Posts Tagged ‘paul strand

28
Jan
23

Exhibition: ‘Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico | Photographs from the Bank of America Collection’ at the Tacoma Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 15th October 2022 – 5th February 2023

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'Mr. Municipal President' (Señor presidente municipal) 1947

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Mr. Municipal President (Señor presidente municipal)
1947 (negative); printed before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 3/8 x 9 1/8 inches (18.7 x 23.1cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

 

After last week’s long piece of writing something more succinct this week…

Luces y Sombras translates as Lights and Shadows. The exhibition reflects many themes: the landscape, urban life, fantasy and, especially among younger generations, gender and invented situations infused with symbolism. It begins with works by photographers active at the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), notably Manuel Álvarez Bravo, considered Mexico’s first truly modern photographer. It also includes visiting artists such as the Americans Paul Strand and Edward Weston.

Later works by such figures as Manuel Carrillo, Mariana Yampolsky, and Graciela Iturbide reveal the ongoing emphasis by Mexican photographers on everyday life and Mexico’s Indigenous communities. Recent generations of photographers have found new purpose in documenting how ways of life in Mexico continue to be changed by urbanisation, migration, and the pervasive influence of popular Western culture and mass media.” (Exhibition text from the TAM)

It is interesting to hear British photographer Chris Killip’s thoughts on Mexico through a foreign lens. This quote from an upcoming posting on Killip’s work:

He says he stayed [in Newcastle] because he liked it, and that he might never have left had the Harvard job not come along – but he was also inspired by the Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka, who came to visit him early on and “talked about the importance of being in one place, to get under the surface of things”. He was also interested in how differently Paul Strand and Manuel Alvarez Bravo photographed Mexico, he says, despite Strand’s sympathetic, card-carrying Communist credentials.

“Strand beautifies poverty and simplifies the Mexican people into ‘the poor Mexicans, but isn’t this wonderful visually’,” he says. “But Alvarez Bravo was Mexican, his pictures are very complicated because he was able to accept ambiguities and contradictions, which Strand couldn’t… I think because I lived in Newcastle for so long I was able to accept ambiguities and not worry about them, just accept them and show them. I wanted to be there and be more accepting.”1

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As I have said in a previous posting on Mexican photography there is something so essential and grounded, so darkly soulful about Mexican photography. They never pull their punches, not just interested in the beauty of people and place but also the rituals, traditions and politics of Mexican society.

As ever, it is the work of Mexican artist Manuel Álvarez Bravo that steals my heart. His work exudes the spirit of the country through its sensitivity and connection to the earth from which he was born. The light and form in Bravo La Siesta de los Peregrinos; the light and form in Retrato de lo Eterno (1935, below). I have studied his work quite closely. He is the blessed one. Through his music, he captures the light and life of Mexico, the spirit of the eternal, “the sunlight [as] a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.” His work is the art of the People.

Further,

“One of my early heroes in photography was Manuel Alvarez Bravo whom I rate as one of the best photographers that has ever lived, up there with Atget and Sudek. His photograph Parabola optica (Optical Parable, 1931, below) lays the foundation for an inherent language of Mexican photography: that of a parable, a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Many Mexican photographs tell such stories based on the mythology of the country: there are elements of the absurd, surrealism, macabre, revolution, political and socio-economic issues, also of death, violence, beauty, youth, sexuality and religion to name but a few – a search for national identity that is balanced in the photographs of Bravo by a sense of inner peace and redemption. This potent mix of issues and emotions is what makes Mexican photography so powerful and substantive. In the “presence” (or present, the awareness of the here and now) of Mexican photography there is a definite calligraphy of the body in space in most of the work. This handwriting is idiosyncratic and emotive; it draws the viewer into an intimate narrative embrace.

Unlike most Australian documentary photography where there is an observational distance present in the photographs – a physical space between the camera/photographer and the subject – Mexican documentary photography is imbued with a revolutionary spirit and validated by the investment of the photographer in the subject itself, as though the image is the country is the photographer. There is an essence and energy to the Mexican photographs that seems to turn narrative on its head, unlike the closed loop present in the tradition of Australian story telling. The intimate, swirling narratives of Mexican photography could almost be termed lyrical socio-realist.”2

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What is a revelation to me in this posting is work by two Mexican photographers who I have never heard of before and I should have because they are very good: Manuel Carrillo and Flor Garduño. Carillo joined the Club Fotográfico de México at the age of 49. As James McArdle observes the politics of Carrillo’s photographic work is anchored to his own cultural identity as a Mexican by birth and his time spent in America.

“He quickly found his voice by making images of everyday life throughout Mexico, celebrating local culture and the human spirit. His work is an extension of Mexicanidad, a movement begun in the 1920s to forge a Mexican national identity free of foreign influence… His interest in indigenous cultures and his use of bright sunlight to create compositions with dramatic shadows and bold geometric forms has roots in the photographic work of Edward Weston and Paul Strand, American modernist photographers active in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. Rather than idealising, aestheticising, or moralising, Carrillo portrays Mexico from the perspective of an affectionate observer, transforming ordinary moments into expressions of quiet eloquence.”3

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A certain paradox can be noted here: the wish for a Mexican identity free of foreign influence and photographs forged in the American modernist tradition. Interesting. It doesn’t stop the visceral photographs being very “Mexican” for all that.

“Garduño’s photographs create a bridge between the present and the past by portraying natural elements such as water, trees, earth, animals, and atmosphere. Garduño worked for the Department of Public Education in her native Mexico, traveling to rural areas to work with indigenous communities. From this she developed her style and got to know what she has referred to as the “profound truth” of the countryside in the Americas. Her work was also influenced by artists Kati Horna, who worked in a surrealistic vein, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who attended carefully to the tonal qualities of his photographs. Garduño similarly uses compositional and darkroom techniques to achieve moody, evocative images.”4

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In the work of Mexican photographers – Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Graciela Iturbide, Manuel Carrillo and Flor Garduño – you can palpably feel the essentialness of the Mexican people and begin to understand their connection to the land from which they come. Much as in the work of Chris Killip in England with his embeddedness5 with the people of North Yorkshire … there is an honesty, integrity and openness to their work which, in the case of Mexican photography, has continuous strands (like a river) running through it: that is, a synthesis of aesthetics, politics, land and spirit. Their work is of the people for the people offering a “profound truth” about the nature of their existence in the countryside in the Americas.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ Diane Smyth. “Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante, on the British Journal of Photography website 6 June 2017 [Online] Cited 26/01/2023

2/ Marcus Bunyan. “Photography in Mexico: Selected Works from the Collections of SFMOMA and Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser,” on the Art Blart website 4th July 2012 [Online] Cited 28/01/2023

3/ Anonymous. “Manuel Carrillo: Mexican Modernist,” on the New Mexico Museum of Art website Nd [Online] Cited 28/01/2023

4/ Anonymous. “Get to know the work of Flor Garduño,” on the Getty Twitter website Oct 6, 2021 [Online] Cited 28/01/2023

5/ Embeddedness: an exchange that takes place within and is regulated by society rather than being located in a social vacuum.

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Many thankx to the Tacoma Art Museum, Mark I. Chester and Steven Miller for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'In the Temple of Red Tiger' (En el templo del tigre rojo) 1949

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
In the Temple of Red Tiger (En el templo del tigre rojo)
1949 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image overall: 9 3/4 × 6 3/4 in. (24.8 x 17.1cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'Portrait of the Eternal' (Retrato de lo eterno) 1935

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Portrait of the Eternal (Retrato de lo eterno)
1935 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 5/8 × 7 3/8in. (24.4 x 18.7cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'The Daydream' (El ensueño) 1931

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Daydream (El ensueño)
1931 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 1/4 × 7 in. (23.5 x 17.8cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'Optic Parable' (Parábola óptica) 1931

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Optic Parable (Parábola óptica)
1931 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 1/4 × 7 in. (23.5 x 17.8cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'The Big Fish Eats the Little Ones' (El pez grande se come a los chicos) 1932

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Big Fish Eats the Little Ones (El pez grande se come a los chicos)
1932 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 × 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

 

Graciela Iturbide on Manuel Álvarez Bravo 

Graciela Iturbide, Hasselblad Award Winner in 2008, talks about her friend and teacher Manuel Álvarez Bravo who received the Hasselblad Award in 1984.

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)' 1939, printed c. 1970s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Good Reputation, Sleeping (La buena fama, durmiendo)
1938 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 3/8 × 9 5/8 in. (18.7 x 24.4cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'The Maria' (La María) 1972

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Maria (La María)
1972
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 × 9 1/4 in. (17.8 x 23.5 cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Las lavanderas sobreentendidas / The Washerwomen Implied' 1932

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Washerwomen Implied (Las lavanderas sobreentendidas)
1932 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 1/2 × 6 in. (24.1 x 15.2cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'The Obstacles' (Los obstáculos) 1929

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Obstacles (Los obstáculos)
1929 (negative); print before 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 1/4 × 9 1/4 in. (18.4 x 23.5cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'Frida Kahlo with Globe' (Frida Kahlo con globo) c. 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Frida Kahlo with Globe (Frida Kahlo con globo)
c. 1930s (negative); print before 1992
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 3/8 × 7 1/4 in. (23.8 x 18.4cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'The Daughter of the Dancers' (La hija de los danzantes) 1933

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
The Daughter of the Dancers (La hija de los danzantes)
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 × 6 1/2 in. (22.9 x 16.5cm)
Bank of America Collection
© Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C

 

 

More than 100 photographs spanning more than 85 years of Mexican culture and history are coming to Tacoma Art Museum in the exhibition Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico I Photographs from the Bank of America Collection.

Luces y Sombras reflects a broad span of Mexico’s modern history, beginning with work by photographers active in the 1920s, not long after the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution. A struggle for political power that began with the overthrow in 1911 of Mexico’s authoritarian president, Porfirio Díaz, became the catalyst for a popular uprising of campesinos, agrarian indigenous and mestizo (mixed race) people who fought for agrarian and social reform. Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata’s rallying cry, “Tierra y Libertad” (Land and Liberty), not only galvanised the hundreds of thousands of campesinos who joined the revolt but in its wake, came to represent the affirmation of rural people, whose lives were inextricably tied to the land.

Many images in this exhibition manifest the cultural values that came to the fore in the decades following the Revolution, when politicians and intellectuals alike endeavoured to reconstruct and, indeed, re-envision their nation. In the cultural sphere, Mexico’s new leadership sought to purge the nation of the European influence favoured by the Díaz regime. Nationalist ideals and a broad-based exploration of Mexicanidad (the quality of being Mexican) were accompanied by a new reverence for Mexico’s indigenous roots and for everyday men and women. Photographs made throughout the last century of indigenous and mestizo people reflect not only the survival of indigenous communities and traditions, but also the realities of poverty and social marginalisation that persist for a large lower class up to the present day.

Luces y Sombras reflects many other themes embraced by photographers in Mexico, both native and foreign-born – the landscape, urban life and, especially among younger generations, gender and invented situations infused with symbolism. The inclusion of such foreign photographers as Paul Strand, Elliott Erwitt, Aaron Siskind, Danny Lyon, and Nan Goldin speaks to another key component of the history of photography in Mexico – the significance of a nation seen through foreign eyes.

In gathering work by such a diversity of voices, Luces y Sombras provides vivid testimony to the character of life in a nation in the throes of reinvention, modernisation and continued change over the course of the last century.

Text from the TAM website

 

Ana Casas Broda (Mexican born Spain, b. 1965) 'Milk III (2)' (Leche III (2)) 2010

 

Ana Casas Broda (Mexican born Spain, b. 1965)
Milk III (2) (Leche III (2))
2010
from the series Kinderwunsch (The Desire to Have Children)(El deseo de tener hijos)
Inkjet print on cotton paper
Image Overall: 23 5/8 × 35 1/2 in. (60 x 90.2cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Mendicant girl – close up, Guanajuato, Guanajuato' (Sin título (Pordiocerita – close up, Guanajuato, Guanajuato)) 1930

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Mendicant girl – close up, Guanajuato, Guanajuato (Sin título (Pordiocerita – close up, Guanajuato, Guanajuato))
1930
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 1/2 × 9 1/4 in. (19.1 x 23.5cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Man inside store, contrasted, baskets on the wall, Zacapoaxtla, Pueblo)' (Sin título (Hombre dentro tienda, contrastada, canastas, pared, Zacapoaxtla, Pueblo)) 1975

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Man inside store, contrasted, baskets on the wall, Zacapoaxtla, Pueblo) (Sin título (Hombre dentro tienda, contrastada, canastas, pared, Zacapoaxtla, Pueblo))
1975
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 3/4 × 10 in. (19.7 x 25.4cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

Manuel Carrillo worked in Mexico in the middle of the 20th century, a time in Mexico that witnessed great political changes and social transformations and a moment in the country’s history when it was establishing its strong cultural identity.

Carrillo’s work, along with the well-known Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Tina Modotti and the American photographer Edward Weston, among others, was a contributing force as to how Mexico saw itself and how the rest of the world came to perceive that complex country. A bit of the understanding and empathy for the daily life of the Mexican people seen in Carrillo’s work would be of great help in how Mexico is perceived today.

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Seller of ropes and belts, Oaxaca, Oaxaca)' (Sin título (Vendedor reatas y cinturónes, Oaxaca, Oaxaca)) Nd

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Seller of ropes and belts, Oaxaca, Oaxaca) (Sin título (Vendedor reatas y cinturónes, Oaxaca, Oaxaca))
Nd
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 3/8 × 9 5/8 in. (18.7 x 24.4cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Shawl in the air, Oaxaca, Oaxaca)' (Sin título (Rebozo al aire, Oaxaca, Oaxaca)) 1958

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Shawl in the air, Oaxaca, Oaxaca) (Sin título (Rebozo al aire, Oaxaca, Oaxaca))
1958
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 1/2 × 8 5/8 in. (24.1 x 21.9cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Dog on grave, cemetery, Dolores, Mexico City)' (Sin título (Perro sobre tumba, panteon, Dolores, México D.F.) 1930

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Dog on grave, cemetery, Dolores, Mexico City) (Sin título (Perro sobre tumba, panteon, Dolores, México D.F.)
1930
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 8 × 10 3/4 in. (20.3 x 27.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

Mexican photographer Manuel Carrillo (1906-1989) turned to the camera fairly late in life, joining the Club Fotográfico de México at the age of 49. He quickly found his voice by making images of everyday life throughout Mexico, celebrating local culture and the human spirit. His work is an extension of Mexicanidad, a movement begun in the 1920s to forge a Mexican national identity free of foreign influence. Stylistically, however, Carrillo was inspired by Mexican artists trained abroad and international artists who converged on Mexico during that fertile period. His interest in indigenous cultures and his use of bright sunlight to create compositions with dramatic shadows and bold geometric forms has roots in the photographic work of Edward Weston and Paul Strand, American modernist photographers active in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. Rather than idealising, aestheticising, or moralising, Carrillo portrays Mexico from the perspective of an affectionate observer, transforming ordinary moments into expressions of quiet eloquence.

Anonymous. “Manuel Carrillo: Mexican Modernist,” on the New Mexico Museum of Art website Nd [Online] Cited 28/01/2023

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Sick woman on bench, San Miguel Allende)' (Sin título (Enferma en banca, San Miguel Allende)) 1970

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Sick woman on bench, San Miguel Allende) (Sin título (Enferma en banca, San Miguel Allende))
1970
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 8 × 10 3/4 in. (20.3 x 27.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Camila from above, two faces – close up), Mexico City' (Sin título (Camila desde arriba, dos cars – close up), México D.F.)) 1961

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Camila from above, two faces – close up), Mexico City (Sin título (Camila desde arriba, dos cars – close up), México D.F.))
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 3/4 × 7 in. (19.7 x 17.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

By contrast, one might consider the mobility of framing in the work of Mexican Manuel Carrillo (b. 1906) who died on this date in 1989. The influence of American Modernist photographers and artists of his time, and of his better-known compatriot and contemporary Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902-2002), is evident in this extreme point of view.

The aerial angle presents the tops of subjects’ heads, but with sufficient offset to allow a reading of the faces; the curiosity of the young boy and the protectiveness of the mother, both enclosed within a continuous ribbon of cloth and embraced by the square camera frame. The top-down view gives privileged entrée into that intense maternal relationship, encompassed by the geometry of the tiled background that contrasts with the cloth, set at an angle that enhances the figures’ complementary emotional impulses.

Aside from aesthetics, the politics of Carrillo’s photographic work is anchored to his own cultural identity as a Mexican by birth and as an American through his crossing into that country at the age of 16, when in 1922 he left Mexico for New York, becoming an Arthur Murray waltz and tango champion. When in 1930 he returned to Mexico City, he remained until his retirement. Taking up photography in 1955, he joined, at age 49, the Club Fotografico de Mexico and the Photographic Society of America, and within 5 years held his first international exhibition titled, Mi Pueblo (“My People”) in 1960 at the Chicago Public Library. Like influential writers, photographers, and artists, such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Carrillo identified with Mexicanidad, a nationalist and anti-colonial cultural movement that emerged in the 1920s after Mexico’s Revolution. He was inducted as an honorary citizen of EL Paso, Texas in 1980 by the Photographic Society of America.

James McArdle. “January 20: Angle,” on the On This Date in Photography website 20/01/2018 [Online] Cited 31/12/2022

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Cross, human shadow, Tepeapulco, Mexico)' (Sin título (Cruz, sombra humana, Tepeapulco, México)) 1973

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Cross, human shadow, Tepeapulco, Mexico) (Sin título (Cruz, sombra humana, Tepeapulco, México))
1973
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 × 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Old lady, alley, pyramidal shadows, Guanajuato)' (Sin título (Viejita, callejón, sombras piramidales, Guanajuato)) Nd

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Old lady, alley, pyramidal shadows, Guanajuato) (Sin título (Viejita, callejón, sombras piramidales, Guanajuato))
Nd
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 × 7 in. (22.9 x 17.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989) 'Untitled (Toluca pulque bar (Drunken Barrels)), Toluca, Mexico)' (Sin título (Pulquería de Toluca Barriles beodos)), Toluca, México)) 1970

 

Manuel Carrillo (Mexican, 1906-1989)
Untitled (Toluca pulque bar (Drunken Barrels)), Toluca, Mexico) (Sin título (Pulquería de Toluca Barriles beodos)), Toluca, México))
1970
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 3/4 × 9 3/4 in. (19.7 x 24.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

The photographs in Luces y Sombras span the post-Revolutionary era of the 1920s up until the present day. With work by 28 photographers, both Mexican and other nationalities, this exhibition provides vivid testimony to the character of life in a nation in the throes of reinvention, modernisation and continued change, over the course of the last century. …

Luces y Sombras reflects a wide range of modern Mexican history, beginning with the works of photographers active in the 1920s, shortly after the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution. A struggle for political power that began with the 1911 overthrow of Mexico’s authoritarian President Porfirio Díaz and became a catalyst for a popular uprising of peasants, agrarian Indians, and mestizos (of mixed race) who fought for land and social reform. The rallying cry of peasant leader Emiliano Zapata, “Land and Liberty,” not only galvanised the hundreds of thousands of peasants who joined the revolt, but became the affirmation of the rural people, whose lives were inextricably linked to the earth.

Many images in this exhibition manifest the cultural values ​​that emerged in the decades after the Revolution, as politicians and intellectuals strove to rebuild, and indeed, disimagine their nation. In the cultural sphere, Mexico’s new leadership sought to purge the nation of the European influence favored by the Díaz regime. Nationalist ideals and a broad exploration of mexicanidad (the quality of being Mexican), were accompanied by a new reverence for Mexico’s indigenous roots and for ordinary men and women. The photographs taken throughout the last century of indigenous and mestizo peoples reflect not only the survival of indigenous communities and traditions, but also the reality of poverty and social marginalisation that persist for a large lower class to this day.

Luces y Sombras translates as Lights and Shadows. The exhibition reflects many themes: the landscape, urban life, fantasy and, especially among younger generations, gender and invented situations infused with symbolism. It begins with works by photographers active at the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), notably Manuel Álvarez Bravo, considered Mexico’s first truly modern photographer. It also includes visiting artists such as the Americans Paul Strand and Edward Weston.

Later works by such figures as Manuel Carrillo, Mariana Yampolsky, and Graciela Iturbide reveal the ongoing emphasis by Mexican photographers on everyday life and Mexico’s Indigenous communities. Recent generations of photographers have found new purpose in documenting how ways of life in Mexico continue to be changed by urbanisation, migration, and the pervasive influence of popular Western culture and mass media. Alongside these images, photographs by artists such as Alejandra Laviada, Karina Juárez, and Humberto Ríos explore contemporary issues or convey the artist’s personal reactions to the world around them.

This exhibition and gallery texts have been provided by the Bank of America Art in our Communities® program.

 

Luces y Sombras refleja una amplia gama de la historia moderna de México, comenzado con las obras de fotógrafos activos en la década de 1920, poco después de la conclusión de la Revolución Mexicana. Una lucha por el poder político que comenzó con el derrocamiento en 1911 del presidente autoritario de México, Porfirio Díaz, y que se convirtió en catalizador de un levantamiento popular de campesinos, indígenas agrarios y mestizos (de raza mixta) que lucharon por la reforma agraria y social. El grito de guerra del líder campesino Emiliano Zapata, “Tierra y Libertad“, no solo galvanizó a los cientos de miles de campesinos que se unieron a la revuelta, sino que se convirtió en la afirmación de la gente rural, cuyas vidas estaban inextricablemente vinculadas a la tierra.

Muchas imágenes en esta exposición manifiestan los valores culturales que surgieron en las décadas posteriores a la Revolución, cuando políticos e intelectuales se esforzaron por reconstruir, y de hecho, desimaginar su nación. En la esfera cultural, el nuevo liderazgo de México busco purgar la nación de la influencia europea favorecida por el régimen de Díaz. Los ideales nacionalistas y una amplia exploración de la mexicanidad (la cualidad de ser mexicano), fueron acompañados por una nueva reverencia por las raíces indígenas de México y por los hombres y mujeres comunes. Las fotografías realizadas a lo largo del último siglo de los pueblos indígenas y mestizos refleja no solo la supervivencia de las comunidades y tradiciones indígenas, sino también la realidad de la pobreza y marginación social que persisten para una gran clase baja hasta el presente día.

Luces y Sombras refleja muchos otros temas abarcados por los fotógrafos en México, tanto nativos como extranjeros: el paisaje, la vida urbana y, especialmente entre las generaciones mas jóvenes, el género y situaciones inventadas infundidas de simbolismo. La inclusión de fotógrafos extranjeros como Paul Strand, Elliot Erwitt, Aaron Siskind, Danny Lyon y Nan Goldin habla de otro componente clave de la historia de la fotografía en México: el significado de una nación vista a travéz de ojos extranjeros.

Al recopilar las obras de una diversidad de voces, Luces y Sombras brinda un testimonio vívido del carácter de la vida en una nación en pleno proceso de invención, modernización y cambio continuo a lo largo del siglo pasado.

Esta exhibición y los textos de esta galería fueron brindados por el programa Bank of America Art in our Communities®.

 

Mexico Through a Foreign Lens

Mexico became a magnet for American artists and photographers in the post-Revolutionary era, an idealistic period when artists, musicians, writers and other intellectuals sought to forge a cohesive nationalist identity through the arts. This cultural renaissance, led by such celebrated figures as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, if not for the country’s sheer exoticism to foreigners, endowed Mexico with an allure similar to that of Paris for earlier generations of artists.

Mexico held great appeal for figures such as Edward Weston and his partner, the Italian Tina Modotti, who arrived in Mexico City in 1923 in search of bohemian freedom and new creative possibilities. During his few years in Mexico, Weston transformed his artistic vision, articulating a modernist aesthetic that veered away from the picturesque, soft-focus style of photography prevalent at the turn of the century, in favour of an approach that emphasised sharp resolution and form. the details, or as he once wrote, “the quintessence of the thing itself.” Both photographers had a lasting impact in Mexico – Weston by promoting an aesthetic that decisively influenced the course of modern photography, and Modotti, as a pioneering photographer and model of the socially and politically engaged artist.

Another key early figure in Mexico is Paul Strand, who took a deeply humanistic approach in photographing indigenous people and their environments while traveling around the country in the 1930s. This exhibition also contains work by American photographers active in the 1950s and 1960s. Mexico remained a destination for artists and free spirits in these years, including members of the Beat Generation, counter-culture writers and musicians active at mid-century who found in Mexico ample opportunity for both creative inspiration and debauchery. Such photographers who are now considered leading figures of this era, including Elliott Erwitt, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan and Danny Lyon, spent extended time in Mexico and created significant bodies of work.

 

México a travéz de una lente extranjera

México se convirtió en un imán para los artistas y fotógrafos americanos en la era posrevolucionaria, un período idealista en el que artistas, músicos, escritores y otros intelectuales buscaron forjar una identidad nacionalista cohesiva a través de las artes. Este renacimiento cultural, liderado por figuras tan célebres como Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo – sino fuera por el exotismo del país para los extranjeros – dotó a México un atractivo similar al de París para los artistas de generaciones anteriores.

México tuvo un gran atractivo para figuras como Edward Weston y su compañera, la italiana Tina Modotti, que llegaron a la Ciudad de México en 1923 en busca de libertad bohemia y nuevas posibilidades creativas. Durante sus pocos años en México, Weston transformó su visión artística, articulando una estética modernista que se apartó del estilo pintoresco de enfoque suave de la fotografía que prevalecía a principios del siglo, en favor de un enfoque que enfatizaba la forma y la resolución nítida de los detalles, o como escribió una vez, “la quintaesencia de la cosa misma.” Ambos fotógrafos tuvieron un impacto duradero en México – Weston al promover una estética que influyó decisivamente en el curso de la fotografía moderna, y Modotti, como una fotógrafa pionera y modelo del artista social y políticamente comprometido.

Otra figura clave en México es Paul Strand, quien adoptó un enfoque profundamente humanista al fotografiar a los indígenas y sus entornos mientras viajaba por el país en la década de 1930. Esta exposición también contiene las obras de fotógrafos americanos activos en las décadas de 1950 y 1960. México siguió siendo un destino para artistas y espíritus libres en estos años, incluidos los miembros de Beat Generation, escritores de contracultura y músicos activos a mediados de siglo que encontraron en México una gran oportunidad tanto de inspiración creativa. Tales fotógrafos que ahora se consideran figuras destacadas de esta era como Elliott Erwitt, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan y Danny Lyon, pasaron mucho tiempo en México y crearon importantes obras.

 

Contemporary Voices

Photography made in Mexico over the last twenty years or so encompasses distinct tendencies. There exists, on the one hand, the continued vitality of an aesthetic that can be traced as far back as the 1920s, favouring sharp-focus black-and-white photography and a preoccupation with recording everyday life. But especially since the 1980s, photographers have approached the medium with a sense of freedom, embracing forms of image that radically depart from long-established modes. This kind of experimentation with the medium, although a lesser recognised aspect of photography in Mexico, is not new. As early as the 1920s, smaller numbers of photographers created images with unconventional approaches, whether through darkroom manipulation, photomontage or constructing scenes for the camera. Younger generations have extended this spirit of experimentation, deploying the medium in conceptual projects and elaborately staging images to craft pointed statements about race, gender and political issues. As a result, the current photography scene in Mexico is remarkably diverse. Its practitioners respect the medium’s remarkable history in their country while illuminating timely subject matter and devising new modes of working with the camera and with digital means.

This exhibition contains the work of younger photographers whose work examines the complex construction of identity in the millennial era, whether with Ana Casas Broda’s idiosyncratic explorations of childhood, or portrayals of gender by Luis Arturo Aguirre, Nelson Morales and Roberto Tondopó. Photographs by Alejandra Laviada and Humberto Ríos reflect another mode in contemporary photography: to stage scenes, whether with individuals or with objects, for the camera – often a means of evoking dreams, the subconscious and psychological states.

 

Voces contemporáneas

La fotografía realizada en México durante los últimos veinte años abarca distintas tendencias. Por un lado, existe le vitalidad continúa de una estética que se remonta a la década de 1920, favoreciendo la fotografía en blanco y negro con enfoque nítido y la preocupación por la grabación de la vida cotidiana. Pero especialmente desde la década de 1980, los fotógrafos se ha acercado al medio con un sentido de libertad, abrazando formas de imagen que se alejan radicalmente de los modos establecidos desde hace mucho tiempo. Este tipo de experimentación con el medio, aunque es un aspecto menos reconocido de la fotografía en México, no es nuevo. Ya en la década de 1920, un número menor de fotógrafos crearon imágenes con enfoques no convencionales, ya sea a través de la manipulación en el cuarto oscuro, el fotomontaje o la construcción de escenas para la cámara. Las generaciones más jóvenes han ampliado este espíritu de experimentación, desplegando el medio en proyectos conceptuales y elaborando imágenes para hacer declaraciones puntuales sobre cuestiones de raza, género y problemas políticos. Como resultado, la escena fotográfica actual en México es notablemente diversa. Sus profesionales respetan la extraordinaria historia del medio en su país al tiempo que ilustran temas oportunos y diseñan nuevos modos de trabajar con la cámara y con medios digitales.

Esta exposición contiene las obras de fotógrafos mas jóvenes, que examina la compleja construcción de la identidad en la era del milenio, ya sea con las idiosincrásicas exploraciones de la infancia de Ana Casas Broda, o representaciones del género de Luis Arturo Aguirre, Nelson Morales y Roberto Tondopó. Las fotografías de Alejandra Laviada y Humberto Ríos reflejan otro modo en la fotografía contemporánea: crear escenas, ya sea con individuos o con objetos, para la cámara, a menudo un medio de evocar sueños, estados subconscientes y psicológicos.

Before the Conquest, all art was of the people, and popular art has never ceased to exist in Mexico. The art called popular is fugitive in character, with less of the impersonal and intellectual characteristics of the schools. It is the work of talent nourished by personal experience and that of the community – rather than being taken from the experiences of painters in other times and other cultures. ~ Manuel Álvarez Bravo

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The perspective of Mexicanidad, the quality of being Mexican, sought to remove colonial influences from Mexican art. After the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1920, artists and intellectuals came together to forge a new Mexican culture, one that placed new value on Mexico’s indigenous, working-class and agrarian roots as a repudiation of dictator Porfirio Díaz’s focus on wealthy, powerful and often white individuals. Known as the Mexican Cultural Renaissance, this movement gave rise to art that defined a new sense of Mexican identity. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Latin America’s best-known photographer, made visually sophisticated photographs with a formally complex approach often including symbolic elements. He didn’t identify as such, but many viewers have seen surrealist aspects in his work. His work often looks at Mexico’s traditional cultures as they experience significant and rapid change.

Artists active in the decades after the Mexican Revolution, examined what it meant to be Mexican, without the colonial, European focus of the dictatorship. Manuel Carrillo documented street scenes, workers and children with empathy and care, seeking to record a cultural identity with attention to form and composition. Graciela Iturbide makes documentary photographs that are rich with metaphor and grace, finding spirituality and beauty in traditions and everyday life.

Antes de la Conquista, todo el arte era popular. El arte nunca ha dejado de existir en México. El arte llamado popular es de carácter fugitivo, con menos de las características impersonales e intelectuales de las escuelas. Son obras de talento alimentado por la experiencia personal y la de la comunidad – en lugar de ser tomado de las experiencias de los pintores en otros tiempos y otras culturas. ~ Manuel Álvarez Bravo

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La perspectiva de la mexicanidad, la cualidad de ser mexicano, buscaba eliminar las influencias coloniales del arte mexicano. Después de la revolución mexicana de 1910-1920, los artistas e intelectuales se unieron creando una nueva cultura mexicana dieron un nuevo valor a las raíces indígenas, de la clase trabajadora y agrarias de México como un repudio al enfoque del dictador Porfirio Díaz en los individuos ricos, poderosos y a menudo blancos. Este movimiento, conocido como el Renacimiento Cultural Mexicano, dio lugar a un arte que le atribuyó un nuevo sentido a la identidad mexicana. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, el fotógrafo mas conocido de América Latina, hizo fotografías visualmente sofisticadas con un enfoque formalmente complejo que a menudo incluye elementos simbólicos. No se identificó como tal, pero muchos espectadores han visto elementos surrealistas en sus obras. Estas a menudo analizan las culturas tradicionales de México a medida que experimentan un cambio significativo y rápido.

Artistas activos en las décadas posteriores a la Revolución Mexicana, examinaron lo que significaba ser mexicano, sin el enfoque colonial y europeo de la dictadura. Manuel Carrillo documentó escenas callejeras, trabajadores y niños con empatía y cuidado, buscando registrar una identidad cultural con atención a la forma y composición. Graciela Iturbide hace fotografías documentales que son ricas en metáfora y gracia, encontrando espiritualidad y belleza en las tradiciones y en la vida cotidiana.

Exhibition text from the TAM

 

Elliott Erwitt (American born France, b. 1928) 'Guanajuato, Mexico' 1957

 

Elliott Erwitt (American born France, b. 1928)
Guanajuato, Mexico
1957
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 8 1/2 × 13 1/2 in. (21.6 x 34.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Flor Garduño (Mexican, b.1957) 'Cloud, Mexico' (Nube, México) 1982

 

Flor Garduño (Mexican, b.1957)
Cloud, Mexico (Nube, México)
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 13 × 17 in. (33 x 43.2cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Flor Garduño (Mexican, b. 1957) 'Tree of Life, Mexico' (Arbol de la vida, México) 1982

 

Flor Garduño (Mexican, b. 1957)
Tree of Life, Mexico (Arbol de la vida, México)
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 13 × 17 in. (33 x 43.2cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

Garduño’s photographs create a bridge between the present and the past by portraying natural elements such as water, trees, earth, animals, and atmosphere. Garduño worked for the Department of Public Education in her native Mexico, traveling to rural areas to work with indigenous communities. From this she developed her style and got to know what she has referred to as the “profound truth” of the countryside in the Americas. Her work was also influenced by artists Kati Horna, who worked in a surrealistic vein, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who attended carefully to the tonal qualities of his photographs. Garduño similarly uses compositional and darkroom techniques to achieve moody, evocative images.

Anonymous. “Get to know the work of Flor Garduño,” on the Getty Twitter website Oct 6, 2021 [Online] Cited 28/01/2023

 

Flor Garduño (Mexican, b. 1957) 'Zinacantec Wedding, Mexico' (Matrimonio Zinacanteco, México) 1987

 

Flor Garduño (Mexican, b. 1957)
Zinacantec Wedding, Mexico (Matrimonio Zinacanteco, México)
1987
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 17 5/8 × 13 1/2 in. (44.8 x 34.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

 

Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico

The photographs of Graciela Iturbide not only bear witness to Mexican society but express an intense personal and poetic lyricism about her native country. One of the most influential photographers active in Latin America today, Iturbide captures everyday life and its cultures, rituals, and religions, while also raising questions about paradoxes and social injustice in Mexican society. Her photographs tell a visual story of Mexico since the late 1970s – a country in constant transition, defined by the coexistence of the historical and modern as a result of the culture’s rich amalgamation of cultures. For Iturbide, photography is a way of life and a way of seeing and understanding Mexico and its beauty, challenges, and contradictions.

In the summer of 2018, Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, and members of the exhibition team visited Graciela Iturbide at her home and studio in Mexico City. In this documentary, produced by the MFA, the artist discusses the different series and themes explored in this exhibition, as well as her creative process.

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Cemetery, Juchitán, Oaxaca' (Cementerio, Juchitán, Oaxaca) 1992

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Cemetery, Juchitán, Oaxaca (Cementerio, Juchitán, Oaxaca)
1992
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 12 1/4 × 8 3/4 in. (31.1 x 22.2cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Los Pollos, Juchitán, México' (Chickens, Juchitán, Mexico) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
The Chickens, Juchitán, México (Los pollos, Juchitán, México)
1979 (negative); print c. 1992
Image Overall: 11 3/4 × 7 3/4 in. (29.8 x 19.7cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Sponge Vendor, Oaxaca' (Vendedora de zacate, Oaxaca) 1974

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Sponge Vendor, Oaxaca (Vendedora de zacate, Oaxaca)
1974 (negative); print 1992
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 18 1/8 × 12 1/2 in. (46 x 31.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'The Sacrifice, La Mixteca, Oaxaca' (El sacrificio, la Mixteca, Oaxaca) 1992

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
The Sacrifice, La Mixteca, Oaxaca (El sacrificio, la Mixteca, Oaxaca)
1992
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 16 7/8 × 12 1/4 in. (42.9 x 31.1cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942) 'Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico' (Mujer ángel, desierto de Sonora, México) 1979

 

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, b. 1942)
Angel Woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico (Mujer ángel, desierto de Sonora, México)
1979 (negative); printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 1/2 × 13 in. (24.1 x 33cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Kenro Izu (Japanese, b. 1949) 'Tajín #13' 1987

 

Kenro Izu (Japanese, b. 1949)
Tajín #13
1987 (negative and print)
From the series Sacred Places
Platinum palladium print
Image Overall: 7 3/4 × 9 3/4 in. (19.7 x 24.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Alejandra Laviada (Mexican, b. 1980) 'Stacking' (Apilado) 2007

 

Alejandra Laviada (Mexican, b. 1980)
Stacking (Apilado)
2007
From the series Juarez 56
Pigment print on lustre paper
24 x 20 inches (60.9 x 50.8cm)
Bank of America Collection
© 2022 Alejandra Laviada

 

Danny Lyon (American, b. 1942) 'Truck in Nueva Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico' (Camión en nuevas casas grandes, Chihuahua, México) 1975

 

Danny Lyon (American, b. 1942)
Truck in Nueva Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico (Camión en nuevas casas grandes, Chihuahua, México)
1975 (negative and print)
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 8 × 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Church, Cuapiaxtla, Mexico' (Iglesia, Cuapiaxtla, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Church, Cuapiaxtla, Mexico (Iglesia, Cuapiaxtla, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
from The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 6 1/4 × 4 7/8 in. (15.9 x 12.4cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Woman, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico' (Mujer, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Woman, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico (Mujer, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
from The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 6 3/8 × 5 in. ( 16.2 x 12.7cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Women of Santa Ana, Michoacán, Mexico' (Mujeres de Santa Ana, Michoacán, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Women of Santa Ana, Michoacán, Mexico (Mujeres de Santa Ana, Michoacán, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 5 5/8 × 6 1/8 in. (14.3 x 15.6cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Woman and Baby, Hidalgo, Mexico' (Mujer y bebe, Hidalgo, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Woman and Baby, Hidalgo, Mexico (Mujer y bebe, Hidalgo, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
from The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 5 1/2 × 6 1/2 in. (14 x 16.5cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Near Saltillo, Mexico' (Cerca de Saltillo, Mexico) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Near Saltillo, Mexico (Cerca de Saltillo, Mexico)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 5 3/8 × 6 3/4 in. (13.7 x 17.1cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Young Woman and Boy, Toluca de Lerdo, Mexico' (Mujer joven y niño, Toluca de Lerdo, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Young Woman and Boy, Toluca de Lerdo, Mexico (Mujer joven y niño, Toluca de Lerdo, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
from The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 5 1/2 × 6 1/2 in. (14 x 16.5 cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Men of Santa Ana, Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán' (Hombres de Santa Ana, Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacá) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Men of Santa Ana, Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán (Hombres de Santa Ana, Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacá)
1933 (negative); print 1967
from The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 6 7/8 × 5 1/4 in. (17.5 x 13.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'White Plaza, Puebla, Mexico' (Plaza blanca, Puebla, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
White Plaza, Puebla, Mexico (Plaza blanca, Puebla, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
from The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 5 1/2 × 6 1/2 in. (14 x 16.5cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Boy, Uruapan, Michoacán, Mexico' (Niño, Uruapan, Michoacán, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy, Uruapan, Michoacán, Mexico (Niño, Uruapan, Michoacán, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 10 × 7 7/8 in. (25.4 x 20cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand. 'Man - Tenancingo' 1933 

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man, Tenancingo de Degollado, Mexico (Hombre, Tenancingo de Degollado, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 6 3/8 × 5 in. (16.2 x 12.7cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy, Uruapan, Michoacán, Mexico (Niño, Uruapan, Michoacán, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 6 1/2 × 5 1/4 in. (16.5 x 13.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Virgin San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico' (Virgen San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Virgin San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico (Virgen San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 10 1/4 × 7 7/8 in. (26 x 20cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Cristo, Oaxaca, Mexico' (Cristo, Oaxaca, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo, Oaxaca, Mexico (Cristo, Oaxaca, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 11 × 8 1/2 in. (27.9 x 21.6cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Church Gateway, Hidalgo, Mexico' (Puerta de iglesia, Hidalgo, México) 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Church Gateway, Hidalgo, Mexico (Puerta de iglesia, Hidalgo, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 10 1/2 × 8 1/4 in. (26.7 x 21cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo with Thorns - Huexotla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo with Thorns, Huexotla, Mexico (Cristo con espinas, Huexotla, México)
1933 (negative); print 1967
From The Mexican Portfolio
Photogravure
Image Overall: 10 1/8 × 7 7/8 in. (25.7 x 20cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Andrés Juárez Troncoso (Mexicano, b. 1972) 'The Virgin of the Heights' (La virge n de las alturas) 2016

 

Andrés Juárez Troncoso (Mexicano, b. 1972)
The Virgin of the Heights (La virge n de las alturas)
2016
From the series The Spotless Others
Digital print
Image Overall: 20 1/8 × 29 1/2 in. (51.1 x 74.9cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico' (Pirámide del Sol, México) 1923

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico (Pirámide del Sol, México)
1923
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 7 1/2 × 9 3/8 in. (19.1 x 23.8cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, b. 1925) 'Stable' (Caballeriza) 1982

 

Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, b. 1925)
Stable (Caballeriza)
1982 (negative); print c. 1992
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 13 × 17 3/4 in. (33 x 45.1cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, b. 1925) 'Caress, San Simón de la Laguna' (Caricia, San Simón de la Laguna) 1989

 

Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, b. 1925)
Caress, San Simón de la Laguna (Caricia, San Simón de la Laguna)
1989
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 9 × 12 1/4 in. (22.9 x 31.1cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, b. 1925) 'Head Cover, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca' (Huipil de tapar, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca) 1989

 

Mariana Yampolsky (Mexican, b. 1925)
Head Cover, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca (Huipil de tapar, Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca)
1989
Gelatin silver print
Image Overall: 13 1/2 × 13/12 in. (34.3 x 34.3cm)
Bank of America Collection

 

 

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17
Apr
22

Exhibition: ‘Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something’ at the Museum of the City of New York

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 31st December 2022

 

William Klein (American, b. 1928) 'Christmas Shoppers' 1954

 

William Klein (American, b. 1928)
Christmas Shoppers
1954
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Happy Easter to everyone around the world!

I had to have an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday night. Due to complications with low blood pressure and a reaction to the general anaesthetic I nearly didn’t pull through. I turned blue on the operating table, twice, for thirty seconds. Home now but not feeling so well just taking it easy… therefore a short text.

A fabulous exhibition in New York of photographs about New York: working, going, shopping, playing, gathering, loving, gazing, being, reflecting and buildings. Some excellent photographs that I have never seen before which evidence the soul of this imaginative city.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thank to the Museum of the City of New York for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something' at the Museum of the City of New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something' at the Museum of the City of New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something' at the Museum of the City of New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something' at the Museum of the City of New York

At left: Joseph Maida. Ben with fan 2001

At right: Mitch Epstein. Untitled [New York #3] 1995

 

Installation views of the exhibition Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something at the Museum of the City of New York, showing in the bottom photograph at left, Bruce Cratsley’s Brooklyn Bridge Centennial 1983
Photos: Brad Farwell

 

 

Celebrating the City: Recent Photography Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something highlights a gift that has dramatically advanced the Museum’s already exceptional photography collection. Juxtaposing striking recent images with work by some of the 20th century’s most important photographers, including the Museum’s first images by Robert Frank and William Klein, the exhibition is a moving celebration of the power of photography to capture New York and New Yorkers.

Since the invention of photography, the streets of New York City have lured picture-makers from across the world. Each borough, neighbourhood, and corner offers and opportunity to see something new through the lens, yielding images as varied as the street life itself. New York’s diverse built environment provides a backdrop for the true subject of many photographers: the varied lives of New Yorkers.

The photographers in this exhibition have immortalised this ever-changing urban centre. Each has created a distinctive vision of the city, providing a window into a vast and complex metropolis. The have also made use of the changing technology of photography itself to produce images whose meanings range from apparently objective reflections of reality to highly crafted expression of the artists’ responses to the people and the city around them.

 

Introduction

New York City may always be in flux, but shared activities and experiences connect New Yorkers across time and space. For more than a century, many of the world’s best photographers have used their cameras to capture iconic scenes of New Yorkers in action – from mundane daily routines to special events of gathering and ritual. They have sought out the deeply personal moments that occur within this city of millions and have capture both the “New Yorkiness” of its inhabitants and he ways New York experiences are linked to the larger human condition.

The photographs in this gallery are arranged into themes that capture these quintessential New York moments without consideration to chronology. The images allow us to see a range of photographic styles applied to experiences that are common to so many New Yorkers, while also highlighting the ever-changing state of the city over many decades.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

Working

 

Michael Spano. 'Untitled (Man in street on phone, Police Plaza near Canal Street)' 1994

 

Michael Spano (American, b. 1949)
Untitled (Man in street on phone, Police Plaza near Canal Street)
1994
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Michael Spano has made New York City the constant subject of his work over a long career, while exploring the possibilities of the medium, from print solarisation to collage. This photograph exemplifies Spano’s keen observational eye and attention to composition, with repeating patterns and visual dichotomy produced through light and shadow. Several other examples of work by this artist are on also on view in this gallery, including photographs from the series “Auto Portraits” and “Splits.”

 

William Gordon Shields (American, 1883-1947) 'Flag Day' 1917

 

William Gordon Shields (American, 1883-1947)
Flag Day
1917
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

Joseph Maida (American) 'Pizza Delivery' 2002

 

Joseph Maida (American)
Pizza Delivery
2002
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952) 'Untitled (New York City #21)' 1997

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
Untitled (New York City #21)
1997
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Going

 

Inge Morath (Austrian, 1923-2002) 'A Llama in Times Square' 1957

 

Inge Morath (Austrian, 1923-2002)
A Llama in Times Square
1957
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Estate of Inge Morath

 

 

The noted photojournalist Inge Morath made this photograph of a llama in Times Square, easily her most recognisable photograph, for Life magazine in 1952. Although the image looks spontaneous, it was part of a highly planned assignment. The image was published in a one-page story, in the magazine’s humorous “Animals” section, and was entitled “High-paid llama in big city.” The piece featured a menagerie of television animals – including, in addition to the llama, dogs, cats, birds, a pig, a kangaroo, and a miniature bull – living at home with their trainers in a Manhattan brownstone. Morath’s full caption for the image reads, “Linda, the Lama [sic], rides home via Broadway. She is just coming home from a television show in New York’s ABC studios and now takes a relaxed and long-necked look at the lights of one of the world’s most famous streets.”

 

Michael Spano (American, b. 1949) '5th Ave. & the Park' 2005

 

Michael Spano (American, b. 1949)
5th Ave. & the Park
2005
From the series Auto Portraits
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005) 'Going Slushy Street, Times Square' 1948

 

Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005)
Going Slushy Street, Times Square
1948
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Estate of Ted Croner

 

 

Ted Croner (1922-2005) was an American photographer, described as an influential member of the New York school of photography during the 1940s and 1950s. His images are said to represent the best example of this movement.

Born in Baltimore in 1922 and raised in North Carolina, Croner developed an interest in photography while in high school. He honed his skills while serving as an aerial photographer in World War II before settling in New York City in 1947. At the urging of fashion photographer Fernand Fonssagrives, he enrolled in Alexey Brodovitch’s class at The New School where he studied with Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon and Lisette Model. During this period he produced many of his most memorable images including “Taxi, New York Night, 1947-1948”, which appears on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 2006 album, Modern Times. Another of Croner’s photographs was used on the cover of Luna’s album Penthouse.

Croner also had a successful career as a fashion and commercial photographer – his work was published in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. He also worked extensively with corporations such as Coca-Cola and Chase Manhattan Bank.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ted Croner (1922-2005) was born in Baltimore, MD. and grew up in Charlotte, N.C. After joining the army during World War II, Croner worked as an aerial photographer with the United States Army Air Corps stationed in the South Pacific. In1946, Croner went to New York where he and Bill Helburn, another former Air Corps photographer, used their G.I. Bill aid to open a small photography studio on West 57th street in Manhattan. Shortly after that, Croner enrolled in Alexey Brodovitch’s photography class at the New School. Perhaps Croner’s best-known work, Taxi – New York Night, 1947-1948, was taken while he was a student in Brodovitch’s legendary “design laboratory”.

In 1948 Edward Steichen, then the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, chose to include Croner in two exhibitions at the Museum: “In and Out of Focus” and “Four Photographers” which included three other photographers: Bill Brandt, Harry Callahan and Lisette Model. Other exhibitions of Croner’s work followed. As he continued to accept commercial work at magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Croner pursued his own photography, producing vigorously experimental, cinematic images of cafeterias, solitary diners and the city after dark.

Interest in Croner’s work was revived with the publication of The New York School, Photographs by Jane Livingston in 1992 which followed the 1985 exhibition of the same name at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC. For the cover of the book, Livingston chose a picture by Croner, “New York at Night, 1948” which shows a Manhattan skyline reduced to abstract slashes of white light among black tall buildings against a gun-metal grey sky. This was followed by inclusion in the exhibition “By Night” at The Cartier Foundation in Paris in 1996, the Whitney Museum’s 1999 exhibition “American Century Part II” and in 2005, in the exhibition “At The Crossroads of Time: A Times Square Centennial” at the Axa Gallery in New York, and in “Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography 1940-1959” at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2010.

Anonymous text from the Howard Greenberg Gallery website [Online] Cited 11/02/2022

 

Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005) 'Home of the Brave, Times Square' late 1940s

 

Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005)
Home of the Brave, Times Square
late 1940s
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy of the Estate of Ted Croner

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'The Street – Design for a Poster' 1903

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Street – Design for a Poster
1903
Photogravure
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was perhaps no more important figure for the advancement of photography’s position in the arts than Alfred Stieglitz. At a time when photography was viewed as a fact-based, scientific craft, Stieglitz had an unerring ambition to prove that the medium was as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture. This photograph, taken at Fifth Avenue and 30th Street, with its moody scene and soft-focused, impressionistic aesthetic, exemplifies the painterly qualities Stieglitz espoused (sometimes described as Pictorialism). In later years, the photographer changed course and embraced “straight” sharp-focused photography as the best representation of the artistic qualities of the medium.

 

 

Shopping

 

Walter Rosenblum (American, 1919-2006) 'Chick's Candy Store, Pitt Street, NY' 1938

 

Walter Rosenblum (American, 1919-2006)
Chick’s Candy Store, Pitt Street, NY
1938
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Walter A. Rosenblum (1919-2006) was an American photographer. He photographed the World War II D-Day landing at Normandy in 1944. He was the first Allied photographer to enter the liberated Dachau concentration camp.

Rosenblum was a member of the New York Photo League where he was mentored by Paul Strand and Lewis Hine. He became president of the League in 1941. He taught photography at Brooklyn College for 40 years.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Stanton and Orchard Streets' 1936

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Stanton and Orchard Streets
1936
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Stanton and Orchard Streets' 1936 (detail)

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Stanton and Orchard Streets (detail)
1936
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

A llama in Times Square… fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge… polar bears playing in a pool at the zoo… subways, skylines, shadows, and stolen moments… all these things and more tell the varied story of New York City, captured by the lenses of many of the medium’s greatest photographers. Now, these images will be on view as part of “Celebrating the City: Recent Acquisitions from the Joy of Giving Something,” opening February 18th at Museum of the City of New York. The exhibition will feature approximately 100 photographs selected from the more than 1,000 images recently gifted to the Museum by the Joy of Giving Something (JGS), a non-profit organisation dedicated to the photographic arts.

“Photographs of New York are instantly recognisable and help us celebrate and elevate the many stories of our vibrant city that might otherwise go unnoticed,” says Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director of Museum of the City of New York. “As we continue to emerge from the challenges of the COVID pandemic, this magnificent gift from the Joy of Giving Something dramatically advances MCNY’s already stellar 400,000+ image photography collection and gives us an even greater ability to share the stories of our beloved city and its inhabitants.”

“JGS is extremely pleased to donate a substantial group of prints from our collection to the Museum of the City of New York. Most of the work in our donation features New York as subject and it is a great match that the photographs stay in New York to be enjoyed by audiences far and wide,” says Jeffrey Hoone, President of Joy of Giving Something (JGS). “New York continues to be a subject for photographic artists from around the world and JGS is proud to help continue that legacy as we support younger artists through our many different programs. We applaud the Museum for their forward-thinking programs and their commitment to preserving and celebrating New York as a vibrant subject for photographers past, present, and future.”

Devoted to the field of photography, and ever on the search for its very best practitioners, JGS founder Howard Stein never limited himself to a single genre or style. Stein began acquiring photographs in the 1980s, eventually forming one of the most comprehensive collections in private hands, spanning the 19th through the 21st centuries. His understanding of the photographic medium and discerning eye for print quality and condition yielded a remarkable collection shared through exhibition loans around the world.

With images ranging from documentary to quirky, architectural to atmospheric, “Celebrating the City” features selections from this transformative donation, which notably includes works by 30+ creators new to the MCNY collection (see list on Page 4). The exhibition presents multiple images from Helen Levitt‘s dynamic and celebrated street photography; Sylvia Plachy‘s playful and eccentric examination of the people, animals, and moments of NYC; and Michael Spano‘s slice-of-life city shots spanning the 1990s and 2000s. Other key figures in 20th century photography are incorporated into the show, including Ilse Bing, Bruce Davidson, Mitch Epstein, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, William Klein, Saul Leiter, Alfred Stieglitz, Rosalind Solomon, and Paul Strand, to name a few – all capturing indelible, sometimes implausible, intimate, and often incredible moments of the city.

MCNY’s “Celebrating the City” is organised into 10 categories, from working, going shopping, playing, and gathering to loving, gazing, being, reflecting and building, all illustrating the universality of the city and offering the opportunity to compare how some of the best-known photographers have returned to the same subjects again and again.

Some exhibition highlights include:

  • Bruce Cratsley’s “Brooklyn Bridge Centennial” (1983)
  • Bruce Davidson’s “Square Riggers, South Street Seaport” (1996)
  • Elliott Erwitt’s “New York City” (1955)
  • Larry Fink’s “Studio 54” (1977)
  • Ken Heyman’s “Dogs’ Last Swim in Central Park Lake, New York” (1985)
  • Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s “Alice (Alice Rose George)” (1987)
  • Inge Morath’s “A Llama in Times Square” (1957)
  • Sylvia Plachy’s “Baseball Plié” (1982)

.
“In addition to offering glimpses of life in the city, ‘Celebrating the City’ juxtaposes various picture-making approaches, showing the different ways in which photographs are created as well as illuminating the decision-making process behind photography, collecting, and curation,” says Sean Corcoran, senior curator of prints and photographs, Museum of the City of New York. “We’ve paired the JGS photographs with a handful of recently acquired works – presented in the anteroom – in an effort to tell the story of a diverse and contemporary city from a range of perspectives.”

Press release from the Museum of the City of New York

 

 

Playing

 

Ken Heyman (American, 1930-2019) 'Dogs' Last Swim in Central Park Lake, New York' 1985

 

Ken Heyman (American, 1930-2019)
Dogs’ Last Swim in Central Park Lake, New York
1985
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Estate of Ken Heyman

 

Paul Himmel (American, 1914-2009) 'Dog in Central Park' c. 1955

 

Paul Himmel (American, 1914-2009)
Dog in Central Park
c. 1955
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Estate of Paul Himmel

 

 

Paul Himmel (1914 – February 8, 2009) was a fashion and documentary photographer in the United States.

Himmel was the son of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants. He took up photography as a teenager and studied graphic journalism under art director Alexey Brodovitch. From 1947 to 1969, he worked as a professional photographer for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and several of his photographs were included in Edward Steichen’s “Family of Man” exhibition.

In the 1950s, Himmel started his own projects, including series on boxers, the circus and ballet. He experimented with grain structure in his negatives and prints, using a series of silhouetted and elongated forms abbreviated almost to the point of abstraction.

Himmel took his last photograph in 1967, and by 1969, he became disenchanted with photography and retrained as a psychotherapist. An exhibit of his photographs in New York City in 1996 brought him back to public attention. Himmel’s photographs are fresh and unusual. Many are high-contrast, emphasising the design and patterns contained in an image. His subjects ranged from New York City scenes to nudes reduced to grainy vestiges to colour abstractions.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Larry Fink (American, b. 1941) 'Studio 54' 1977

 

Larry Fink (American, b. 1941)
Studio 54
1977
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Larry Fink was born in Brooklyn in 1941. In the 1960s, he studied with noted photographer Lisette Model. This photograph from Studio 54, made in 1977 in the hedonistic heyday of the disco era, is a well know image from Fink’s series “Social Graces,” which explored social class in America by comparing two different worlds: that of urban New Yorkers of “high society” and that of rural, working-class Pennsylvanians through social events like birthday parties. Fink has described his approach to his subject in a straightforward, non-judgmental manner, “The one thing I was trained in being was non-hierarchical. I don’t have an internal class system. Who you are is who is in front of me and who I am in the same, and that’s how we have to relate to each other.”

 

Joseph Maida (American) 'Soccer Game' 2002

 

Joseph Maida (American)
Soccer Game
2002
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

Pablo Delano. 'Merengue Musicians, Upper Broadway' 1994-1995

 

Pablo Delano (Puerto Rican, b. 1954)
Merengue Musicians, Upper Broadway
1994-1995
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the photographer

 

Pablo Delano (Puerto Rican, b. 1954) 'Dancers at Dominican Day, Parade, Midtown' 1994-1995

 

Pablo Delano (Puerto Rican, b. 1954)
Dancers at Dominican Day, Parade, Midtown
1994-1995
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the photographer

 

 

Gathering

 

Elliott Erwitt (American born France, b. 1928) 'New York City' 1955

 

Elliott Erwitt (American born France, b. 1928)
New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
© Elliott Erwitt/MAGNUM PHOTOS

 

Dona Ann McAdams (American, b. 1954) 'Group of Hassidic Men, Williamsburg, Brooklyn' 1978

 

Dona Ann McAdams (American, b. 1954)
Group of Hassidic Men, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
1978
From the series Williamsburg, Brooklyn Portfolio
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

Ed Grazda (American, b. 1947) 'Abu Bakr Sedig Mosque, Flushing NY' 1995

 

Ed Grazda (American, b. 1947)
Abu Bakr Sedig Mosque, Flushing NY
1995
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Ed Grazda, from Flushing, Queens, had been photographing in Pakistan and Afghanistan for almost 15 years when the underground garage at the World Trade Center became the site of a car bomb attack, on February 26, 1993. The explosion killed six people and injured more than a thousand; in both print and televised media, the grisly scene was often accompanied by the phrase “Muslim terrorist.” As a counter to the spreading media stereotypes, Grazda began a new effort: to document some of the dozens of communities of New Yorkers who practice Islam. He engaged both the immigrant populations and the native New Yorkers, including converts, the longstanding African-American Muslim community, and a growing Latino-Muslim community. This project was eventually published as the book New York Masjid: The Mosques of New York in 2002.

 

Joseph Maida (American) 'Men in Park' 2001

 

Joseph Maida (American)
Men in Park
2001
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Loving

 

Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005) 'Top Hats at Horse Show' 1947-1949

 

Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005)
Top Hats at Horse Show
1947-1949
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Estate of Ted Croner

 

Stephen Barker (American, b. 1956) 'Nightswimming, NYC' 1993-1994

 

Stephen Barker (American, b. 1956)
Nightswimming, NYC
1993-1994
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art, NYC and the Photographer

 

 

After Stephen Barker graduated from The Cooper Union School of Art in 1980, he became an assistant for noted portraitist Hans Namuth and architectural photographer Wolfgang Hoyt. In response to the growing AIDS crisis, Barker became an activist, working with ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and managing the Brooklyn Needle Exchange for two years. He also took his camera into New York City’s sex clubs. Given the necessity for anonymity, many of the figures that appeared in this work, entitled Nightswimming, appear indistinct at first glance. The settings are often darkened cinemas and hallways, yet there are flashes of intelligibility – tenderness, passion, and even introspection.

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952) 'Untitled (New York #9)' 1996

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
Untitled (New York #9)
1996
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Since the 1970s, Mitch Epstein has been an early proponent of colour photography as a fine art, which he often uses to subtly examine American society. This photograph, and several others on view in this gallery, are drawn from a body of work entitled “The City.” The photographer describes the collection as a “series of photographs that reveal the blurred line between New York City’s public and private space and question its increasing surveillance. These pictures describe a chaotic and layered city, where people create an intimate solar system of family, friends, and associates to survive the brute anonymity of public space.”

 

 

Gazing

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) 'New York (Woman and taxi)' 1982

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York (Woman and taxi)
1982
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Dick and Adele, the Village' c. 1947

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Dick and Adele, the Village
c. 1947
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

George S. Zimbel (American-Canadian, b. 1929) 'Irish Dance Hall, The Bronx' 1954

 

George S. Zimbel (American-Canadian, b. 1929)
Irish Dance Hall, The Bronx
1954
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

George S. Zimbel (born July 15, 1929) is an American-Canadian documentary photographer. He has worked professionally since the late 1940s, mainly as a freelancer. He was part of the Photo League and is one of its last surviving members. Born in Massachusetts, he settled in Canada about 1971. His works have been shown with increasing frequency since 2000, and examples of his work are part of several permanent collections including the Museum of Modern Art and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He has been described as a humanist. He has published several books of his photographs and in 2016 was the subject of a documentary retrospective film co-directed by his son Matt Zimbel and distributed by the National Film Board of Canada.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Rebecca Norris Webb (American, b. 1956) 'Brooklyn, NY' 2000

 

Rebecca Norris Webb (American, b. 1956)
Brooklyn, NY
2000
From the series The Glass Between Us
Chromogenic development print

 

 

Rebecca Norris Webb has lived in New York City for more than 25 years. Originally a poet, she brings a lyrical sensibility to her photography and often interweaves text into her imagery. This photograph is part of a larger series published as a book entitled The Glass Between Us: Reflections on Urban Creatures (2006), that examines people’s complex relationship with animals in cities, primarily in the context of “conservation parks” such as zoos and aquariums. This image, taken at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, uses reflections and distortion of the water tanks to blur the boundaries between the young boy and the aquatic life he is observing.

 

 

Being

 

Ken Heyman (American, 1930-2019) 'Willie' 1962

 

Ken Heyman (American, 1930-2019)
Willie
1962
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Estate of Ken Heyman

 

 

Ken Heyman met noted anthropologist Margaret Mead while attending Columbia University. The two became friends and worked together on several projects; the experience influenced Heyman to focus his photography on human relationships and interactions. Heymen went on to become a leading photojournalist, working for Life, LOOK, and TIME magazines. In the mid-1950s Haymen photographed “Willie,” a four-year-old boy from Hell’s Kitchen, over the course of several months in an attempt to observe him negotiate his one-block world. The results were published in Heymen’s first book in 1962. He went on to publish 45 additional books, including collaborations with composer Leonard Bernstein, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and artist Andy Warhol.

 

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia (American, b. 1951) 'Alice (Alice Rose George)' 1987

 

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia (American, b. 1951)
Alice (Alice Rose George)
1987
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, currently lives in New York City.He attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with other notable New York-based photographers David Armstrong and Nan Goldin. Beginning in the 1980s, he created an influential body of work that blurred the lines between fact and fiction, blending a documentary style with staged photography techniques. The resulting photographs, often depicting mundane moments of life, are known for their dramatic cinematic quality. This image of noted writer, curator, and photography editor Alice Rose George exemplifies the taut psychological quality of diCorcia staged tableaux.

 

DiCorcia alternates between informal snapshots and iconic quality staged compositions that often have a baroque theatricality.

Using a carefully planned staging, he takes everyday occurrences beyond the realm of banality, trying to inspire in his picture’s spectators an awareness of the psychology and emotion contained in real-life situations. His work could be described as documentary photography mixed with the fictional world of cinema and advertising, which creates a powerful link between reality, fantasy and desire.

During the late 1970s, during diCorcia’s early career, he used to situate his friends and family within fictional interior tableaus, that would make the viewer think that the pictures were spontaneous shots of someone’s everyday life, when they were in fact carefully staged and pre-planned. His work from this period is associated with the Boston School of photography. He would later start photographing random people in urban spaces all around the world. When in Berlin, Calcutta, Hollywood, New York, Rome and Tokyo, he would often hide lights in the pavement, which would illuminate a random subject, often isolating them from the other people in the street.

His photographs give a sense of heightened drama to accidental poses, unintended movements and insignificant facial expressions of those passing by. Even if sometimes the subject appears to be completely detached from the world around them, diCorcia has often used the city of the subject’s name as the title of the photo, placing the passers-by back into the city’s anonymity. Each of his series, Hustlers, Streetwork, Heads, A Storybook Life, and Lucky Thirteen, can be considered progressive explorations of diCorcia’s formal and conceptual fields of interest. Besides his family, associates and random people he has also photographed personas already theatrically enlarged by their life choices, such as the pole dancers in his latest series.

His pictures have black humour within them, and have been described as “Rorschach-like”, since they can have a different interpretation depending on the viewer. As they are pre-planned, diCorcia often plants in his concepts issues like the marketing of reality, the commodification of identity, art, and morality.

In 1989, financed by a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship of $45,000, DiCorcia began his Hustlers project. Starting in the early 1990s, he made five trips to Los Angeles to photograph male prostitutes in Hollywood. He used a 6×9 Linhof view camera, which he positioned in advance with Polaroid tests. At first, he photographed his subjects only in motel rooms. Later, he moved onto the streets. When the Museum of Modern Art exhibited 25 of the photographs in 1993 under the title Strangers, each was labeled with the name of the man who posed, his hometown, his age, and the amount of money that changed hands.

In 1999, diCorcia set up his camera on a tripod in Times Square, attached strobe lights to scaffolding across the street and took a series of pictures of strangers passing under his lights. This resulted in two published books, Streetwork (1998) which showed wider views including subjects’ entire bodies, and Heads (2001), which featured more closely cropped portraits as the name implies.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Reflecting

 

Stephen Barker (American, b. 1956) 'Nightswimming' 1993-1994

 

Stephen Barker (American, b. 1956)
Nightswimming
1993-1994
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art, NYC and the Photographer

 

Louis Faurer (American, 1916-2001) 'Mary and Robert Frank at San Gennaro Festival' 1950

 

Louis Faurer (American, 1916-2001)
Mary and Robert Frank at San Gennaro Festival
1950
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Louis Faurer was born in Philadelphia, where he worked as a photo technician in portrait studios. After serving in the U.S. Signal Corps of Philadelphia during World War II, he began to commute to New York City for work at magazines and attended classes at Alexey Brodovitch’s Design Laboratory. There, he met fellow photographer Robert Frank. The two became fast friends and Faurer eventually moved into Frank’s large loft and used his darkroom. At the time, Faurer worked for various magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Life, Vogue, and the short-lived Flair.

This image, made in those early days in New York, reflects Faurer’s close relationship with Frank and his then-wife Mary. The late 1940s and 1950s were especially important to Faurer’s development as a photographer and were when he created his most memorable images of New York. As in this photograph, Faurer concentrated his image making on people out on the streets, reflections of store windows, and the bright city lights. This psychologically charged work highlights the complexity and energy of city life.

 

Louis Faurer (August 28, 1916 – March 2, 2001) was an American candid or street photographer. He was a quiet artist who never achieved the broad public recognition that his best-known contemporaries did; however, the significance and caliber of his work were lauded by insiders, among them Robert Frank, William Eggleston, and Edward Steichen, who included his work in the Museum of Modern Art exhibitions In and Out of Focus (1948) and The Family of Man (1955).

“Faurer … proves to be an extraordinary artist. His eye is on the pulse [of New York City] – the lonely “Times-Square people” for whom Faurer felt a deep sympathy. Every photograph is witness to the compassion and obsession accompanying his life like a shadow. I am happy that these images survive while the world keeps changing.” ~ Robert Frank

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019) 'Andrea on Third Avenue' 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Andrea on Third Avenue
1955
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Swiss-born Robert Frank immigrated to New York in 1947 to work for Alexey Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar. Frank continued to create editorial work for magazines such as Life, LOOK, and Vogue until he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955. The award freed him to travel throughout the country for two years to make the photographs that would result in his seminal book, The Americans. This photograph, of Frank’s daughter Andrea in their apartment near Astor Place on Third Avenue, is emblematic of much of the photographer’s work; it is tender and intimate while remaining slightly enigmatic.

 

Sylvia Plachy (American born Hungary, b. 1943) 'Virgil Thomson' 1986

 

Sylvia Plachy (American born Hungary, b. 1943)
Virgil Thomson
1986
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Virgil Thomson (November 25, 1896 – September 30, 1989) was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the “American Sound” in classical music. He has been described as a modernist, a neo-romantic, a neoclassicist, and a composer of “an Olympian blend of humanity and detachment” whose “expressive voice was always carefully muted” until his late opera Lord Byron which, in contrast to all his previous work, exhibited an emotional content that rises to “moments of real passion”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952) 'Untitled (New York #11)' 1996

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
Untitled (New York #11)
1996
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952) 'Untitled (New York #3)' 1995

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
Untitled (New York #3)
1995
Chromogenic development print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,
Courtesy of the Photographer

 

 

Buildings

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'From the Viaduct, 125th Street, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
From the Viaduct, 125th Street, New York
1915
Plate from Camera Work No. 49/50, June 1917
Photogravure
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

Arthur D. Chapman (American, 1882-1956) 'East River, New York' 1914

 

Arthur D. Chapman (American, 1882-1956)
East River, New York
1914
Platinum print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Arthur D. Chapman (1882-1956) was born in Bakersfield, California. An amateur photographer, he moved to New York and worked as a printer for The Globe and Commercial Advertiser and The New York American; he also listed himself in the New York City directories as a bookbinder (1913) and a photographer (1917). Chapman lived in Greenwich Village from 1911 until 1917 and, in his afternoons off from work, photographed everyday scenes around Manhattan. In his own neighbourhood, he chose to show not the Bohemian image the Village then projected, but rather what the residential Village looked like. With the use of shadow, Chapman was able to give depth and character to his photographs, and those focused down a street usually featured a striking foreground. His subjects include rooftops, buildings, and street scenes with such titles as “9½ Jane Street,” “Clinton Court,” and “Kelly’s Alley.” Most of the photographs are from the 1910s and show a quaint side of the Village that has all but vanished.

During the early 1950s Chapman thought it would be of historical interest to re-shoot some of the areas in Manhattan he had photographed almost a half-century before, in order to document how time had changed those places. Unfortunately, some of the scenes he wanted to photograph were still considered too “sensitive” so soon after the Second World War, and he was unable to obtain permission from the city government.

The New-York Historical Society bought this collection from Chapman between 1950 and 1955 as he, in his retirement, found and printed from old negatives which had lain hidden in his extensive collection. In 1953, Chapman gave two self-portraits to the Society as a gift, one taken in New York in 1913 and the second taken in 1953 in New Jersey. Both show him working with his photographic equipment.

In 1921, following his World War I service in France with the Photographic Section of the Army Signal Corp Chapman moved to New Jersey, where he continued with his “hobby” until his death on June 5, 1956. He was a member of Pictorial Photographers of America, and a member of New York Typographical Union No. 6 for over fifty years.

Anonymous text from the New York Historical Society website Nd [Online] Cited 11/03/2022

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'A Brick-Built Wall, New York' 1961

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
A Brick-Built Wall, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

Bruce Cratsley (American, 1944-1998) 'Brooklyn Bridge Centennial' 1983

 

Bruce Cratsley (American, 1944-1998)
Brooklyn Bridge Centennial
1983
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

John Reid. 'Harlem Bridge, 4th Ave., NYC' c. 1870

 

John Reid
Harlem Bridge, 4th Ave., NYC
c. 1870
Albumen print
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of Joy of Giving Something, Inc.,

 

 

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St.,

Opening hours:
Open Daily 10am – 6pm

Museum of the City of New York website

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16
May
20

European photographic research tour: V&A Photography Centre, London

Visited October 2019 posted May 2020

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A' 1917

 

Unknown photographer
Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A (installation view)
1917
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The older I grow, the more exponentially I appreciate and love these early photographs. Imagine having a collection like this!

Wonderful to see Edward Steichen’s Portrait – Lady H (1908, below) as I have a copy of Camera Work 22 in my collection.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone images by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

 

The V&A has been collecting photographs since 1856, the year the Museum was founded, and it was one of the first museums to present photography exhibitions. Since then the collection has grown to be one of the largest and most important in the world, comprising around 500,000 images. The V&A is now honoured to have added the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection to its holdings, which contains around 270,000 photographs, an extensive library, and 6,000 cameras and pieces of equipment associated with leading artists and photographic pioneers.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at our world class photography collection following the transfer of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection, which has enabled a dramatic reimagining of the way photography is presented at the V&A. The photographs curators introduce a series of five highlights that are on display in the new Photography Centre, which opened on 12th October 2018. The first phase of the centre will more than double the space dedicated to photography at the Museum.

Text from the V&A and YouTube websites

 

Unknown photographer. 'Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A' 1917

 

Unknown photographer
Photograph of Allied War exhibition, Serbian Section, V&A (installation view)
1917
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The V&A has been collecting and exhibiting photographs since the 1850s. This image shows part o a photographic exhibition held over 100 years ago in the same galleries you are standing in today. The exhibition presented a densely packed display of images depicting the Allied Powers during the First World War.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833)
Christ Carrying his Cross (installation views)
1827
Heliograph on pewter plate
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The French inventor Niépce made the earliest surviving photographic images, which he called ‘heliographs’ or ‘sun-writing’. Only 16 are thought to still exist. Although Niépce experimented with light-sensitive plates inside a camera, he made most of his images, including this one, by placing engravings of works by other artists directly onto a metal plate. He would probably have had the resulting heliographs coated in ink and printed.

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833) 'Christ Carrying his Cross' 1827

 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French, 1765-1833)
Christ Carrying his Cross (installation view)
1827
Heliograph on pewter plate
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-70) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-48) 'The Adamson Family' 1843-45

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
The Adamson Family (installation view)
1843-1845
Salted paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The partnership between Scottish painter Hill and chemist Adamson merged the art and science of photography. The pair initially intended to create preliminary studies for Hill’s paintings, but soon recognised photography’s artistic potential. With Hill’s knowledge of composition and lighting, and Adamson’s considerable sensitivity and dexterity in handling the camera, together they produced some of the most accomplished photographic portraits of their time.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-77) 'The Haystack' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
The Haystack
1844
From The Pencil of Nature
Salted paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-1894)
Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap (installation views)
1852-1854
Albumen print; Calotype negative
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Turner took out a licence to practice ‘calotype’ photography from Talbot in 1848. He contact-printed positive images from paper negatives. The negative (below) and its corresponding positive (above) are reunited here to illustrate this process, but the pairing as you see them would not have been the photographer’s original intention for display. Although unique negatives were sometimes exhibited in their own right, only showing positive prints was the norm.

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-94) 'Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap' 1852-54

 

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (British, 1815-1894)
Hedgerow Trees, Clerkenleap (installation view)
1852-1854
Albumen print; Calotype negative
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Road to Chailly, Forest of Fontainebleau (installation view)
1852
Albumen print from a collodion glass negative
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris (installation view)
1852
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Marseillaise (The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792), by Francois Rude, 1833-35, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Paris (installation view)
1852
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Fenton was one of the most versatile and technically brilliant photographers of the 19th century. He excelled at many subjects, including war photography, portraiture, architecture and landscape. He also made a series of lush still lives. Here, grapes, plums and peaches are rendered in exquisite detail, and the silver cup on the right reflects a camera tripod.

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup' 1860 (detail)

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Parian Vase, Grapes and Silver Cup (installation view detail)
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Still Life with Fruit and Decanter' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Still Life with Fruit and Decanter
1860
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75) 'Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-1875)
Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (installation view)
c. 1856
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Rejlander probably intended this photograph to be part of a larger composition telling the biblical story of Salome, in which the severed head of John the Baptist was presented to her on a plate. Rejlander never made the full picture, however, and instead produced multiple prints of the head alone.

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-75) 'Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (British, born Sweden 1813-1875)
Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (installation view)
c. 1856
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'Th', from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith (installation view)
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Frith’s photographs were popular and circulated widely, both because of their architectural interest and because they often featured sites mentioned in the Bible. Photographs of places described in biblical stories brought a new level of realism to a Christian Victorian audience, previously only available through the interpretations of a painter or illustrator.

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'Th', from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith (installation view)
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-98) 'The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith' 1858 (published 1860 or 1862)

 

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898)
The Pyramids of Dahshoor [Dahshur], from the East, from Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A Series of Twenty Photographic Views by Francis Frith
1858 (published 1860 or 1862)
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean' 1856-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean (installation view)
1856-1859
Albumen Print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean' 1856-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Solar Effect in the Clouds – Ocean
1856-1859
Albumen Print
Art Institute of Chicago
Creative Commons Zero (CC0)

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre (installation view)
1856-1857
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre (installation view)
1856-1857
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre' 1856-57

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Imperial Yacht, La Reine Hortense, Le Havre
1856-1857
Albumen print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Public domain

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris' 1857-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris (installation view)
1857-1859
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-84) 'Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris' 1857-59

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Pavilion Richelieu, Louvre, Paris (installation view)
1857-1859
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea (installation view)
1855
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69) 'Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-69)
Balaclava from Guard’s Hill, the Crimea (installation view)
1855
Albumen print
Bequeathed to the V&A by Chauncey Hare Townshend
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Lucia' 1864-65

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Lucia (installation view)
1864-1865
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (On Duty)' and 'Tea Merchant (Off Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-1898)
Tea Merchant (On Duty) and Tea Merchant (Off Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Lewis Carroll is best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but he was also an accomplished amateur photographer. Approximately half of his photographs are portraits of children, sometimes wearing foreign costumes or acting out scenes. Here, Alexandra ‘Xie’ Kitchen, his most frequent child sitter, poses in Chinese dress on a stack of tea chests.

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (On Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-1898)
Tea Merchant (On Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-98) 'Tea Merchant (Off Duty)' 1873

 

Charles Lutwide Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carroll)(British, 1832-1898)
Tea Merchant (Off Duty) (installation view)
1873
Albumen prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Pomona' 1887

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Pomona (installation view)
1887
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The South Kensington museum (now the V&A) was the only museum to collect and exhibit Julia Margaret Cameron’s during her lifetime. This is one of several studies she made of Alice Liddell, who as a child had modelled for the author and photographer Lewis Carroll and inspired his novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Cameron, Carroll and Liddell moved in overlapping artistic and intellectual circles. Here, surrounded by foliage, a grown-up Alice poses as the Roman goddess of orchards and gardens.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'Pomona' 1887

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Pomona (installation view)
1887
Albumen print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966) 'Frederick Holland Day' 1900

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966)
Frederick Holland Day (installation view)
1900
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The British-American photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic. Active in the early 20th century, he gained recognition from a young age as a talented photographer. His style ranged from the painterly softness of Pictorialism to the unusual vantage points and abstraction of Modernism. As well as being a practising photographer, Coburn was an avid collector. In 1930 he donated over 600 photographs to the Royal Photographic Society. The gift included examples of Coburn’s own work alongside that of his contemporaries, many of whom are now considered to be the most influential of their generation. Coburn also collected historic photographs, and was among the first in his time to rediscover and appreciate the work of 19th-century masters like Julia Margaret Cameron and Hill and Adamson.

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia (installation view)
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Day made this portrait when he visited the Hampton Institute in Virginia, which was founded after the American Civil War as a teacher-training school for freed slaves. The institute’s camera club invited Day to visit the school and critique the work of its students. Day’s friend and fellow photographer, Frederick Evans, donated this strikingly modern composition to the Royal Photographic Society in 1937.

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia (installation view)
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia (installation view)
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia' 1905

 

Fredrick Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Head of a Girl, Hampton, Virginia
1905
Gum platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Letter' 1906

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Letter
1906
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Käsebier studied painting before opening a photography studio in New York. Her Pictorialist photographs often combine soft focus with experimental printing techniques. These sisters were dressed in historic costume for a ball, but their pose transforms a society portrait into a narrative picture. In a variant image, they turn to look at the framed silhouette on the wall.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation views of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Francis James Mortimer (British, 1874-1944) 'Alvin Langdon Coburn at the Opening of His One-Man Exhibition the Royal Photographic Society, London' 1906

 

Francis James Mortimer (British, 1874-1944)
Alvin Langdon Coburn at the Opening of His One-Man Exhibition the Royal Photographic Society, London (installation view)
1906
Carbon print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Annie Wardrope Brigman (American, 1869-1950) 'The Spirit of Photography' c. 1908

 

Annie Wardrope Brigman (American, 1869-1950)
The Spirit of Photography
c. 1908
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966) 'Kensington Gardens' 1910

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966)
Kensington Gardens (installation view)
1910
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Cover of 'Camera Work'

 

Cover of Camera Work Number XXVI (installation view)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Portrait – Lady H' 1908

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Portrait – Lady H (installation view)
1908
Camera Work 22
1908
Photogravure
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Portrait – Lady H' 1908

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Portrait – Lady H
1908
Camera Work 22
1908
Photogravure
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'New York' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
New York (installation view)
1916
Camera Work 48
1916
Photogravure
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) was an American photographer, publisher, writer and gallery owner. From 1903-1917, he published the quarterly journal Camera Work, which featured portfolios of exquisitely printed photogravures (a type of photograph printed in ink), alongside essays and reviews. Camera Work promoted photography as an art form, publishing the work of Pictorialist photographers who drew inspiration from painting, and reproducing 19th-century photographs. It also helped to introduce modern art to American audiences, including works by radical European painters such as Matisse and Picasso.

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966) 'Vortograph' 1917

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American 1882-1966)
Vortograph (installation view)
1917
Bromide print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolph Koppitz (American, 1884-1936)
Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study)
1926
Carbon print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

 

Koppitz was a leading art photographer in Vienna between the two World Wars, as well as a master of complex printing processes, including the pigment, gum and broccoli process of transfer printing. Tis dynamic and sensual composition captures dancers from the Vienna State Opera Ballet frozen mid-movement.

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85) 'Shortly Before Dawn' 1932-39

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85)
Shortly Before Dawn (installation view)
1932-39
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Bayer had a varied and influential career as a designer, painter, photographer, sculptor, art director and architect. He taught at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany, and later began to use photomontage, both in his artistic and advertising work. Using this process, he combined his photographs with found imagery, producing surreal or dreamlike pictures.

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85) 'Shortly Before Dawn' 1932-39

 

Herbert Bayer (Austrian American, 1900-85)
Shortly Before Dawn (installation view)
1932-39
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951) 'Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam' 1934

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951)
Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam (installation view)
1934
Foto-choma Eilers
Given by Joan Luckhurst Eilers
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In the 1930s, the Dutch photographer Bernard Eilers developed an experimental new photographic colour separation process known as ‘Foto-chroma Eilers’. Although the process was short-lived, Eilers successfully used this technique to produce prints like this of great intensity and depth of colour. Here, the misty reflections and neon lights create an atmospheric but modern view of a rain-soaked Amsterdam at night.

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951) 'Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam' 1934

 

Bernard Eilers (Dutch, 1878-1951)
Reguliersbreestraat, Amsterdam (installation view)
1934
Foto-choma Eilers
Given by Joan Luckhurst Eilers
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Valentine to Charis' 1935

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Valentine to Charis (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

When Weston met the model and writer Charis Wilson in 1934, he was immediately besotted. This valentine to her contains a cluster of objects arranged as a still life, including the photographer’s camera lens and spectacles. Some of the objects seem to hold a special significance that only the lovers could understand. The numbers on the right possibly refer to their ages – there were almost thirty years between them.

 

Horst P. Horst (German-American, 1906-1999) 'Portrait of Gabrielle ('Coco') Chanel' 1937

 

Horst P. Horst (German-American, 1906-1999)
Portrait of Gabrielle (‘Coco’) Chanel
1937
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

Variant, American Vogue, 1 December 1937, p. 86: ‘Fashion: Mid-Season Prophecies’

Caption reads: Chanel in her fitted, three-quarters coat / Mademoiselle Chanel, in one of her new coats that are making the news – a three quarters coat buttoned tightly and trimmed with astrakham like her cap. 01/12/1937

 

Nickolas Muray (American, 1892-1965) 'Women with headscarf, 'McCall’s' Cover, July 1938' 1938

 

Nickolas Muray (American, 1892-1965)
Women with headscarf, McCall’s Cover, July 1938 (installation view)
1938
Tricolour carbro print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Hardware Store' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Hardware Store (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Between 1935 and 1939, the Federal Art Project emptied Abbott to make a series of photographs entitled Changing New York, documenting the rapid development and urban transformation of the city. This picture shows the facade of a downtown hardware store, its wares arranged in a densely-packed window display with extend onto the pavement.

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Hardware Store' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Hardware Store (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Hardware Store' 1938

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Hardware Store
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photographs of African masks, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photographs of African masks, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art commissioned Evans to photograph objects in its major exhibition of African art. Using his 8 x 10 inch view camera, he highlighted the artistry and detail of the objects, alternating between front, side and rear views. In total, Evans produced 477 images, and 17 complete sets of them were printed. Several of these sets were donated to colleges and libraries in America, and the V&A bought one set in 1936 to better represent African art in its collection.

The term ‘negro’ is given here in its original historical context.

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75) 'Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York' 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-75)
Photograph of African mask, from an exhibition entitled African Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (installation view)
1935
Gelatin silver prints
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83) 'Dubuffet’s Right Eye, Alberto Giacometti’s Left Eye, Louise Nevelson’s Eye, Max Ernst’s Left Eye' 1960-63

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983)
Dubuffet’s Right Eye
Alberto Giacometti’s Left Eye
Louise Nevelson’s Eye
Max Ernst’s Left Eye (installation view)
1960-1963
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83) 'Dubuffet’s Right Eye' 1960-63

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-83)
Dubuffet’s Right Eye (installation view)
1960-1963
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

German-born Brandt moved to London in the 1930s. In his long and varied career, he made many compelling portraits of people including Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, the Sitwell family, Robert Graves and E.M. Forster. For this series he photographed the eyes of well-known artists over several years, creating a substantial collection of intense and unique portraits. The pictures play upon ideas of artistic vision and the camera lens, which acts as a photographer’s ‘mechanical eye’.

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976) 'Simple Still Life, Egg' 1950

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Simple Still Life, Egg (installation view)
1950
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Throughout his career, Sudek used various photographic styles but always conveyed an intensely lyrical vision of the world. Here, his formal approach to a simple still life presents a poetic statement, and evokes an atmosphere of contemplation. Sudek’s motto and advice to his students – ‘hurry slowly’ – encapsulates his legendary patience and the sense of meditative stillness in his photographs.

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-78) 'Luminogram' 1952

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-1978)
Luminogram (installation view)
1952
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-78) 'Luminogram' 1952

 

Otto Steiner (German, 1915-1978)
Luminogram (installation view)
1952
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
True Color (installation views)
1974-1987
Portfolio of thirty dye transfer prints, printed in 2007
American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Known for his dynamic street photography, Cohen’s work presents a fragmented, sensory image of his hometown of Wiles-Barre, Pennsylvania. This set of pictures was taken at a time when colour photography was just beginning to be recognised as a fine art. Until the 1970s, colour had largely been associated with other advertising or family snapshots, and was not thought of as a legitimate medium for artists. Cohen and other photographers like William Eggleston transferred this perception using the dye-transfer printing process. Although complicated and time-consuming, the technique results in vibrant and high quality colour prints.

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
True Color (installation view detail)
1974-1987
Portfolio of thirty dye transfer prints, printed in 2007
American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943) 'True Color' 1974-87

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
True Color (installation view detail)
1974-1987
Portfolio of thirty dye transfer prints, printed in 2007
American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Michael G. and C. Jane Wilson 2007 Trust
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Graham Smith (British, b. 1947) 'What she wanted & who she got' 1982

 

Graham Smith (British, b. 1947)
What she wanted & who she got (installation view)
1982
Gelatin silver print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Since the 1980s, Graham Smith has been photographing his hometown of South Bank near Middlesbrough. His images convey his deep sensitivity towards the effects of changing working conditions on the former industrial north-east. In this photograph, despite the suggested humour of the title, we are left wondering who the couple are and what the nature of their relationship might be.

 

Jan Kempenaers (b. 1968) 'Spomenik #3' 2006

 

Jan Kempenaers (Belgian, b. 1968)
Spomenik #3
2006
C-type print

 

The Kosmaj monument in Serbia is dedicated to soldiers of the Kosmaj Partisan detachment from World War II.

 

Jan Kempenaers (b. 1968) 'Spomenik #4' 2007

 

Jan Kempenaers (Belgian, b. 1968)
Spomenik #4
2007
C-type print

 

This monument, authored by sculptor Miodrag Živković, commemorates the Battle of Sutjeska, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in the former Yugoslavia.

 

 

Kempenaers toured the balkans photographing ‘Spomeniks’ – monuments built in former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and ’70s on the sites of Second World War battles and concentration camps. Some have been vandalised in outpourings of anger against the former regime, while others are well maintained. In Kempenaers’ photographs, the monuments appear otherworldly, as if dropped from outer space into a pristine landscape.

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London

 

Installation view of the V&A Photography Centre, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
London
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Phone: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Opening hours:
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Friday 10.00 – 21.30

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20
Jul
19

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

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 28th July 2019

 

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

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Hands in the Water of the Mind

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

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

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

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

David Huerta

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

 

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

 

 

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

.
Paul Strand

 

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

.
Leo Hurwitz

 

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

.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo

 

 

Charles Betts Waite. 'The Iguana' 1901

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Tina Modotti. 'Experiment in Related Form' 1924

 

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

 

 

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Ollas de Oaxaca' 1926

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

 

 

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

 

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

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two clay pitchers' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two clay pitchers
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches

 

 

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

 

 

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

 

Tina Modotti. 'Jean Charlot' 1923

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Jean Charlot
1923
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches

 

 

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

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

 

Tina Modotti. 'Elisa Kneeling' 1924

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Excusado' 1926

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Casa de Vecindad' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Casa de Vecindad
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 1/2 inches

 

 

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Arches, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Arches, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text from the Palmer Museum of Art

 

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

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Charrito, pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Charrito, pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two children with pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two children with pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 6 3/4 inches

 

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

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

 

 

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

 

Brett Weston. 'Tin roofs, Mexico' 1926

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Tin roofs, Mexico
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 9 1/2 inches

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 7 1/2 inches

 

 

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

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias' 1926

 

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

 

Edward Weston. 'Palma Bendita' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Palma Bendita
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

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

 

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

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Campesinos (Workers’ Parade)
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 3/8 x 7 1/2 inches

 

 

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

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn, Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn, Sickle
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches

 

 

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

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn and Guitar' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn and Guitar
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches

 

Tina Modotti. 'Women of Tehuantepec' 1929

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Women of Tehuantepec
1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 7 1/4 inches

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 3/8 inches

 

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

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
The Spider of Love, Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches

 

 

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

 

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

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
9 1/8 x 13 3/4 inches

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Helen Levitt. 'Mexico City' 1941

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
Mexico City
1941
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/4 x 9 5/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Mexico' 1963

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Mexico
1963
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches

 

 

Paul Strand

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

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

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

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

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Near Saltillo' 1932

 

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

 

 

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Gateway - Hidalgo' 1933

 

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

 

 

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Hidalgo' 1933

 

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

 

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

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man with Hoe – Los Remedios
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 1/4 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Plaza - State of Puebla' 1933

 

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Church, Cuapiaxtla' 1933

 

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Man - Tenancingo' 1933 

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man – Tenancingo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Girl and Child - Toluca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Girl and Child – Toluca
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Uruapan' 1933

 

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Oaxaca' 1933

 

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo with Thorns - Huexotla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo with Thorns – Huexotla
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/4 x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Tlacochoaya - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Tlacochoaya – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/4 x 8 inches

 

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

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Virgin – San Felipe – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/4 x 8 1/8 inches

 

 

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10
Oct
18

Exhibition: ‘Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 2nd May – 14th October 2018

Curators: Simon Baker, Senior Curator, International Art (Photography) and Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern, with Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, Curator for Photographs

 

 

Pierre Dubreuil. 'Interpretation of Picasso, The Railway' 1911

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944)
Interpretation Picasso, The Railway
1911
Gelatin silver print on paper
238 x 194mm
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée National d’Art Moderne / Centre de Création Industrielle
Purchased, 1987

 

 

An interesting premise –

“a premise is an assumption that something is true. In logic, an argument requires a set of (at least) two declarative sentences (or “propositions”) known as the premises or premisses along with another declarative sentence (or “proposition”) known as the conclusion” (Wikipedia)

– that the stories (the declarative sentences) of abstract art and abstract photography are intertwined (the conclusion). The two premises and one conclusion forms the basic argumentative structure of the exhibition.

Unfortunately in this exhibition, the abstract art and abstract photographs (declarations), seem to add up to less than the sum of its parts (conclusion).

Why is this so?

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The reason these two bedfellows sit so uncomfortably together is that they are of a completely different order, one to the other.

Take painting for example. There is that ultimate linkage between brain, eye and hand as the artist “reaches out” into the unknown, and conjures an abstract representation from his imagination. This has a quality beyond my recognition. The closest that photography gets to this intuition is the cameraless Photogram, as the artist paints with light, from his imagination, onto the paper surface, the physical presence of the print.

Conversely, we grapple with the dual nature of photography, its relation to reality, to the real, and its interpretation of that reality through a physical, mechanical process – light entering a camera (metal, glass, digital chips, plastic film) to be developed in chemicals or on the computer, stored as a physical piece of paper or in binary code – but then we LOOK and FEEL what else a photograph can be. What it is, and what else it can be.

Initially, to take a photograph is to recognise something physical in the world which can then be abstracted. Here is a tree, a Platonic ideal, now here is the bark of the tree, or cracks in dried mud, or Aaron Siskind’s Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation in which, in our imagination, the body is no longer human. This archaeology of photography is a learnt behaviour (from the world, from abstract paintings) where ones learns to turn over the truth to something else, a recognition of something else. Where one digs a clod of earth, inspects it, and then turns it over to see what else it can be.

We can look at something in the world just for what it is and take a photograph of it, but then we can look at the same object for what else it can be (for example, Man Ray’s image Dust Breeding (1920), which is actually dust motes on the top of Duchamp’s Large Glass). Photographers love these possibilities within the physicality of the medium, its processes and outcomes. Photographers love changing scale, perspective, distortion using their intuition to perhaps uncover spiritual truths. Here I are not talking about making doodles – whoopee look what I can make as a photographer! it’s important because I can do it and show it and I said it’s important because I am an artist! the problem with lots of contemporary photography – it is something entirely different. It is the integrity of the emotional and intellectual process.

Not a reaching out through the arm and hand, but an unearthing (a reaching in?) of the possibilities of what else photography can be (other than a recording process). As Stieglitz understood in his Equivalents, and so Minor White espoused through his art and in one of his three canons:

When the image mirrors the man
And the man mirrors the subject
Something might take over

.
And that revelation is something completely different from the revelation of abstract art.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

For the first time, Tate Modern tells the intertwined stories of photography and abstract art. The birth of abstract art and the invention of photography were both defining moments in modern visual culture, but these two stories are often told separately.

Shape of Light is the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between the two, spanning the century from the 1910s to the present day. It brings to life the innovation and originality of photographers over this period, and shows how they responded and contributed to the development of abstraction.

Key photographs are brought together from pioneers including Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz, major contemporary artists such as Barbara Kasten and Thomas Ruff, right up to exciting new work by Antony Cairns, Maya Rochat and Daisuke Yokota, made especially for the exhibition.

 

 

“Despite its roll call of stellar names, the show’s adrenaline soon slumps. A rhythm sets in, as each gallery offers perhaps a single non photographic work and dozens of medium format black and white abstracts arranged on an allied theme: extreme close ups, engineered structures, worms’ and birds’ eye views, moving light, the human body, urban fabric.

Individually each photograph is quite wonderful, but they echo each other so closely in their authors’ attraction to diagonal arrangements, rich surface textures, dramatic shadows, odd perspectives and close cropping, that the same ‘point’ is being made a dozen times with little to distinguish between the variants. …

By the present day, abstract photography has given in to its already Ouroboros-like tendencies, and swallowed itself whole, offering abstract photographs about the process of photography, and the action of light on its materials. This is a gesture I relished in Wolfgang Tillmans’s show in the same space this time last year, when it was broken up by a plethora of other ideas and perspectives on photography. Here it feels like another level of earnest self-absorption with a century-long backstory.”

.
Hettie Judah. “By halfway round I actually felt faint,” on the iNews website May 5th 2018 [Online] Cited 14/07/2018. No longer available online

 

 

 

 

Shape of Light | First Look

Tate Curator, Simon Baker, meets Caroline von Courten from leading photography Magazine, Foam. Together they explore the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern.

 

 

Exhibition Review – Shape of Light: 100 years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern

 

 

Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) 'Workshop' c. 1914-5

 

Wyndham Lewis (British, 1882-1957)
Workshop
c. 1914-1915
Tate
Purchased 1974
© Wyndham Lewis and the estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis by kind permission of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust (a registered charity)

 

 

Percy Wyndham Lewis (18 November 1882 – 7 March 1957) was a British writer, painter, and critic. He was a co-founder of the Vorticist movement in art and edited BLAST, the literary magazine of the Vorticists.

His novels include Tarr (1918) and The Human Age trilogy, composed of The Childermass (1928), Monstre Gai (1955) and Malign Fiesta (1955). A fourth volume, titled The Trial of Man, was unfinished at the time of his death. He also wrote two autobiographical volumes: Blasting and Bombardiering (1937) and Rude Assignment: A Narrative of my Career Up-to-Date (1950).

 

Paul Strand. 'Abstraction Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Abstraction Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut
1916
Silver gelatin print

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) 'Vortograph' 1917

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966)
Vortograph
1917
Gelatin silver print on paper
283 x 214mm
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum NY
© The Universal Order

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing László Moholy-Nagy’s K VII at centre
Photo: © Tate / Andrew Dunkley

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'K VII' 1922

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
K VII
1922
Oil paint and graphite on canvas
Frame: 1308 x 1512 x 80mm
Tate
Purchased 1961

 

 

The ‘K’ in the title of K VII stands for the German word Konstruktion (‘construction’), and the painting’s ordered, geometrical forms are typical of Moholy-Nagy’s technocratic Utopianism. The year after it was painted, he was appointed to teach the one year-preliminary course at the recently founded Bauhaus in Weimar. Moholy-Nagy’s appointment signalled a major shift in the school’s philosophy away from its earlier crafts ethos towards a closer alignment with the demands of modern industry, and a programme of simple design and unadorned functionalism.

Gallery label, April 2012

 

Man Ray. 'Rayograph' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Rayograph
1922
Gelatin silver print on paper
Private Collection
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

 

El Lissitzky (1890-1941) 'Proun in Material (Proun 83)' 1924

 

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
Proun in Material (Proun 83)
1924
Gelatin silver print on paper
140 x 102mm
© Imogen Cunningham Trust. All rights reserved

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' c. 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photogram
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print on paper
Photo: Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham

 

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) 'Swinging' 1925

 

Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866-1944)
Swinging
1925
Oil paint on board
705 x 502mm
Tate

 

Edward Steichen. 'Bird in Space' [L'Oiseau dans l'espace] 1926

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Bird in Space (L’Oiseau dans l’espace)
1926
Gelatin silver print on paper
253 x 202mm
Bequest of Constantin Brancusi, 1957
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée National d’Art Moderne / Centre de Création Industrielle

 

Shape of Light, exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing at centre, Constantin Brancusi’s bronze and stone sculpture Maiastra (1911)
Photo: © Tate / Andrew Dunkley

 

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) 'Triangles' 1928

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Triangles
1928, printed 1947-1960
Gelatin silver print on paper
119 x 93mm
Pierre Brahm
© Imogen Cunningham Trust. All rights reserved

 

Joan Miró (1893-1983) 'Painting' 1927

 

Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983)
Painting
1927
Tempera and oil paint on canvas
972 x 1302mm
Tate
© Succession Miro/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

 

Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Anatomies' 1930

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Anatomies
1930
Photo: © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (1891-1956) 'Radio Station Power' 1929

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Radio Station Power
1929
Gelatin silver print on paper
Lent by Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham
© A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova Archive. DACS, RAO 2018

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Xanti Schawinsky on the balcony of the Bauhaus' 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Xanti Schawinsky on the balcony of the Bauhaus
1929
Gelatin silver print on paper

 

Luo Bonian (1911-2002) 'Untitled' 1930s

 

Luo Bonian (Chinese, 1911-2002)
Untitled
1930s
Gelatin silver print on paper
Courtesy The Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing
© Luo Bonian

 

Marta Hoepffner (1912–2000) 'Homage to de Falla' 1937

 

Marta Hoepffner (German, 1912-2000)
Homage to de Falla
1937
Gelatin silver print on paper
387 x 278mm
Stadtmuseum Hofheim am Taunus
© Estate Marta Hoepffner

 

Nathan Lerner (1913-1997) 'Light Tapestry' 1939

 

Nathan Lerner (American, 1913-1997)
Light Tapestry
1939
Gelatin silver print on paper
401 x 504mm
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Gift of Mrs Kiyoko Lerner, 2014
Photo: Nathan Lerner/© ARS, NY and DACS, London

 

Luigi Veronesi (1908-1998) 'Construction' 1938

 

Luigi Veronesi (Italian, 1908-1998)
Construction
1938
Gelatin silver print on paper
286 x 388mm
Tate
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Massimo Prelz Oltramonti and allocated to Tate 2015

 

Luigi Veronesi (1908-1998) 'Photo n.145' 1940, printed 1970s

 

Luigi Veronesi (Italian, 1908-1998)
Photo n.145
1940, printed 1970s
Gelatin silver print on paper
310 x 280mm
Tate
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Massimo Prelz Oltramonti and allocated to Tate 2015

 

Luigi Veronesi (1908-1998) 'Photo n.152' 1940, printed 1970s

 

Luigi Veronesi (Italian, 1908-1998)
Photo n.152
1940, printed 1970s
Gelatin silver print on paper
320 x 298mm
Tate
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Massimo Prelz Oltramonti and allocated to Tate 2015

 

 

A major new exhibition at Tate Modern will reveal the intertwined stories of photography and abstract art. Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art will be the first show of this scale to explore photography in relation to the development of abstraction, from the early experiments of the 1910s to the digital innovations of the 21st century. Featuring over 300 works by more than 100 artists, the exhibition will explore the history of abstract photography side-by-side with iconic paintings and sculptures.

Shape of Light will place moments of radical innovation in photography within the wider context of abstract art, such as Alvin Langdon Coburn’s pioneering ‘vortographs’ from 1917. This relationship between media will be explored through the juxtaposition of works by painters and photographers, such as cubist works by George Braque and Pierre Dubreuil or the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Otto Steinert’s ‘luminograms’. Abstractions from the human body associated with surrealism will include André Kertesz’s Distorsions, Imogen Cunningham’s Triangles and Bill Brandt’s Baie des Anges, Frances 1958, exhibited together with a major painting by Joan Miró. Elsewhere the focus will be on artists whose practice spans diverse media, such as László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray.

The exhibition will also acknowledge the impact of MoMA’s landmark photography exhibition of 1960, The Sense of Abstraction. Installation photographs of this pioneering show will be displayed with some of the works originally featured in the exhibition, including important works by Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind and a series by Man Ray that has not been exhibited since the MoMA show, 58 years ago.

The connections between breakthroughs in photography and new techniques in painting will be examined, with rooms devoted to Op Art and Kinetic Art from the 1960s, featuring striking paintings by Bridget Riley and installations of key photographic works from the era by artists including Floris Neussis and Gottfried Jaeger. Rooms will also be dedicated to the minimal and conceptual practices of the 1970s and 80s. The exhibition will culminate in a series of new works by contemporary artists, Tony Cairns, Maya Rochat and Daisuke Yokota, exploring photography and abstraction today.

Shape of Light is curated by Simon Baker, Senior Curator, International Art (Photography) and Shoair Mavlian, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern, with Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, Curator for Photographs, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) 'Number 23' 1948

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956)
Number 23
1948
Enamel on gesso on paper
575 x 784mm
Tate: Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery (purchased out of funds provided by Mr and Mrs H.J. Heinz II and H.J. Heinz Co. Ltd) 1960
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2018

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Composition of Forms' 1949

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Composition of Forms
1949
Gelatin silver print on paper
290 x 227mm
Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham

 

Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) 'Untitled' 1952

 

Guy Bourdin (French, 1928-1991)
Untitled
1952
Gelatin silver print on paper
277 x 164mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2015
© The Guy Bourdin Estate

 

Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) 'Untitled' 1952

 

Guy Bourdin (French, 1928-1991)
Untitled
1952
Gelatin silver print on paper
232 x 169mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2015
© The Guy Bourdin Estate

 

Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) 'Untitled' c. 1950s

 

Guy Bourdin (French, 1928-1991)
Untitled
c. 1950s
Gelatin silver print on paper
239 x 179mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2015
© The Guy Bourdin Estate

 

 

Untitled c.1950s is a black and white photograph by the French photographer Guy Bourdin. The entirety of the frame is taken up by a close-up of peeling paint. The paint sections fragment the image into uneven geometric shapes, which are interrupted by a strip of the dark surface beneath that winds from the top to the bottom of the frame. There is little sense of scale or contextual detail, resulting in a near-abstract composition.

Bourdin is best known for his experimental colour fashion photography produced while working for French Vogue between 1955 and 1977. This photograph belongs to an earlier period of experimentation, before he began to use colour and work in fashion. Taken outside the studio, it shows Bourdin’s sensitivity to the natural world and his attempt to transform the everyday into abstract compositions, bridging the gap between surrealism and subjective photography. Bourdin’s early work was heavily influenced by surrealism, as well as by pioneers of photography as a fine art such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Bill Brandt. His surrealist aesthetic can be attributed to his close relationship with Man Ray, who wrote the foreword to the catalogue for Bourdin’s first solo exhibition of black and white photographs at Galerie 29, Paris, in 1952.

This and other early works in Tate’s collection (such as Untitled (Sotteville, Normandy) c. 1950s, Tate P81205, and Solange 1957, Tate P81216) are typical of Subjektive Fotografie (‘subjective photography’), a tendency in the medium in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Led by the German photographer and teacher Otto Steinert, who organised three exhibitions under the title Subjektive Fotografie in 1951, 1954 and 1958, the movement advocated artistic self-expression – in the form of the artist’s creative approach to composition, processing and developing – above factual representation. Subjektive Fotografie’s emphasis on, and encouragement of, individual perspectives invited both the photographer and the viewer to interpret and reflect on the world through images. Bourdin’s interest in this can be seen in his early use of texture and abstraction, evident in close-up studies of cracked paint peeling off an external wall or a piece of torn fabric. These still lives were often dark in subject matter and tone, highlighting Bourdin’s interest in surrealist compositions and the intersection between death and sexuality. The works made use of the photographer’s urban environment, with deep black and high contrast printing techniques employed to create a sombre mood.

This approach was also important for Bourdin’s early portraiture, which anticipated his subsequent work in fashion. The subject of his portraits – often Solange Gèze, to whom the artist was married from 1961 until her death in 1971 – is usually framed subtly, rarely appearing in the centre or as the main focus of the image. In these works the figure is secondary, showing how Bourdin let the natural or urban environment frame the subject and integrate the body into its immediate surroundings. Bourdin was meticulous about the creative process from start to finish, sketching out images on paper and then recreating them in the landscape, using the natural environment as a stage set for his work.

Shoair Mavlian
August 2014

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing Jackson Pollock’s Number 23 at left
Photo: © Tate / Sepharina Neville

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing Nathan Lerner’s Light Tapestry top left, and Otto Steinert’s Luminogram II centre right
Photo: © Tate / Sepharina Neville

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Luminogram II' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Luminogram II
1952
Gelatin silver print on paper
302 x 401mm
Jack Kirkland Collection Nottingham
© Estate Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Brett Weston. 'Mud Cracks' 1955

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Mud Cracks
1955
Silver gelatin print
203 x 254mm
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of Christian Keesee Collection 2013
© The Brett Weston Archive/CORBIS

 

Peter Keetman (1916-2005) 'Steel Pipes, Maximilian Smelter' 1958

 

Peter Keetman (German, 1916-2005)
Steel Pipes, Maximilian Smelter
1958
Gelatin silver print on paper
508 x 427mm
F.C. Gundlach Foundation

 

Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Unconcerned Photograph' 1959

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Unconcerned Photograph
1959
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

 

Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé (b. 1926) 'Jazzmen' 1961

 

Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé (French, b. 1926)
Jazzmen
1961
Printed papers on canvas
2170 x 1770mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 2000
© Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé

 

 

The Jazzmen is a section of what Jacques Villeglé termed affiches lacérées, posters torn down from the walls of Paris. These particular ones were taken on 10 December 1961. Following his established practice, Villeglé removed the section from a billboard and, having mounted it on canvas, presented it as a work of art. In ‘Des Réalités collectives’ of 1958 (‘Collective Realities’, reprinted in 1960: Les Nouveaux Réalistes, pp. 259-60) he acknowledged that he occasionally tore the surface of the posters himself, although he subsequently restricted interventions to repairs during the mounting process. The large blue and green advertisements for Radinola (at the top right and lower left) provide the main visible surface for The Jazzmen. These establish a compositional unity for the accumulated layers. Overlaid are fragmentary music posters and fly-posters, some dated to September 1961, including the images of the red guitarists that lend the work its title. The artist’s records give the source as rue de Tolbiac, a thoroughfare in the 13th arrondissement in south-east Paris. Villeglé usually uses the street as his title, but has suggested (interview with the author, February 2000) that the title The Jazzmen may have been invented for the work’s inclusion in the exhibition L’Art du jazz (Musée Galliera, Paris 1967).

Villeglé worked together with Raymond Hains (b. 1926) in presenting torn posters as works of art. They collaborated on such works as Ach Alma Manetro, 1949 (Musée nationale d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris), in which typography dominates the composition. They first showed their affiches lacérées in May 1957 at the Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, in a joint exhibition named Loi du 29 juillet 1881 ou le lyrisme à la sauvette (The Law of 29 July 1881 or Lyricism through Salvage) in reference to the law forbidding fly-posting. Villeglé sees a social complexity in the developments in the style, typography and subject of the source posters. He also considers the processes of the overlaying and the pealing of the posters by passers-by to be a manifestation of a liberated art of the street. Both aspects are implicitly political. As Villeglé points out, anonymity differentiates the torn posters from the collages of the Cubists or of the German artist Kurt Schwitters. In ‘Des Réalités collectives’ Villeglé wrote: ‘To collages, which originate in the interplay of many possible attitudes, the affiches lacérées, as a spontaneous manifestation, oppose their immediate vivacity’. He saw the results as extending the conceptual basis of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, whereby an object selected by an artist is declared as art. However, this reduction of the artist’s traditional role brought an end to Villeglé’s collaboration with Hains, who held more orthodox views of creative invention.

In 1960 Villeglé, Hains and François Dufrêne (1930-1982), who also used torn posters, joined the Nouveaux Réalistes group gathered by the critic Pierre Restany (b.1930). Distinguished by the use of very disparate materials and techniques, the Nouveaux Réalistes – who also included Arman (b.1928), Yves Klein (1928-1962) and Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) – were united by what Villeglé has called their ‘distance from the act of painting’ as characterised by the dominant abstraction of the period (interview February 2000). In this way, Klein’s monochrome paintings (see Tate T01513) and Villeglé’s affiches lacérées (lacerated posters) conform to the group’s joint declaration of 27 October 1960: ‘The Nouveaux Réalistes have become aware of their collective singularity. Nouveau Réalisme = new perceptual approaches to reality.’ The Jazzmen, of the following year, embodies Villeglé’s understanding of his ‘singularity’ as a conduit for anonymous public expression.

Matthew Gale
June 2000

 

Edward Ruscha (b.1937) 'Gilmore Drive-In Theater - 6201 W. Third St.' 1967, printed 2013

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Gilmore Drive-In Theater – 6201 W. Third St.
1967, printed 2013
Gelatin silver prints on paper
356 x 279mm
Courtesy Ed Ruscha and Gagosian Gallery
© Ed Ruscha

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London
Photo: © Tate / Andrew Dunkley

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing Gregorio Vardanega’s Circular Chromatic Spaces 1967. Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
Photo: © Tate / Andrew Dunkley

 

John Divola. '74V11' 1974

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
74V11
1974
Silver gelatin print
Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham
© John Divola

 

Barbara Kasten (b.1936) 'Photogenic Painting, Untitled 74/13' (ID187) 1974

 

Barbara Kasten (American, b. 1936)
Photogenic Painting, Untitled 74/13 (ID187)
1974
Salted paper print
558 x 762mm
Courtesy the artist, Thomas Dane Gallery and Bortolami Gallery, New York
© Barbara Kasten

 

James Welling (b. 1951) 'Untitled' 1986

 

James Welling (American, b. 1951)
Untitled
1986
C-print on paper
254 x 203mm
Jack Kirkland Collection, Nottingham
© James Welling. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong and Maureen Paley, London

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing Sigmar Polke’s Untitled (Uranium Green) 1992. Hans Georg Näder © The Estate of Sigmar Polke / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn and DACS London, 2018
Photo: © Tate / Seraphina Neville

 

Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Uranium Green)' 1992

 

Sigmar Polke (German, 1941-1910)
Untitled (Uranium Green) (detail)
1992
10 Photographs, C-print on paper
Image, each: 610 x 508mm
The Estate of Sigmar Polke / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2017
Photo: Adam Reich/The Estate of Sigmar Polke / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn and DACS London, 2018

 

Daisuke Yokota (b. 1983) 'Untitled' 2014

 

Daisuke Yokota (Japanese, b. 1983)
Untitled
2014
from Abstracts series
© Daisuke Yokota
Courtesy of the artist and Jean-Kenta Gauthier Gallery

 

 

Process is at the core of Yokota’s photographs. For his black-and-white work, such as the series Linger or Site/Cloud, Yokota sifts through an archive of more than 10 years of photographs in his Tokyo apartment. When he finds something that speaks to him – a nude figure, a chair, a building, a grove of trees – he makes a digital image of it, develops it, and rephotographs the image up to 15 times, until it becomes increasingly degraded. He develops the film in ways that are intentionally “incorrect,” allowing light to leak in, or singeing the negatives, using boiling water, or acetic acid. The purported subject fades, and shadows, textures, spots and other sorts of visual noise emerge. For his recent colour work, trippy, sensual abstractions, the process is similar, except that it is cameraless; he doesn’t start with a preexisting image. “I wanted to focus on the emulsion, on the different textures, more than on a subject being photographed,” says Yokota.

IN THE STUDIO
Daisuke Yokota
By Jean Dykstra

November – December 2015. No longer available online

 

Antony Cairns (b. 1980) 'LDN5_051' 2017

 

Antony Cairns (British, b. 1980)
LDN5_051
2017
Courtesy of the artist
© Antony Cairns

 

Shape of Light, Exhibition Press Image, Tate Modern, 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at Tate Modern, London showing the installation A Rock Is A River, 2018 by the aritst Maya Rochat. Courtesy Lily Robert and VITRINE, London | Basel © Maya Rochat
Photo: © Tate / Sepharina Neville

 

Maya Rochat (b.1985) 'A Rock is a River (META CARROTS)' 2017

 

Maya Rochat (German, b. 1985)
A Rock is a River (META CARROTS)
2017
Courtesy Lily Robert
© Maya Rochat

 

Maya Rochat (b.1985) 'A Rock is a River (META RIVER)' 2017

 

Maya Rochat (German, b. 1985)
A Rock is a River (META RIVER)
2017
Courtesy Lily Robert
© Maya Rochat

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

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Tate Modern website

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04
Oct
18

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Expressions’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 7th October 2018

 

Erich Salomon (German, 1886-1944) '[Portrait of Madame Vacarescu, Romanian Author and Deputy to the League of Nations, Geneva]' 1928

 

Erich Salomon (German, 1886-1944)
(Portrait of Madame Vacarescu, Romanian Author and Deputy to the League of Nations, Geneva)
1928
Gelatin silver print
29.7 × 39.7cm (11 11/16 × 15 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

In 1928, pioneering photojournalist, Erich Salomon photographed global leaders and delegates to a conference at the League for the German picture magazine Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. In a typically frank image, Salomon has shown Vacarescu with her head thrown back passionately pleading before the international assembly.

Elena Văcărescu or Hélène Vacaresco (September 21, 1864 in Bucharest – February 17, 1947 in Paris) was a Romanian-French aristocrat writer, twice a laureate of the Académie française. Văcărescu was the Substitute Delegate to the League of Nations from 1922 to 1924. She was a permanent delegate from 1925 to 1926. She was again a Substitute Delegate to the League of Nations from 1926 to 1938. She was the only woman to serve with the rank of ambassador (permanent delegate) in the history of the League of Nations.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

From a distance…

For such an engaging subject, this presentation looks to be a bit of a lucky dip / ho hum / filler exhibition. You can’t make a definitive judgement from a few media images but looking at the exhibition checklist gives you a good idea of the overall organisation of the exhibition and its content. Even the press release seems unsure of itself, littered as it is with words like posits, probes, perhaps (3 times) and problematic.

Elements such as physiognomy are briefly mentioned (with no mention of its link to eugenics), as is the idea of the mask – but again no mention of how the pose is an affective mask, nor how the mask is linked to the carnivalesque. Or how photographs portray us as we would like to be seen (the ideal self) rather than the real self, and how this incongruence forms part of the formation of our identity as human beings.

The investigation could have been so deep in so many areas (for example the representation of women, children and others in a patriarchal social system through facial expression; the self-portrait as an expression of inner being; the photograph as evidence of the mirror stage of identity formation; and the photographs of “hysterical” women of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris; and on and on…) but in 45 works, I think not. The subject deserved, even cried out for (as facial expressions go), a fuller, more in depth investigation.

For more reading please see my 2014 text Facile, Facies, Facticity which comments on the state of contemporary portrait photography and offers a possible way forward: a description of the states of the body and the air of the face through a subtle and constant art of the recovering of surfaces.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thanks to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The human face has been the subject of fascination for photographers since the medium’s inception. This exhibition includes posed portraits, physiognomic studies, anonymous snapshots, and unsuspecting countenances caught by the camera’s eye, offering a close-up look at the range of human stories that facial expressions – and photographs – can tell.

 

 

Nancy Burson (American, born 1948) 'Androgyny' 1982

 

Nancy Burson (American, b. 1948)
Androgyny
1982
Gelatin silver print
21.6 × 27.7cm (8 1/2 × 10 7/8 in.)
© Nancy Burson
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Composite image of portraits of six men and six women

 

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

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006)
Demonstration, New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
25.9 × 35.4cm (10 3/16 × 13 15/16 in.)
© Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Brigitte and Elke Susannah Freed

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968) 'Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' Negative May 1943; print about 1950

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American born Austria, 1899-1968)
Emmett Kelly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Negative May 1943; print about 1950
Gelatin silver print
26 × 34.4cm (10 1/4 × 13 9/16 in.)
© International Center of Photography
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Emmett Leo Kelly (December 9, 1898 – March 28, 1979) was an American circus performer, who created the memorable clown figure “Weary Willie”, based on the hobos of the Depression era.

Kelly began his career as a trapeze artist. By 1923, Emmett Kelly was working his trapeze act with John Robinson’s circus when he met and married Eva Moore, another circus trapeze artist. They later performed together as the “Aerial Kellys” with Emmett still performing occasionally as a whiteface clown.

He started working as a clown full-time in 1931, and it was only after years of attempting to persuade the management that he was able to switch from a white face clown to the hobo clown that he had sketched ten years earlier while working as a cartoonist.

“Weary Willie” was a tragic figure: a clown, who could usually be seen sweeping up the circus rings after the other performers. He tried but failed to sweep up the pool of light of a spotlight. His routine was revolutionary at the time: traditionally, clowns wore white face and performed slapstick stunts intended to make people laugh. Kelly did perform stunts too – one of his most famous acts was trying to crack a peanut with a sledgehammer – but as a tramp, he also appealed to the sympathy of his audience.

From 1942–1956 Kelly performed with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he was a major attraction, though he took the 1956 season off to perform as the mascot for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. He also landed a number of Broadway and film roles, including appearing as himself in his “Willie” persona in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). He also appeared in the Bertram Mills Circus.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848) 'Mrs Grace Ramsay and four unknown women' 1843

 

Hill & Adamson (David Octavius Hill, Scottish 1802-1870 and Robert Adamson, Scottish 1821-1848) (Scottish, active 1843-1848)
Mrs Grace Ramsay and four unknown women
1843
Salter paper print from Calotype negative
15.2 x 20.3cm (6 x 8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Connecticut Newsgirls' c. 1912-1913

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Connecticut Newsgirls
c. 1912-1913
Gelatin silver print
11.8 × 16.8cm (4 11/16 × 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles