Posts Tagged ‘People on the street

02
Feb
18

Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2017 – 4th February 2018

Curator: Clément Chéroux

 

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Self-Portrait' 1927

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Self-Portrait
1927
Gelatin silver print
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

I have posted on this exhibition before, when it was at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but this iteration at SFMOMA is the exclusive United States venue for the Walker Evans retrospective exhibition – and the new posting contains fresh media images not available previously.

I can never get enough of Walker Evans. This perspicacious artist had a ready understanding of the contexts and conditions of the subject matter he was photographing. His photographs seem easy, unpretentious, and allow his sometimes “generally unaware” subjects (subway riders, labor workers) to speak for themselves. Does it matter that he was an outsider, rearranging furniture in workers homes while they were out in the fields: not at all. Photography has always falsified truth since the beginning of the medium and, in any case, there is never a singular truth but many truths told from many perspectives, many different points of view. For example, who is to say that the story of America proposed by Robert Frank in The Americans, from the point of view of an outsider, is any less valuable than that of Helen Levitt’s view of the streets of New York? For different reasons, both are as valuable as each other.

Evans’ photographs for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression on American life are iconic because they are cracking good photographs, not because he was an insider or outsider. He was paid to document, to enquire, and that is what he did, by getting the best shot he could. It is fascinating to compare Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama (1936, below) with Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs (1936, below). In the first photograph the strong diagonal element of the composition is reinforced by the parallel placement of the three feet, the ‘Z’ shape of Lucille Burroughs leg then leading into her upright body, which is complemented by the two vertical door jams, Floyd’s head silhouetted by the darkness beyond. There is something pensive about the clasping of his hands, and something wistful and sad, an energy emanating from the eyes. If you look at the close up of his face, you can see that it is “soft” and out of focus, either because he moved and/or the low depth of field. Notice that the left door jam is also out of focus, that it is just the hands of both Floyd and Lucille and her face that are in focus. Does this low depth of field and lack of focus bother Evans? Not one bit, for he knows when he has captured something magical.

A few second later, he moves closer to Floyd Burroughs. You can almost hear him saying to Floyd, “Stop, don’t move a thing, I’m just going to move the camera closer.” And in the second photograph you notice the same wood grain to the right of Floyd as in the first photograph, but this time the head is tilted slightly more, the pensive look replaced by a steely gaze directed straight into the camera, the reflection of the photographer and the world beyond captured on the surface of the eye. Walker Evans is the master of recognising the extra/ordinary. “The street was an inexhaustible source of poetic finds,” describes Chéroux. In his creation of visual portfolios of everyday life, his “notions of realism, of the spectator’s role, and of the poetic resonance of ordinary subjects,” help Evans created a mythology of American life: a clear vision of the present as the past, walking into the future.

With the contemporary decline of small towns and blue collar communities across the globe Evans’ concerns, for the place of ordinary people and objects in the world, are all the more relevant today. As the text from the Metropolitan Museum observes, it is the individuals and social institutions that are the sites and relics that constitute the tangible expressions of American desires, despairs, and traditions. And not just of American people, of all people… for it is community that binds us together.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Walker Evans is one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. His elegant, crystal-clear photographs and articulate publications have inspired several generations of artists, from Helen Levitt and Robert Frank to Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Bernd and Hilla Becher. The progenitor of the documentary tradition in American photography, Evans had the extraordinary ability to see the present as if it were already the past, and to translate that knowledge and historically inflected vision into an enduring art. His principal subject was the vernacular – the indigenous expressions of a people found in roadside stands, cheap cafés, advertisements, simple bedrooms, and small-town main streets. For fifty years, from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, Evans recorded the American scene with the nuance of a poet and the precision of a surgeon, creating an encyclopaedic visual catalogue of modern America in the making. …

Most of Evans’ early photographs reveal the influence of European modernism, specifically its formalism and emphasis on dynamic graphic structures. But he gradually moved away from this highly aestheticized style to develop his own evocative but more reticent notions of realism, of the spectator’s role, and of the poetic resonance of ordinary subjects. …

In September 1938, the Museum of Modern Art opened American Photographs, a retrospective of Evans’ first decade of photography. The museum simultaneously published American Photographs – still for many artists the benchmark against which all photographic monographs are judged. The book begins with a portrait of American society through its individuals – cotton farmers, Appalachian miners, war veterans – and social institutions – fast food, barber shops, car culture. It closes with a survey of factory towns, hand-painted signs, country churches, and simple houses – the sites and relics that constitute the tangible expressions of American desires, despairs, and traditions.

Between 1938 and 1941, Evans produced a remarkable series of portraits in the New York City subway. They remained unpublished for twenty-five years, until 1966, when Houghton Mifflin released Many Are Called, a book of eighty-nine photographs, with an introduction by James Agee written in 1940. With a 35mm Contax camera strapped to his chest, its lens peeking out between two buttons of his winter coat, Evans was able to photograph his fellow passengers surreptitiously, and at close range. Although the setting was public, he found that his subjects, unposed and lost in their own thoughts, displayed a constantly shifting medley of moods and expressions – by turns curious, bored, amused, despondent, dreamy, and dyspeptic. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he remarked. “Even more than in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors), people’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.”

Extract from Department of Photographs. “Walker Evans (1903-1975),” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000- (October 2004)

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Truck and Sign' 1928-1930

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Truck and Sign
1928-30
Gelatin silver print
Private collection, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama' 1936 (detail)

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama (detail)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs
1936
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 18.4 cm
Collection particulière, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Fernando Maquieira, Cromotex

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale Country, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print; private collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

“These are not photographs like those of Walker Evans who in James Agee’s account in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men took his pictures of the bare floors and iron bedsteads of the American mid-western sharecroppers while they were out tending their failing crops, and who even, as the evidence of his negatives proves, rearranged the furniture for a ‘better shot’. The best shot that Heilig could take was one that showed things as they were and as they should not be. …

To call these ‘socially-conscious documentary’ photographs is to acknowledge the class from which the photographer [Heilig] comes, not to see them as the result of a benign visit by a more privileged individual [Evans], however well-intentioned.”

Extract from James McCardle. “Weapon,” on the On This Day In Photography website [Online] Cited 29/01/2018

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Sidewalk and Shopfront, New Orleans' 1935

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Sidewalk and Shopfront, New Orleans
1935
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Willard Van Dyke
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Fish Market near Birmingham, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Roadside Stand Near Birmingham/Roadside Store Between Tuscaloosa and Greensboro, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Penny Picture Display, Savannah' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah
1936
Gelatin silver print
Pilara Foundation Collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Subway Portrait' January 1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans. 'Subway Passengers, New York' 1938

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans. 'Subway Passengers, New York' 1938

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut) '[Subway Passengers, New York City]' 1938

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Subway Portraits' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portraits
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Exhibition Displays Over 400 Photographs, Paintings, Graphic Ephemera and Objects from the Artist’s Personal Collection

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will be the exclusive United States venue for the retrospective exhibition Walker Evans, on view September 30, 2017, through February 4, 2018. As one of the preeminent photographers of the 20th century, Walker Evans’ 50-year body of work documents and distills the essence of life in America, leaving a legacy that continues to influence generations of contemporary photographers and artists. The exhibition will encompass all galleries in the museum’s Pritzker Center for Photography, the largest space dedicated to the exhibition, study and interpretation of photography at any art museum in the United States.

“Conceived as a complete retrospective of Evans’ work, this exhibition highlights the photographer’s fascination with American popular culture, or vernacular,” explains Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “Evans was intrigued by the vernacular as both a subject and a method. By elevating it to the rank of art, he created a unique body of work celebrating the beauty of everyday life.”

Using examples from Evans’ most notable photographs – including iconic images from his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression on American life; early visits to Cuba; street photography and portraits made on the New York City subway; layouts and portfolios from his more than 20-year collaboration with Fortune magazine and 1970s Polaroids – Walker Evans explores Evans’ passionate search for the fundamental characteristics of American vernacular culture: the familiar, quotidian street language and symbols through which a society tells its own story. Decidedly popular and more linked to the masses than the cultural elite, vernacular culture is perceived as the antithesis of fine art.

While many previous exhibitions of Evans’ work have drawn from single collections, Walker Evans will feature over 300 vintage prints from the 1920s to the 1970s on loan from the important collections at major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and SFMOMA’s own collection, as well as prints from private collections from around the world. More than 100 additional objects and documents, including examples of the artist’s paintings; items providing visual inspiration sourced from Evans’ personal collections of postcards, graphic arts, enamelled plates, cut images and signage; as well as his personal scrapbooks and ephemera will be on display. The exhibition is curated by the museum’s new senior curator of photography, Clément Chéroux, who joined SFMOMA in 2017 from the Musée National d’Art Moderne of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, organizer of the exhibition.

While most exhibitions devoted to Walker Evans are presented chronologically, Walker Evans‘ presentation is thematic. The show begins with an introductory gallery displaying Evans’ early modernist work whose style he quickly rejected in favour of focusing on the visual portfolio of everyday life. The exhibition then examines Evans’ captivation with the vernacular in two thematic contexts. The first half of the exhibition will focus on many of the subjects that preoccupied Evans throughout his career, including text-based images such as signage, shop windows, roadside stands, billboards and other examples of typography. Iconic images of the Great Depression, workers and stevedores, street photography made surreptitiously on New York City’s subways and avenues and classic documentary images of life in America complete this section. By presenting this work thematically, the exhibition links work separated by time and place and highlights Evans’ preoccupation with certain subjects and recurrent themes. The objects that moved him were ordinary, mass-produced and intended for everyday use. The same applied to the people he photographed – the ordinary human faces of office workers, labourers and people on the street.

“The street was an inexhaustible source of poetic finds,” describes Chéroux.

The second half of the exhibition explores Evans’ fascination with the methodology of vernacular photography, or styles of applied photography that are considered useful, domestic and popular. Examples include architecture, catalog and postcard photography as well as studio portraiture, and the exhibition juxtaposes this work with key source materials from the artist’s personal collections of 10,000 postcards, hand-painted signage and graphic ephemera (tickets, flyers, logos and brochures). Here Evans elevates vernacular photography to art, despite his disinclination to create fine art photographs. Rounding out this section are three of Evans’ paintings using vernacular architecture as inspiration. The exhibition concludes with Evans’ look at photography itself, with a gallery of photographs that unite Evans’ use of the vernacular as both a subject and a method.

 

About Walker Evans

Born in St. Louis, Walker Evans (1903-1975) was educated at East Coast boarding schools, Williams College, the Sorbonne and College de France before landing in New York in the late 1920s. Surrounded by an influential circle of artists, poets and writers, it was there that he gradually redirected his passion for writing into a career as a photographer, publishing his first photograph in the short-lived avant-garde magazine Alhambra. The first significant exhibition of his work was in 1938, when the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented Walker Evans: American Photographs, the first major solo exhibition at the museum devoted to a photographer.

In the 50 years that followed, Evans produced some of the most iconic images of his time, contributing immensely to the visibility of American culture in the 20th century and the documentary tradition in American photography. Evans’ best known photographs arose from his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), in which he documented the hardships and poverty of Depression-era America using a large-format, 8 x 10-inch camera. These photographs, along with his photojournalism projects from the 1940s and 1950s, his iconic visual cataloguing of the common American and his definition of the “documentary style,” have served as a monumental influence to generations of photographers and artists.

Press release from SFMOMA

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Resort Photographer at Work' 1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Resort Photographer at Work
1941, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Untitled [Street scene]' 1950s

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Untitled [Street scene]
1950s
Gouache on paper
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Street Debris, New York City' 1968

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Street Debris, New York City
1968
Gelatin silver print
Private collection, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) '"Labor Anonymous,” Fortune 34, no. 5, November 1946' 1946

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
“Labor Anonymous,” Fortune 34, no. 5, November 1946
1946
Offset lithography
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Collection of David Campany
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) '"The Pitch Direct. The Sidewalk Is the Last Stand of Unsophisticated Display," Fortune 58, no. 4, October 1958' 1958

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
“The Pitch Direct. The Sidewalk Is the Last Stand of Unsophisticated Display,” Fortune 58, no. 4, October 1958
1958
Offset lithography
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Collection of David Campany
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Collage with Thirty-Six Ticket Stubs' 1975

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Collage with Thirty-Six Ticket Stubs
1975
Cut and pasted photomechanical prints on paper
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Unidentified Sign Painter. 'Coca-Cola Thermometer' 1930-70

 

Unidentified Sign Painter
Coca-Cola Thermometer
1930-70
Enamel on ferrous metal
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Chain-Nose Pliers' 1955

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Chain-Nose Pliers
1955
Gelatin silver print
The Bluff Collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

John T. Hill. 'Interior of Walker Evans's House, Fireplace with Painting of Car' 1975, printed 2017

 

John T. Hill
Interior of Walker Evans’s House, Fireplace with Painting of Car
1975, printed 2017
Inkjet print
Private collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Lenoir Book Co., 'Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, North Carolina' 1900-40

 

Lenoir Book Co.,
Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, North Carolina
1900-40
Offset lithography
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

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13
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Itinerant Languages of Photography’ at the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton

Exhibition dates: 7th September 2013 – 19th January 2014

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“The work of memory collapses time.”

Walter Benjamin

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Another eclectic posting this time featuring Brazilian, Mexican, Spanish and Argentine work. There are some cracking images from the likes of Marc Ferrez, Graciela Iturbide and Joan Colom. “The Itinerant Languages of Photography begins with a simple axiom: that photography can never remain in a single place or time.” A good starting point because photographs always transcend time and space, conflating past, present and future into a movable, memorable point of departure: “the movement of photographs, as disembodied images and as physical artifacts, across time and space as well as across the boundaries of media and genres, including visual art, literature, and cinema.”

itinerant
ɪˈtɪn(ə)r(ə)nt,ʌɪ-/
adjective
adjective: itinerant

  1. 1.
    travelling from place to place.

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

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H. Delie and E. Bechard (French, active 1870s) 'Brazilian Emperor D. Pedro II, Empress D. Thereza Christina, and the Emperor's Retinue next to the Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt' 1871

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H. Delie and E. Bechard (French, active 1870s)
Brazilian Emperor D. Pedro II, Empress D. Thereza Christina, and the Emperor’s Retinue next to the Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt
1871
Albumen print
19.8 x 26.3 cm
D. Thereza Christina Maria Collection, Archive of the National Library Foundation, Brazil

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“This exhibition will examine the movement of photographs, as disembodied images and as physical artifacts, across time and space as well as across the boundaries of media and genres, including visual art, literature, and cinema. The culmination of a three-year interdisciplinary project sponsored by the Princeton Council for International Teaching and Research, the exhibition traces historical continuities from the 19th century to the present by juxtaposing materials from archival collections in Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico and works by modern and contemporary photographers from museum and private collections including Joan Fontcuberta, Marc Ferrez, Rosâgela Renno and Joan Colom. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

The Itinerant Languages of Photography begins with a simple axiom: that photography can never remain in a single place or time. Like postcards, photographs are moving signs that carry any number of open secrets. They travel from one forum to another – from the family album to the museum, from books into digitized forms – and with each recontextualization they redefine themselves and take on different and expanding meanings.

The project began in the fall of 2010 as an experimental three-year interdisciplinary program, sponsored by the Princeton Council for International Teaching and Research. Its aim was to initiate and develop new forms of international collaboration, across widely varied fields of expertise, that could bring together scholars, curators, photographers, and artists from Latin America, Europe, the United States, and potentially other areas of the world, all of whom are involved in international circuits of image production. Following on symposia held in Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City, the project culminates in the exhibition now on view and the catalogue that accompanies it. Through more than ninety works from public and private collections in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, The Itinerant Languages of Photography explores the movement of photographs across different borders, offering a diverse and dynamic history of photography that draws new attention to the work of both well-known masters and emerging artists.

Taking our point of departure from Latin American and Catalonian archives, we sought to study the various means whereby photographs not only “speak” but also move across historical periods, national borders, and different media. In the context of an explosion of “world photography,” Latin America has been at the forefront of the development of new aesthetic paradigms in modern and contemporary photography. Across the Atlantic, Barcelona gave us access to Catalonian photographers with a long history of exchanges with Latin America and Europe. These different “sites” have helped us call attention to significant but often neglected histories of photography beyond the dominant European and American canon and, in particular, to the transnational dimension of image production at a time when photography is at the center of debates on the role of representation, authorship, and communication in global contemporary art and culture.

The digital revolution has created an explosion in the production, circulation, and reception of photographic images. Despite the many ominous predictions of photography’s imminent and irreversible disappearance, we all have become homines photographici – obsessive archivists taking and storing hundreds and thousands of images, exchanging photographs with other equally frenzied, spontaneous archivists around the globe. From this perspective, the ubiquity and mass circulation of images that describe the present are the latest manifestation of an itinerant condition that has characterized photography from its beginnings. The first image the viewer sees on entering the galleries is Joan Fontcuberta’s Googlegram: Niépce, based on the earliest-known photograph, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s View from the Window at Le Gras (ca. 1826). By processing the results of a Google image search for the words photo and foto through photomosaic software, Fontcuberta recreated Niépce’s photograph as a composite of ten thousand images from all over the world, what he calls “archive noise.” A meditation on the circulation and itinerancy of images, Fontcuberta’s Googlegram points to the potential for transformation inscribed within every photograph – from the very “first” photograph to all those produced today, made possible by innumerable and ever-changing technologies. Bringing together the past, present, and future of photography, the image sets the stage for the questions raised by the rest of the exhibition.

The first section, “Itinerant Photographs,” offers a glimpse into the global history of early photography by examining the circulation of images in Brazil in the second half of the nineteenth century. The works in this section, many of which have never been exhibited in the United States, are drawn from two important Brazilian collections: the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil, which consists of more than twenty-one thousand images assembled by the Brazilian emperor Pedro II (1925–1891), and the Instituto Moreira Salles’s holdings of early Brazilian photographs. Included are works by the itinerant inventor and photographer Marc Ferrez, whose Brazilian landscapes circulated as postcards and helped define modern Brazil both inside and outside of the country.

The second section, “Itinerant Revolutions,” presents archival materials from Mexico’s Sistema Nacional de Fototecas and representative works by renowned international and Mexican modernist photographers. The notion of itinerancy appears here in two interrelated forms: first, in relation to the explosion of photographic desire ignited by the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), which produced a massive movement of images across the country and abroad; and, second, in relation to the development of a photographic revolution based on dialogues and exchanges between local photographers, such as Manuel and Lola Alvarez Bravo and their heirs, and an international artistic and political avant-garde of peripatetic photographers represented by Tina Modotti, Henri Cartier- Bresson, and Paul Strand.

The third section, “Itinerant Subjects,” reflects on the different ways in which photography approaches moving subjects. It draws materials from the Fundación Foto Colectania in Barcelona and for the first time introduces to the American public the work of the street photographer Joan Colom and features surrealistic cinematic photo-essays by the Mexican photojournalist Nacho López. Photographs by Eduardo Gil, Graciela Iturbide, Elsa Medina, Susan Meiselas, and Pedro Meyer depict various forms of political itinerancy and migration, and others stage the relation between walking and photographic modes of seeing, suggesting that ambulatory subjects represent the movement of photography itself.

“Itinerant Archives,” the last section of the exhibition, explores the ways in which photographs and photographic archives are duplicated and revitalized through quotation and recontextualization within a selection of works drawn mostly from Argentine and Brazilian experimental photographers. While artists such as Toni Catany and RES use quotation as a means of paying tribute to classic photography and literature, Rosângela Rennó, Esteban Pastorino Díaz, and Bruno Dubner offer conceptual meditations on the photographic condition by resurrecting older photographic technologies and processes, such as the analog camera, gum printing, and the photogram. Citation can also mobilize a recycled photograph’s dormant political meanings, as when, in 2004, Susan Meiselas returned to the sites where she had photographed events of the Nicaraguan revolution twenty-five years earlier and installed mural-size reproductions of her pictures.

Whether as project, symposia, exhibition, or catalogue, The Itinerant Languages of Photography seeks to explore, embody, and enact photography’s essential itinerancy, which defines a medium that, as the German media theorist Walter Benjamin so often told us, has no other fixity than its own incessant transformation, its endless movement across space and time.”

Text from the Princeton University Art Museum website

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Joan Fontcuberta (Born 1955, Barcelona) 'Googlegram: Niépce' 2005

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Joan Fontcuberta (Born 1955, Barcelona)
Googlegram: Niépce
2005
Inkjet print from a digital file, exhibition copy
120 x 160 cm
Courtesy of the artist

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Introduction

Photography – as a set of technologies, a series of languages, and an ever-expanding archive – resists being fixed in a single place or time. Like postcards, photographs are moving signs that travel from one context to another. They move from the intimacy of the family album into museums and galleries; they travel in print and in digital form. And as they circulate, they redefine themselves in each new context. This exhibition examines photography’s capacity to be exchanged, appropriated, and moved across different kinds of borders in a transnational, intermedial flow that has characterized the medium since its beginnings in the nineteenth century and that occurs now with unprecedented speed. The works on view come from Latin American and Spanish Catalonian photographic archives, which, touched as they are by regional histories and cultural and ethnic heterogeneity, tell the history of photography from a richly different perspective, offering a counterpoint to canonical accounts. They also suggest the future of the medium, with Latin American photography at the forefront of new aesthetic possibilities.

The exhibition is divided into four permeable sections, each invoking different aspects of photography’s capacity to converse across political, cultural, and temporal boundaries: Itinerant Photographs, Itinerant Revolutions, Itinerant Subjects, and Itinerant Archives. Each section takes as its point of departure, respectively, Brazilian, Mexican, Spanish, and Argentine work but also opens up to other archives in order to evoke photography’s itinerancy as one moves from one gallery to another. The varied ways in which the camera travels and speaks suggest that the only thing fixed about photography is its incessant transformation, its endless movement across space and time.

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Itinerant Photographs

To collect photographs is to collect the world.

Susan Sontag

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Taking and acquiring photographs have long been ways of archiving the world. The works in this section are drawn from two superb Brazilian collections: the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil, assembled by the Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II (1825-1891), and the Instituto Moreira Salles’s holdings of early Brazilian photographs. These collections offer a glimpse into the transnational history of early photography, as some of the photographs arrived in Rio de Janeiro from Europe, Africa, and North America. Many of them documented scientific advances and the process of modernization. At the same time the circulation of images of Brazil – its landscape and developing cities – solidified modern perceptions of the country. Even as the photographs on view here capture a nation in images, they also confirm that these Brazilian collections were never just Brazilian but were instead created by the movement of photographs across national and cultural borders.

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Revert Henrique Klumb (c. 1830s - c. 1886, born in Germany, active in Brazil) 'Petrópolis’s Mountain Range (Night View), Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro' c. 1870

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Revert Henrique Klumb (c. 1830s – c. 1886, born in Germany, active in Brazil)
Petrópolis’s Mountain Range (Night View), Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro
c. 1870
Albumen print
24 x 30 cm
Gilberto Ferrez Collection, Instituto Moreira Salles Archive, Brazil

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Marc Ferrez (Brazilian, 1843-1923) 'Soil Preparation for the Construction of the Railroad Tracks, Paranaguá-Curitiba Railroad, Paraná' c. 1882, printed later

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Marc Ferrez (Brazilian, 1843-1923)
Soil Preparation for the Construction of the Railroad Tracks, Paranaguá-Curitiba Railroad, Paraná
c. 1882, printed later
Gelatin silver print
23 x 29 cm
Gilberto Ferrez Collection, Instituto Moreira Salles Archive, Brazil

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Marc Ferrez (Brazilian, 1843-1923) 'Araucárias, Paraná' c. 1884 (printed later)

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Marc Ferrez (Brazilian, 1843-1923)
Araucárias, Paraná
c. 1884 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
29 x 39 cm
Gilberto Ferrez Collection, Instituto Moreira Salles Archive, Brazil

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Marc Ferrez (Brazilian, 1843-1923) 'Entrance to Guanabara Bay' c. 1885

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Marc Ferrez (Brazilian, 1843-1923)
Entrance to Guanabara Bay
c. 1885
Albumen print, 18 x 35 cm
Gilberto Ferrez Collection, Instituto Moreira Salles Archive, Brazil

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Itinerant Revolutions

The Mexican Revolution sparked a transformation of artistic forms and cultural practices. Renowned Mexican photographers and foreign art photographers who traveled to Mexico – including Lola and Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tina Modotti, and Paul Strand – came together to challenge and transform the medium’s realist conventions. Rejecting the picturesque approach to portraying Mexico and its peoples adopted by traditional photography, they turned the medium into a site of experimentation. Their politically engaged modernist aesthetic – characterized by a strong interest in the popular classes, a taste for the surreal, and an effort to transform the photographic medium itself – persists today in the work of contemporary photographers such as Graciela Iturbide and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio.

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Unknown photographer. 'Rurales under Carlos Rincón Gallardo's Command Boarding Their Horses on Their Way to Aguascalientes' Nd

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Unknown photographer
Rurales under Carlos Rincón Gallardo’s Command Boarding Their Horses on Their Way to Aguascalientes
Nd
Inkjet print from a digital file, exhibition copy, 14.6 x 20.3 cm
Fondo Casasola, SINAFO-Fototeca Nacional del INAH

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'Obrero en huelga, asesinado' (Striking worker, assassinated) (portfolio #13) 1934

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Obrero en huelga, asesinado (Striking worker, assassinated) (portfolio #13)
1934
Gelatin silver print, 18.8 x 24.5 cm
Princeton University Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Levine

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Pablo Ortiz Monasterio (Born 1952, Mexico City) 'D.F.' 1987

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Pablo Ortiz Monasterio (Born 1952, Mexico City)
D.F.
1987
Gelatin silver print, 30.5 x 45.7 cm
Princeton University Art Museum, Museum purchase, David L. Meginnity, Class of 1958, Fund

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Graciela Iturbide (Born 1942, Mexico City; lives and works in Coyoacán, Mexico) 'Cementerio (Cemetery), Juchitán, Oaxaca' 1988

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Graciela Iturbide (Born 1942, Mexico City; lives and works in Coyoacán, Mexico)
Cementerio (Cemetery), Juchitán, Oaxaca
1988
Gelatin silver print, 32.2 x 22 cm
Princeton University Art Museum, Gift of Douglas C. James, Class of 1962

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Hugo Brehme (?) (German, 1882-1954, active in Mexico) 'Emiliano Zapata with Rifle, Sash, and Saber, Cuernavaca' June 1911

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Hugo Brehme (?) (German, 1882-1954, active in Mexico)
Emiliano Zapata with Rifle, Sash, and Saber, Cuernavaca
June 1911
Inkjet print from a digital file, exhibition copy, 25.4 x 17.8 cm
Fondo Casasola, SINAFO-Fototeca Nacional del INAH

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Itinerant Subjects

The image passes us by. We have to follow its movement as far as possible, but we must also accept that we can never entirely possess it. 

Georges Didi-Huberman

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No art has captured such a large number of people as photography. But as the camera wanders, so do its subjects, whether streetwalkers, pedestrians, migrants, or illegal border crossers. This section includes works by some of the most powerful street photographers in Spain and Latin America – including the Catalonian expressionist Joan Colom and the Mexican photographers Elsa Medina and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, who use the lens as a political instrument to register everyday life and the impact of urban modernization. They employ a variety of strategies to capture moving subjects, from abstract composition and repetition to the creation of narrative series. Suggesting a relation between walking (or dancing) and photographic modes of seeing, between human movement and the camera’s agility, ambulatory subjects represent the movement of photography itself.

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Eduardo Gil (Born 1948, Buenos Aires) 'Siluetas y canas' (Silhouettes and cops) September 21-22, 1983

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Eduardo Gil (Born 1948, Buenos Aires)
Siluetas y canas (Silhouettes and cops)
September 21-22, 1983
from the series El siluetazo (The silhouette action), Buenos Aires, 1982-83
Gelatin silver print
31 x 50 cm
Princeton University Art Museum, Museum purchase, Philip F. Maritz, Class of 1983, Photography Acquisitions Fund

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Graciela Iturbide (Born 1942, Mexico City; lives and works in Coyoacán, Mexico) 'Mujer ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México' (Angel woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico) 1979 (printed later)

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Graciela Iturbide (Born 1942, Mexico City; lives and works in Coyoacán, Mexico)
Mujer ángel, Desierto de Sonora, México (Angel woman, Sonora Desert, Mexico)
1979 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 33 cm
Private Collection

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Elsa Medina (Born 1952, Mexico City) 'El migrante (The migrant), Cañon Zapata, Tijuana, Baja California, México' 1987 (printed 2011)

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Elsa Medina (Born 1952, Mexico City)
El migrante (The migrant), Cañon Zapata, Tijuana, Baja California, México
1987 (printed 2011)
Gelatin silver print
21.2 x 32 cm
Princeton University Art Museum, Museum purchase, David L. Meginnity, Class of 1958, Fund

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Susan Meiselas (Born 1948, Baltimore; lives and works in New York City) 'Soldiers Searching Bus Passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador' 1980 (printed 2013)

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Susan Meiselas (Born 1948, Baltimore; lives and works in New York City)
Soldiers Searching Bus Passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador
1980 (printed 2013)
Gelatin silver print
20 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist

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Joan Colom (Born 1921, Barcelona) 'Fiesta Mayor' 1960

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Joan Colom (Born 1921, Barcelona)
Fiesta Mayor
1960
Gelatin silver print
40 x 30 cm
Collection Foto Colectania Foundation, Barcelona

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Joan Colom (Born 1921, Barcelona) 'Gente de la calle' (People on the street) 1958-64

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Joan Colom (Born 1921, Barcelona)
Gente de la calle (People on the street)
1958-64
Gelatin silver print
24 x 18.5 cm
Collection Foto Colectania Foundation, Barcelona

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Itinerant Archives

Eppur si muove (And yet it moves).

Galileo Galilei

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Photographs move not only when they are physically relocated but also when they reference another work or are themselves cited. Some of the works on view quote photography or literature to pay tribute to classic works; others reframe older photographs whose original meanings are vanishing; and still others exploit earlier photographic technologies such as the analog camera or the photogram. Citation can also mobilize a recycled photograph’s dormant political meanings, as when, in 2004, Susan Meiselas returned to the sites where she had photographed events of the Nicaraguan revolution twenty-five years earlier and installed mural-size reproductions of her pictures. The works in this section meditate on the nature of the photographic archive in general and on the relation between different stages in photography’s history. In doing so, they suggest that through different kinds of citation the photographic archive is constantly revived, unsettled, and undermined.

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Marcelo Brodsky (Born 1954, Buenos Aires) 'La camiseta' (The undershirt) 1979 (printed 2012)

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Marcelo Brodsky (Born 1954, Buenos Aires)
La camiseta (The undershirt)
1979 (printed 2012)
LAMBDA digital photographic print, 62 x 53.5 cm
Princeton University Art Museum, Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund

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Susan Meiselas (Born 1948, Baltimore; lives and works in New York City) 'Still from Reframing History' 2004 (printed 2013)

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Susan Meiselas (Born 1948, Baltimore; lives and works in New York City)
Still from Reframing History
2004 (printed 2013)
Chromogenic print, 60.5 x 76.2 cm
Courtesy of the artist

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Rosângela Rennó (Born 1962, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro) 'A Última Foto / The Last Photo: Eduardo Brandão Holga 120' 2006

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Rosângela Rennó (Born 1962, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro)
A Última Foto / The Last Photo: Eduardo Brandão Holga 120
2006
Framed color photograph and Holga 120S camera (diptych), print: 78 x 78 x 9.5 cm; camera: 14.8 x 21.9 x 10 cm
Collection of Jorge G. Mora

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Princeton University Art Museum
Princeton, NJ 08544

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday, 10.00 am – 10.00 pm, and Sunday 1.00 – 5.00 pm

Princeton University Art Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


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