Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia

10
Nov
19

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul’ at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition dates: 29th May – 17th November 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

 

“A moment of experience”

This is the first of my catch up postings on exhibitions and art I saw during my European art and photographic research tour.

I know very little about the history of Turkish photography, and knew nothing of the work of “The eye of Istanbul”, Ara Güler, before I saw this exhibition.

Visually, Güler’s images are atmospheric renditions of people and place, grounding the representation of a city in the people who live and work there. They share a mainly male gaze, a patriarchal perspective on the treasured secrets of Istanbul, for this perspective is how the culture at that time (and possibly now?) was structured.

Güler’s visual histories of rare and subtle perception, “make visible the unseen, the unknown, and the forgotten.”1 They implicate “the urban discourse as a system in which culture enlists the medium (of photography) for representational tasks – nation building, identity construction, city scapes2,” highlighting photography’s ineradicable role for interpretation in the construction of knowledge and memory.3

As the press release states, Güler’s photographs have made a very significant contribution to the formation of the public’s collective imagination and memories of the city, but these memories of the city can only ever be reflections of concepts of identity that have developed across the social spectrum from within the self, within the culture, and within the political arena. One informs the other.

Güler’s cityscapes can only be a partial representation of what a city was and what it was moving to become. Paraprashing Eyelet Carmi when she talks of Sally Mann’s landscape photographs of the Deep South of America, we might say that the urban landscape, the photograph shows us, is never a neutral space. It is always historically constructed, politically used and emotionally complex.4 It is where national history is mediated by and intertwines with patriarchal assumptions, emotions, memories and personal experiences of everyday life. The personal is national and vice versa, for “the notion of home and place (national and personal alike) is inevitably unfixed, unstable and partial.”5

In an erudite and instructive piece of writing by Zeynep Uğur, “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul”, an extract of which is presented below, Uğur expertly places Güler’s photographs in the era of their composition, filling in the cultural background that surrounds their creation… depictions of the urban poor and their small routines – smoking, having a cup of tea, coffee, or an alcoholic drink – mainly men in their coffee shops and old fashioned bars, enacting traditions that have not changed for centuries, swept up in the modernisation of the city. “An emotional relation is established between people and the space they inhabit by enacting the space in the body and the body in the public sphere, hence humanizing the city and spatially contextualizing the people. As Jacques Lecoq announces in his pedagogy of movement in theater, only the body engaged in the work can feel, and thus reflect the evidence of the space. Güler’s urban poor portrayed in their work express the social reality with their bodies.”6

Where I disagree with Uğur is in her proposal that that these men, who are “waiting” instead of actively circulating or producing, proffer “a sense of disbelonging, being removed from the context, being out of place, a sense of invisibility, immobility and arbitrariness.”7 In other words, a sense of alienation from the existence and surroundings in which they find themselves (alienation of the individual in modernity is a trope that goes back to the beginnings of Romanticism). Uğur proposes that Güler’s photographs possess hüzün, “a feeling of melancholia, nostalgia and loss in a multilayered city where multiple spatialities and temporalities are superposed. Guler’s photography reflects this singularity of Istanbul, its vibe and the ambiance experienced when wandering in the city.”8

This idea of a singularity is a very modernist way of perceiving the world. In this singular world a unified self can be easily alienated from itself (through concepts such as social alienation, the alienated body (Sartre), the phenomenologists’ ‘body for others’, the objectified body, the social body), and objectified by the gaze and discourse of others.9 “… Marx expresses his conceptualization of the state of alienation as a loss of sensuous fulfilment, poorly replaced by a pride of possession, and a lack of self-consciousness and hence actualization of one’s own real desires and abilities.”10 Leading to the feelings of melancholia, nostalgia and loss allegedly seen in the work of Ara Güler.

Postmodernism on the other hand sees no decentering of the self from the centre to the periphery for there is no centre, no periphery, only fragmentation. Fredric Jameson wrote that, “in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity.”11 Through the fragmentation of the subject the “existential model of “authenticity” and “inauthenticity” is thus challenged.”12 When there is no centre, no periphery – where one cannot move to the centre because there is no unified centre – there can be no unified self and therefore no alienation or, alien nation. There is no unified self, no appeal to nostalgia and melancholy, for the people in the photographs just are: and this is my point here, Güler was a visual archivist who documented life as it exists, not how we now look back on those times through the misty eyes of loss.

All we are left with, then, is the fact that Güler’s photographs are “a moment of experience” which document change not loss. His photographs document people and places that are not being lost (for that proposes a unified perspective), but images which picture an anxiety (and presence) in their radical potential, in their political context, which is both then and now – the receiver (the subject) and the viewer recognising the categories of perception and appreciation as it applies to him or her.13 An experience, existence and anxiety that is both then and now. As Garry Winogrand has observed, “The photograph isn’t what was photographed. It’s something else. It’s a new fact.” Time after time, again and again.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,040

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Many thankx to the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All iPhone images © Marcus Bunyan and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.

 

  1. Marianne Fulton, Eyes of Time: Photojournalism in America, Boston: Little, Brown, 1988, p. 107
  2. -scape. a combining form extracted from landscape, with the meaning “an extensive view, scenery,” or “a picture or representation” of such a view, as specified by the initial element: cityscape; moonscape
  3. Alison Winter, Memory: Fragments of a Modern History. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012, p. 5
  4. Ayelet Carmi, “Sally Mann’s American vision of the land,” in Journal of Art Historiography Number 17 December 2017, p. 25
  5. Ibid., p. 13
  6. Zeynep Uğur, “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul,” on the Ajam Media Collective website 26 November 2018 [Online] Cited 22/10/2019
  7. Ibid.,
  8. Ibid.,
  9. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. London: Methuen, 1969, pp. 339-351
  10. Harry Brod, “Pornography and the Alienation of Male Sexuality,” in Kimmel, Michael and Messner, Michael. Men’s Lives. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1989, p. 397
  11. Sherry Turkle, Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, p. 49
  12. Katarzyna Marciniak, “Introduction,” in Fredric Jameson. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of late Capitalism. Duke University Press, 1991
  13. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. (trans. Richard Nice). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 207

 

 

‘I believe that photography is a form of magic by which a moment of experience is seized for transmission to future generations,’ Güler once said when asked to explain his art

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Ara Güler' Nd

 

Anonymous photographer
Ara Güler
Nd
Gelatin silver print
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

 

Istanbul Modern, in collaboration with the Ara Güler Museum, presents an exhibition of works by Ara Güler, “the man who writes history with his camera.” Titled “Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul” the exhibition follows the changes that have taken place in the city since the 1950s, and is open to public between May 29 – November 17, 2019.

A collaboration between Istanbul Modern and the Ara Güler Museum, the exhibition draws on the archives of both institutions to portray the changes that have taken place in the city from the mid-20th century to the present.

It also shows the influential role of Ara Güler’s photographs in the development of the public’s collective memory of Istanbul following these changes.

All signed by him

The exhibition brings together photographs from different periods that were signed by him, as well as various dark room prints, objects and ephemera from the archives of the Istanbul Modern Photography Collection and the Ara Güler Museum, and maps that situate the works in different neighbourhoods and angles. As a whole, the exhibition aims to address the relationship between photography and a photographer’s subjectivity through the works of Güler, who defines himself as a photojournalist and photojournalists as “people who write history with their cameras.”

When it comes to Istanbul, Ara Güler’s photographs have made a very significant contribution to the formation of the public’s collective imagination and memories of the city. The exhibition combines Ara Güler’s photographs, which invite viewers to look at them again and again, with archival materials in order to highlight Güler’s practice as well as his role in the creation of our perception of Istanbul.

Curated by Demet Yıldız, Photography Department Manager at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, with Umut Sülün, Manager of the Ara Güler Museum and Research Center, acting as consultant, the exhibition can be visited until November 17. Throughout the duration of the exhibition, there will be talks and various programs that focus on the city and collective memory.

 

About Ara Güler

As a youth he was greatly influenced by the cinema, and while in high school he worked at film studios in every branch of the industry. In 1951 Güler graduated from the Getronagan Armenian High School and began training in theatre and acting under Muhsin Ertugrul, aspiring to be either a director or a scriptwriter. At that time, some of his stories were published in literary magazines and Armenian newspapers. He continued his education in the Faculty of Economics at Istanbul University. However, on deciding to become a photojournalist, he left the university and completed his military service.

He began his journalism career with the newspaper Yeni İstanbul in 1950. He became a photojournalist for Time Life in 1956, and for Paris Match and Stern in 1958. Around the same time, the Magnum Agency started distributing his photographs internationally. One of his first features was on the ruins of Noah’s Ark, and more than one hundred of those photographs were distributed by Magnum. Also during these years he reported on Mount Nemrut, introducing it to the world. Another of his important features was on the rediscovery of the forgotten city of Aphrodisias, through which it likewise was revealed to the world.

From 1956 until 1961 Güler headed the photography section of Hayat magazine. In the 1961 edition of the British Journal of Photography Year Book, he was named one of the seven best photographers in the world. That same year he was accepted as a member of the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) and was its only Turkish member. In 1962 he received the Master of Leica award in Germany and was the subject of a special issue of the journal Camera, then the most important photography publication in the world. His works were exhibited at the “Man and His World” show in Canada in 1967; and at the Photokina Fair in Cologne in 1968. He took the photographs for Lord Kinross’s book about Hagia Sophia, published in 1971.

His photograph was on the cover of the English, French, and German editions of the book Picasso: Métamorphose et Unité, published by Skira on the occasion of Picasso’s ninetieth birthday. In 1974 Güler was invited to the United States, where he photographed many famous personalities; the images were later exhibited under the title Creative Americans in many cities around the world. Also in 1974 he made a documentary film called End of a Hero about the scrapping of the battle cruiser Yavuz. His photographs on art and art history were used in articles in Time-Life, Horizon, and Newsweek, and published around the world by Skira. Starting in 1989 Güler joined the project A Day in the Life of… and collaborated with some the world’s most famous photographers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

In 1992 his photographs of the great architect Mimar Sinan’s works, which he had been working on for many years, were published under the title Sinan, Architect of Süleyman the Magnificent in France by Editions Arthaud, and in the United States and the UK by Thames & Hudson. In the same year his book Living in Turkey was published by Thames & Hudson in the United States and the UK, in Singapore by Archipelago under the title Turkish Style, and as Demeures Ottomanes de Turquie by Albin Michel in France.

In 2002, France decorated Güler with the Legion d’Honneur Officier des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2009 he received La Médaille de la Ville Paris from the city of Paris. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Yıldız Technical University in 2004, Mimar Sinan Fine Art University in 2013, and Boğaziçi University in 2014; the Presidential Culture and Arts Grand Award in 2005; the Award for Service to Culture and the Arts of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2008; and the Outstanding Service Award of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 2009. Also in 2009 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Lucie Foundation in the United States.

Hundreds of exhibitions all over the world have featured Güler’s work, and his images have been published in dozens of books. Güler interviewed and photographed numerous celebrities, from Bertrand Russell and Winston Churchill to Arnold Toynbee, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. As an outcome of the partnership created between Güler and Doğuş Group, two art institutions, Ara Güler Museum and Ara Güler Archives and Research Center, have opened their doors to visitors in Istanbul.

Ara Güler passed away on October 17, 2018, at the age of ninety.

Text from the Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Taşlıtarla, Gaziosmanpaşa' 1959

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Taşlıtarla, Gaziosmanpaşa
1959
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Feriköy' (installation view) 1985

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Feriköy (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Galata' (installation view) 1950

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Galata (installation view)
1950
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Hallç, Vapuru'nda [In the Golden Horn Ferry]' (installation view) 1969

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Hallç, Vapuru’nda [In the Golden Horn Ferry] (installation view)
1969
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy]' (installation view) 1957

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy] (installation view)
1957
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy]' 1957

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Persembe Pazan, Karaköy [Thursday Market, Karaköy]
1957
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu]' (installation view) 1958

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu] (installation view)
1958
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu]' 1958

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Hazzopulo Pasajl, Beyoglu [Hazzopulo Passage, Beyoglu]
1958
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque]' (installation view) 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque] (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque]' 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eyüp Sultan Camii [Eyüp Sultan Mosque]
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tarlabaşi' 1965 (installation view)

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tarlabaşi (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sirkeci' (installation view) 1956

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sirkeci (installation view)
1956
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sirkeci' 1956

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sirkeci
1956
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Cagaloglu Hamami' (installation view) 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Cagaloglu Hamami (installation view)
1965
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii, Kadirga [Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, Kadirga]' (installation view) 1988

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii, Kadirga [Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, Kadirga] (installation view)
1988
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Kandilli [A Bosphorus passenger boat leaving the European shores of Istanbul for the Asian shore]' 1965

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Kandilli [A Bosphorus passenger boat leaving the European shores of Istanbul for the Asian shore]
1965
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Büyükdere' (installation view) 1972

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Büyükdere (installation view)
1972
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Büyükdere' 1972

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Büyükdere (installation view)
1972
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Kandilli' (installation view) 1985

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Kandilli (installation view)
1985
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Kapaliçarsi [The Grand Bazaar]' (installation view) 1972

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Kapaliçarsi [The Grand Bazaar] (installation view)
1972
Gelatin silver print

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eminönü' (installation view) 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eminönü (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Eminönü' 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Eminönü
1954
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Sehzadebaşı' 1958

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Sehzadebaşı
1958
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection
Photo: Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tahtakale' (installation view) 1966

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tahtakale (installation view)
1966
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Zeyrek' (installation view) 1974

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Zeyrek (installation view)
1974
Gelatin silver print

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Zeyrek' (installation view) 1960

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Zeyrek (installation view)
1960
Gelatin silver print

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Nightfall in the district of Zeyrek, Istanbul' 1960

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Nightfall in the district of Zeyrek, Istanbul
1960
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tophane' (installation view) 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tophane (installation view)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'A drunk man at a bar in Tophane' 1959

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
A drunk man at a bar in Tophane
1959
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tophane' (installation view) 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tophane [Atrium of a house] (installation view)
1954
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Tophane [Atrium of a house]' 1954

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Tophane [Atrium of a house]
1954
Gelatin silver print
Ara Güler Archive and Research Center Collection

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Galata' (installation view) 1955

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Galata (installation view)
1955
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

 

Extract from “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul”

Our focus is Güler’s portrayal of Istanbul in black and white in 1950s and 1960s, where Istanbul appears as a metropole “in progress”, or under construction. As described by the sociologist Nilüfer Göle, in the context of non-Western countries modernization, involves a cultural shift, a process of changing habitus, aesthetic norms, values, and lifestyles in the public sphere. The economic development of the country goes along with this social and cultural transformation. In 1950s and 60s Turkey, the construction of highways and railways connected the national periphery to the center. Istanbul received a mass wave of migration and expanded with slums during this improvised, unplanned urbanization process. The city became the scene where center and periphery, modern and traditional lifestyles encountered, confronted, and transformed one another and found ways to coexist. Urban poverty became an issue with this contrast becoming more and more visible in the city. …

Güler starts from the micro level, photographing people in their small routines: working, smoking, having a cup of tea, coffee, or an alcoholic drink. These people can be defined as the urban poor, not synchronized with the rapid urban growth and the modern ideal of progress. They are portrayed in the public sphere rather than in the intimacy of their private sphere. Their eyes, facial expressions, hands, and postures incarnates their poverty, highlighting modes of being that contrast sharply with the Westernizing public sphere they have entered. An emotional relation is established between people and the space they inhabit by enacting the space in the body and the body in the public sphere, hence humanizing the city and spatially contextualizing the people. As Jacques Lecoq announces in his pedagogy of movement in theater, only the body engaged in the work can feel, and thus reflect the evidence of the space. Güler’s urban poor portrayed in their work express the social reality with their bodies. …

People are also photographed in coffee shops and old fashioned bars where they socialize. Coffee shops have a particular significance in Istanbul’s urban culture, as they emerged as alternative public spheres to mosques in the 16th century. Coffee houses became popular by offering a venue for social occasions including leisure and political dialogue between men in the Ottoman world, thus creating a public culture, as noted by the historian Cemal Kafadar. As gender-mixed modern coffee houses gained popularity, traditional kahvehane became considered places of unproductive time pass activity. These alternative spaces, in turn, become a shelter for men alienated from the emerging modern public sphere and lifestyles. Güler’s men in coffee houses are “waiting”, as the opposite of circulating or producing that increasingly characterized the fast rhythm of the modern city.

In the absence of plans in the present and for the deferred future, a temporal slowing manifests itself. Hence, it points out to a suspension referring to the interruption of social ties, the feeling of being cut-off, a sense of disbelonging, being removed from the context, being out of place, a sense of invisibility, immobility and arbitrariness. These traits resonate with people waiting in the photographs, who seem slightly erased, detached from the space and time surrounding them. Güler’s choice of décor, the Ottoman ruins, emphasizes this detachment by fixing our regard on the remains of the past embodied in the present and the obsolete corners of the city, not “illuminated” yet by the city lights.

Perhaps this is the very reason why Güler’s Istanbul appears as the visual reflection of the Nobel winning author Orhan Pamuk’s description of the grayscale Istanbul, marked by the feeling of hüzün. Comparable to Baudelaire’s description of Paris Spleenhüzün is a feeling of melancholia, nostalgia and loss in a multilayered city where multiple spatialities and temporalities are superposed. Guler’s photography reflects this singularity of Istanbul, its vibe and the ambiance experienced when wandering in the city. Given that urban heritage is never patrimonialized and the events of the imperial and republican past haven’t been confronted, they haunt city’s present. …

Ara Güler might be referred as a Proustian in search of lost time, however his madeleine would be persons; the urban poor in the streets of Istanbul. His quest to seize what is being lost is not an interior process of romanticization, but comes from the external world. He always insisted that he is not an artist who proposes an interpretation of reality, but a visual archivist who documents life as it exists. In his photographs, it is the people who craft the urban sphere by sitting, waiting, settling, investing, appropriating it. Güler composes the cityscape of Istanbul by parting from the margins to join the center, the core of the city. This composition identifies the singularity of Istanbul, hüzün, a feeling of loss of firm ground, a loss of an emotional root, which opens up a wide range of emotions and experiences.

Zeynep Uğur. “After Ara Güler: Capturing the Feeling of Loss in Modernizing Istanbul,” on the Ajam Media Collective website 26 November 2018 [Online] Cited 22/10/2019. Reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

Zeynep Uğur Academia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler's Footsteps in Istanbul' at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ara Güler: Two Archives, One Selection: Tracing Ara Güler’s Footsteps in Istanbul at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018) 'Children playing in Tophane, Istanbul' 1986

 

Ara Güler (Turkish, 1928-2018)
Children playing in Tophane, Istanbul
1986
Gelatin silver print
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art Photography Collection

 

 

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Asmalımescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Caddesi, No: 99, Beyoğlu, 34430 İstanbul

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Thursday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Sunday: 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
Monday: Closed

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art website

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02
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd July 2010 – 3rd February 2011

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My apologies for the lack of local reviews over the next five weeks. I shall be overseas. Hopefully, international postings will continue as normal as long as I can get internet connection with my laptop. Marcus

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.

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Richard Long (British, born 1945)
County Cork, Ireland
1967
Gelatin silver print
76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010 (2010.12)
© Richard Long

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Long was a key figure in recasting sculpture in two directions: inward toward the gestures of bodies in space and outward toward the creation of ephemeral works made directly in the landscape. A student of the sculptor Anthony Caro at Saint Martins College of Art, Long was well versed in the reductive quality of geometric abstraction but sought to make the form of his works even more elegantly simple and wedded to life. He would go for solitary walks in the English countryside, and at a particular place he would create elemental forms such as a line, an x shape, or a circle by walking over the ground to leave a temporary imprint. A photograph such as County Cork, Ireland – in which the shape seems to hover in the image like a flying saucer – is thus an imprint of an imprint; the form of the work is derived from the holistic relationship between the concept (idea), the action of the body (figure), and the site of his gesture (ground). It is also informed by an astute understanding of the profound links between British culture and the landscape, from prehistoric hill figures through nineteenth-century theories of the Picturesque. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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VALIE EXPORT (Austrian, born 1940)
Encirclement
1976
Gelatin silver print
40.8 x 61 cm (16 1/16 x 24 in.)
Promised Gift of Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner
© VALIE EXPORT, Courtesy Charim Gallery Vienna

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In her series Body Configurations, the artist had herself or female colleagues photographed in local streets, stairwells, and alleyways, contorting their bodies to mimic the harsh geometries of the city. Influenced not only by the Actionists but also by the human sculpture of Robert Morris, Export complicates the coolly inhuman systems of Minimalism by reintroducing the human body into abstraction, an intimate yet public gesture that effortlessly transmutes the personal into the political. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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Doug Aitken (American, born 1968)
Passenger
1997
Chromogenic print
100.5 x 122 cm (39 9/16 x 48 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2004 (2004.223)
© Doug Aitken

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Aitken is best known for multiscreen video installations exploring the ways in which perception and consciousness are transformed by our global, technology-driven existence. Passenger belongs to a group of still photographs made in 1997 showing planes in flight, most of which focus on the faint traceries of takeoffs and landings over desolate airport landscapes. In its emphasis on luminosity and atmosphere, this example reveals Aitken’s debt to older California artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin. It is also unabashedly sensual: Aitken’s high production values – reminiscent of Technicolor cinematography and glossy advertising – refer directly to the media images that unavoidably condition our responses to the world.

There is something of the sublime in Aitken’s photograph, however, in that it describes the limits of the visible while flooding the eye with color. Starting from an experience familiar to all air travelers of “two ships passing” in the ether, the artist proposes a more complex statement about the way we perceive reality – namely, that the one thing that we cannot see is ourselves seeing and thus that our understanding of the world is always partial and incomplete. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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“Themes of dislocation and displacement in contemporary photography will be explored in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s forthcoming exhibition in the Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography. Drawn almost entirely from the Museum’s collection, Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography on view July 2, 2010 through February 13, 2011, will feature 22 artists whose photographic works convey a sense of a rootless or unfixed existence.

In the 1960s and 1970s, photography was often embraced by artists who had abandoned conventional art media and who were more interested in creating a work of art that took place over a period of time, in a serial progression, or in a fleeting gesture. The individual painting or sculpture was deemed insufficient to represent the fragmented experience that characterizes the modern world; thus artists showed how a work of art could take the form of a walk (Richard Long), a 20-foot-long book (Ed Ruscha), or a series of postcards outlining the precise time that the artist got up each day (On Kawara). Since the 1980s, however, the more conventional practice of creating a carefully executed, singular photograph has regained prominence in contemporary art. Works by Rineke Dijkstra, Thomas Struth, and Weng Fen embody a belief in photography’s traditional powers of description, while reflecting feelings of dislocation in our newly global society.

The exhibition also will include works by: Vito Acconci, Doug Aitken, Darren Almond, Lothar Baumgarten, Matthew Buckingham, VALIE EXPORT, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Svetlana Kopystiansky, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Allen Ruppersberg, Fazal Sheikh, Erin Shirreff, Robert Smithson, Anne Turyn, and Jeff Wall.

The first half of the exhibition shows how artists in 1960s and 1970s, working in the context of Minimal and Conceptual art, were drawn to photography for its differences from traditional art media: it was low-tech, easily reproducible, and not considered a valuable art object. Photography was also enlisted to document ephemeral works of art. Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci, for instance, created performances that focused on the actions and movements of their bodies in space, and captured these works in photographs and videos.

Other artists, such as Robert Smithson, chose to work directly in the landscape – often in distant or inaccessible locations – and their “Earthworks” could generally be seen only through photographs. Smithson is best known for his landmark Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. For an early experiment in his Mirror Displacements series of photographs, Smithson placed small mirrors into snow drifts on the roof of his apartment building. Through dizzying shifts in scale, the artist’s 1969 study transforms a corner of his Manhattan roof into an Alpine landscape.

A student of Anthony Caro, British artist Richard Long was well versed in the reductive quality of geometric abstraction, but sought to make his works even more simple and wedded to life. He would go for solitary walks in the countryside, and at a particular place he would create elemental forms such as a line, X, or circle by walking over the ground to leave a temporary imprint. Long’s photograph County Cork, Ireland (1967) – in which a circle seems to hover over the grass like a flying saucer – is thus an imprint of an imprint, creating a holistic relationship between the concept, the action of the body, and the site of his gesture.

For her series Body Configurations, the Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT had herself and female colleagues photographed in local streets, as they contorted their bodies to mimic the harsh geometries of the city. Encirclement (1976) shows a woman lying in the street, her body elongated and arched to follow the bright red curve the sidewalk. The photograph reintroduces the human body into abstraction in an intimate yet public gesture.

Beginning in the 1980s, there was a renewed interest in photography’s historical genres and recommitment to technical skill and visual fidelity, as seen in Rineke Dijkstra’s portraits. Geopolitical displacement and cultural migration are referenced in one of Dijkstra’s most important bodies of work to date: her photographs of a Bosnian refugee girl, Almerisa. Between Here and There will feature four portraits of Almerisa that Dijkstra made between 1994 and 2000, beginning at an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands. Eight photographs from this series of 11 works were acquired recently by the Museum.

In both photographs and films, Doug Aitken explores the ways in which perception is transformed by our global, technology-driven existence. Aitken’s photograph Passenger (1997), taken from the window of an airplane in flight, shows another plane flying in parallel in the remote distance, illuminated by the sun setting on a slanted horizon. Aitken references sensations of being adrift in mid-air and of “two ships passing” – paths that do not quite connect, despite their proximity to each other.

Chinese artist Weng Fen explores a young generation poised at a transitional moment between China’s traditional rural society and a quickly burgeoning urbanism. Bird’s Eye View: Haikou V (2002) shows a woman – perhaps an outsider or a new arrival to the city – perched on an old wall, looking toward the new skyscrapers on the horizon, but not fully occupying the space of the past or the future. This work is part of a group of recent gifts and promised gifts of contemporary Chinese photographs to the Museum.

The exhibition comes full circle with a recently acquired video by Erin Shirreff. Roden Crater (2009) takes as its subject artist James Turrell’s legendarily inaccessible and still unfinished celestial observatory carved out of a 400,000-year-old extinct volcano. Shirreff’s mesmerizing fixed-camera view of the distant “Earthwork” shows an improbable succession of slow-moving climactic and light effects on the crater, creating a haunting meditation on the never-ending quest for resolution in life and in art.

Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography is organized by Douglas Eklund, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Jeff Wall (Canadian, born 1946)
Rainfilled Suitcase
2001
Transparency in light box
Collection of Jennifer Saul and Stephen Rich, New York
© Jeff Wall

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Wall’s tableaux straddle the worlds of the museum and the street. For the last three decades, the artist has created elaborately staged and meticulously rendered scenes of urban and suburban conflict and disorder that he witnessed firsthand, which were then shown as color transparencies in light boxes reminiscent of backlit advertising images seen in airports and bus stops. About 2000, Wall also began to make smaller, more elliptical photographs – isolating the kinds of details that previously would have been seen in the background of his larger, more programmatic pictures. This grimy half of an abandoned suitcase filled with old clothes and rain seems paradoxically to be both as obsessively arranged as a still life and as randomly disordered as the average flotsam and jetsam on any down-and-out street corner. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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Matthew Buckingham (American, born 1963)
Canal St. Canal No. 3
2002
Chromogenic prints
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and
Robert Menschel, 2010
© Matthew Buckingham

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This is the maquette for a postcard that the artist created for the group show “Nostalgia.” The postcard was sold in the shops along Canal Street accompanied by the following text beneath the image:

ABOVE: a section of Canal Street as it might look today if a 1791 proposal to build a “Venetian-style” canal connecting the Hudson and East Rivers across Lower Manhattan had been realized. The canal and an accompanying commercial harbor were meant to replace both a small stream which ran along present-day Canal Street, and the so-called Fresh Water or Collect Pond, a befouled 70-acre swamp that one New York newspaper of the day called a “shocking hole.” Instead, real-estate interests prevailed, and the stream was widened only enough to drain the pool so it could be filled in and developed. Many basements of new buildings on the landfill soon flooded, so the stream was further enlarged to increase drainage – making it, in effect, an open sewer. After much complaint about odor, and despite efforts to beautify the waterway with a tree-lined promenade, it was covered over in 1819. Flaws in this re-design kept Canal Street smelling foul for years. It is rumored that the natural spring which once fed the Fresh Water Pond still flows deep below Canal Street today.* (Wall text from the exhibition)

*Luc Sante defines nostalgia as a state of inarticulate contempt for the present combined with a fear of the future.

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Weng Fen (Chinese, born 1961)
Bird’s Eye View: Haikou V
2002
Chromogenic print
50 x 62.7 cm (19 11/16 x 24 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Ellie Warsh, 2009 (2009.539.4)
© Weng Fen

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Weng Fen belongs to a generation of Chinese photographers whose principal subject is a China in the throes of physical, social, economic, and political change. His Bird’s Eye View series focuses on the elevated urbanism of cities such as Haikou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Many of these photographs feature schoolgirls with their backs to the camera, perched on a wall or precipice, staring at the landscape – adolescent figures on the threshold of personal transition looking out onto a landscape and a culture at a similarly transformational moment. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, born 1959)
Almerisa, Asylum Seekers’ Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, March 14, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
120 x 100 cm (47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Ellen Kern, 2008 (2008.661.1)
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Dijkstra is best known for her portraits of teenage beachgoers in Poland, Croatia, the Ukraine, Belgium, England, and America, which convey the poignant intensity of adolescence with startling eloquence. In all her work, she is particularly drawn to subjects in a state of transition – blood-spattered matadors just minutes after bullfights, women cradling their newborns moments after delivery – and renders them with respect, attentiveness, and compassion.

Between 1994 and 2008 Dijkstra made eleven photographs of a Bosnian refugee girl named Almerisa, from her initial processing at an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands to her fully Westernized adulthood and motherhood. Here, the imprint of geopolitical displacement is rendered without cant and that of childhood is captured without nostalgia. Like all great portraitists, Dijkstra extracts an elemental, almost mythic quality from the irreducible individuality of her subject – of the eternal radiating from the everyday. This selection is from a recent gift to the Metropolitan of eight of the eleven portraits of Almerisa.

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.*
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.*
Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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23
Apr
09

Review: ‘Mark Strizic: Melbourne – A City in Transition (Rare Silver Gelatin Photographs)’ at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th April – 2nd May 2009

 

Mark Strizic. 'Eastern Market Destruction - 1' 1960

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Eastern Market Destruction – 1
1960, printed 1996
Silver gelatin photograph
19 x 22.5cm

 

 

Social Fact and Urban Vision

This is an exhibition by the veteran Australian photographer Mark Strizic that plays like the coda at the end of a piece of music, the pensive full stop at the end of a well read book. There are some stunning highlight photographs among the 139 black and white silver gelatin prints on display, some good photographs and some fairly mundane images and prints. With some judicious editing of the photographs (perhaps by a third), the exhibition could have had a stronger artistic aesthetic and carried the voice of the photographer with greater projection. As it is the exhibition will be popular drawing in the crowds because of the photographs subject matter and their appeal to both an individual and collective nostalgia.

Examining Strizic’s photographs we note a traditional structure to the picture plane. Unlike the photographs of Eugene Atget who photographed Paris in the early 20th century there is little sublime spatial representation in Strizics photographs, that different angle of alignment that Atget achieved with the positioning of his camera. Further, we observe that unlike an immigrant to another country at around the same time, Robert Frank and America, the photographs follow traditional format: none of the revolutionary experimentation in handheld, grainy images of jukeboxes, cut up people or images of flags appear in this work. We can also say that unlike Helen Levitt’s early black and white images of New York from around the same period there is little ‘joie de vivre’, little engagement with the actual nitty gritty stuff of living in Strizic’s work. The quote below articulates what Strizic’s photographs both address and dismiss:

“To walk in the city is to experience the disjuncture of partial vision/partial consciousness. The narrativity of this walking is belied by a simultaneity we know and yet cannot experience. As we turn a corner, our object disappears around the next corner. The sides of the street conspire against us; each attention suppresses a field of possibilities. The discourse of the city is a syncretic discourse, political in its untranslatability. Hence the language of the state elides. Unable to speak all the city’s languages, unable to speak all at once, the state’s language become monumental, the silence of headquarters, the silence of the bank. In this transcendent and anonymous silence is the miming of corporate relations. Between the night workers and the day workers lies the interface of light; in the rotating shift, the disembodiment of lived time. The walkers of the city travel at different speeds, their steps like handwriting of a personal mobility. In the milling of the crowd is the choking of class relations, the interruption of speed, and the machine. Hence the barbarism of police on horses, the sudden terror of the risen animal.”1

We observe in the photographs an emphasis on surfaces, on a supreme understanding of light and shade coupled with a certain distance and emotional remoteness from the frenetic hubbub of city life. Empty streets and isolated people fall into shadow and their is little evidence of ‘play’ in the photographs. This is observation not interaction or integration as an immigrant observing Melbourne life. There is no up front presence of disembodied people as in Robert Franks photographs in The Americans. Here the alienation that pervades the photographs is the alienation of the photographer from the people as much as it is the alienation of the people from themselves. People are shot in silhouette against the sun or shop windows or peering in at unobtainable goods; desolate streets and working class suburbs all express the isolation of city life but at a structured distance from them.

When Strizic’s photographs are good they are very good. His understanding of light is magnificent: light reflects off water, hazes and shimmers off city buildings. The mixing of shadows and sun and his use of the technique of ‘contre jour’ (shooting into the sun) the one thing Strizic does against traditional conventions works to good effect in some of the best photographs. His 1968 night time long exposure photograph of the old Gas and Fuel Building is rewarding for the black bulk of the end of the building looming over Flinders Street and the striations of car headlamps. The photograph Flinders Lane (1967, below) shows a delicate use of depth of field where the foreground of cars and person are out of focus, the light bouncing off the edges of the woman, the focus of the image in the far distance. The photograph McPhersons Building (1958, below) is one of my personal favourites in the exhibition and is a stunning photograph for the atmosphere the photographer has captured.

After a while the use of the ‘contre jour’ technique becomes tiresome. Other photographs simply document a city in transition. These photographs appeal both to an individual nostalgia (‘I used to work in that building’; ‘My grandmother used to live in that street’) and a collective nostalgia where people experience things collectively, “in the sense that [collective] nostalgia occurs when we are with others who shared the event(s) being recalled, and also in the sense that one’s nostalgia is often for the collective – the characteristics and activities of a group or institution in which the individual was a participant.”2

Collective nostalgia refers to that condition in which the symbolic objects are of a highly public, widely shared and familiar character, i.e. those symbolic resources from the past which can under proper conditions trigger off wave upon wave of nostalgic feeling in millions of persons at the same time3 and in this exhibition it is the photographs of a city in transition that trigger this nostalgia, a city now lost to the mists of time. Through these photographs we remember what Melbourne was like at this time collectively.

As Harper has observed

“Nostalgia combines bitterness and sweetness, the lost and the found, the far and near, the new and the familiar, absence and presence. The past which is over and gone, from which we have been or are being removed, by some magic becomes present again for a short while. But its realness seems even more familiar, because renewed, than it ever was, more enchanting and more lovely …”4

Does this collective nostalgia make the photographs good? This is a pertinent question.

Today, nostalgia has become a cultural phenomenon one centred on a longing for home (home is where you are happy to be!) in a collective sense and promoted through commercialisation and the realisation that nostalgia sells. The use of the value seeking word ‘rare’ in the exhibition title is instructive in this regard. Only about 25% of the photographs in this exhibition are “vintage” prints, in other words photographs printed within 3 years of the negative being taken. All other photographs have been printed within the last 15 years. Some are ‘Unique state’ gelatin photographs while others are not. What does this mean. Are they are unique state only in this size? What about the common or garden silver gelatin prints in the show? What does the status word “rare” imply for them?

I remember seeing an exhibition of the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson in Scotland about ten years ago. Three rooms had large prints of his work. One room just had vintage prints. The contrast was astounding. The room full of vintage prints had an intensity of vision, of his vision at the time he took the photographs evidenced in small jewel like photographs that the three other rooms photographs simply did not possess – through scale, printing and aesthetics. The same question, without any need for an answer, can be posed here. Only the word ‘rare’ demands that answer for the modern prints are just what they are and nothing more.

In conclusion this is a strong show by Strizic that could have been edited and focused in a more rewarding way. Strizic is one of Australia’s best photographers for understanding the significance of place. His use of light is superb but there always seems to be an emotional distance to his photographs. An element of collective nostalgia adds to their documentary appeal but the best photographs do not just record, they challenge and transcend the subject matter taking the work to an altogether different plane of existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Gallery 101 for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 2. Prologue
  2. Wilson, Janelle. “”Remember when …” a consideration of the concept of nostalgia,” in et Cetera. Concord: Fall 1999. Vol. 56, Iss. 3;  pg. 296, 9 pgs
  3. Davis, F. Yearning For Yesterday: A Sociology of Nostalgia. New York: The Free Press, 1979, p. 222
  4. Harper, R. Nostalgia: An Existential Exploration of Longing and Fulfilment in the Modern Age. The Press of Western Reserve University, 1966, p. 120 quoted in Wilson, Janelle. “”Remember when …” a consideration of the concept of nostalgia,” in et Cetera. Concord: Fall 1999. Vol. 56, Iss. 3;  pg. 296, 9 pgs

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mark Strizic: Melbourne - A City in Transition' exhibition at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mark Strizic: Melbourne - A City in Transition' exhibition at Gallery 101, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mark Strizic: Melbourne - A City in Transition' exhibition at Gallery 101, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Mark Strizic: Melbourne – A City in Transition exhibition at Gallery 101, Melbourne

 

 

Mark Strizic, one of Australia’s eminent photographic artists presents us with nostalgic views of Melbourne and the changing face of the city in rare silver gelatin photographs. The exhibition, Melbourne – A City in Transition will be held at Gallery 101 from 8th April – 2nd May. There will be an evening artist reception on Thursday 9th April to celebrate the opening of the exhibition. Strizic’s oeuvre represents a collection of iconic images of architecture and of life – a record of the changing face of a migrating society of new prosperity, youth and popular culture – taken with a sympathetic eye for humanistic detail.

The exhibition will coincide with the announcement of the forthcoming publication, Mark Strizic, Melbourne: Marvellous to Modern, published by Thames & Hudson in association with the State Library of Victoria. In 2007, the State Library of Victoria acquired Mark Strizic’s entire archive of approximately 5000 negatives, colour transparencies and slides. In addition, the Library holds a fine collection of Strizic photographs, including examples of all types of photographic print, from gelatin silver to digital, produced by the photographer during his long career.

Press release from Gallery 101

 

Mark Strizic photographs

Mark Strizic photographs

Mark Strizic photographs

Mark Strizic photographs

Mark Strizic photographs

 

 

“‘Melbourne – A City in Transition’ is a collection of iconic images of Melbourne city life taken with a sympathetic eye for humanist detail. Strizic accurately depicts the joys and hardships experienced in everyday life with a fresh and living memory. He successfully captures the vicarious essence of suburban life. His portrait of Melbourne includes the city, harbour and river banks – streets and trams, pavements, arcades and lanes, stations and bridges, billboards and facades and public sculpture. We see people going about their daily activities – commuting, shopping at leisure, trading, embracing, conversing, reading the newspaper and visiting the beach. Other works record the demolition and construction of building sites and the changing face of Melbourne, both in society and the urban landscape.”

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Text from the exhibition flyer

 

“In these eloquent studies of light and shadow, Strizic finds beauty in the commonplace – Melbourne’s desolate lanes, street paving, derelict ferries – adopting interesting camera angles, viewpoints and cropping. Through his images, this visual humanist teaches us to observe, to see our surroundings, perhaps with the intention of stimulating us to a higher level of civilisation.”

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Emma Matthews. Mark Strizic, Melbourne: Marvellous to Modern. Thames & Hudson in association with the State Library of Victoria, September, 2009.

 

“This magnificent collection of photographs arose from the creativity of a young photographer and his adoption of his new home town, Melbourne. His pictures were taken at a time when the Victorian elegance of the city once known as ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ was being punctuated by a wave of development and the modern architectural movement. Today Mark Strizic is renowned as a photographer. In the 1950s he was a young science student from Europe playing with the possibilities of the camera. As he gained work as a professional his commercial success was accompanied by the instincts and eye of an artist. His solid technicality was accompanied by the whimsy and wit that made him the ‘poet of the fleeting movement’. The versatility of his work shows us many aspects of Melbourne – its magnificent architectural heritage, its intimate and vibrant laneways, its grand arcades counter-posed against the sudden spaces of the wrecker, the brash intrusion of the glass and concrete skyscrapers, the poignancy of poverty in the rundown inner suburbs. We see the people, on grand occasions such as the 1954 Royal Visit, or just caught in their own world of travelling, shopping, resting, walking, working.”

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Mark Strizic, Melbourne: Marvellous to Modern 
book cover

 

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'From Princes Bridge' 1958

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
From Princes Bridge
1958, printed 2006
Silver gelatin photograph
58 x 39cm

 

Mark Strizic. 'Near Spencer Street - 1' 1950

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Near Spencer Street – 1
1950
Silver gelatin photograph
27.5 x 38.5cm

 

Mark Strizic. 'At St. Pauls' 1954

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
At St. Pauls (St Paul’s Cathedral steps)
1954, printed 1999
Silver gelatin photograph
17.8 × 24.5 cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'St Paul's Cathedral steps' 1954

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
St Paul’s Cathedral steps
1954, printed 1999
Silver gelatin photograph
17.8 × 24.5 cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Collins Street at Russell Street' 1957, printed 1997

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Collins Street at Russell Street
1957, printed 1997
Unique silver gelatin photograph
39 x 56cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'St Georges Road, Northcote at Summer Av.' 1958

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
St Georges Road, Northcote at Summer Av.
1958, printed 1998
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'St. Patrick's Cathedral' January 1967

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
January 1967, printed 1998
Unique silver gelatin photograph
27 x 41cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Bourke Street from the Parliament' 1967

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Bourke Street from the Parliament – 2
1967, printed 1998
Silver gelatin photograph
38 x 27cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Russell Street Pawn Shop' 1958

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Russell Street Pawn Shop
1958
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Block Arcade' 1967

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Block Arcade
1967, printed February 2008
Unique silver gelatin photograph
53.5 x 37cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'From Princes Bridge' (Winter moorings from Princes Bridge) 1955

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
From Princes Bridge (Winter moorings from Princes Bridge)
1955, printed 2006
Silver gelatin photograph
58 x 39cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Flinders Lane' 1967

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Flinders Lane
1967, printed 1998
Unique silver gelatin photograph
41 x 41cm

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Swan Street, Richmond, at Church Street' 1963

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Swan Street, Richmond, at Church Street
1963
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Queensberry Street at Errol Street, North Melbourne' 1963

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Queensberry Street at Errol Street, North Melbourne
1963
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Swan Street at Church Street' 1963

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Swan Street at Church Street
1963, printed 1998
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012) 'Coates Building' 1960

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Coates Building
1960, printed 1961
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
23.5 x 15cm

 

Mark Strizic. 'Macphersons Building -1' 1958

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
Macphersons Building – 1
1958
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Mark Strizic. 'On Princes Bridge' 1959

 

Mark Strizic (Australian, 1908-2012)
On Princes Bridge
1959, printed 1996
Silver gelatin photograph
17 x 24cm

 

 

Gallery 101

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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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