Posts Tagged ‘Pearl Harbor

16
Dec
18

Exhibition: ‘Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing’ at Jeu de Paume, Concorde, Paris

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2018 – 27th January 2019

Curators: Drew Heath Johnson, Oakland Museum of California, Alona Pardo and Jilke Golbach, Barbican Art Gallery, Pia Viewing, Jeu de Paume.

 

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

 

A further posting on this exhibition, now showing at Jeu de Paume in Paris.

Eleven new media images, two videos, a selection of quotes from Dorothea Lange, and text from the exhibition curator Pia Viewing.

The most interesting of the images is the wide shot Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936, above), part of a series of six that Lange took of Florence Owens Thompson and her children, the last image of which was to become the iconic image (see text below). The story of that image is fascinating and is told in detail in text from Wikipedia and other sources below.

It would seem that Lange was mistaken or made up the story to fill in the blanks; and that the image was at first a curse (ashamed that the world could see how poor they were) and now a source of pride, to the Thompson family. As the text pertinently notes, “The photograph’s fame caused distress for Thompson and her children and raised ethical concerns about turning individuals into symbols.”

Marcus

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

 

 

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

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California [with thumb at bottom right removed]
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Destitute pea pickers in California' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California [original title, thumb removed; digital file, post-conservation]
1936
Library of Congress

 

Digital file was made from the original nitrate negative for “Migrant Mother” (LC-USF34-009058-C). The negative was retouched in the 1930s to erase the thumb holding a tent pole in lower right hand corner.

The file print made before the thumb was retouched can be seen at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.12883

Title from caption card for negative. Title on print: “Destitute pea pickers in California. A 32 year old mother of seven children.”

 

 

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. In the 1930s, the FSA employed several photographers to document the effects of the Great Depression on Americans. Many of the photographs can also be seen as propaganda images to support the U.S. government’s policy distributing support to the worst affected, poorer areas of the country. Dorothea Lange’s image of a migrant pea picker, Florence Owens Thompson, and her family has become an icon of resilience in the face of adversity. Lange actually took six images that day, the last being the famous “Migrant Mother”. This is a montage of the other five pictures. Persons in picture (left to right) are: Viola (Pete) in rocker, age 14, standing inside tent; Ruby, age 5; Katherine, age 4, seated on box; Florence, age 32, and infant Norma, age 1 year, being held by Florence. Pete has moved inside the tent, and away from Lange, in hopes her photo can not be taken. Katherine stands next to her mother. Florence is talking to Ruby, who is hiding behind her mother, as Lange took the picture. Florence is nursing Norma. Katherine has moved back from her mother as Lange approached to take this shot. Ruby is still hiding behind her mother. Left to right are Florence, Ruby and baby Norma. Florence stopped nursing Norma and Ruby has come out from behind her. This photograph was the one used by the newspapers the following day to report the story of the migrants. Portrait shows Florence Owens Thompson with several of her children in a photograph known as “Migrant Mother”.

  1. Persons in picture (left to right) are: Viola (Pete) in rocker, age 14; standing inside tent, Ruby, age 5; Katherine, age 4; seated on box, Florence, age 32, and infant Norma, age 1 year, being held by Florence
  2. Viola has moved inside the tent. Katherine stands next to her mother. Florence is talking to Ruby, who is behind her mother
  3. Florence is nursing Norma. Katherine has moved back from her mother. Ruby is still behind her mother
  4. Left to right are Florence, Ruby and baby Norma
  5. Florence stopped nursing Norma. Ruby is still next to her mother. This photograph was the one used by the newspapers the following day to report the story of the starving migrants

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California' 1936

 

“We do not know the order in which these photographs were taken, since they are 4″ x 5” individual negatives rather than 35mm film strips, which provide a record of the sequence of continuous exposures. However, Lange indicates in the above statement she moved closer as she continued to photograph. If that is true, then we have a good idea of the general order. We do know that one was selected, likely as a joint decision between Lange and representatives of the Resettlement Administration.

While “Migrant Mother” is well known, what is far less known is that Lange took six or seven pictures, five of which still exist. Lange posed Ms. Florence Thompson in different positions and used some of her seven children to create a series of compelling images. She asked Thompson to shift the position of the child in her arms to get the greatest emotional effect. Linda Gordon’s biography of Lange describes this as follows:

Lange asked the mother and children to move into several different positions. She began with a mid-distance shot. Then she backed up for one shot, then came closer for others. She moved aside a pile of dirty clothes (she would never embarrass her subjects). She then moved closer yet, focusing on three younger children and sidelining the teenage daughter out of the later pictures altogether… she offered the photographs to the press. The San Francisco News published two of them on March 10, 1936. In response, contributions of $200,000 poured in for the destitute farmworkers stuck in Nipomo. (Gordon, 2009, p. 237)

One was eventually selected to represent this scene to the nation.”

Anonymous. “The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the New Deal,” on the Annenberg Learner website [Online] Cited 16/12/2018

 

 

Iconic photo

In March 1936, after picking beets in the Imperial Valley, Florence and her family were traveling on U.S. Highway 101 towards Watsonville “where they had hoped to find work in the lettuce fields of the Pajaro Valley.” On the road, the car’s timing chain snapped and they coasted to a stop just inside a pea-pickers‘ camp on Nipomo Mesa. They were shocked to find so many people camping there – as many as 2,500 to 3,500. A notice had been sent out for pickers, but the crops had been destroyed by freezing rain, leaving them without work or pay. Years later Florence told an interviewer that when she cooked food for her children that day little children appeared from the pea pickers’ camp asking, “Can I have a bite?”

While Jim Hill, her husband, and two of Florence’s sons went into town to get the car’s damaged radiator repaired, Florence and some of the children set up a temporary camp. As Florence waited, photographer Dorothea Lange, working for the Resettlement Administration, drove up and started taking photos of Florence and her family. She took six images in the course of ten minutes.

Lange’s field notes of the images read:

Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food.

Lange later wrote of the encounter with Thompson:

I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food.

Thompson claimed that Lange never asked her any questions and got many of the details incorrect. Troy Owens recounted:

There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell. The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them. I don’t believe Dorothea Lange was lying, I just think she had one story mixed up with another. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn’t have.

In many ways, Migrant Mother is not typical of Lange’s careful method of interacting with her subject. Exhausted after a long road-trip, she did not talk much to the migrant woman, Florence Thompson, and didn’t record her information accurately. Although Thompson became a famous symbol of White motherhood, her heritage is Native American. The photograph’s fame caused distress for Thompson and her children and raised ethical concerns about turning individuals into symbols.

According to Thompson, Lange promised the photos would never be published, but Lange sent them to the San Francisco News as well as to the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C. The News ran the pictures almost immediately and reported that 2,500 to 3,500 migrant workers were starving in Nipomo, California. Within days, the pea-picker camp received 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) of food from the federal government. Thompson and her family had moved on by the time the food arrived and were working near Watsonville, California.

While Thompson’s identity was not known for over 40 years after the photos were taken, the images became famous. The sixth image, especially, which later became known as Migrant Mother, “has achieved near mythical status, symbolising, if not defining, an entire era in United States history.” Roy Stryker called Migrant Mother the “ultimate” photo of the Depression Era: “[Lange] never surpassed it. To me, it was the picture … . The others were marvellous, but that was special … . She is immortal.” As a whole, the photographs taken for the Resettlement Administration “have been widely heralded as the epitome of documentary photography.” Edward Steichen described them as “the most remarkable human documents ever rendered in pictures.”

Thompson’s identity was discovered in the late 1970s. In 1978, acting on a tip, Modesto Bee reporter Emmett Corrigan located Thompson at her mobile home in Space 24 of the Modesto Mobile Village and recognised her from the 40-year-old photograph. A letter Thompson wrote was published in The Modesto Bee and the Associated Press distributed a story headlined “Woman Fighting Mad Over Famous Depression Photo.” Florence was quoted as saying “I wish she [Lange] hadn’t taken my picture. I can’t get a penny out of it. She didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did.”

Lange was funded by the federal government when she took the picture, so the image was in the public domain and Lange never directly received any royalties. However, the picture did help make Lange a celebrity and earned her “respect from her colleagues.”

In a 2008 interview with CNN, Thompson’s daughter Katherine McIntosh recalled how her mother was a “very strong lady”, and “the backbone of our family”. She said: “We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something. She didn’t eat sometimes, but she made sure us children ate. That’s one thing she did do.”

 

Later life, death, and aftermath

Though Thompson’s 10 children bought her a house in Modesto, California, in the 1970s, Thompson found she preferred living in a mobile home and moved back into one.

Thompson was hospitalised and her family appealed for financial help in late August 1983. By September, the family had collected $35,000 in donations to pay for her medical care. Florence died of “stroke, cancer and heart problems” at Scotts Valley, California, on September 16, 1983. She was buried in Lakewood Memorial Park, in Hughson, California, and her gravestone reads: “FLORENCE LEONA THOMPSON Migrant Mother – A Legend of the Strength of American Motherhood.”

Daughter Katherine McIntosh told CNN that the photo’s fame had made the family feel both ashamed and determined never to be as poor again. Son Troy Owens said that more than 2,000 letters received along with donations for his mother’s medical fund led to a re-appraisal of the photo: “For Mama and us, the photo had always been a bit of [a] curse. After all those letters came in, I think it gave us a sense of pride.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Cars on the Road' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Cars on the Road
1936
Library of Congress
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Near Eutah, Alabama' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Near Eutah, Alabama
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Ditched, stalled and stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California' 1935, printed c. 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Ditched, Stalled, and Stranded, San Joaquin Valley, California
1936
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

Quotes from Dorothea Lange

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable, but when the great photographs are produced, it will be down that road. I have only touched it, just touched it.”

“On the Bowery I knew how to step over drunken men … I knew how to keep an expression of face that would draw no attention, so no one would look at me. I have used that my whole life in photographing.”

Interview with Lange, in Dorothea Lange, Part II : The Closer For Me, film produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET), USA, 1965

 

“I never steal a photograph. Never. All photographs are made in collaboration, as part of their thinking as well as mine.”

“Often it’s just sticking around and being there, remaining there, not swopping in and swopping out in a cloud of dust; sitting down on the ground with people, letting the children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you’re very apt to receive it.”

Anne Whiston, Spirn, Daring to Look, p. 23-24

 

“My own approach is based upon three considerations. First – hands off! Whatever I photograph I do not molest or tamper with or arrange. Second – a sense of place. Whatever I photograph, I try to picture as part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third – a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in the present.”

Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Masters Of Photography, New York Castle Books, 1958, p. 140

 

“The good photograph is not the object, the consequences of the photograph are the objects.”

“I believe that the camera is a powerful medium for communication and I believe that the camera is a valuable tool for social research which has not been developed to its capacity.”

Dorothea Lange, quoted in Karen Tsujimoto, Dorothea Lange : Archive of an Artist, Oakland, Oakland Museum, 1995, p. 23

 

“Everything is propaganda for what you believe in, actually, isn’t it? … I don’t see that it could be otherwise. The harder and the more deeply you believe in anything, the more in a sense you’re a propagandist. Conviction, propaganda, faith. I don’t know, I never have been able to come to the conclusion that that’s a bad word […] But at any rate, that’s what the Office of War Information work was.”

“There is a sharp difference, a gulf. The woman’s position is immeasurably more complicated. There are not very many first class woman producers, not many. That is, producers of outside things. They produce in other ways. Where they can do both, it’s a conflict. I would like to try. I would like to have one year. I’d like to take one year, almost ask it of myself, ‘Could I have one year?’ Just one, when I would not have to take into account anything but my own inner demands. Maybe everybody would like that … but I can’t.”

Suzanne Riess, “Dorothea Lange: The Making of a documentary Photographer,” October 1960-August 1961, p. 181; 219-220

 

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Drought-abandoned house on the edge of the Great Plains near Hollis, Oklahoma' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Drought-abandoned house on the edge of the Great Plains near Hollis, Oklahoma
1938
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (United States 1895-1965) 'Towards Los Angeles, California' 1936, printed c. 1975

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Toward Los Angeles, California
1937
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Family on the road, Oklahoma' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Family on the road, Oklahoma
1938
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Ancienne esclave à la longue mémoire, Alabama' 'Former slave with a long memory, Alabama' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Ancienne esclave à la longue mémoire, Alabama
Former slave with a long memory, Alabama
1938
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

The Politics of Seeing features major works by the world famous American photographer Dorothea Lange (1895, Hoboken, New Jersey-1966, San Francisco, California), some of which have never before been exhibited in France. The exhibition focuses on the extraordinary emotional power of Dorothea Lange’s work and on the context of her documentary practice. It features five specific series: the Depression period (1933-1934), a selection of works from the Farm Security Administration (1935-1939), the Japanese American internment (1942), the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944) and a series on a Public defender (1955-1957). Over one hundred splendid vintage prints taken between 1933 and 1957 are enhanced by the presence of documents and screenings broadening the scope of an oeuvre often familiar to the public through images such as White Angel Breadline (1933) and Migrant Mother (1936), which are icons of photographic history. The majority of prints in this exhibition belong to the Oakland Museum of California, where Lange’s considerable archive, donated to the museum after her death by her husband Paul Shuster Taylor, is conserved.

Like John Steinbeck’s famous novel The Grapes of Wrath, Dorothea Lange’s oeuvre has helped shape our conception of the interwar years in America and contributed to our knowledge of this period. However, this exhibition also introduces other aspects of Dorothea Lange’s practice, which she herself considered archival. By placing the photographic work in the context of her anthropological approach, it enables viewers to appreciate how its power also lies in her capacity to interact with her subjects, evident in her captions to the images. She thereby considerably enriched the informative quality of the visual archive and produced a form of oral history for future generations.

In 1932, during the Great Depression that began in 1929, Lange observed the unemployed homeless people in the streets of San Francisco and decided to drop her studio portrait work because she felt that it was no longer adequate. During a two-year period that marked a turning point in her life, she took photographs of urban situations that portrayed the social impact of the recession. This new work became known in artistic circles and attracted the attention of Paul Schuster Taylor, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Taylor was a specialist in agricultural conflicts of the 1930s, and in particular Mexican migrant workers. He began using Lange’s photographs to illustrate his articles and in 1935 they started working together for the government agencies of the New Deal. Their collaboration lasted for over thirty years.

During the Second World War, Lange continued to practise photography and to document the major issues of the day, including the internment of Japanese-American families during the war; the economic and social development due to industries engaged in the war effort; and the criminal justice system through the work of a county public defence lawyer.

Dorothea Lange’s iconic images of the Great Depression are well known, but her photographs of Japanese-Americans interned during the Second World War were only published in 2006. Shown here for the first time in France, they illustrate perfectly how Dorothea Lange created intimate and poignant images throughout her career in order to denounce injustices and change public opinion. In addition to the prints, a selection of personal items, including contact sheets, field notes and publications allow the public to situate her work within the context of this troubled period.

The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume offers a new perspective on the work of this renowned American artist, whose legacy continues to be felt today. Highlighting the artistic qualities and the strength of the artist’s political convictions, this exhibition encourages the public to rediscover the importance of Dorothea Lange’s work as a landmark in the history of documentary photography.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note social security number tattooed on his arm, Oregon' 1939

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note social security number tattooed on his arm, Oregon
1939
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Manzanar Relocation Center' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California
1942
© Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Japanese Children with Tags, Hayward, California, May 8 1942'

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Japanese Children with Tags, Hayward, California, May 8 1942
1942
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Jour de lessive, quarante-huit heures avant l’évacuation des personnes d’ascendance japonaise de ce village agricole du comté de Santa Clara, San Lorenzo, Californie' 'Laundry day, forty-eight hours before the evacuation of people of Japanese descent from this farming village of Santa Clara County, San Lorenzo, California' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Jour de lessive, quarante-huit heures avant l’évacuation des personnes d’ascendance japonaise de ce village agricole du comté de Santa Clara, San Lorenzo, Californie
Laundry day, forty-eight hours before the evacuation of people of Japanese descent from this farming village of Santa Clara County, San Lorenzo, California
1942
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Oakland, California, March 1942' 1942

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Oakland, California, March 1942
1942
Library of Congress
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California

 

 

A large sign reading “I am an American” placed in the window of a store, at 401-403 Eight and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. The owner, a University of California graduate, will be housed with hundreds of evacuees in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war.

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966) 'Shipyard Worker, Richmond California' c. 1943

 

Dorothea Lange (1895-1966)
Shipyard Worker, Richmond California
c. 1943
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

 

Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing

Dorothea Nutzhorn (1895–1965), who took up photography at the age of eighteen, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. The daughter of second-generation German immigrants, she adopted her mother’s maiden name, Lange, when she opened a portrait studio in San Francisco in 1918. In 1932, during the Great Depression, Lange shifted her focus from studio portraits to scenes showing the impact of the recession and the social unrest in the streets of San Francisco. This two-year period marked a turning point in her life. Paul Schuster Taylor, professor of economics at the University of California, and a specialist in agricultural conflicts, who later became her second husband, began using her photographs to illustrate his articles in 1934. They worked together for over thirty years. Co-authors of the famous book An American Exodus (1939), they were active in circulating images about social conditions in rural states.

Lange created some of the iconic images of the Great Depression, but this exhibition presents other aspects of her practice, which she herself considered archival. By placing her photographic work in the context of her anthropological approach, it reveals how her images were also rooted in her ability to connect with her subjects, evident in her captions to the images. She thus considerably enriched the informative quality of the visual archive and produced a form of oral history for future generations. Her work for government institutions and the publication of her images in the illustrated press enabled her to denounce injustice and change public opinion.

Her efforts to connect with her subjects can be seen in the five specific series featured in this exhibition: the Depression period (1932–1934), a selection of works from the Farm Security Administration (1935-1941), the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944), the Japanese American internment (1942) and a series on a public defender (1955-1957). By introducing contextual information and important archive material, the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing endeavours to situate her majestic works within the social documentary context specific to the 1930s and 1940s, highlighting the artistic qualities of her work and the strength of her political convictions.

 

1. “The people that my life touched”, 1932-1934

In 1929 America’s urban and rural populations were hard hit by the Great Depression. Leading up to the stock market crash there had been a boom in agricultural production. However, by the late 1920s production was exceeding consumption, causing a drop in prices that had severe consequences for farmers. The textile and coal industries suffered sharp declines in wages and employment. In the 1930s, the oil, transportation and construction sectors declined at an even faster rate than agriculture, causing urban unemployment to rise above that of the rural states. In March 1933, in the midst of this crisis, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president.

This context of considerable social unrest prompted a change in direction in Lange’s engagement with photography. From 1932 to 1934, she captured demonstrations and homeless people in the streets of San Francisco. Urban portraits like White Angel Breadline (1933) later became iconic images of the period. Her work from this period was recognised in artistic circles and Paul Shuster Taylor used one of her photographs of the May Day demonstrations to illustrate his article about the longest, largest maritime strike in the history of the USA, which was published in the progressive social welfare journal Survey Graphic in September 1934.

 

2. The documentary survey – the narration of migration, 1935-1941

In 1935, Lange accompanied Taylor on several field trips to study people migrating to rural California from the Midwest. Taylor used Lange’s images to illustrate the articles as well as his federal reports. Such was the impact of Lange’s powerful images that the authorities built the first migrant camps for agricultural workers as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal policy. The latter consisted of numerous programmes intended to combat the devastating effects of the Depression in all areas of life across the country. One such programme was the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which led to the creation of the largest American photographic archive ever, containing over 130,000 negatives documenting how the New Deal helped to relieve poverty in rural areas.

Lange, who worked in twenty-two different states, was given two contracts, one running from 1935 to 1937 and the other from 1938 to the closure of the programme in January 1941. Her photographs highlighted the plight of people who were caught up in the complex economic web of industrial farming, victims of the failure of the American dream. The images and the transcriptions of oral testimonies that Lange made were personal and intimate recollections of a history that became a cause of significant public concern in the late 1930s.
3. “A two-ocean war” – Kaiser Shipyards, Richmond, 1942-1944

During the early 1940s, Lange was interested in a new form of internal migration caused by the rapid expansion of industries, naval training programmes and military defence organisations in the Bay Area, California. Here part of the once scorned and rejected “Okie” population (migrant farm workers) moved to urban districts, where they proudly contributed to the war effort. In 1944, Lange was commissioned by Fortune magazine to photograph the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond. This young corporation, established to help with the war effort, employed nearly 100,000 unskilled workers thanks to new techniques of manufacture and assembly. Lange captured the changing of shifts and the intensity of the shipyard’s activity, the diversity of the workforce, intimate details of their living conditions, and the isolation and loneliness of the newcomers, and in particular African Americans, who were excluded from the local community. She was also interested in the unions’ unsuccessful efforts to cope with this large, diverse workforce and in women’s new status in the industrial sector.

 

4. The internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, 1942

Lange’s various series reflect many aspects of America’s cultural geography. Her desire to portray the dignity of people enduring hardship and the complexity of their situations, coupled with the need to produce a historical document, enabled Lange to produce work of universal scope.

In March 1942, in the wake of the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, the US government ordered the internment of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast military zones, crowning a century of racism against Asian immigrants. Executive Order 9066 targeted three generations of Japanese Americans, who were “relocated” to ten remote and intemperate camps in California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Arkansas and Wyoming.

Lange was commissioned by the War Relocation Authority to cover the procedure from March to July 1942. Her sensitivity to the identity of cultural minorities was already evident in her photographs for the FSA commission. A decade later she captured the evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, which lasted for over 18 months. These images belonged to a “military record” and were only released for publication in 2006.

 

5. The public defender, 1955-1957

A system of public defence for persons in need of legal support in court cases began in California in 1914 and by the 1950s had been introduced in many states throughout the country. Lange supported the idea of justice for all and was given an assignment by Life magazine to cover the subject at the Alameda County Court house, Oakland, to be published in May 1956 to mark Law Day. Lange was given permission to photograph in prison cells, as well as in and around the law court, taking over 450 images. She worked in conjunction with Martin Pulich, an American lawyer of Yugoslav descent, who recognised in Lange’s approach a social and political stance that mirrored his own commitment as a public defender. In this photographic essay she was able to pinpoint issues concerning racial prejudice that were omnipresent in the Bay Area at the time. The assignment did not appear in Life, but it was published in many newspapers, even internationally, and was also used by the national Legal Aid Society of New York to develop public services in the legal system.

Pia Viewing
Curator of the exhibition

 

Paul S. Taylor. 'Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains' c. 1935

 

Paul S. Taylor
Dorothea Lange on the Plains of Texas
c. 1935
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

 

 

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16
Oct
13

‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 1

Kodachrome sheets 1941 – 1943

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-43. I absolutely adore these photographs. While today they might seem overly posed and almost surreal in their depiction of men and women at work in the factories of the home front during the Second World War, these are epic canvases of colour, light and form. While Eugène Atget’s photographs may well have been “Documents for artists”, I believe that Alfred Palmer’s photographs can be seen as “Documents for photographers.” They teach later generations the value of craft, of an understanding of the technical aspects of the medium (both camera and film) coupled with the imaginative use and capture of light, colour and pose. Look at the photograph Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach (October 1942, below) – have you ever seen such use of colour in the 1940s: red socks, blue slacks, beige shirt, green lunch box and silver background. Like one of those old films in Technicolor, just so beautiful!

While these photographs are masterpieces of formalism, lighting, tone, texture and control, they also transcend their subject matter. Observe the image P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California (c. 1942, below) for example, to comprehend how this master photographer saw this image, how he understood the potential of the subject matter to shine (on so many levels) and then was able to capture it and let it speak for itself. Considering the conditions under which he would have been working (in cramped factories) and the fact that he would have had to light everything himself, Palmer has recorded a remarkable body of work. All captured on the wonderful Kodachrome film in large format 4″x5″ sheets. What a loss to photography this film is.

These photographs deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are at present. Love em, love em, love them!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California' c. 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California
c. 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant' Photo published in 1942

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Alfred Palmer
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, plant
Photo published in 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.

October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain
October, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942' June, 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942
June, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Army tank driver at Fort Knox , Kentucky' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Army tank driver at Fort Knox, Kentucky
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant “Mike” Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred T. Palmer 1906 – 1993

“Born in San Jose, California, Palmer was an avid photographer from an early age, meeting the young Ansel Adams in Yosemite in 1916. He was hired on as a cadet on the Dollar Lines President Monroe. He was 19 years old. This would be the first of his 23 trips around the world in the next 32 years. Palmer became the official photographer and worked aboard Dollar Line, Matson and Moore-McCormack Lines ships around the world shooting 100s of images with his Graflex camera. He would trade with other crew members for daytime shifts so he could go ashore and photograph everything he saw.

In 1938, he packed cameras and darkroom equipment into his car and set out across America documenting everything that captured his interest from cows and pigs and corn to towns, cities, people and industry. He would develop the film in the bathrooms of the tourist homes and auto courts every night. He sold the negatives for a dollar each for use in educational books. He made contact prints of each one which are included in his vast portfolio of work.

In 1939 when Hitler attacked Poland the United States ranked twentieth as a world military power. In June of 1940 President Roosevelt and Congress passed a bill for the building of a major two ocean navy. At that time Roosevelt formed the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Palmer was chosen to head the photography department. To rally and inform citizens about the use of their tax dollars and resources, Palmer was sent out to photograph Americans building what Roosevelt termed the Arsenal of Democracy. Aware of the power of mass media, the OEM wanted to provide images which would vividly convey their story in high contrast photos for magazines and newspapers. At the OEM, Palmer’s boss, Robert Horton, would brainstorm assignments, sending him into restricted industrial and military facilities. Once in the field, Palmer worked independently. He developed a style of quickly seeing the picture and catching the essence. Through this style he was able to convey the gritty texture and geometry of industrial form combined with the strong emotion of men and women attentive to their work. His dramatic tonal ranges and sharp focus approach reflect the early influence of his mentor, Ansel Adams.

In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Palmer became official photographer for the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI). He also served as technical expert with final say on photographic equipment and processes. Now his images had to illustrate all aspects of the war effort, from industrial workers to conservation of resources and citizen participation. Palmer’s emphasis was on the typical American hard at work on the home front. His photographs were also an integral part of the “women power” campaign to change the public attitude toward women joining the work force. He showed women as patriotic, glamorous and capable, working on fighter planes as well as assembly lines. Palmer also focused on the dedication and dignity of the black labor force and worked with the chief of the News Bureau Negro Press.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was added as a joint agency with the OWI. Palmer and Roy Stryker shared creativity and conflict during those years in the dissident approaches to portraying America to herself. While Stryker’s unit showed a national self scrutiny of post depression America, Palmer sought to emphasize a moral building role through his photography. Palmer’s deep belief in promoting the spiritual strength of people permeates his entire career as photographer and filmmaker.

During his years with OWI Palmer worked with a number of significant photographers such as Esther Bubbly, Howard Leiberman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang and Edward Steichen. Palmer’s artistic style was recognized by Steichen, who featured his photographs in the historic traveling exhibit “Road to Victory”, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Alfred Palmer generated thousands of photographs that were widely published in the major magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. His works were praised for their exceptional symbolic power and striking use of intense contrasts conveying the courage and determination that Roosevelt sought to arouse in the nation. Much of the vast collection of Palmer’s photographs (including rare color transparencies) is housed in the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Alfred Palmer passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of life work that is unique in its very essence. This extensive collection of photographs and 16mm color film encompassing five decades of world cultures, World War II history and America’s maritime heritage becomes increasingly significant as a testimony to our humanity.”

Text from the Alfred T. Palmer website

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kodachrome-WEB

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A Kodachrome sheet film box that held 2 x half a dozen sheets of film in 2 sheet packages, from around the time Alfred Palmer would have been using the same film. Notice the ISO/ASA rating of 10. Expiry date of October 1944.

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Alfred Palmer. 'American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California , give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, factory' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, factory
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California 
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation' 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation.
“The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.”
1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(LOC)

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Alfred T. Palmer website

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09
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Posting Part 1

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2012 – 3rd February 2013

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This is the biggest posting on one exhibition that I have ever undertaken on Art Blart!

As befits the gravity of the subject matter this posting is so humongous that I have had to split it into 4 separate postings. This is how to research and stage a contemporary photography exhibition that fully explores its theme (NGV please note!). The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals producing an exhibition that features 26 sections (an inspired and thoughtful selection) that includes nearly 500 objects that illuminate all aspects of WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY.

I have spent hours researching and finding photographs on the Internet to support the posting. It has been a great learning experience and my admiration for photographers of all types has increased. I have discovered the photographs and stories of new image makers that I did not know and some hidden treasures along the way. I hope you enjoy this monster posting on a subject matter that should be consigned to the history books of human evolution.

**Please be aware that there are graphic photographs in all of these postings.** Part 2Part 3Part 4

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“On November 11, 2012, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, debuts an unprecedented exhibition exploring the experience of war through the eyes of photographers. WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath features nearly 500 objects, including photographs, books, magazines, albums and photographic equipment. The photographs were made by more than 280 photographers, from 28 nations, who have covered conflict on six continents over 165 years, from the Mexican-American War of 1846 through present-day conflicts. The exhibition takes a critical look at the relationship between war and photography, exploring what types of photographs are, and are not, made, and by whom and for whom. Rather than a chronological survey of wartime photographs or a survey of “greatest hits,” the exhibition presents types of photographs repeatedly made during the many phases of war – regardless of the size or cause of the conflict, the photographers’ or subjects’ culture or the era in which the pictures were recorded. The images in the exhibition are organized according to the progression of war: from the acts that instigate armed conflict, to “the fight,” to victory and defeat, and images that memorialize a war, its combatants and its victims. Both iconic images and previously unknown images are on view, taken by military photographers, commercial photographers (portrait and photojournalist), amateurs and artists.

“‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY’ promises to be another pioneering exhibition, following other landmark MFAH photography exhibitions such as ‘Czech Modernism: 1900-1945’ (1989) and ‘The History of Japanese Photography’ (2003),” said Gary Tinterow, MFAH director. “Anne Tucker, along with her co-curators, Natalie Zelt and Will Michels, has spent a decade preparing this unprecedented exploration of the complex and profound relationship between war and photography.” “Photographs serve the public as a collective memory of the experience of war, yet most presentations that deal with the material are organized chronologically,” commented Tucker. “We believe ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY’ is unique in its scope, exploring conflict and its consequences across the globe and over time, analyzing this complex and unrelenting phenomenon.”

The earliest work in the exhibition is from 1847, taken from the first photographed conflict: the Mexican-American War. Other early examples include photographs from the Crimean War, such as Roger Fenton’s iconic The Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855) and Felice Beato’s photograph of the devastated interior of Fort Taku in China during the Second Opium War (1860). Among the most recent images is a 2008 photograph of the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the remote Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan by Tim Hetherington, who was killed in April 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya. Also represented with two photographs in the exhibition is Chris Hondros, who was killed with Hetherington. While the exhibition is organized according to the phases of war, portraits of servicemen, military and political leaders and civilians are a consistent presence throughout, including Yousuf Karsh’s classic 1941 image of Winston Churchill, and the Marlboro Marine (2004), taken by embedded Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco of soldier James Blake Miller after an assault in Fallujah, Iraq. Sinco’s image was published worldwide on the cover of 150 publications and became a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The exhibition was initiated in 2002, when the MFAH acquired what is purported to be the first print made from Joe Rosenthal’s negative of Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima (1945). From this initial acquisition, the curators decided to organize an exhibition that would focus on war photography as a genre. During the evolution of the project, the museum acquired more than a third of the prints in the exhibition. The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals: World Press Photo (Amsterdam) and Visa pour l’Image (Perpignan, France). The curators based their appraisals on the clarity of the photographers’ observation and capacity to make memorable and striking pictures that have lasting relevance. The pictures were recorded by some of the most celebrated conflict photographers, as well as by many who remain anonymous. Almost every photographic process is included, ranging from daguerreotypes to inkjet prints, digital captures and cell-phone shots.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Yousuf Karsh. 'Winston Churchill' 1941

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Yousuf Karsh
Winston Churchill
1941

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Roger Fenton. 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855

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Roger Fenton
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855

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WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is organized into 26 sections, which unfold in the sequence that typifies the stages of war, from the advent of conflict through the fight, aftermath and remembrance. Each section showcases images appropriate to that category while cutting across cultures, time and place. Outside of this chronological approach are focused galleries for “Media Coverage and Dissemination” (with an emphasis on technology); “Iwo Jima” (a case study); and “Photographic Essays” (excerpts from two landmark photojournalism essays, by Larry Burrows and Todd Heisler).

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1. Media Coverage and Dissemination provides an overview of how technology has profoundly affected the ways that pictures from the front reach the public: from Roger Fenton and his horse-drawn photography van (commissioned by the British government to document the Crimean War), to Joe Rosenthal’s 1940s Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5) camera, to pictures taken with the Hipstamatic app of an iPhone by photojournalist Michael Christopher Brown in Egypt during the protests and clashes of the Arab Spring. (22 images/objects)

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Roger Fenton English (1819-1869) 'The artist's van [Marcus Sparling, full-length portrait, seated on Roger Fenton's photographic van]' 1855

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Roger Fenton English (1819-1869)
The artist’s van [Marcus Sparling, full-length portrait, seated on Roger Fenton’s photographic van]
1855
Salted paper print
17.5 × 16.5 cm
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

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Manufactured by Graflex, active 1912-1973
Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5), “Scott S. Wigle camera” (First American-made D-Day picture)
c. 1940
camera
Collection of George Eastman House (Gift of Graflex, Inc.)

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2. The photographs in An Advent of War depict the catalytic events of war. These moments of instigation are rarely captured, as photographers are not always present at the initial attack or provocation. Photographs that Robert Clark took on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the aerial view of torpedoes approaching Battleship Row during the Pearl Harbor attack, taken by an unknown Japanese airman on December 7, 1941, both convey with clarity the concept of war’s advent. (11 images).

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Unknown photographer Japanese
War in Hawaiian Water. Japanese Torpedoes Attack Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941
gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels

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3. Recruitment & Embarkation shows mobilization: the movement toward the front. Mikhail Trakhman captures a Russian mother kissing her son goodbye in Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans (1942), while a 1916 photograph by Josiah Barnes, known as the “Embarkation Photographer,” shows an archetypal moment: young Australian soldiers waving goodbye from a ship as they depart their home country to fight in World War I. (7 images)

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Josiah Barnes Australian (1858-1921)
Embarkation of HMAT Ajana, Melbourne
July 8, 1916
Gelatin silver print (printed 2012)
On loan from the Australian War Memorial

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Mikhail Trakhman
Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans
1942

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4. Training explores photographs of soldiers in boot camp or more-advanced phases of instruction and exercise. World War II Royal Navy officers gather around a desk to study different types of aircraft in a photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton. Also included is the iconic Vietnam-era photograph of a U.S. Marine drill sergeant reprimanding a recruit in South Carolina, from Thomas Hoepker’s series US Marine Corps boot camp, 1970. In one photograph, shot by a Japanese soldier and published in 1938 by Look magazine, Japanese soldiers use living Chinese prisoners in bayonet practice. (13 images) 

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Thomas Hoepker German (born 1936)
A US Marine drill sergeant delivers a severe reprimand to a recruit, Parris Island, South Carolina
1970
from the series US Marine Corps boot camp, 1970
Inkjet print
Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
© Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos

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5. Daily Routine features moments of boredom, routine and playfulness. A member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps wears a gas mask as he peels onions. A 1942 photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton catches the off-guard expression of a Royal Navy man at a sewing machine, mending a signal flag. (13 images)

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Anon. 'Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California' 1918

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Anon
Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California
1918
National Archives and Records Administration

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Cecil Beaton, English (1904-1980)
A Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Alcantara uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone
March 1942
Gelatin silver print, printed 2012
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation
© The Imperial War Museums (neg. #CBM 1049)

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HMS Alcantara

HMS Alcatara was an RML passenger liner of 22,209 tons and 19 knots launched in 1926, and taken up by the Royal Navy for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser to counter the threat posed by German surface raiders against shipping. When Jim Hingston joined her as an ordinary seaman at Freetown she was still largely in merchant dress, with wood panelling throughout. Much to the regret of her crew this was removed during their stay at Simonstown – the wisdom of that was apparent to them only too soon.

There were some 53 such ships in all, poorly armed, in Alcantara’s case with eight 6 inch and two 3 inch guns, the former having a range of some 14,200 yards (13,000 metres). Such armament could not be much more than defensive, the intention being that the AMCs should radio the position of the German ship and not only give merchant shipping a chance to escape but delay the commerce raider long enough to allow regular RN warships to get to the scene.

Alcantara’s opponent, the Thor, was laid down in 1938 as a freighter of 9,200 tons displacement and a speed of 18 knots, but commissioned as a commerce raider on 14 March 1940. Though she had only 6 150 mm guns they had a much greater range, at 20,000 yards, than Alcantara and other British AMCs. She also carried a scout floatplane. During the engagement with Alcantara on 28 July 1940 the Thor inflicted significant damage but the Alcantara successfully closed, and after being hit the Thor withdrew in order to avoid the risk of being crippled or being forced to abort her mission. In later encounters with AMCs the Thor severely damaged the Carnarvon Castle and sank Voltaire.

HMS Alcantara later had her 6 in armament upgraded and was equipped with a seaplane, but as the threat of surface raiders receded she was converted to her more natural role of troopship in 1943.

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6. Images of Reconnaissance, Resistance and Sabotage are scarce by nature, as they reveal spies in the act and could be used against those depicted or their families. A U.S. soldier on night watch sits atop a mountain in Afghanistan, wrapped in a blanket and peering into night-vision equipment, in a photograph by Adam Ferguson. A photograph by T. E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia) documents the bombing of the Hejaz Railway during the Arab Revolt. Cas Oorthuys’ photograph Under German Occupation (Dutch Worker’s Front), Amsterdam (c. 1940-45), taken with a camera hidden in his jacket, shows the back of a fellow countryman who is helping to conceal the photographer, with German troops in the distance. Also included is Arkady Shaikhet’s 1942 photograph Partisan Girl depicting Olga Mekheda, who was renowned for her ability to get through German roadblocks – even while pregnant. (10 images)

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T.E. Lawrence
Untitled [A Tulip bomb explodes on the railway Hejaz Railway, near Deraa, Hejaz, Ottoman Empire]
1918
Collection of the MFA Houston

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Adam Ferguson. 'September 4, Tangi valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, a soldier of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was  attentively monitoring a highway' September 4, 2009

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Adam Ferguson
September 4, Tangi valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, a soldier of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was  attentively monitoring a highway
September 4, 2009

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“To me, this picture epitomizes the abstract idea of the ‘enemy’ that exists within the U.S. led war in Afghanistan: a young infantryman watches a road with a long-range acquisition sight surveying for insurgents planting Improvised Explosive Devices. U.S. Army Infantrymen rarely knowingly come face to face with their enemy, combat is fleeting and fought like cat and mouse, and the most decisive blows are determined by intelligence gathering, and then delivered through technology that maintains a safe distance, just like a video game.”

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Arkady Shaikhet Russian (1898-1959)
Partisan Girl
1942
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Marion Mundy
© Arkady Shaikhet Estate, Moscow, courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery, NYC

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7. Patrol & Troop Movement conveys the mass movements of peoples and personnel by land, sea and air, from the movement of troops and supplies to patrols by all five divisions of military service: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force. Combat patrols are detachments of forces sent into hostile terrain for a range of missions, and they – as well as the photographers accompanying them – face considerable danger. João Silva’s three sequenced frames show, through his eyes, the tilted earth just after he was felled by an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010; he lost both legs in the incident. A tranquil, 1917 image by Australian James Frank Hurley depicts silhouetted soldiers walking in a line, their reflections captured in a body of water. A 1943 photograph by American Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR shows members of the U.S. Coast Guard observing a depth-charge explosion hitting a German submarine that stalked their convoy. (14 images)

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João Silva. 'Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division react to photographer Joao Silva stepping on a mine in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 23, 2010'

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João Silva
Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division react to photographer Joao Silva stepping on a mine in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 23, 2010, in a three-photo combination. For American troops in heavily-mined Afghan villages, steering clear of improvised explosive devices is the most difficult task
October 23, 2010
© João Silva / The New York Times via Redux

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Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR, American
USCG Cutter Spencer destroys Nazi sub
April 17, 1943
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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8. The Wait depicts a common situation of wartime. Susan Meiselas captures a tense moment during a 1978 street fight in Nicaragua, when muchachos with Molotov cocktails line up in an alleyway, ready to initiate an attack on the National Guard. Robert Capa shows two female French ambulance drivers in Italy during World War II, leaning against their vehicle, knitting, as they wait to be called. (8 images)

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Robert Capa (1913-1954)
Drivers from the French ambulance corps near the front, waiting to be called
Italy, 1944
Original album – Italy. Cassino Campaign. W.W.II.
© 2001 By Cornell Capa, Agentur Magnum

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Susan Meiselas American (born 1948)
Muchachos Await Counter Attack by The National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
Chromogenic print (printed 2006)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2006
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

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9. The Fight is one of the most extensive sections in the exhibition. Dmitri Baltermants shot Attack – Eastern Front WWII (cover image of the exhibition catalogue) in 1941 from the trench, as men charged over him. Sky Over Sevastopol (1944), by Evgeny Khaldey, is an aerial photograph of planes on their way to a bombing raid of the strategically important naval point. Joe Rosenthal’s Over the Top – American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima (1945) pictures infantrymen emerging from the protection of their landing craft into enemy fire. Staged photographs, presented as authentic documents, tend to proliferate during wartime, and several examples are included here. In 1942 the Public Relations Department of the War issued an assignment to photographers to create “representative” images of combat in North Africa for more dynamic images; official British photographer Len Chetwyn staged an Australian officer leading the charging line in the battle of El Alamein, using smoke in the background from the cookhouse to create a lively image. (21 images)

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Len Chetwyn English (1909-1980)
Australians approached the strong point, ready to rush in from different sides
November 3, 1942
Silver gelatin photograph

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Joe Rosenthal American (1911-2006)
Over the Top – American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima
February 19, 1945
Gelatin silver print with applied ink (printed February 23, 1945)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Richard S. and Dodie Otey Jackson in honor of Ira J. Jackson, M.D., and his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II
© AP / Wide World Photos

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Dmitri Baltermants
Attack – Eastern Front WWII
1941
Silver gelatin photograph

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10. The Wait and Rescue bookend The Fight. Among the photographs in Rescue are Ambush of the 173rd AB, South Vietnam (1965), by Tim Page, showing soldiers immediately combing through a battleground to assist the wounded; American Lt. Wayne Miller’s image of a wounded gunner being lifted from the turret of a torpedo bomber; and Life magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith’s 1944 photograph of an American soldier rescuing a dying Japanese infant. Smith wrote about that moment, stating “hands trained for killing gently… extricated the infant” to be transported to medical care. (8 images) 

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Lt. Wayne Miller
Crewmen lifting Kenneth Bratton out of turret of TBF on the USS SARATOGA after raid on Rabaul
November 1943
Silver gelatin photograph

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More information: Kenneth C. Bratton – Mississippi (WWII vet). He was born in Pontotoc, MS, December 17, 1918. He passed away April 15, 1982. Lt. Bratton won a purple heart for his bravery during the attack on Rabaul November 11, 1943.

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W. Eugene Smith American (1918-1978)
Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan
June 1944
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels in honor of Anne Wilkes Tucker
© Estate of W. Eugene Smith / Black Star

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11. Aftermath, with four subsections, features photographs taken after the battle has ended. “Death on the battlefield is one of the earliest types of war images: Felice Beato photographed the dead in the interior of Fort Taku in the Second Opium War (1860). George Strock’s Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea (1943), which ran in Life magazine with personal details about the casualties, was the first published photograph from any conflict of American dead in World War II. In 1966, Associated Press photographer Henri Huet documented an American paratrooper, who was killed in action, being raised to an evacuation helicopter. Incinerated Iraqi, Gulf War, Iraq, taken by Kenneth Jarecke, was published in Europe, but the American Associated Press editors withheld it in the United States. Shell Shock and Exhaustion shows impenetrable exhaustion after battle. In Don McCullin’s Shell-shocked soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line, Hué, Vietnam (1968), the man looks forward with the “thousand-yard stare.” Robert Attebury photographed Marines so exhausted after a 2005 battle in Iraq that lasted 17 hours that they fell asleep where they had been standing, amid the rubble of a destroyed building. Grief and Battlefield Burials were taken at the site of the conflict, including David Turnley’s 1991 picture of a weeping soldier who has just learned that the remains in a nearby body bag are those of a close friend. Destruction of Property shows collateral damage from war. Christophe Agou, for instance, photographed the smoldering steel remains of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. (39 images)

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George Strock. 'Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea' January 1943

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George Strock
Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea
January 1943
© George Strock / LIFE

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Henri Huet, French (1927-1971)
The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam
1966
Gelatin silver print (printed 2004)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase
© AP / Wide World Photos

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Kenneth Jarecke. 'Gulf War: Incinerated Iraqi soldier in personnel carrier' Nasiriyah, Iraq, March1991

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Kenneth Jarecke
Gulf War: Incinerated Iraqi soldier in personnel carrier
Nasiriyah, Iraq, March1991

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Felice Beato
Angle of North Taku Fort at which the French entered
August 21-22, 1860

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Don McCullin
Shell-shocked US soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line
Hue, Vietnam, 1968
© Don McCullin

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David Turnley
American Soldier Grieving for Comrade
Iraq, 1991

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Ken Kozakiewicz (left) breaks down in an evacuation helicopter after hearing that his friend, the driver of his Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was killed in a “friendly fire” incident that he himself survived. Michael Tsangarakis (center) suffers severe burns from ammunition rounds that blew up inside the vehicle during the incident. All of the soldiers were exposed to depleted uranium as a result of the explosion. They and the body of the dead man are on their way to a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).

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12. Prisoners of War (Civilian and Military)/Interrogation is a frequently photographed subject because such pictures can be made outside an area of conflict. Moreover, the people in control often documented their prisoners as a show of power. The photographs in this section include the official recording of a prisoner of war before his execution by the Khmer Rouge, taken by Nhem Ein. (14 images)

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Nhem Ein Cambodian (born 1959)
Untitled (prisoner #389 of the Khmer Rouge; man)
1975-79
Gelatin silver print (printed 1994)
Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art; Arthur M. Bullowa Fund and Geraldine Murphy Fund. Digital image
© The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA Art Resource, NY. Used with permission of Photo Archive Group

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13. Iwo Jima is a case study within the exhibition that presents the complete thematic narrative in photographs from a specific battle. Included in this section is the inspiration for the exhibition: Joe Rosenthal’s iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, a photograph he took as an Associated Press photographer in World War II showing U.S. Marines and one Navy medic raising the American flag on the remote Pacific island. (25 images)

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Joe Rosenthal, American (1911-2006)
Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima
February 23, 1945
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Manfred Heiting Collection, gift of the Kevin and Lesley Lilly Family
© AP / Wide World Photos

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Exhibition posting continued in Part 2…

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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Friday, Saturday 10.00 am – 7.00 pm
Sunday 12.15 pm – 7.00 pm
Closed Monday, except Monday holidays
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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