detailed photographic stories of a war published by a single photographer. The project’s exploration of the why, and not just the what, behind the war’s failures made it a particularly engaging and ambitious work of advocacy journalism and a model to which many photographers still aspire.

Griffiths’s independent approach is remarkable because of its sensitivity to the people of Vietnam and its eschewing of a Western point of view. In Vietnam Inc. there are few photographs documenting American troops and the might of their military prowess. Instead, his primary focus was on Vietnamese civilians and a culture in crisis. His book put the conflict in the context of Vietnam’s history and culture, showing the ways in which the Capitalist values that America promoted in its efforts to contain the spread of Communism were out of sync with Vietnam’s predominantly communal and agrarian way of life.

Vietnam, for Griffiths, became a “goldfish bowl where the values of Americans and Vietnamese can be observed, studied, and, because of their contrasting nature, more easily appraised.” And in Griffiths’s appraisal, it was America’s “misplaced confidence in the universal goodness” of its own values that would ultimately lead to an imperialist failure and, more importantly, the unjust devastation of a people.

 

Mary Ellen Mark

STREETWISE

“One of the reasons we chose Seattle was because it is known as “America’s most livable city.” Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York were well known for their street kids. By choosing America’s ideal city we were making the point “If street kids exist in a city like Seattle then they can be found everywhere in America, and we are therefore facing a major social problem of runaways in this country.””

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015), Streetwise, 1988

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Mary Ellen Mark has reported on the state of our social environment for more than four decades. Far removed from the immediacy of war and conflict, her work plumbs the basic commonality of human experience.

In 1983 Mark traveled to Seattle to do an article for Life magazine on runaway children. Focusing on a set of streets in the city’s downtown area, she began building a sense of trust with the community of runaways and learning about their survival methods. Her pictures showed teenagers who managed to survive on the tough streets through petty crime, prostitution, foraging in dumpsters, and panhandling. She presented the abandoned buildings and underpasses they inhabited and the bonds they built with one another in the absence of family. Mark’s compositions are striking and uncomfortable, emphasising her subjects’ youth while capturing them engaged in activities beyond their years.

Following publication of an article in Life, she continued to develop the story as both a documentary film and still photographic project with her husband, filmmaker Martin Bell, and reporter Cheryl McCall. The film, titled Streetwise, was released the following year and was nominated for an Academy Award. Mark published her still photographs from the project in a book of the same title in 1988.

The Streetwise project provided dimension to an important issue of its day. In giving specific shape, individuality, and visibility to the problem of runaway children, it called for greater social and political commitment to addressing America’s epidemic of broken families.

 

Susan Meiselas

NICARAGUA, JUNE 1978 – JULY 1979

“We all cross histories, and the ones that we cross shape us as much as we shape them.”

Susan Meiselas (American, born 1948), in conversation with the curator, 2010

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In 1978 Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas traveled to Nicaragua. Tensions were high following the assassination of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, the editor of an opposition newspaper critical of the repressive, hard-line government. Meiselas witnessed the eruption of a full-scale revolution in August of that year. Aware that a momentous process was taking place, she stayed to record its unfolding, including the celebration of the revolutionaries’ victory in the central plaza of Managua in July 1979.

Meiselas was taken by the bravery of those who were willing to risk their lives against the dictatorship for the promise of a better future, and she took pains to photograph the action from the perspective of those involved in it. The record of her movements around the country formed a narrative about the progress of their insurrection. She made a decision, which at the time was still considered somewhat unusual in serious war reportage, to record the revolution on colour film, seeing it as a more appropriate medium for capturing the vibrancy and optimism of the resistance.

The photographer’s compelling pictures were picked up by major newspapers and magazines around the world, giving individual images a public life, but one that was beyond her immediate control with regard to captioning and that was fragmented from the context of her larger body of pictures. In collecting seventy-one of her photo-graphs into a book, first published in 1981 as Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979, Meiselas reasserted the narrative of the revolution as she experienced it and gave greater permanence and coherence to her documentary endeavour.

 

James Nachtwey

THE SACRIFICE

“For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war. And if it is used well, it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.”

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948), from the film The War Photographer, 2001

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For nearly thirty years James Nachtwey has dedicated himself to delivering an antiwar message by documenting those around the world affected by conflict. Traveling with emergency medical units in Iraq in 2006, the photographer began a photo essay, The Sacrifice, that documents the struggle to save and rebuild lives. The series depicts the helicopter transfers from battle sites to treatment centers, the emergency rooms where lives hang in the balance, and the difficult process of recovery.

In anticipation of showing the work, Nachtwey created a monumental installation print, consisting of sixty individual trauma-center images, tightly framed and digitally collaged into a grid. The work stands as a grim reminder of the human costs of war. The object’s sheer size, in which one picture gives way to the next in a seemingly endless stream of torn flesh, metal instruments, snaking tubes, and bloodied hands, effectively conveys a sense of the controlled chaos that permeates these medical centers as well as the overwhelming volume of casualties flowing through the medics’ hands on a daily basis.

While it may be easy to contemplate and even support war in abstract, strategic terms, it is difficult to face Nachtwey’s portrayal of its inevitable results. In its aggressive scale, his intentionally unsettling work demands that we reconcile the goals and achievements of armed conflict with its human costs, that we be prepared to acknowledge in particular visual terms the sacrifice it entails and the valiant work of those who do their best to mend its path of destruction.

 

Sebastião Salgado

MIGRATIONS: HUMANITY IN TRANSITION

“My hope is that, as individuals, as groups, as societies, we can pause and reflect on the human condition at the turn of the millennium. Can we claim “compassion fatigue” when we show no sign of consumption fatigue?”

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944), Migrations, 2000

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Trained in economics before taking up photography, Sebastião Salgado has used his camera to raise awareness of the world’s economic disparities and provoke discussion about the state of our international social environment. Between 1994 and 1999 Salgado pursued an enormous project to document migrant populations around the world. Published in 2000 as Migrations: Humanity in Transition, this epic work of twentieth-century photojournalism documents people across forty-three countries who have been uprooted by globalisation, persecution, or war. The pictures in this exhibition represent several themes in Salgado’s study, including the effects of population surges in cities of developing countries, the conditions of refugees fleeing war in Africa, and the process of migration from Latin America to the United States.

Salgado’s work is marked by a heightened attention to aesthetic grace that attempts to endow his subjects with dignity even as it communicates the discomfort of their circumstances. His photographs are constructed with careful attention to dramatic lighting, elegant contours, and striking visual impact. Ultimately, Salgado sees himself as a storyteller and a communicator, a bridge between the fortunate and the unfortunate, the developed and the undeveloped, the stable and the uprooted. Portrayed lyrically and sensitively, his subjects are transformed into metaphors for complex inequities that exist in the world – problems that must be recognised and acknowledged before they can be addressed.

 

W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith

MINAMATA

“[Pollution] is closing more tightly upon us each day… After reflecting on the rights and wrongs of the situation in Minamata, we hope through this book to raise our small voices of words and photographs in a warning to the world. To cause awareness is our only strength.”

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918-1978) and Aileen M. Smith (American, born 1950), Minamata, 1975

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In 1971 W. Eugene Smith, a major figure in the history of socially concerned photography, and his wife, Aileen M. Smith, were told of a controversy over industrial pollution taking place in the small Japanese fishing village of Minamata. Beginning in the 1950s, thousands of people in the area were severely affected by mercury poisoning, brought about by eating fish contaminated with chemical waste dumped in the bay by the Chisso Corporation. Victims were afflicted with brain damage, paralysis, and convulsions. The ailment, which came to be known as Minamata Disease, is not reversible.

When the Smiths arrived in Minamata, lawsuits had already begun, and the couple set out to document the progress of the claims. They spent three years on the project, calling attention to the victims’ cause. Aileen acted as an equal collaborator, making pictures and writing texts with W. Eugene. The work resulted in numerous magazine publications, exhibitions, and a coauthored book, Minamata, published in 1975.

The Smiths’ study records the course of the trial through the court’s ruling in favour of the plaintiffs in 1973. The essay relates the importance of the sea and fishing to the town’s culture, reports on the company’s drainage pipes into the sea, chronicles the lives transformed by the disease, and depicts the demonstrations that took place in opposition to Chisso. As a tale of the dangers of industrial pollution, the project gained traction within the political atmosphere of the 1970s, when the environmental movement was taking off.

 

Larry Towell

THE MENNONITES

“When a Mennonite loses his land, a bit of his human dignity is forfeited; so is his financial solvency. He becomes a migrant worker, an exile who will spend the rest of his life drifting among fruit trees and vegetable vines, dreaming of owning his own farm some day. But for these who struggle with God at the end of a hoe, the refuge of land, Church, and community may be at least a generation away.”

Larry Towell (Canadian, born 1953), The Mennonites, 2000

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Wary of the media’s commitment to speed, photographer Larry Towell insists on the integrity of extended-coverage reporting. In 1989 he came into contact with members of a Mennonite community near his home in Canada. The Old Colony Mennonites are a nonconformist Protestant sect related to the Amish that originated in Europe in the 1500s.

Over the centuries, they have migrated between countries to preserve their way of life, living in colonies where faith and tradition are intertwined and modern amenities, such as cars, rubber tires, and electricity, are not welcome.

The Mennonites Towell befriended had migrated to Canada from colonies in Mexico in search of seasonal work. Due to shrinking water tables in Mexico, the effects of international trade, and a rising population in the colonies, many Mennonites have found themselves landless and economically marginalised, forced to compromise their beliefs in order to survive. Towell was eventually invited to join them in their treks back to Mexico for the winter. With his unique and intimate access, he spent the next ten years photographing their activities, capturing their struggle to preserve a lifestyle incongruent with the larger world on which they have become interdependent.

Towell’s work documented the Mennonites’ way of life for the historical record and inspires greater understanding today for a group whose attempts to embrace life could be easily overlooked. In spending a decade on a subject that would be of only passing interest to mainstream media, he asserts a form of visual reporting in which reflection takes precedence over profitability and immediacy.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944). 'Mexico Border, desert of San Ysidro, California' negative 1997; print 2009

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944)
U.S. – Mexico Border, desert of San Ysidro, California
Negative 1997; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
34.4 x 51.4 cm (13 9/16 x 20 1/4 in.)
© Sebastião Salgado
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, born 1940). 'Lillie with Her Rag Doll, Seattle' 1983

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Lillie with Her Rag Doll, Seattle
1983
Gelatin silver print
22.6 x 34 cm (8 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
© Mary Ellen Mark
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, born 1940). '"Rat" and Mike with a Gun, Seattle' 1983

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
“Rat” and Mike with a Gun, Seattle
1983
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 34.2 cm (9 x 13 7/16 in.)
© Mary Ellen Mark
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966). 'Sheena tries on clothes with Amber, 15, in a department store dressing room, San Jose, California' negative 1999; print 2002

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, b. 1966)
Sheena tries on clothes with Amber, 15, in a department store dressing room, San Jose, California
Negative 1999; print 2002
Dye destruction print
32.5 x 49.1 cm (12 13/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966). Erin, 24, is blind-weighed at an eating-disorder clinic, Coconut Creek, Florida. She has asked to mount the scale backward so as not to see her weight gain' negative 2001; print 2002

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, b. 1966)
Erin, 24, is blind-weighed at an eating-disorder clinic, Coconut Creek, Florida. She has asked to mount the scale backward so as not to see her weight gain
Negative 2001; print 2002
Dye destruction print
32.5 x 49.1 cm (12 13/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Open 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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