Posts Tagged ‘photojournalism

13
Jun
21

Exhibition: ‘The Human Cost: America’s Drug Plague’ at the Bronx Documentary Center, New York

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 5th July 2021

Curators: Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera

Artists: James Nachtwey; Jeffrey Stockbridge; Mark Trent

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF DRUG USE – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'A woman, who goes by Jen, struggling to inject herself in the freezing cold in Boston on Jan. 14. 2018' 2018

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
A woman, who goes by Jen, struggling to inject herself in the freezing cold in Boston on Jan. 14. 2018
2018
James Nachtwey for TIME 

 

 

Nature ∞ nurture

Last year, over 81,000 men, women and children were lost to drug overdoses in America. Visualise that number of people if you can… nearly 4/5ths capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia.

According to medical doctors (see quotation below), the causes of addiction “may involve an interaction of environmental effects – for example, stress, the social context of initial opiate use, and psychological conditioning – and a genetic predisposition in the form of brain pathways that were abnormal even before the first dose of opioid was taken.” So both nature and nurture.

Through experience, I understand both strands that lead to possible addiction: a genetic, psychological illness within family members coupled with the need for escape, the need for pleasure, peer group activity and the desire to loose oneself from the world. Luckily, I do not have a personality that easily becomes addicted, but the possibility within people is always there, no matter their background or social position in the world. While the photo stories in this posting concentrate on human beings from lower socio-economic backgrounds, addiction can affect anyone at anytime. Again through experience, I know that lots of high performing professional people suffer from chronic addiction but keep the fact well hidden from the community.

Addiction occurs when dependence interferes with daily life… when independence, that much searched for freedom from outside control or support (you don’t need or accept help, resources, or care from others), morphs into ‘in dependence’ – where the independence of the self, in addiction, opposes the autonomy of the self (meaning that you have free will and that you can stand behind your actions and their values while still exchanging support and care with others). In autonomy, no one is forcing you to do something you disagree with; in addiction, ‘in dependence’, those actions can no longer be justified. These are just my thoughts… but they can be seen to be linked to Self-Determination Theory (STD). “The interplay between the extrinsic forces acting on persons and the intrinsic motives and needs inherent in human nature is the territory of Self-Determination Theory.” Nature and nurture.

The word addicted (adjective) arises in the “mid 16th century: from the obsolete adjective addict ‘bound or devoted (to someone’), from Latin addict- ‘assigned’, from the verb addicere, from ad- ‘to’ + dicere ‘say’.” Its use has diminished from the 18th century until now. Conversely, the word addiction (noun) comes from the same root, but was unknown until 1900 with the use of the word skyrocketing since the 1950s onwards (with a particular spike in the use of the word in the 1960-70s, the era of free love). Perhaps this says a lot about the pressure of living in a high intensity, 24 hour world, a world where the gods of capitalism can write off 81,000 people in a year, in one country, without the blink of an eye.

What all three photo stories in this posting have ad- ‘to’ + dicere ‘say’ is this: every human being has a story worth listening to.

By embedding themselves in the communities they were photographing (instead of being “snatch and grab” photojournalists), all three photographers give their participants an opportunity to have their voice heard. To tell their stories in their own words and have those stories told with dignity and respect, through images and text. (I have linked all three segments to the full stories online).

As Jeffrey Stockbridge comments, “Everyone’s wading through problems that are unique to them, and I think it’s important to tell these stories… Hearing people discuss their past in their own words is something that you can’t ignore. It’s very powerful. I want the general public to forget what they thought they knew about prostitution, drug addiction, homelessness and poverty, and just listen to an actual person explain what they’ve been through. It’s important to remember that life is unpredictable!” James Natchwey observes, “Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level.”

This is the crux of the matter: photography helps us understand these complex issues on a human level.

Every human being is a life, has a life, and is valuable as such. Every story, every breath, every death is connected to Mother Earth. In their indifference, what capitalism and society do to others, we do to ourselves.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Bronx Documentary Center for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Brain abnormalities resulting from chronic use of heroin, oxycodone, and other morphine-derived drugs are underlying causes of opioid dependence (the need to keep taking drugs to avoid a withdrawal syndrome) and addiction (intense drug craving and compulsive use). The abnormalities that produce dependence, well understood by science, appear to resolve after detoxification, within days or weeks after opioid use stops. The abnormalities that produce addiction, however, are more wide-ranging, complex, and long-lasting. They may involve an interaction of environmental effects – for example, stress, the social context of initial opiate use, and psychological conditioning – and a genetic predisposition in the form of brain pathways that were abnormal even before the first dose of opioid was taken. Such abnormalities can produce craving that leads to relapse months or years after the individual is no longer opioid dependent.”

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Thomas R. Kosten, M.D. and Tony P. George, M.D. “The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence: Implications for Treatment,” in Science & Practice Perspectives. 2002 Jul; 1(1), pp. 13–20.

 

“Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level. Never is photography more essential than in moments of crisis. To witness people suffering is difficult. To make a photograph of that suffering is even harder. The challenge is to remain open to very powerful emotions and, rather than shutting down, channel them into the images. It is crucial to see with a sense of compassion and to comprehend that just because people are suffering does not mean they lack dignity.”

.
James Natchwey

 

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Holly, detoxing in the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, on July 3, 2017' 2017

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Holly, detoxing in the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, on July 3, 2017
2017
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

Last year, America lost 81,000 men, women and children to drug overdoses. Driven primarily by the opioid crisis – and abetted by the pill-pushing of pharmaceutical companies – millions of individuals and countless families were devastated by addiction.

The war on drugs has failed: from sea to shining sea, fentanyl, heroin, K2, crystal meth, cocaine and other drugs are available in nearly every town and city. Drug-related violence has endangered many of our streets, including Courtlandt Avenue, home to the Bronx Documentary Center.

After decades of ever changing anti-drug strategies, we are still left with familiar and yet unanswered questions: how to stop the overdoses; how to keep our youth from addiction; how to stop drug-related violence; how to offer humanitarian treatment.

The Bronx Documentary Center’s upcoming photo exhibition, The Human Cost: America’s Drug Plague, explores these issues and portrays the human toll of America’s drug scourge. The deeply personal stories told here – of losing children, families and freedom – provide a stark but compassionate look at a very complex dynamic.

James Nachtwey, the dean of American conflict photographers, reports with visual journalist and editor, Paul Moakley, from New Hampshire, Ohio, Boston, San Francisco and beyond. Jeffrey Stockbridge documents Philadelphia’s Kensington neighbourhood over the course of 6 years. And Mark Trent follows a tight-knit group of friends in West Virginia through cycles of substance abuse and tragic death. The BDC hopes this exhibition will lead to productive discussions about an intractable American problem.

Exhibition curated by Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera.

Press release from the Bronx Documentary Center

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Dorothy Onikute, 33, a deputy sheriff with the Rio Arriba County sheriff's office, responding to an overdose call on Feb. 4, on the side of the road in Alcalde, N.M.' Nd

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Dorothy Onikute, 33, a deputy sheriff with the Rio Arriba County sheriff’s office, responding to an overdose call on Feb. 4, on the side of the road in Alcalde, N.M.
Nd
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

‘This sort of thing happens so often, it’s sad to say it’s on to the next once they are out of our care.’

~ Dorothy Onikute

 

 

The Opioid Diaries – James Nachtwey and Paul Moakley

The opioid crisis is the worst addiction epidemic in American history. Drug overdoses kill more than 64,000 people per year, and the nation’s life expectancy has fallen for two years in a row. But there is a key part of the story that statistics can’t tell. In 2017, for over the course of a year, photographer James Nachtwey set out to document the opioid crisis in America through the people on its front lines. Alongside TIME‘s deputy director of photography, Paul Moakley, the pair traveled the country gathering stories from users, families, first responders and others at the heart of the epidemic. Here, Nachtwey’s images are paired with quotes from Moakley’s interviews, which have been edited. The voices are a mix of people in the photos and others who are connected to them. The Opioid Diaries is a visual record of a national emergency – and it demands our urgent attention.

Text from the Bronx Documentary Center website

The full text and more images from the series can be found on the TIME website

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Chad Colwell' 2017

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Chad Colwell, 32, being revived by EMS workers after overdosing in his truck in Miamisburg, Ohio, on July 4, 2017. He says this, his fourth overdose, led him to seek treatment
2017
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

‘Heroin grabs ahold of you, and it won’t let go. It turned me into somebody I never thought I would be.’

~ Chad Colwell

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Billy' Nd

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Billy, 31, right, preparing to use drugs in Boston on Jan. 14
Nd
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943) 'Cheryl Schmidtchen, 67, being consoled at the funeral for her granddaughter Michaela Gingras in Manchester, N.H., on September 17th, 2017. Gingras, a heroin user, was 24' 2017

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1943)
Cheryl Schmidtchen, 67, being consoled at the funeral for her granddaughter Michaela Gingras in Manchester, N.H., on September 17th, 2017. Gingras, a heroin user, was 24
2017
© Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

 

 

‘After Michaela died, I saw it clear as day. They’re not only destroying themselves, they’re destroying us.’

~ Cheryl Schmidtchen

 

 

What I Saw

James Natchwey

Like most people, I’d heard about the opioid epidemic. It was especially hard to get my mind around a statistic from 2016: almost as many deaths from drug overdoses as in all of America’s recent wars combined. But numbers are an abstraction. I had no idea what it looked like on the ground. The only way to make real sense of it, I told my editors, was to see what happens to individual human beings, one by one.

Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level. Never is photography more essential than in moments of crisis. To witness people suffering is difficult. To make a photograph of that suffering is even harder. The challenge is to remain open to very powerful emotions and, rather than shutting down, channel them into the images. It is crucial to see with a sense of compassion and to comprehend that just because people are suffering does not mean they lack dignity.

Over the past 35 years, my work as a photojournalist has taken me to other countries to document wars, uprisings, natural disasters and global health crises. In revisiting my own country I discovered a national nightmare. But the people living through it aren’t deviants. They are ordinary citizens, our neighbors, our family members. I don’t think I met one user whom I would consider to be a bad person. No one wants to be an addict.

I also saw signs of hope, particularly from the people who are dealing with the crisis at the street level. Some of them are former users who have lifted themselves up and are using their experience to help others. They are refusing to allow our country to be defined by this problem. Instead, they are helping us define ourselves by finding solutions. We must join them.

James Natchwey

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Bobby' 2010

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Bobby
2010
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

 

Kensington Blues – Jeffrey Stockbridge

Kensington Blues by Jeffrey Stockbridge is a decade-long documentary project about the opioid crisis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Featuring large-format photography, audio interviews, journal entries and video Stockbridge utilises a combination of styles and formats to humanise those suffering from addiction.

“During the 19th century the neighbourhood of Kensington in North Philadelphia was a strong working-class district, a national leader of the textile industry and home to a diverse population of immigrants. Like many rust belt cities, industrial restructuring of the mid twentieth century led to a sharp economic decline including high unemployment and a significant population loss.

Today, half of Kensington residents live at or below the poverty line. The neighbourhood has become an epicentre of the opioid crisis and is infamous for open air drug use, prostitution and violent crime. With the roaring El train overhead, Kensington Avenue (the major business corridor in the neighbourhood) is in a state of perpetual hustle. Heroin, Fentanyl, K-2, Crystal, Crack, Xanax, Subs – just about any drug that exists in the modern world is bought and sold in Kensington. Women, some as young as twenty years old, and others who’ve been working the Avenue for decades, populate the neighbourhood in great numbers. Prostitution has become a social norm. Drug users sell clean packaged needles for a dollar a piece – five needles equals a bag of dope.

Working with a large-format film camera, I chose a slow photographic process in order to literally slow down the rapid speed of life as it happens along the Ave. The focus of my photographic work is portraiture. I want to tap into the state of mind of those who are struggling to survive their addiction. Together my subjects and I have entered into a collaboration of sorts. Through audio recordings, journal entries and video, we are working to highlight the voices of those with lived experience. This work would not be possible without their trust and guidance. By sharing the intimate details of their plight, those I photograph are taking a stand to effectively humanise addiction and challenge the stigma that all drug addicts are morally corrupt. As the opioid crisis has taught us, addiction can happen to anyone.”

Text from the Bronx Documentary Center website

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Jamie' 2012

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Jamie
2012
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Carol' 2010

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Carol
2010
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

 

LC: Drug addicts, prostitutes and the homeless are often seen as “the other” in our society. Your photos show a different side of this – a side that people can relate to and empathise with. Can you say more?

JS: There are a million different reasons why people become homeless to begin with. You dehumanise people by lumping them into the lowest common denominator. By looking down on them and saying, “You’re all homeless because you couldn’t get your lives together” – that doesn’t help anybody. Everyone’s wading through problems that are unique to them, and I think it’s important to tell these stories. Alongside the photographs I feature a short bio or quotes; sometimes I’ll also incorporate diary entries written by my subjects, and I’ve recorded audio interviews that I post on my Kensington Blues blog.

Hearing people discuss their past in their own words is something that you can’t ignore. It’s very powerful. I want the general public to forget what they thought they knew about prostitution, drug addiction, homelessness and poverty, and just listen to an actual person explain what they’ve been through. It’s important to remember that life is unpredictable! I could end up on Kensington Avenue if certain circumstances occurred – anybody could.

LC: The images are “still” and considered. They communicate a feeling of respect and consent. You don’t seem to shoot from the hip or take the “fearless flashgun” approach like many street photographers. Can you talk about your process?

JS: I shoot with a 4 x 5 view camera. For these photographs to work, there has to be consent! My subjects have to hold still – if they move an inch forward or an inch back, they’ll be out of focus. It’s a slow-moving, old-looking camera, so it’s automatically a topic of conversation. People look at it and think, “Woah, what is that?” But it has certain limitations – you can’t photograph quickly. It takes time. I have to set it up, I have to focus, use the dark cloth, take a meter reading … It’s at least five minutes until I’m ready to go. Meanwhile, my subject has to stand around waiting. So consent is fairly important!

I’m not looking at the back of an LCP screen when I shoot; I’m in the moment. I’m connecting entirely with my subject, not just communicating with a computer. The camera is a trusted friend that’s standing there by my side. In the Kensington project it really grounded me in the neighbourhood. I think it put people at ease, because they knew I wasn’t going to take a photo and run off – I was stuck with a tripod and a big heavy camera!

Jeffrey Stockbridge, interviewed by Francesca Cronan. “Kensington Blues,” on the LensCulture website 2016 [Online] Cited 03/06/2021.

The full text and more images from the series can be found on the LensCulture website.

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Kevin' 2011

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Kevin
2011
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

 

Surviving Kensington: behind the photos of ‘Kensington Blues’

What used to be a proud blue-collar neighbourhood in Philadelphia is now a deteriorating haven for drugs, crime, and prostitution. Kensington is famous for the place to get your fix; and for the place you end up stuck when you’ve let your vices get the best of you.

For the last five years, Philly-based photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge has been taking intimate portraits of current residents (‘survivors’) in Kensington. But the stories he finds here aren’t just about Philly: Jeffrey’s photographs and raw interviews show a side of the desperation, hopelessness, and broken dreams that plague America’s addicts across the country.

Through a walk with Jeffrey on the Avenue, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to survive on Kensington.

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982) 'Krysta' 2009

 

Jeffrey Stockbridge (American, b. 1982)
Krysta
2009
© Jeffrey Stockbridge

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie in traffic after losing a close friend in her recovery group to an overdose' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie in traffic after losing a close friend in her recovery group to an overdose
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Despair, Love and Loss – Mark E. Trent

None of us knew what was happening or how destructive this would be. We began seeing more and more overdoses and suicides in our community. The details were scarce and the stigma that came with drug abuse masked the early deaths until it was so common it didn’t phase us anymore; the word pillhead began being used to describe those people on drugs. This was long before it touched nearly everyone in West Virginia and across the country.

With the help of friends I travelled to interview small time dealers, addicts and local law enforcement in an attempt to understand the scope of it all. I never did. This body of work started taking shape when I was at a softball game with a long time friend. Her name is Allie. I told her what I was trying to do and she said “Stick with me and I will show you what’s going on.”

From there it was a matter of seeing what was right in front of me. I documented Allie and her friends and lovers as they struggled in active addiction and slowly lost themselves and each other. This group of women let me into their lives behind closed doors and gave me access to make this work possible. They didn’t have to. They are the reason this work exists. They were star basketball players, young mothers, and individuals that held jobs and had real dreams. One day a knee injury supplied the prescription opiate that led to the addiction that spread through their group of friends and community.

My goal with this project was longevity. I wanted to follow it through until the end. My hope is that these photographs will tell a story about a small group of individuals that suffered through a crisis few saw coming. Today Allie is six years sober. Peakay is working toward sobriety with medical assisted treatments. Barbie died of an overdose in her bed alongside her lover Kim. Jessie tells me she is “going good,” but to be honest I never know the truth with her.

Text from the Bronx Documentary Center website

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie freebasing a prescription opioid' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie freebasing a prescription opioid
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

There were times whenever I was really strung out and I didn’t realise how bad I was. What you always say is, ‘Well at least I’m not doing it to anyone else. At least I’m not hurting anyone. I’m just hurting myself. I’m not sticking needles in anyone else. It’s just me.’ But I didn’t realise how much I’d hurt my family, and my mom.

I don’t know how many people died in the house I was living in, I can’t even – three off the top of my head, because of drugs, overdoses.

But it just didn’t, it just didn’t hit me that way, I didn’t think – I wasn’t ready to see it that way I think. I feel like I had to go through everything I went through to be where I am.

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Jessie injecting Barbie with morphine' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Jessie injecting Barbie with morphine
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Barbie really was like my big sister.

She told me a year before she died she had to go to the doctor for something. They couldn’t find a vein and she had to make them put it in her neck. And they asked about the scarring on her neck.

They asked her, ‘Do you shoot in your neck? Jesus.’ And she was like, ‘Yeah.’ And they were like, ‘You’re going to be dead in a year anyway.’ But I sort of didn’t believe it. Barbie really was invincible.

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Cooking pills for injection next to dinner' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Cooking pills for injection next to dinner
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie crying, facing jail time and missing Barbie who died of an overdose, after a long night of using' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie crying, facing jail time and missing Barbie who died of an overdose, after a long night of using
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Sometimes I thought it was fine; other times I thought, ‘How did I get here? What did I do?’ I was supposed to be somebody. I was supposed to do something great with my life. I was supposed to go places. I wanted to travel. I wanted to play basketball. I wanted to be all these things.

And instead I was living in a house with no electricity, crying in the bathroom because I can’t find a vein, miserable. Absolutely miserable.

It took me getting sober and being sober for a while to look back and be like, ‘That was all really low, man. That was all really low.’

“Allie Rambo tells her story below in her own words” in ‘Despair, Love and Loss: A Journey Inside West Virginia’s Opioid Crisis’ on the NY Times website Dec. 13, 2018 [Online] Cited 03/06/2021

The full text and more images from the series can be found on the NY Times website.

 

Mark E. Trent (American) 'Allie and Regina catching snowflakes after a close friend's funeral' Nd

 

Mark E. Trent (American)
Allie and Regina catching snowflakes after a close friend’s funeral
Nd
© Mark E. Trent

 

 

Bronx Documentary Center Annex Gallery
364 E 151st St, Bronx, NY 10455

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 3-7pm
Saturday – Sunday 12-5pm

Bronx Documentary Center website

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09
Apr
21

Review: ‘Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th February  –  18th April 2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative
39 x 58cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

“One can also pursue politics with art.
Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.”

.
Hans Richter

 

“I always wanted to document people’s lives – their work, their family, their relationships, their leisure – their pain and pleasure.

“To me, every individual’s life is more wondrous than any fantasy could ever be.”

.
Ruth Maddison

 

 

The Art of a Fellow Traveller

Since the 1970s Australia has been blessed with many talented women photographers… Sue Ford, Carol Jerrems, Joyce Evans, Ponch Hawkes, Micky Allan, Ruth Maddison, Rosemary Laing, Hoda Afshar, Anne Ferran, Katrin Koenning, Robyn Stacey, Janina Green, Bindi Cole, Tracey Moffatt, Polixeni Papapetrou, Pat Brassington, Claire Rae, Claudia Terstappen, Jacqui Stockdale, Siri Hayes, Petrina Hicks, Kim Lawler, Carolyn Lewens, Nicola Loder, Jill Orr, Kim Percy, Patricia Piccinini, Elizabeth Gertsakis, Jane Brown, to name just a few…

 ** Thinking. Australia. For such a small (in population) and isolated (geographically) country, rarely in the history of photography can there have been such an accumulated wealth of talent within the space of 60 years or so. I have suggested to a major public gallery in Melbourne a group exhibition of these artists but it went nowhere. Why? This is world class talent! **

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Which brings me to the exhibition Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times which occupies all galleries at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

What a delight it is to see this artist in full flight in this exceptionally strong exhibition. As pictured in the flow of images, Maddison has carved her name as a social documentary and feminist photographer, her holistic body of work providing a “significant contribution to the documentation of Australian life and society from the 1970s to the present – from her earliest iconic hand-coloured works, the working life of women, Melbourne’s social and cultural life of the 1980s, and Maddison’s documentation of the people and industries of her adopted home of Eden.”

Through direct, frontal mainly black and white / hand coloured photographs, Maddison builds compelling stories in her work, stories which explore the cultures and sub-cultures of Australia: the political upheavals, alternative lifestyles and counter culture, the women’s movement, gay liberation, Vietnam, union, nuclear, anti-fascist and other protests; the fight for equality and equal pay, the fight against discrimination and other actions that fight for fairness, acceptance and respect for all, within Australian society. With compassion and understanding Maddison pictures youth and exuberance, old age and protest, life on the land and sea, and life leaving it for the cities. Her photographs serve a testificatory function – related to BOTH a person who has witnessed these events (the artist) AND an object used as evidence (the photograph).

Maddison’s testimony to such events creates a polyperspectivity – not so much in terms of what the camera sees in individual images, but in what it sees directed by the artist over an entire career, comprising more than 40 years. Of looking, of being present, of being ethical. In her work, “the shadows already become immortal while still alive.”1

This is the crux of the matter. Since the very day that Maddison picked up a camera being ethical when representing the world around her has been a gut reaction. “Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.” Her presentation of the world reflects her character and disposition. Her ethos is embedded in her being and psyche – the human soul, mind AND spirit. You can’t make this stuff up, you either have it or you don’t.

Maddison has this generosity of spirit in spades. The belief in balance, fairness, and equality for all. Yes, her photographs document people’s pleasure and pain, their lives, their existence but only through her own presence and vision. Her photographs are a reflection of her inner being, her spirit. What she believes the world can be, should be. It is this force of nature, her own being, that propels the investigation forwards. Never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic, the world needs such ethical artists. To remind us for what we fight for.

For example, Netflix have recently announced a new “docu-soap” series “Byron Baes” (babes) to be filmed in the northern NSW beachside town of Byron Bay, which will reveal “hot Instagrammers, living their best lives, being their best selves,” with a cast of “celebrity-adjacent-adjacent influencers.” Who cares about these egotistical non-entities, when in the town drug use is rampant, housing is unaffordable and people cannot get a job! That is the real story, one which an artist such as Maddison would recognise and document with empathy and insight.

Maddison is a fellow traveller2 and I travel with her. She doesn’t follow “the running dog of capitalism” – or as people used to call them, “running dogs”3 – nipping at your heels, constantly harassing you, but these days not even that… just lackadaisical multinational corporations who don’t even care to hide their disdain for the working class, or their ecological disdain for the health of the world. All that matters is money and keeping the shareholders happy. She follows her own path and long may that continue. Looking and documenting is always both personal and political and this is Maddison’s story: “Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.” Blessings to her.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Joseph Roth, quoted, in translation, from Ulrich Raulff. “Umbrische Figuren,” in Floris M. Neusüss. Fotogramme – die lichtreichen Schatten. Kassel 1983, p. 16.
  2. A person who travels with another; a person who is not a member of a particular group or political party … but who sympathises with the group’s aims and policies.
  3. A servile follower, especially of a political system.

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Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the installation photographs at the bottom of the posting. All other iPhone photographs by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gallery One

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at left the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (born Australia 1945) 'No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)' 1977-78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)
1977-78
From the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Christmas holiday with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1977/78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945) 'Christmas Holidays with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979) from the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled #18' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled #18
1979
From the series Christmas holidays with Bob’s family. Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979
Pigment print from scan, edition 1/1
10.5 x 16.2cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing photographs of women workers and single mothers (various dates and series, see above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing images from the series And so we joined the Union (1985)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Prison Officers, Pentridge' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Prison Officers, Pentridge
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative (Print by Les Walkling)
50 x 50cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) From the series 'Let's Dance' 1979

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) From the series 'Let's Dance' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From the series Let’s Dance (installation views)
1979
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ruth Maddison photographed the social spaces that had been important to activist communities but which were in the process of passing away. These were mainly commissioned projects for labour and social movements, otherwise these histories would have been lost.

Dancing and entertainment were features of Ruth Maddison’s work throughout the 1980s. These photographs reflected Maddison’s own social life, which often revolved around Melbourne’s pubs and nightclubs. But there was also a classical documentary function to her photographs of trade union dances and the annual women’s dance at St Kilda Town Hall. These pictures reflected social spaces that had been important to activist communities, but which by the mid-1980s were in the process of passing away; as women’s groups began to fragment, and as the membership of labour organisations changed. The photograph shown here of the Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball at Collingwood Town Hall were part of a commission. Like many photographers in this exhibition (including Helen Grace, Sandy Edwards and Ponch Hawkes), political affiliation and professional practice often came together in commissioned projects for labour and social movements.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Vehicle Builders' Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne
1979
Gelatin silver print

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Single Mothers and their Children' 1994

 

Installation view of a work from Ruth Maddison’s series Single Mothers and their Children 1994
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Mmaskepe Sejoe and her daughter Nthabelong. Botswana - Melbourne' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Mmaskepe Sejoe and her daughter Nthabelong. Botswana – Melbourne (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Mary Marcoftsis. Macedonia - Melbourne' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Mary Marcoftsis. Macedonia – Melbourne (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Nada Jankovic. Serbia - Buli, NSW' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Nada Jankovic. Serbia – Buli, NSW (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lia Tata Ruga, Devi Hamid, Anna Dartania and Ita Sulis. Indonesia – Sydney' (installation view) 1997

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Lia Tata Ruga, Devi Hamid, Anna Dartania and Ita Sulis. Indonesia – Sydney (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE' 1984 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE (installation view)
1984, printed 2020
Pigment print from scanned negative
18.6 x 28cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE 1984' (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE (installation view)
1984, printed 2020
Pigment print from scanned negative
18.6 x 28cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Women's Dance, St Kilda Hall' 1985, printed 2014 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Women’s Dance, St Kilda Hall (installation view)
1985, printed 2014
Gelatin silver prints

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Ponch Hawkes, Helen and Alice Garner' 1978-2018

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Ponch Hawkes, Helen and Alice Garner
1978-2018
Pigment print from scanned negative
Image: 22.6 x 15cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Jane Clifton and Helen Garner' 1976-2013 (installation view)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Jane Clifton and Helen Garner' 1976-2013 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Jane Clifton and Helen Garner (installation views)
1976-2013
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery one of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at second top left, Keith Haring (1985-2014)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Keith Haring' 1985-2014

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Keith Haring
1985-2014
Pigment print from scanned negative, hand-coloured and digitally enhanced
40 x 40cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Monika Behrem, Rochelle Haley and their baby Indigo' 2017 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Monika Behrem, Rochelle Haley and their baby Indigo (installation view)
2017
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne (installation view)
1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gallery two

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery two of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Highway 23' 2009 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Highway 23 (installation view)
2009
Type C print from digital file
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views showing work from the series Crossing the Monaro (2009) in the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In Ruth Maddison’s regular trips across the Monaro she stopped frequently to take photographs. She is drawn to the expansiveness of this unencumbered landscape, the way it opens up and seems to encourage something similar in ourselves.

“I drive across the Monaro and look at the sweep of the land and think about what was there and what has gone – time and time again. Stopping at small cemeteries scattered across the Monaro, passing through the dying towns, collecting bird and animal bones scattered all along the way, watching grass seeds blowing across the road. I am conscious of layers of history held beneath the surface of the land. …

History is writ large on this route. Small towns attest to times of brief plenty: the promise of gold, the economy of fleece. They are established at distances determined in an era when horses paced the daily work. Where rail provided a short-lived reprise. They are now towns that compete for use to “Stop Revive Survive” or to which some retire…

This new body of work is a departure from the people-focused documentary / portrait based work that has informed my public practice for 30 years. This departure is the outcome of my social and professional isolation [in Eden], which I sought and have embraced. Yet I consider this work a documentary piece – I am documenting the passage of my life through a place and a time via photography and the problem solving processes it presents to me. I am documenting what it is that makes me want to go on and on with the work.”

Ruth Maddison artist statements 2008-09 quoted in Merryn Gates. “There is a time,” (catalogue essay) from the exhibition There is a time at the Huw Davies Gallery, September 2009 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery two of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Millsy (Jason Mills)' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Millsy (Jason Mills) (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bounge (Gregory Curtis) and Apple (John McCrory)' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Bounge (Gregory Curtis) and Apple (John McCrory) (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Norm Joiner' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Norm Joiner (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Imlay Street, Eden 1.44 pm 31 December 2019' and 'Walking towards Aslings Beach 7.14 am 31 December 2019' 2019 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Imlay Street, Eden 1.44 pm 31 December 2019 (installation view)
Walking towards Aslings Beach 7.14 am 31 December 2019
2019
From the series When No Birds Sing 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Volunteers sorting. At the Fishermen's Co-op, Eden. 3.06 pm 18 January 2020' 2020 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Volunteers sorting. At the Fishermen’s Co-op, Eden. 3.06 pm 18 January 2020 (installation view)
2020
From the series When No Birds Sing 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Julie Ristanovic, canteen supervisor. Chip mill' Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Julie Ristanovic, canteen supervisor. Chip mill (installation view)
Nd
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gallery three

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

 

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing on the television The Dustbins of History (1950s / 2020), edited from ASIO footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

The Dustbins of History (1950s), edited from Asio footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia.

 

Still from The Dustbins of History (1950s / 2020), edited from ASIO footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia

 

 

She [Maddison] also discovered reels of surveillance film documenting suspected members of the Communist party as they arrived at a secret meeting in one of Melbourne’s laneways in the 50s. This footage appears in the exhibition as The Dustbins of History, a short film that is comedic in its ambiguity and monotony. All that’s missing is the Keystone Cops.

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing works from the series My father’s footsteps (1942-2020)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'To everything there is a turn, turn, turn' 2020

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
To everything there is a turn, turn, turn
2020
From the series My father’s footsteps (1942-2020)
Diptych
Pigment print from ASIO files

 

 

After decades of being denigrated in the press and parliament, in 1990 Goldbloom was awarded an OAM for his service as an activist for peace. Later, a street was named after him in Canberra. Maddison has paired an ASIO image of her father at a peace rally in 1965 with the Goldbloom street sign, evidence she says of “history doing the wheel again”.

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view detail)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view detail)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Hiroshima Day, Melbourne (installation views)
1981/2020
Pigment print from scanned black and white negative. Hand coloured and digitally enhanced
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herta and Jill Koppel

 

 

I just met the most wonderful lady at the Ruth Maddison exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

100 year old Herta Koppel (pictured with her daughter Jill) was as bright as a button. She escaped the Nazis from Vienna with her two sisters in 1939, a few weeks before the war, leaving behind her parents who did not make it.

In the gallery the family were reminiscing on the people they knew in Ruth’s photographs while ‘The Internationale’ played in the background. How fitting.

Marcus

Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)

 

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) Sam self-portrait, self-redacted Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Sam self-portrait, self-redacted (installation view)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) Sam self-portrait, self-redacted Nd (installation view detail)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Sam self-portrait, self-redacted (installation view detail)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Maddison's parents' Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Maddison’s parents (installation view)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned black and white negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)' 2020 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Last night I had the strangest dream (#1) (installation view)
2020
Pigment print, hand coloured and digitally enhanced
64 x 70cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

From an early age, Ruth Maddison knew her father, Sam Goldbloom, was being watched. “He used to tell us not to worry about the men sitting in the car in front of the house … we were aware the clicks on the phone meant ‘they’ were listening too,” the award-winning Melbourne-born photographer says.

“They” were the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In the 1940s, Goldbloom’s anti-fascist ideals drew ASIO’s attention. He later joined the Communist party before becoming a major player in the World Peace Council. These associations made him a person of interest for more than 30 years. …

While the spy agency’s prolonged surveillance of her father was not news, Maddison says that when her mother, Rosa, died in 2008, she discovered a much more layered history. As she and her two sisters packed up the family home, Maddison was tasked with clearing out her father’s shed. He had died in 1999 but until then no one had gone through “Sam’s stuff”.

There she found packs of slides, video footage from Goldbloom’s numerous peace missions to communist regimes including the USSR, East Germany and Cuba, as well as home movies, correspondence and other paraphernalia related to his activist work. This discovery became the entry point to The Fellow Traveller, the centrepiece for the first major survey of Maddison’s work, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

She [Maddison] uses her camera to explore the influence of politics on everyday life, often focusing on the personal. In The Fellow Traveller she exposes the social and political climate of the postwar years through a very intimate and at times painful lens.

“For my father, politics was number one,” she says. “To see it all laid out in the ASIO files, you know, night after night after night Sam was at meetings, and then this year he’s overseas for one month, and then another year for two months, then three. While I was looking at all of that I realised family wasn’t number one for him.”

While Maddison was not witness to her father’s interactions with world leaders, she imagined him meeting men like Mao and Khrushchev. In a series, “Last night I had the strangest dream” Maddison has inserted Goldbloom into pictures with his political heroes [see Last night I had the strangest dream (#1) below].

“It’s not about reinterpreting history, I am playing with him and his life, and wondering if he ever daydreamed these images like I am now.” These hand-coloured photographs are also visual evidence of the fiction ASIO pursued.

Maddison describes her treatment of the archival materials as “part real, part desire and part imaginary”, which parallels the narrative in the ASIO files. In the endless reams of observational notes, innocuous photographs and informers’ statements lies the hope that Goldbloom was up to something.

After decades of being denigrated in the press and parliament, in 1990 Goldbloom was awarded an OAM for his service as an activist for peace. Later, a street was named after him in Canberra. Maddison has paired an ASIO image of her father at a peace rally in 1965 with the Goldbloom street sign, evidence she says of “history doing the wheel again”. [See the diptych To everything there is a turn, turn, turn 2020 above]

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)' 2020

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)
2020
Pigment print, hand coloured and digitally enhanced
64 x 70cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

 

Gallery four

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery four of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times is a significant survey exhibition focusing on Maddison’s social documentary practice from 1976 to the current day. Bringing together key historical works with a major new commission, this exhibition is a timely and focused look at one of Australia’s leading feminist photographers.

The exhibition features several key series, from Maddison’s earliest hand-coloured works Miss Universe (1979); her iconic Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979); a selection of series focusing on women in the workforce (from 1979); The Beginning of Absence (1996) documenting her father’s mortality; photojournalistic works documenting political rallies and activism in Australia (1975-2015); to Maddison’s more recent projects documenting the people and industries of Eden, NSW (2002-2014).

These works are presented alongside Maddison’s documentation of the cultural milieu of Melbourne with a focus on the late 1970s and 1980s. Her portraits of Melbourne’s leading writers, artists, theatre makers and musicians include Helen Garner, Tracey Moffatt, Steven Cummings, Jenny Watson, Mickey Allen, Ponch Hawkes and the founders of Melbourne’s Circus Oz amongst others.

Maddison’s more recent projects documenting Eden’s people and industries illustrate the changing face of regional Australia and the societal pressures that have come to bear. The Eden teens captured in Maddison’s 2002 series have now splintered, with half leaving town for new opportunities and the other remaining. The two industries – fishing and timber – that have underpinned Eden’s economy for decades have been dramatically reduced. While the 2019 bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic have further economically ravaged a community trying to rebuild itself.

The newly commissioned work The Fellow Traveller (2020) is an immersive photographic installation exploring Maddison’s father’s radical political activities in Australia and overseas from the 1950s-1980s, which were under ASIO scrutiny. Combining archival material, footage and hand-coloured photographs among a sea of revealing and curious images, The Fellow Traveller presents the shifting nature of long held personal and historical truths at a time of increasing social and political urgency.

Delivered through the collaboration of Adam Harding CCP Director, Jack Willet CCP Curator, Ruth Maddison and independent Curator Olivia Poloni, with inceptive curatorial work from Linsey Gosper and Madé Spencer-Castle.

 

Biography

Ruth Maddison (b. Melbourne, 1945, lives and works in Eden) is one of Australia’s foremost senior feminist photographers. Best known for her hand-coloured series, Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1977-78), for over 40 years Maddison has been exploring ideas surrounding relationships, working lives, and communities through portraiture and social documentary photography.

An entirely self-taught practitioner, Maddison shot her first roll of film in 1976 under the encouragement of longtime friend Ponch Hawkes, and has hardly put down a camera since. Maddison’s work is represented in major public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Library and the State Libraries of Victoria and New South Wales.

Text from the CCP website [Online] Cited 28/03/2021

 

Gallery one

Documentation photography J Forsyth

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery two

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery three

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery four

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, installation views Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021.
Documentation photography J Forsyth

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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20
Dec
20

Exhibition: ‘Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang’ at Cleveland Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2020 – 28th February 2021

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

For a few brief moments, rebels with a cause

This is one of my favourite photo essays of all time. The story Davidson tells of this male-orientated Brooklyn gang and its culture through his photographs is one of brotherhood, friendship, rivalry, love, longing, agony, depression and death at a time of utter poverty and rock ‘n roll rebellion. He produced “unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.” Now, all these years later, the photographs possess a powerful nostalgia for the era mixed with the desolation of destroyed lives and lost youth.

Davidson gets under the skin of his subjects, embeds himself firmly in their milieu. The subjects allow him to photograph their most intimate moments, seemingly free from worry or anxiety. There is an insouciance to their attitude, a knowing insouciance. In one photograph inside Helen’s Candy Store, Bob Powers stares directly and disarmingly at the camera while the girl playing with the yo-yo and the youth in the background also stare directly into the lens, forming a strong compositional triangle of the gaze. Powers said he was voted “most likely to die before I was 21 years old.” He lived with his seven siblings and alcoholic parents in a three-bedroom apartment that had a coal-powered cookstove and no hot water or central heating.

There is a dark undertone to the narrative. While there are moments of joy and happiness, you can sense the isolation and despair of these disaffected youths. Cathy O’Neal, seen in front of a cigarette machine at Coney Island, committed suicide by shotgun. Jimmie and his family were wiped out by drugs. Junior Rice became a heroin dealer. Lefty od’d in bed at 19. “He was the first in the group to die from a drug overdose… within a few years, drugs would claim the lives of many in the gang and in the neighbourhood.” In picturing their lives, the photographs gather moments (in time), enunciating how the gang members railed against the conformity and materialism of 1950s America whilst imbibing its rebellious iconography. Only occasionally does the artist pull back to show us the wider picture, the context of the action, with photographs of New York skyscrapers seen in the distance and the Statue of Liberty.

Davidson does not let his spontaneity slip. He is informed, aware, absent (but present) in all of these photographs waiting for that special moment. In the photograph above, a bird-like creature swoops down on something invisible on the ground. In informal yet tightly focused photographs – of sunbathing or walking the boardwalks of Coney Island, gang members fixing their hair, rolling up their sleeves, dead beat(s) in the back of the bus, making out in the back seat of a car, walking in the park or hooning around on the Metro – Davidson is there to capture the off-beat moments of gang existence and the members relationship to each other.

Through a superb eye, a feeling, a sensibility and connection towards the gang members desperation and isolation, universally acknowledged by the photographer himself, Davidson sets them all on the path to immortality. Do not forget, these photographs seem to be saying. For a few brief moments these people did exist, their lives were valuable, these rebels with a cause.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

One of Davidson’s best-known series, Brooklyn Gang was inspired by a news story he read about a teenage gang called the Jokers.

Davidson contacted the Jokers, one of Brooklyn’s roughest gangs, through their social worker. In the summer of 1959, Davidson roamed the streets of New York with these teens, loitered in stores that the Jokers called their own, and sunbathed with them on the beach at Coney Island. Eventually they allowed him to photograph even their most intimate, private moments. He responded by producing unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.

Gang membership was exclusively male, but the members’ girlfriends appear frequently in Davidson’s photographs. Some of the pictures depict the teenagers exploring lust and love and the boys struggling to define and prove their masculinity. Looking back at the series in 1998, Davidson said that he felt “the reason that body of work has survived is that it’s about emotion. That kind of mood and tension and sexual vitality, that’s what those pictures were really about.”

 

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The pleasures and agonies of teenage romance are captured in Bruce Davidson’s photographs of the gang’s dance parties, which were held variously in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a neighbourhood school, and in members’ homes. The basement wallpaper seen here – with its fairy-tale figures, including horses, queens, knights, marionettes, and jokers – suggests a domestic setting. The event could have been a farewell party for an older gang member going off to join the army, which was a common occurrence.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 x 23.9cm (6 5/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
Paper: 20.3 x 25.2cm (8 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

This rooftop view in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was taken from a building in the gang’s “turf,” which was a block anchored by the intersection of 17th Street and 8th Avenue. Davidson spent the summer hanging out with the gang and photographing them. Describing his process, the artist said, “I stay a long time. … I am an outsider on the inside.” Park Slope, now one of New York’s most desirable neighbourhoods, was then a poor, mostly Irish area.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.9 x 14.6cm (8 5/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
Paper: 25.1 x 20.2cm (9 7/8 x 7 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Davidson contacted the Jokers, one of Brooklyn’s roughest gangs, through their social worker. In the summer of 1959, Davidson roamed the streets of New York with these teens, loitered in stores that the Jokers called their own, and sunbathed with them on the beach at Coney Island. Eventually they allowed him to photograph even their most intimate, private moments. He responded by producing unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The pleasures and agonies of teenage romance are captured in Bruce Davidson’s photographs of the gang’s dance parties, which were held variously in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a neighbourhood school, and in members’ homes.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.1 x 24.1cm (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.2 x 25.3cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Childhood pastimes like playing yo-yo were a thing of the distant past for 15-year-old Bob Powers, a Joker seen here leaning against a fixture in Helen’s Candy Store. He had already been in and out of the court system numerous times by 1959. Powers stabbed someone when he was 12 and had been incarcerated for bringing zip guns (homemade firearms) and chains to school, where, Powers said, he was voted “most likely to die before I was 21 years old.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang members, most of whom were 15 or 16 years old, thought tattoos made them look older and might help them get served at bars. Tattoos were also a demonstration of masculinity and a rite of passage. Bob Powers, seen here at age 15 displaying his first tattoo, recalled years later that “the first time you get a tattoo it’s scary. I was sitting back with a cigarette like it’s nothing. Meanwhile, it was killing me. … I got ‘Bobby’ with stars around it. … They said, ‘Get your name.’ … I hated it forever.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

One of the gang members – Bob Powers – suggested that Davidson follow him to a rooftop on the gang’s block. “I remember thinking,” said Davidson, “‘This kid’s going to throw me off the roof and then rob me,’ but he’s pointing down at the stickball game (an informal form of baseball played in the street) and saying, ‘Get that,’ and saying: ‘Oh, there’s the Statue of Liberty. You can see it through all these television antennas.'”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang members were very concerned with their appearance, although they did not have much money to spend on grooming or clothes. “If you see a picture of me,” said former gang member Bob Powers, “the broken tooth, my teeth were green because I didn’t go to the dentist. We never had any money even though my father worked. … We used Vaseline petroleum jelly to make our hair stick like iron in a pompadour. We combed our hair constantly, wore sunglasses, and all thought we were Marlon Brandos.”

The Jokers’ slicked-back pompadours … and their clothing echoed the greaser style, a rebellious youth subculture that was promoted by cinematic antiheroes of the era. Role models included Marlon Brando’s portrayal of a motorcycle gang member in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean as a troubled teen in Rebel without a Cause (1955). The “bad boy” image flouted the aspirational role model of the time, the upwardly mobile white-collar worker in a business suit and short haircut.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Petey, a Jokers member who looks out the second-story window here, was injured in that fight. Petey’s best friend, fellow Jokers member Bob Powers, walks by the house. Housing in the gang’s neighbourhood, the then-impoverished Park Slope, Brooklyn, was overcrowded and rundown. Powers lived with his seven siblings and alcoholic parents in a three-bedroom apartment that had a coal-powered cookstove and no hot water or central heating.

 

 

One of the most highly respected and influential American documentary photographers of the past half century, Bruce Davidson spent several months photographing the daily lives of a teenage street gang for his 1959 series Brooklyn Gang. A new exhibition in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Gallery, Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang features 50 black-and-white photographs from that series, which are part of a recent anonymous gift to the museum of extensive selections from the artist’s archives. The exhibition is on view now through February 28, 2021.

Brooklyn Gang was Davidson’s first major project after joining the distinguished photo agency Magnum and was the fruit of several months spent immersing himself in the daily lives of the Jokers, one of the many teenage street gangs worrying New York City officials at the time. He recorded the teenagers’ pleasures and frustrations as they attempted to define masculinity and mimic adult behaviour. The photographs reflect the group’s camaraderie but also their alienation from societal norms. While many officials and commentators at the time saw the gangs as evidence of social deterioration resulting from poverty, others regarded them as the most visible manifestations of a socially disengaged generation of males – rebels without a cause.

“Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang presents an intimate portrayal of the teens’ lives,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Davidson was an outsider, but one who spent so much time with the gang that he became, as he liked to say, ‘an outsider on the inside.’ Davidson offered an independent look at the lives of these disadvantaged youths; this view of society was quite different from the age of visual and social homogenisation of the 1950s presented in mainstream magazines such as Life and Look and predicts the social turmoil of the 1960s.”

The images reflect the time Davidson spent with the teens hanging out on street corners and in the local candy store and accompanying them to the beach at Coney Island with their girlfriends. Included are several sets of variant images, affording a rare glimpse into Davidson’s working process.

“Despite a more than ten-year age difference, Davidson describes recognising his own repression in his subjects and feeling a connection to their desperation,” said Barbara Tannenbaum, the CMA’s chair of prints, drawings, and photographs and curator of photography.

Press release from the Cleveland Museum of Art

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The museum owns several groups of images from the series taken during the same shoot at Coney Island. They provide a rare glimpse of the artist’s selection process (see 2018.688, 2018.696, 2018.697, 2018.701, 2018.706, and 2018.735). The size of these prints, and the fact that the artist printed them long after they were shot, suggest he considered all four images worthwhile. In an exhibition print, the white marks on the woman’s cheek here, made by dust on the negative, would have been covered up with ink or dye, a process known as spotting. This may be a work print, made to aid in decisions on exactly how to print this picture. It has become one of the better-known images from Brooklyn Gang.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

In this photograph, gang member Bob Powers talks with friends in one of the many Coney Island bathhouses where people could change, shower, or swim in pools. “We’d come down on a Friday and sometimes we’d stay the whole weekend till Monday, down on the beach, me, Lefty, Junior,” Powers recalled. “The girls would stay too… We would light fires and bury all the cans of beer. I remember stealing cars and driving down there. We’d drive the car under the boardwalk and bring it right onto the bay and leave it there.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 50.8 x 61cm (20 x 24 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Shown here on the Coney Island boardwalk, from left to right, are gang members Junior Rice, Bob Powers, and Lefty, who “was a pretty tough guy in the gang and then he went to jail for about a year,” according to Powers. “He came out and he just lost it. He wasn’t the same guy. Something happened and nobody knew what. … We protected him a bit, but he caught a couple of bad beatings and lost his reputation. He ate a lot of pills one night and never woke up. His mother found him dead. OD’d in bed at 19. He was the first in the group to die from a drug overdose.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.1 x 24.1 cm (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.2 x 25.3 cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

This print is vintage – made soon after the picture was shot – and its 8 x 10-inch size was typical of the period and preferred for making reproductions for magazines and books. As photography began gaining acceptance into the gallery and museum world in the 1980s, larger prints became the norm. The museum also owns an unusually large print of the same image, made in the 1990s or 2000s, which was created to be exhibited in galleries and museums. The two may look the same on the computer screen, but do not feel the same when viewed in real life.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.8 x 24.1 cm (6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.1 x 25.4 cm (7 15/16 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

After a day at the beach at Coney Island, the teens “would take the long bus ride back to their neighbourhood,” remembered Bruce Davidson. “As they sat in the rear of the bus, the sunlight burned through the windows, giving them an angelic glow. They would drift into their dreams and awake alert to the mean streets awaiting them.”

 

 

Bruce Davidson

Barbara Tannenbaum

Curator of Photography

A hot topic in the 1950s, gangs were avidly analysed by sociologists, the press, and artists. Gordon Parks’s photographs of a young black Harlem gang leader were published in Life magazine in 1948. The musical West Side Story, which pitted a Polish gang against a Puerto Rican one, debuted on Broadway in 1957. The following year, a seven-part series in the New York Times analysed the social, economic, and psychological causes of this juvenile delinquency.

In the summer of 1959, Bruce Davidson went to Brooklyn to meet and photograph a teenage street gang called the Jokers. Davidson’s series Brooklyn Gang provided an in-depth view into the daily activities of an Irish and Polish gang whose turf was a block in the impoverished Park Slope neighbourhood. The Jokers were teenagers who were mostly students at the neighbourhood Catholic school or dropouts. They shoplifted and fought with members of rival gangs in rumbles that involved bricks, bats, knives, and occasionally zip (homemade) guns.

At age 25, Davidson was an outsider to them. He had been raised in a Jewish family in suburban Chicago and held an MFA in photography from Yale University. His images were being published in major magazines, and he had just joined Magnum, a distinguished, artist-run photographic agency. The Jokers’ role models were the greasers, a rebellious youth subculture promoted by cinematic antiheroes such as Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang member in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean’s troubled teen in Rebel without a Cause (1955). The gang members’ “bad boy” image, replete with Vaseline-slicked pompadours and blue-collar clothing, flouted the era’s aspirational role model of an upwardly mobile white-collar worker in a business suit and short haircut.

Davidson did not sport a pompadour, but making a living as a freelance photojournalist was itself a rebellion against the nine-to-five office world. He spent the summer with the Jokers, hanging out on street corners, in the local candy store, and on the beach at Coney Island. His images reflect their alienation and anxieties but also their camaraderie. The boys explore male bonding rituals and act out their visions of maleness and adulthood. They may roughhouse, but gang ethics dictated that they were not to hurt each other. Real violence was reserved for rival gangs and, like their criminal acts, was not shown by Davidson.

He did capture the teens’ early experiences with lust and love. The Lothario in the back seat of a car is Lefty, of whom Bob Powers, a gang member who wrote a memoir 40 years later, remarked, “We never thought he was good-looking, but all the girls loved him.” This well-known image of Lefty is joined in the exhibition by three others from that same make-out session. Together they form an almost cinematic progression. Several other groups of related images of events are also included in the exhibition. These rare glimpses into the artist’s shooting and editing processes are all drawn from the recent anonymous gift to the museum of 367 works from Davidson’s archive, selections that span his 70-year career.

Davidson was careful not to pass judgment in his Brooklyn Gang photographs. The youngsters’ hairstyles, tattoos, and underage drinking, smoking, and sex were considered ruinous behaviour at the time. The memoirs of Bob Powers and the reminiscences of other members give the Jokers’ story a dark tone. The best-known image in the series, taken in front of a cigarette machine at Coney Island, shows Artie Giammarino, who later became a transit police detective, and Cathy O’Neal, whom the boys considered “beautiful like Brigitte Bardot.” Cathy is seen here at age 13 or 14, around the time she began dating the “coolest” of the gang, Junior Rice. At 14 she got pregnant. Though they were both under the legal age, they married. They later divorced, and Junior became a heroin dealer and user; within a few years, drugs would claim the lives of many in the gang and in the neighbourhood. Years after their divorce, Cathy committed suicide by shotgun.

Davidson would always remain an outsider to the gang, but his working process allowed for intimacy and trust to grow between the gang members and the photographer. By the end of the summer, Davidson realised that he and the Jokers were all considered outsiders in the conformist, materialistic 1950s. “I could see my own repression in them, and I began to feel a connection to their desperation,” he remembered. “I began to feel their isolation and even my own.”

Cleveland Art, Fall 2020

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Although most of the gang members’ time was spent in their neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, the Jokers sometimes took excursions. Few had access to cars, so most travel was by bus and subway. The subway fare of 15 cents – the equivalent of $1.33 today – would take them anywhere in New York City. Here a gang member and his girlfriend wait for a train on the neighbourhood subway platform. The beach at Coney Island was a favourite summer destination for the gang.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

“We used to hang out in [Brooklyn’s] Prospect Park all the time,” recalled Jokers member Bob Powers. “We did a lot of drinking and sleeping overnight in the park. … The cops with their bats would push us along, tell us to move. We were very defiant. If we moved, we moved ten feet. Then they had to tell us to move another ten feet. We’d kind of like move around in a circle and come back to where we originally started. The cops were mean at that time, but then we weren’t the best of kids either.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 13.9 x 17.6cm (5 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.)
Image: 11.4 x 16.9cm (4 1/2 x 6 5/8 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The Jokers roughhoused and fought among themselves but were not allowed to hurt each other. Real violence was reserved for those in other gangs or occasionally for civilians. “Did we fight with chains and pipes and knives? Yeah,” gang member Bob Powers reminisced years later. “Did people get stabbed? Yeah, people got stabbed. And people got their heads cracked open with bats.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang member making out in the back seat of a car on the way home from Coney Island is Lefty, identifiable by his tattoo. “We always wondered why the girls liked him,” recalled Jokers member Bob Powers. “We never thought he was good-looking, but all the girls loved him. It was amazing.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Jimmie, an older member of the gang, watched over the younger members with his brother Johnny. In 1998, Jokers member Bob Powers recalled, “Later, the whole family, all six of them … died, wiped out, mostly from drugs. It’s amazing because at this particular time, if you see Jimmie, he’s like the ‘Fonz,’ like James Dean – handsome. He was good-looking, he had the women, and he was always working on cars.”

 

 

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15
Nov
19

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘The Photojournalist Robert Capa II’ at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Visited September 2019 posted November 2019

 

First gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

 

I didn’t have time on my European photographic research tour to post about this exhibition at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest.

Let me say right off bat, that I’m not a great fan of Capa’s work and the larger, 1990s non-vintage prints presented in this exhibition were unimpressive.

I admire Capa’s courage in order to get the shot (“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”), but his photographs leave me cold. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but his objectivity, his reportage, is just that. Looking back 80 years later, we must remember how raw, how radical and confronting these photographs would have been when viewed in Life magazine and Picture Post at the time: authentic representations of war and death straight from the front. But in terms of the image, what you see is what you get. The framing is not particularly good, the angles are pretty conventional and front on, the occurrences direct and focused. The immediacy of the image, that is their strength.

For me they don’t leave a lasting impression, never have done. Yes, the D-Day landings because he was there; The death of a Loyalist militiaman because it is so famous; the shaving of the women collaborators heads because they are so vile … but you wonder, does his greatness come from the fact that, time and time again, he got the job done and produced the goods (as in a saleable image). That and the reality that he was a great self promoter: labelled the ‘Greatest War Photographer in the World’ by Picture Post in 1938. But was he a good image maker?

They are what they are. That’s really all you can say.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

"La Guerre Civile en Espagne,' in Vu Magazine No. 445 September 23, 1936

"La Guerre Civile en Espagne,' in Vu Magazine No. 445 September 23, 1936

 

 

“La Guerre Civile en Espagne,’ in Vu Magazine No. 445 September 23, 1936

Caption: “Le jarret vif, la poitrine au vent, fusil au poing, il dévalaient la pente couverte d’un chaume raide.. Soudain l’essor est brisé, une balle a siffle – une balle fratricide – et leur sang est bu par la terre natale … ”

“His step quick, his chest to the wind, his rifle in his hand, he hurtled down the steep slope. Suddenly the boom was broken, a bullet whistled – a fratricidal bullet – and their blood is drunk by the homeland … ”

The caption as published in LIFE magazine: “Robert Capa’s camera catches a Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Cordoba.”

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa. 'September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman' 1936

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militaman
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

“The Spanish War Kills Its First Woman Photographer,” in LIFE magazine (Gerda Taro, July 1937)

 

 

Gerda Taro (1910-1937)

Gerta Pohorylle (1 August 1910 – 26 July 1937), known professionally as Gerda Taro, was a German Jewish war photographer active during the Spanish Civil War. She is regarded as the first woman photojournalist to have died while covering the frontline in a war.

Taro was the companion and professional partner of photographer Robert Capa. The name “Robert Capa” was originally an alias that Taro and Capa (born Endre Friedmann) shared, an invention meant to mitigate the increasing political intolerance in Europe and to attract the lucrative American market. A significant amount of what is credited as Robert Capa’s early work was actually made by Taro.

Coverage of the Spanish Civil War

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Taro travelled to Barcelona, Spain, to cover the events with Capa and David “Chim” Seymour. Taro acquired the nickname of La pequeña rubia (“The little blonde”). They covered the war together in northeastern Aragon and in the southern Córdoba province. Always together under the common and using the bogus signature of Robert Capa, they succeeded in publishing through important publications (the Swiss Zürcher Illustrierte, the French Vu). Their early war photographs are distinguishable since Taro used a Rollei camera which rendered squared photographs while Capa produced rectangular pictures using a Contax camera[citation needed] or a Leica camera. However, for some time in 1937 they each produced similar 35 mm pictures under the label of Capa&Taro.

Subsequently, Taro attained some independence. She refused Capa’s marriage proposal. Also, she became publicly related to the circle of anti-fascist European and intellectuals (such as Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell) who crusaded particularly for the Spanish Republic. fr:Ce Soir, a communist newspaper of France, signed her for publishing Taro’s works only. Then, she began to commercialise her production under the Photo Taro label. Regards, Life, Illustrated London News and Volks-Illustrierte (the exile edition of Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung) were amongst the publications that used her work.

Reporting the Valencia bombing alone, Taro obtained the photographs which are her most celebrated. Also, in July 1937, Taro’s photographs were in demand by the international press when, alone, she was covering the Brunete region near Madrid for Ce Soir. Although the Nationalist propaganda claimed that the region was under its control, the Republican forces had in fact forced that faction out. Taro’s photographs were the only testimony of the actual situation.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

“So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world” (epitaph in French and Catalan on her tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

“The Spanish War Kills Its First Woman Photographer,” in LIFE Magazine (Gerda Taro, July 1937)

 

 

Robert Capa

(Endre Ernő Friedmann)
22 October 1913, Budapest, Hungary – 25 May 1954, Thái Bình, Vietnam

He never avoided challenges – he brought his restless, adventurous spirit and toughness from Hungary. He hardly had anything else in his luggage when he left his native country in 1931. He made photo-history with his war reportage on the Spanish Civil War, WWII, China, and Vietnam. His stories and, in particular, his slogan – “if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” – made him a legendary person. But he made a mistake in Thái Bình. He went too close.

His brother wrote about him: “He lived a lot and suffered a lot during his short life. He was born poor and died poor. He bequeathed us the chronicle of his unique career along with the visual proof of his conviction: not only can mankind endure a lot but it is able to win every now and then.”

His parents – Júlia Berkovits and Dezső Friedmann – were tailors, who ran a prosperous show-room in Budapest. Their first child was László, followed by Endre and five years later by Kornél. After a Lutheran elementary school, Robert Capa went to study at Madách Secondary School. Inspierd by Lajos Kassák, he became interested in journalism in 1929, one year before his matriculation. After 1930, he was a photographer.

He was a good friend of Suzanne Szász, i.e. Székely Zsuzsa, already in Budapest. He lived at the same house as Éva Besnyő, who was his first childhood love.

He was shortly imprisoned because of his leftist connections and his participation in a leftist demonstration on 1 September 1930. In prison, he learnt the methods of the infamous investigator Péter Hain, who beat him so hard that he lost consciousness. He was released through his parents’ connections and he almost immediately left the country.

According to one of the legends, he only had a stick of salami in his luggage when he left. His train ticket to Vienna was paid by the Jewish Community of Pest, from there he went on to Prague through Brno and somehow he eventually arrived in Berlin. He left in July 1931 and it took him two or three weeks to get to the German capital. He studied journalism at the German Political College (Deutsche Hochschule für Politik). Since his parents were becoming poor and were not able to support him, he went to work as a photo lab assistant at the photo agency Dephot (Deutscher Photodienst). In the beginning, almost everybody spoke Hungarian at Dephot. No wonder since it was founded by Simon Guttmann and its financial manager was László Fekete, known as Ladislaus Glück at that time.

There were László Czigány (Taci) and György Markos among his fellow-workers and friends. He received his first camera at this time, a Voigtländer 6×9 from György Kepes. Later he got a Leica from Guttmann to carry out smaller assignments.

In 1932, he was sent by Guttmann to make the report which made him famous: he took the photo of Leon Trotsky at the Socialist Congress in Copenhagen. He was the only one to succeed in taking a photo of Trotsky, since photography was strictly forbidden at the meeting. The photo was published by Weltspiegel on a full page.

He was assisted in adapting himself to the foreign city and culture by his friends from Budapest, György Kepes and Éva Besnyő. They often invited him for dinner at their home, actively contributing to his subsistence besides his spiritual development. (At this time he stealthily ate the everyday roast-meat chop of his landlady’s dachshund.) He had to leave Berlin in 1933, which became more and more dangerous for left-wing Jewish intellectual immigrants. He went to Vienna and from there to Budapest by boat. He went to court schoolgirls at Lajos Pécsi’s studio in Dorottya Street almost everyday with his friends from the Munka-kör (Work Circle), among them Lajos Kassák. He worked for photographer Ferenc Veres in Budapest, taking photos of Budapest for touristic leaflets and publications. But he did not do it just howsoever! He did it by the metre. The photographer bought the exposed and developed Leica-films by 26 frames, i.e. by the metre from Endre Friedmann. We do not know what happened to these pictures or those he made in 1933 at the World Scout Jamboree in Gödöllő. Some of them were certainly taken to Paris, where a photographer friend of his tried to sell them to French photo agencies – without any success.

He moved to Paris in September 1933, still not as Capa, but neither as Bandi Friedmann any more; he tried to sell his photos under his new name André Friedman – with little success. He was starving more often than eating well. The young Hungarian with many names yet being actually an unknown photographer was helped by André Kertész with work, connections, his friendship and – knowing Capa – certainly with some money, too. (Later – already in America – he designed Capa’s book titled Death in the Making [Így készül a halál] from Gerda Taro’s and Capa’s photos taken in Spain.) He came into contact with Gisèle Freund, Hans Namuth and Chim at this time. Soon after he made friends with Henri Cartier-Bresson.

His first photo report was published in 1934 in Vu Magazine. He changed his name to Capa around this time almost together with his girlfriend Gerda Pohorylle, whose name became Gerda Taro. Foreign literature wrongly put together the name of Robert Capa from those of Robert Taylor and Frank Capra, but, to our knowledge, he was called Cápa (shark) because of his big mouth and pushy behaviour already at secondary school in Budapest. All he did abroad was to make it sound English by dropping the accent. The change of his name was also motivated by financial interests, since Gerda was able to sell the photos of a successful American photographer at a price three times higher than those of André. His appearance was also significantly transformed together with the change of his name. He had his long hair cut and he began to wear well-ironed suits, believing that it would be the seal of his success. However, it was difficult for him to work up the change of his name and the radical transformation of his appearance mentally.

He went to record the Spanish Civil War in 1936/37 together with Gerda Taro (whom he taught photography), assigned by Regards, a leftist French weekly magazine. And why should he not have received accreditation when his commissioner, Regards had a Hungarian editor, Pál Aranyossy writing under the name of Falus? Dezső Hoffmann was also working here at this time. Gerda died during an air-raid, but Spain became the springboard to world-wide fame for Capa since his photo titled “The Falling Soldier” irrevocably became a classic.

He worked in London, Paris and returned to Spain to take photos at the fall of Barcelona. He was everywhere where the sky was resounding. Besides the weekly magazine Regards, his photos were also published in LIFE. A countless number of his photos were published by Stefan Lorant in his journals, in Weekly Illustrated and in Picture Post. Lorant coined the slogan “The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa,” which accompanied him all through his life.

He spent six months in China with film director Joris Ivens and cameraman John Fernhout during the Japanese occupation. He learnt English from the Dutch in the middle of China and he taught them songs of Hungarian highwaymen in exchange. By the way, Fernhout was Éva Besnyő’s first husband, whom she met earlier in the Spanish Civil War.

Capa returned to Paris, then went back to Spain again to take the series of photos published on 11 pages in Picture Post, two pages in LIFE and five pages in Regards.

After his father died in Budapest, he had nothing else binding him to Europe, so he moved to the United States in 1939 following his mother and his younger brother. Not only his photography, but also the typical Hungarian “lecho” (lecsó) dish cooked by Júlia Friedmann became a legend in the larger group of their friends. He preserved his Hungarian bonds: in his writing “Why have I left home?” he wrote about the conspiracy with his secondary schoolmates under the pillars of the Chain Bridge in Budapest. At the time, he mostly made reportage for LIFE, for example about the presidential elections in Mexico, where he met Kati Deutsch again, a former pupil of Hungarian photographer Lajos Pécsi.

He authored a book in 1941 together with writer Diana Forbes-Robertson about the air battle of London, entitled The Battle of Waterloo Road. After Hungary’s declaration of war, for being a citizen of an enemy state, he was not allowed to leave a ten-mile range of New York and he was also forbidden to take photos. However, in a rather short time, as perhaps the only alien enemy, he achieved to be accredited by the U. S. Army. He only had these personal documents at that time: U. S. residence permit, a Hungarian passport and letters of assignment from various journals. It did not pose an unsolvable problem to him, since he already succeeded in crossing international borders with an expired passport and a nicely decorated Hungarian restaurant menu – and with his big talk – already ten years earlier.

He took photos in England, North Africa, Sicily and in other parts of Italy. He landed with the first American troops on D-Day. He covered the last German offensive in Belgium and took photos about the fall of Leipzig. In the last day of the war he was asked by the Paris correspondent of the American Army’s radio to read an appeal in Hungarian on the air to persuade the population of besieged Budapest to turn against the Germans. Capa accepted to do it; however, by this time his Hungarian had become so rusty that he had to give it up in disgrace. After this incident, his friends were teasing him unmercifully about being a fake Hungarian. At this time Hemingway’s saying became a classic: “Capa speaks seven languages, but all of them poorly.”

At the end of the war, he was about to have a business-card printed with the title “Robert Capa, war photographer, unemployed.” Being aware of the course of world history since that time and Capa’s life story, he could hardly have distributed a lot of these cards. He received U. S. citizenship after the war, officially under the name of Robert Capa.

He went to the Soviet Union in 1947 with John Steinbeck, who wrote about him: “Capa was able to see and use what he had discovered. He was able to show the whole population’s hatred on a child’s face… Capa’s work is the proof of his great heart and his exuberant compassion… I frequently travelled and worked with Capa. He may have had much closer friends but nobody liked him as much as I did. He liked to seem to be easy and carefree in his work. But he was not. His photos are not accidental.”

In the same year, he founded Magnum in New York with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger, Maria Eisner, William Vandivert and his wife. Organising the agency, getting clients and making money took much of his time. He wrote to Maria Eisner around 1950: “I enjoy so much to be able to take photos again that I think I will get into to the habit.” After his death, Magnum was taken on and managed by his younger brother, Kornél Friedmann – or as he is better known: Cornell Capa.

In 1947, Robert Capa went to Turkey with a 16 mm film camera. A little bit later he covered the birth of the State of Israel. In Tel Aviv he met a lot of Hungarian acquaintances and then, guided by Paul Goldmann, a photographer of Hungarian origins, he took pictures of the heroic defence at the Kibbutz Negba in the Negev Desert. He also recorded the immigrant Hungarian battalion fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem.

In 1948, he spent six weeks in Hungary, taking photos of the war-torn country with the more and more evident signs of communist influence. At this time reconstruction works were implemented under the first three-year plan. He was accompanied by György Markos, his friend in Berlin and then in Paris. He took photos at the Ganz Shipyard, he recorded the first rice harvest in Békés County and the city of Budapest reviving from the ruins. “The day before I left, I went to get my exit visa. The sergeant who handled foreigners studied my passport very thoroughly. After stamping my exit visa, he asked me which school I went to. I told him the name of my secondary school in Budapest and he promptly listed my teachers and found out the year of my matriculation. He attended the same school, which he finished two years later than me. He gave back my passport and said: “If you had been born two years later with your talent, you either would not be alive today or you would be a secretary of a minister. This way, however, you are only a troubled Western liberal. This is historical materialism.”” This story, entitled “Conversation in Budapest” was published a year later in Holiday Magazine.

Until 1952, he mostly reported about his travels on assignment by Holiday Magazine, often writing the articles as well. Although he never grew rich, he was always full of ideas hiding opportunities to make a lot of money. Once he said: “I will never make millions. You make millions if you have one good idea. When you have twenty a day, you have to share them.” He was proud of his shrewdness that he attributed to being Hungarian. He reversed the well-known slogan from Hollywood, quoted earlier. In his version he said: “It is not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian.”

In 1954, he was sent to Indochina by LIFE to cover the French colonies. On 25 May, he stepped on a land-mine and died. He was honoured with a posthumous Croix de Guerre by General René Cogny.

Capa’s memory has not faded – neither in Hungary, nor abroad. This is, not the least, due to his younger brother who, after the deaths of Capa, Bischof and Chim, felt that he did not have a more important task in his life than ensuring eternal life for these geniuses of photography. His zeal is attested by several exhibitions and books. His work was not without success: almost thirty years after Capa’s death, one of the best Hungarian writers, Ferenc Karinthy wrote about the photographer in his book The End of the World (Vége a világnak). Also András Simor wrote a poem as an homage to the photographer and to the soldier he made immortal. Film director Miklós Jancsó wrote an essay for the fortieth anniversary of Thái Bình. And above all: there is no photographic history or textbook without mentioning both of their names with Robert Capa on the top.

Károly Kincses (2005) “Robert Capa,” on the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center website [Online] Cited 03/11/2019

 

Please note: according to Capa’s birth entry his fathers name was Dávid Friedman (one n) and he was named Endre Ernő Friedman (one n). According to my friend György Németh whom this information came from, he later used his name with two N. As György says, it’s a bit of a mess as he used all kind of spelling throughout his life. Thank you György!

 

Robert Capa's birth entry

 

Robert Capa’s birth entry

 

Second gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Fountain rubble in city square, Stalingrad, USSR' August 1-31, 1947

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Fountain rubble in city square, Stalingrad, USSR
August 1-31, 1947
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Student civil-defense volunteers assisting the wounded, Guangzhou, China' July-September 1938

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Student civil-defense volunteers assisting the wounded, Guangzhou, China
July-September 1938
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Funeral procession for victim killed on the day of the presidential elections, Mexico City, Mexico' July 9, 1940

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Funeral procession for victim killed on the day of the presidential elections, Mexico City, Mexico
July 9, 1940
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Man and cat outside an air-raid shelter, London, UK' June-July 1941

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Man and cat outside an air-raid shelter, London, UK
June-July 1941
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Medical transport craft for men wounded in the first wave of American troops landing on D-Day, off Omaha Beach, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France' June 6, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Medical transport craft for men wounded in the first wave of American troops landing on D-Day, off Omaha Beach, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
June 6, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'German soldiers captured by American forces burying some of the men killed during the D-Day landings, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France' June 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
German soldiers captured by American forces burying some of the men killed during the D-Day landings, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
June 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'American soldiers guard a group of captured Germans, southwest of Saint-Lð, Normandy, France' July 26-30, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
American soldiers guard a group of captured Germans, southwest of Saint-Lð, Normandy, France
July 26-30, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Cow in the middle of a street lined with ruined buildings, Normandy, France' June-July 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Cow in the middle of a street lined with ruined buildings, Normandy, France
June-July 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Soldiers leading a French woman who had collaborated with the Germans to the Préfecture de Police to have her head shaved, Chartres, France' August 18, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Soldiers leading a French woman who had collaborated with the Germans to the Préfecture de Police to have her head shaved, Chartres, France
August 18, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'German soldiers captured by American forces during the Battle of the Bulge, south of Bastogne, Belgium' December 23-26, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
German soldiers captured by American forces during the Battle of the Bulge, south of Bastogne, Belgium
December 23-26, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

 

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest
8 Nagymező Street, 1065 Budapest, Hungary
Phone: +36 1 413 1310

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest website

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10
Nov
19

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

Exhibition dates: 29th May – 17th November 2019

Visited August 2019 posted November 2019

 

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

 

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

 

 

“A moment of experience”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,040

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Ara Güler' Nd

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

All signed by him

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

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

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

 

About Ara Güler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text from the Istanbul Modern Photography Gallery website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeynep Uğur Academia website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art website

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22
Apr
19

Exhibition: ‘Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection’ at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2018 – 28th April 2019

Curators: Joachim Meyer and Peter Wandel

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

There are some beautiful photographs in this posting, mainly by British photographers evidencing the colonial gaze.

This is how the British saw their subjects “Under Indian Skies” not how the Indians would have seen themselves. The only Indian photographer in this posting is Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905). His photograph The Char Minar, Hyderabad (1880s, below) is a much more fluid, street photography representation of Indian life (long time exposure, blurred figures) than the other grandiose representations of Indian palaces and architecture.

The portraits are also instructive, aping as they do the classical aspirations of contemporary European carte de visite and cabinet cards. Even though the photograph Portrait of a young Indian woman by an unknown photographer (1870s, below) portrays her in Indian dress, she is accompanied to the left by a reproduction of a classical Greek statue. Of course, the aspersion is that while she may be beautiful and different, the Orient is always reliant on Europe and Greece as the birthplace of civilisation, for its existence.

I have included extra information about locations and photographers were possible.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The David Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

The invention of photography in 1839 revolutionised the way in which the world was documented and interpreted, not only in Europe, but also in Asia. As early as the beginning of the 1850s, the British authorities in India launched an impressive photographic survey of architecture. Enthusiastic amateur photographers soon followed suit with atmospheric images of life in the period, including that of maharajas, snake charmers, and elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Through a selection of pictures from a private British collection, this photo exhibition focuses on some of the challenges and subjects that preoccupied the earliest European and Indian photographers. It also displays the distinctive beauty of vintage photos created with difficult to handle apparatuses, big glass negatives, long exposure times, and complex chemical processes.

The exhibition consists of over 80 photographs and photo albums from around 1850 to the beginning of the 20th century. The catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The catalogue costs DKK 200 and can be purchased in the museum shop, which also sells the lovely exhibition poster for DKK 40.

Text from The David Collection website [Online] Cited 24/03/2019

 

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Sir Donald Horne Macfarlane (July 1830 – 2 June 1904) was a Scottish merchant who entered politics and became a Member of Parliament (MP), firstly as a Home Rule League MP in Ireland and then as Liberal and Crofters Party MP in Scotland. Macfarlane was born in Scotland, the youngest son of Allan Macfarlane, J.P., of Caithness and his wife Margaret Horne. He became an East Indies merchant as a tea trader and indigo plantation owner. While in India he was a passionate amateur photographer. He experimented freely and produced semi-abstract images

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862 (detail)

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing (detail)
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30 cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30 cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of one of the Chattar Manzil [Umbrella Palaces] showing the King’s boat called The Royal Boat of Oude on the Gomti River, Lucknow, India.

The Chattar Manzil (Urdu: چھتر منزل‎, Hindi: छतर मंज़िल), or Umbrella Palace is a building in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh which served as a palace for the rulers of Awadh and their wives. It was constructed by order of NawabGhazi Uddin Haider and completed after his death by his successor, Nawab Nasir Uddin Haider.

The Chattar Manzil stand on the banks of the River Gomti. The Chattar Manzil consisted of a Bari (larger) Chattar Manzil and Chhoti (smaller) Chattar Manzil, however only the larger one still exists. These two buildings were examples of the Indo-European-Nawabi architectural style, even though the Bari Chattar Manzil has been altered over the years. The palaces were named after the chattris (umbrella-shaped domes) on the octagonal pavilions, which crown the buildings. The imposing building has large underground rooms and a dome surmounted by a gilt umbrella.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Felice Beato (1832 – 29 January 1909), also known as Felix Beato, was an Italian-British photographer. He was one of the first people to take photographs in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. He is noted for his genre works, portraits, and views and panoramas of the architecture and landscapes of Asia and the Mediterranean region. Beato’s travels gave him the opportunity to create images of countries, people, and events that were unfamiliar and remote to most people in Europe and North America. His work provides images of such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Opium War, and represents the first substantial body of photojournalism. He influenced other photographers, and his influence in Japan, where he taught and worked with numerous other photographers and artists, was particularly deep and lasting. …

In February 1858 Beato arrived in Calcutta and began travelling throughout Northern India to document the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. During this time he produced possibly the first-ever photographic images of corpses. It is believed that for at least one of his photographs taken at the palace of Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow he had the skeletal remains of Indian rebels disinterred or rearranged to heighten the photograph’s dramatic impact17. He was also in the cities of Delhi, Cawnpore, Meerut, Benares, Amritsar, Agra, Simla, and Lahore. Beato was joined in July 1858 by his brother Antonio, who later left India, probably for health reasons, in December 1859. Antonio ended up in Egypt in 1860, setting up a photographic studio in Thebes in 1862.

Text from the Wikipedia website

17. Gartlan, Luke. “Felix Beato,” in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography 2, p. 128.

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. First Attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857, Lucknow. Albumen silver print, by Felice Beato, 1858. Located on the outskirts of Lucknow, it was the scene of intense fighting in November, 1857. Following the action, the British dead were buried in a deep trench but the Indian corpses were left to rot. Later, the city had to be evacuated and was not recaptured until March 1858 and it was shortly afterwards that Beato probably took this photograph. As one contemporary commentator described it: “A few of their [rebel] bones and skulls are to be seen in front of the picture, but when I saw them every one was being regularly buried, so I presume the dogs dug them up.” A British officer, Sir George Campbell, noted in his memoirs Beato’s presence in Lucknow and stated that he probably had the bones uncovered to be photographed. However, William Howard Russell of The Times recorded seeing many skeletons still lying around in April 1858 Photographic views of Lucknow taken after the Indian Mutiny, Albumen silver print 26.2 x 29.8 cm. The image was taken by Felice Beato, a Corfiote by birth, who visited India during the period of the Indian Mutiny or First War of Indian Independence; possibly on a commissioned by the War Office in London he made documentary photographs showing the damage to the buildings in Lucknow following the two sieges. It is known that he was in Lucknow in March and April of 1858 within a few weeks of the capture of that city by British forces under Sir Colin Campbell. His equipment was a large box camera using 10″ x 12″ plates which needed a long exposure, and he made over 60 photographs of places in the city connected with the military events. Beato also visited Delhi, Cawnpore and other ‘Mutiny’ sites where he took photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

Samuel Bourne (English, 1834-1912) 'Alai Darwaza at the Qutb, Delhi' c. 1864

 

Samuel Bourne (English, 1834-1912)
Alai Darwaza at the Qutb, Delhi [Ala-ood-deen’s Gateway]
c. 1864
Albumen silver print
23.7 × 29.8 cm (9 5/16 × 11 3/4 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of the front facade of the Alai Darwaza gatehouse at the Qutb complex in Delhi. The building is almost entirely covered with intricately carved geometric and floral patterns, which also adorn the pierced latticework screens that cover the arched windows flanking the archway over the entrance.

This photograph shows a gateway into the extended Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Known as the Alai Darwaza, it was built in 1311 by the Afgan ruler Alauddin Khalji. He had grand plans to extend the original mosque. Most of them were abandoned after his death in 1315, but this gateway is the most notable addition he made. It is 17.2 metres square.

The mosque and gateway are made out of rubble. It is the first of many Indian Islamic monuments to use a combination of white marble and red sandstone for the façade. Its distinctive features are the use of symmetry and the finely carved calligraphic and arabesque decoration on the southern façade of the gateway. This is also the first monument in which a true arch, using the radiating voussoirs shown here, is fully integrated into the design. The design is influenced by the architectural traditions of the empire of the Saljugs from western Asia.

The British photographer Samuel Bourne lived and worked in India between 1862 and 1869. During this time he toured the Himalayas and travelled through the subcontinent, photographing its landscape, architecture and historical sites. He set up a studio in Simla with Charles Shepherd and sold his prints sold to an eager public both in India and Britain.

Text from the V&A website

 

The Qutb complex are monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India. The Qutub Minar in the complex, named after Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty. The Minar was added upon by his successor Iltutmish (a.k.a. Altamash), and much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Sultan of Delhi from the Tughlaq dynasty in 1368 AD. The Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque (Dome of Islam), later corrupted into Quwwat-ul Islam, stands next to the Qutb Minar.

Many subsequent rulers, including the Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji and the British added structures to the complex. Apart from the Qutb Minar and the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, other structures in the complex include the Alai Gate, the Alai Minar, the Iron pillar, the ruins of several earlier Jain temples, and the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji and Imam Zamin.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'View from the entrance gateway of Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
View from the entrance gateway of Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandra
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Akbar’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal emperor, Akbar and an important Mughal architectural masterpiece. It was built in 1604-1613 and is situated in 119 acres of grounds in Sikandra, a sub of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

 

 

The first photographs from India

The David Collection’s new special exhibition provides a hitherto unknown first-hand impression of 19th-century India, primarily – but not exclusively – seen with the eyes of western photographers. Through original vintage photographs, the viewer is taken back to photography’s birth and earliest childhood and up to around 1900.

Photography had made a breakthrough in British-dominated India in the early 1850s. With its magnificent architecture, exotic landscapes, and many different peoples and cultures, India offered fantastic motifs: splendid Islamic palaces, mosques, and sepulchral monuments. Princes, maharajas, ministers, and warriors in all their glory. But also an abundance of life among the common people, with everyone from stonemasons to snake charmers as well as elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Motifs of a completely different type that can be seen in the exhibition are those of the shattered palaces and dead warriors that spoke admonishingly of the rebellion against British rule in 1857-1858. The rebellion broke out after Muslim and Hindu soldiers had been forced by the British to use cartridges supposedly greased with fat from pigs and cows. These are some of history’s earliest war photographs, which in Europe served as the basis for newspaper illustrations.

The photographs were often taken under difficult working conditions. The heavy photo equipment had to be transported to distant regions along impassible roads, and its chemicals dried out in the tropical heat. The exposure time could be very long, and processing the negatives and the positives was often arduous.

Experiments were made with the new media by both visiting and local photo pioneers. The exhibition bears witness to the exchanges and competition between amateurs and the professional photographers whose studios popped up in innumerable places in India in the years up to 1900. The photographs also show how the new medium developed in the tension field between documentation and creative art form.

The over 80 works in the exhibition comprise photographs and photo albums, all of which were lent by the same private collection. The exhibition catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The author is one of the world’s leading specialists in this field and his catalogue provides a detailed and lively account of the photographers’ India in the 19th century and their photographic techniques.

 

Book

Under Indian Skies is the book behind the forthcoming exhibition of the same name, which opens at The David Collection on 23 November 2018. The book – and the exhibition – offer a previously unknown, first-hand impression of 19th-century India, as seen through the eyes of primarily Western photographers. At the beginning of the 1850s photography made its breakthrough in colonial India. With its impressive architecture, exotic landscapes and many different ethnic groups and cultures, the country offered fantastic motifs. The Indian architecture with its magnificent Islamic palaces and mausolea. Princes, maharajas, ministers and soldiers in all of their splendour. But also ordinary people and daily life: stone-cutters and woodcarvers, carpenters and dyers, daily life with the elephants that bathe in the Ganges, cotton harvesters and gardeners, acrobats, snake charmers, dancers, musicians and religious processions.

In the book we are led all the way back to the conception and early years of photography, just before 1850, and right up until around 1900, when the medium was long established. What is more, the book includes what may well be the first examples of war photography – the ruins and corpses left behind after a large, bloody uprising in the end of the 1850s, triggered when the British forced local Hindu and Muslim troops to use cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs.

The photographers travelling to India to undertake ‘reportage’ photography were akin to explorers and their journeys were difficult expeditions, during which with great effort – and an army of helpers – they surveyed the remotest regions. The photographs of the first decades were composed in much the same way as paintings from the same period. The technical challenges were immense and exposure times, for instance, were extremely long, so everything had to be planned to the smallest detail.

Under Indian Skies presents a riveting, kaleidoscopic picture of an India that for the most part has disappeared today. Some monuments are still standing and one might still see similar scenes there, but the present infrastructure and political circumstances are completely different to that time.

In addition to the presentation of eighty-three selected photographs, the book contains two essays, on the history of photography in India and early photographic processes respectively.

 

About the Author

John Falconer is a British historian of photography, who for many years was responsible for the photography collection at the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. He has written many books on early Indian photography and is one of the world’s leading specialists in this area.

Press release from The David Collection Cited 24/03/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under Indian Skies - 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection' at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Installation view of the exhibition Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Robert (1818-1872) and Harriet (1827-1907) Tytler. 'View at the Taj Mahal, Agra' 1858

 

Robert (1818-1872) and Harriet (1827-1907) Tytler
View at the Taj Mahal, Agra
1858
Calotype negative
510 x 400 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

Although Robert Tytler and his wife Harriet only took up photography after the Uprising of 1857-58, they managed to produce over 500 photographs of the sites of conflict in less than six months. Their use of very large paper negatives such as this, with the associated technical difficulties, was an ambitious choice for photographers new to the medium. The production of negatives of this size needed extremely large and unwieldy cameras, with consequently long exposures: a note on the back of this negative states that it required an exposure of twenty-five minutes. This decision probably owed much to the tuition the Tytlers received from the established photographer John Murray, who used a similar-sized camera and whose processing procedures they also adopted. This view (laterally reversed in the negative), is taken from outside the Taj Mahal complex from a position in front of the west gate (Fatehpuri Darwaza), looking north along the outer western wall towards the tomb of Fatehpuri Begum in the distance.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'The Char Minar, Hyderabad' 1880s

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
The Char Minar, Hyderabad
1880s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal was trained as an engineer but took up photography around 1864. He entered government service in 1866, founded the firm “Lala Deen Dayal & Sons” in 1868, and was commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. In 1886, Dayal retired from government service and became a professional photographer, moving to Hyderabad, India to work for the Nizam of Hyderabad, who conferred the honorary title of “raja” upon him.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

The Charminar (“Four Minarets”), constructed in 1591, is a monument and mosque located in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. The landmark has become a global icon of Hyderabad, listed among the most recognised structures of India. Charminar has been a historical place with Mosque on the top floor for over 400 years and also known for its surrounding markets. It is one of the tourist attractions in Hyderabad. It is where many famous festivals are celebrated, such as Eid-ul-adha and Eid-ul-fitr.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886) 'Architecture at Beejapoor, London' 1866

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886)
Architecture at Beejapoor, London
1866
Album

 

Architecture at Beejapoor, an ancient Mahometan capital in the Bombay Presidency / photographed from drawings by Capt. P.D. Hart … ; with an historical and descriptive memoir by Captain Meadows Taylor ; and … notes by James Fergusson. 1866.

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886) 'Architecture at Beejapoor, London' 1866 (detail)

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886)
“Malik-I-Mydan” – “The Master of the Plain.”
Architecture at Beejapoor, London (detail)
1866
Album

 

This gun was brought back from Ahmadnagar in the 17th century as a trophy of war and is thought to be the largest medieval cannon in the world.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia' c. 1859

 

Unknown photographer
Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia
c. 1859
Albumen silver print
200 x 166 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

The title of Sirdar (or Sardar), from the Persian for a commander, could apply to a wide variety of senior positions, either military or administrative. The precise role of this figure in the Maharajah of Gwalior’s administration has not been established: the term was also often used by the British in a more general sense in the nineteenth century to denote a nobleman.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Unknown photographer. 'Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia' c. 1859 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia (detail)
c. 1859
Albumen silver print
200 x 166 mm
© The David Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a Rajput prince in armour' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a Rajput prince in armour
1866
Hand-coloured photograph (probably an albumen print)
214 x 138 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

This delicately hand-coloured image depicts a Rajput ruler wearing an elaborate eighteenth-century armour known as Chahelta Hazah (Coat of a Thousand Nails). The inscription (in a Rajasthani form of Hindi, written in Devanagari script) identifies the sitter as Maharaj Shri Savan (or Sovan) Singhji. While the photographer is not named, it states that ‘Shivlal the painter coloured it’ and supplies a date of late September 1866.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a young Indian woman' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a young Indian woman
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a young Indian woman' 1870s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a young Indian woman (detail)
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Johnston and Hoffmann. 'Portrait of a young prince' c. 1900

 

Johnston and Hoffmann (Calcutta, 1882-1950s)
P. Johnston (Great Britain, died 1891)
Theodore Hoffmann (Germany? 1883 /1887 – India? 1921)
Portrait of a young prince
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

R.K. Brothers. 'Ruling group, probably from Bikaner' c. 1900

 

R.K. Brothers
Ruling group, probably from Bikaner
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.

 

R.K. Brothers. 'Ruling group, probably from Bikaner' c. 1900 (detail)

 

R.K. Brothers
Ruling group, probably from Bikaner (detail)
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

The David Collection
Kronprinsessegade 30
1306 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 33 73 49 49

Opening hours
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 17pm
Wednesday until 21.00pm
Monday closed
Also closed December 23, 24, 25, and 31

The David Collection website

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20
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘Matthias Bruggmann. An Act of Unspeakable Violence’ at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2018 – 27th January 2019

Curator: Lydia Dorner, Curator Assistant, Musée de l’Elysée

 

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Marmarita, Reef Homes, September 11 2013'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Marmarita, Reef Homes, September 11 2013
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

“The swimming pool at Al-Khair Hotel, above Marmarita. A number of the young men are from the Christian militia that protects Marmarita and helps besiege both the Krak des Chevaliers and al Husn, the Sunni village built around it. The Krak fell to the Syrian army in March 2014. Reuters, quoting Lebanese medical sources, reported that over forty of the opposition fighters fleeing the area were wounded in an ambush on the way out, with eight dead.”

 

 

These magnificent, thought provoking photographs by Swiss photographer Matthias Bruggmann take a critical look at the representation of the atrocities of war. The photographs won the Prix Elysée in 2017, awarded by the Musée de l’Elysée.

The photographs picture everyday life in what Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam has so aptly referred to as the “majority world” – that is, they attend to issues of critical importance in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Oceania… not Europe or America. They shine a light on the conflict that is taking place in Syria and the surrounding geographical area by offering an outsiders perspective, much as Robert Frank offered an outsiders perspective on American society as he travelled through the USA, the resultant photographs leading to the production of his famous book The Americans.

But here the stakes are much higher. Here, life hangs in the balance. The little girl with the blond hair balances on her father’s shoulders; a man in silhouette peers through his night scope while the stars of the cosmos hang in the night sky behind; a man fires his machine pistol by holding it above his head, his comrades sheltering behind rocks; while a young man sits on his haunches, hunched over, blindfolded, bruised and in handcuffs. Awaiting some unknown fate.

One image among these formal, classical photographs (a body of work which crosses over from photojournalism to contemporary artistic photography) is particularly disturbing. On the road, Iraq, September 24 2016 (below) shows a group of men much like the groups of men that can be seen in Baroque painting. One man addresses the viewer holding a mobile phone, his face a skeleton, mask; another four men hold mobile phones in various attitudes, recording the scene or looking into them; the man at left, with a gun thrusting down his leg, walks into the scene, while the one behind walks out of scene, left; in the distance at right, a machine gun is mounted on a tripod, with man walking out of scene, right; while at centre right a group of four men, one with a Union Jack flag on the crutch of his trousers (?!), gaze down at a recumbent figure, a figure that you don’t initially see when looking at the photograph, for every man is standing but for the blood soaked figure of death.

The photograph highlights the barrenness of the landscape and the symbolical values embedded in the scene (masculinity, war, guns, flags, mobile phones, bodies, attitudes, death), clues in a charade which the spectator solves volens nolens – unwilling (or) willing: like it or not. The truth is yelled at you, if you know how to interpret the symbols.

It’s the mundanity evidenced in most of these mise en scène that gets you in the guts, that stirs up my anger and feelings of sadness and regret. I am so over ugly, male energy, from whichever side, from wherever – used in the name of religion, nationalism, power and control – to rule the life of others. These photographs are like a sad lament, a prayer offered up to the human race to ask deliverance from distress, suffering, and pain. Indifference to the pain and suffering of others should not be an option, for “in difference”, “we look with respect to another culture or another people.” (Mr Massarwe)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Reef Idlib, February 20, 2013'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Reef Idlib, February 20, 2013
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

“Two men mourn their brother who died decapitated by a regime shell. The fear of bombings was such that families stopped organising large funerals.”

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'On the road Iraq September 24 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
On the road, Iraq, September 24 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

“Using toilet cleaner and a dental probe, middlemen clean ancient coins. Coins and other antiquities are exported throughout the region, mostly to Turkey, but also Lebanon and, in some cases, Jordan, from where silver shekels then make their way to the Jerusalem souvenir industry. The trickiest part is faking provenance so that the antiquities can enter the highly lucrative Western market – dealers in neighbouring countries would take a fifty percent cut on the sale for the procurement. The asking price for a Byzantine mosaic measuring around two square meters was between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars and smuggling it out to a neighbouring country cost around 4,000 dollars at that point. Many of the deals were carried out over WhatsApp, and Syrians were often double-crossed by unscrupulous foreign dealers. One of the men in this photograph later complained that a North American dealer had cost him a small fortune when he refused to pay up his share.”

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann Talmenes. 'Reef Idlib 1 mai 2014'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Talmenes Reef Idlib 1 mai 2014
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

“The remains of a barrel of chlorine (Cl₂) that was dropped on a house from a helicopter. This is one of the hundred or so documented attacks using chemical agents that happened before and after the 2013 Ghouta bombings in Damascus that the United States estimates killed 1,429. The Syrian government was the only warring faction to have access to airpower, therefore it is unthinkable that anyone else dropped this barrel. A man who refused to give his name, presenting himself as the owner of the house and the father of two of the children killed in the bombing, explained that he was an employee of a government-run granary. When he went back to work, he said, men came and offered him to interview him on an official TV channel to say that Jabhat al-Nusra had dropped the bomb. He added that the men offered to give him money to rebuild his house in exchange. This attack, which killed 3 and wounded over 130, was extensively documented, both by Human Rights Watch and by Christoph Reuter in Germany’s Der Spiegel. As of mid-2018, the Syrian Archive also held over a dozen videos of the attack and its aftermath.”

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Kafr Souseh, Damascus, 5 May 2012'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Kafr Souseh, Damascus, 5 May 2012
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Desert, 20 September 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Desert, 20 September 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Desert, 20 September 2016' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Desert, 20 September 2016 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

Matthias Bruggmann is the winner of the second edition of the Prix Elysée, with the support of Parmigiani Fleurier, for his project on Syria. Hoping to “bring, to Western viewers, a visceral comprehension of the intangible violence that underlies conflict”, he takes the gamble of hiding nothing in his explicit and brutal pictures. Taken in the field, they force the viewer to slow down and take stock of the war – geographically distant, admittedly, but made omnipresent by the media.

If the tens of thousands of pictures of torture taken by Syrian photographers do not attract the attention of a Western audience, what can a foreigner who doesn’t even speak Arabic hope to accomplish? The photographs of Matthias Bruggmann take a critical look at the representation of the atrocities of war. They give Westerners a more nuanced picture of the reality of an armed conflict and blur the boundaries between photojournalism and contemporary artistic photography.

Launched in 2012, his project plunges us into the complexity of the conflict. His images, which cover a geographic zone larger than Syria, question our moral assumptions and bring about a better understanding of the violence underlying this conflict.

Matthias Bruggmann explains: “Formally, my previous work put viewers in a position where they were asked to decide the nature of the work itself. A scientifically questionable analogy of this mechanism would be the observer effect in quantum physics, where the act of observing changes the nature of what is being observed. My Syrian work builds on this framework. From a documentation perspective, it is, thus far and to the best of my knowledge, unique as the work, inside Syria, of a single Western photographer, in large part thanks to the assistance and hard work of some of the best independent experts on the conflict. Because of the nature of this conflict, I believe it is necessary to expand the geographical scope of the work. At its core is an attempt at generating a sense of moral ambiguity. The design of this is to make viewers uneasy by challenging their own moral assumptions and, thus, attempt to bring, to Western viewers, a visceral comprehension of the intangible violence that underlies conflict. One of the means is by perverting the codes normally used in documentary photography to enhance identification with the subject.”

 

Biography

Matthias Bruggmann is a Swiss photographer who was born in Aixen-Provence in 1978. For the past 15 years, his work has focused on the different war zones throughout the world. After graduating from the Vevey School of Photography in 2003, he became interested very early on in the complexity of his profession in times of war. At the beginning of the 2000s, he accompanied the photojournalist Antonin Kratochvil, who covered the invasion of Iraq. This first experience provided him with the opportunity to explore the complex link between photojournalism and reality – what is actually grasped or described. Since that time, his personal projects have taken him to Egypt, Haiti, Libya and Somalia.

Matthias Bruggmann’s work was featured in the exhibition reGeneration: 50 photographers of tomorrow, organised by the Musée de l’Elysée in 2005, and he was part of the curatorial team for We Are All Photographers Now! presented at the museum in 2007. He is also one of the cofounders of the contemporary art space, Standard/Deluxe, in Lausanne. His photographs have been published in countless newspapers and magazines, including Le Monde, The Sunday Times, Time Magazine and National Geographic.

His work is included in a number of private collections, as well as the public collections of the Frac Midi-Pyrénées and the Musée de l’Elysée. His project on Syria received the Prix Elysée in 2017, awarded by the Musée de l’Elysée with the support of Parmigiani Fleurier. He is represented by the Contact Press Images agency and by the Galerie Polaris in Paris.

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée website

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Ghazi Ayaash, Deir ez-Zor, May 25, 2015'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Ghazi Ayaash, Deir ez-Zor, May 25, 2015
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Rabiah, Reef Hama, April 23, 2012'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Rabiah, Reef Hama, April 23, 2012
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Hadar, Reef Quneitra, August 7, 2015'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Hadar, Reef Quneitra, August 7, 2015
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

At the northern frontline between the Druze fighters and Jabhat al-Nusra, the older fighters teach the younger ones how to fight. Some of the fighters were in the security services, and either retired, or went absent without leave to defend their village.

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

Syria, 2012. In the old town of Homs, a group of fighters and activists meet to stage an allegorical piece written by one of them, who was, in his life, before the revolution, a known writer. In this piece, a lion (or assad, in Arabic …) has lost his voice, and mistreats the other animals to try to find it. The street next door is one of the most dangerous in the city, because it is the corner of government shooters.

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Industrial City, Deir ez-Zor, May 5, 2015'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Industrial City, Deir ez-Zor, May 5, 2015
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shirqat, Iraq, September 22, 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shirqat, Iraq, September 22, 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
Phone: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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16
Nov
18

Exhibition: ‘DELETE: Selection and Censorship in Photojournalism’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG)

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 25th November 2018

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders (b. 1942) 'Unrests in Northern Ireland (Londonderry)' 1969

 

Hanns-Jörg Anders (b. 1942)
Unrests in Northern Ireland (Londonderry)
1969
Gelatin silver print
26.5 x 38.7 cm
© Hanns-Jörg Anders – Red. Stern

 

 

Bearing witness – in private, in public, through creative judgement, editing and the selection process

“Bearing witness is a term that, used in psychology, refers to sharing our experiences with others, most notably in the communication to others of traumatic experiences. Bearing witness is a valuable way to process an experience, to obtain empathy and support, to lighten our emotional load via sharing it with the witness, and to obtain catharsis. Most people bear witness daily, and not only in reaction to traumatic events. We bear witness to one another through our writing, through art, and by verbally simply sharing with others.

In legal terms, witness is derived from a root meaning “to bear in mind;” “to remember;” “to be careful.” A witness in this light can be defined as one who has knowledge of something by recollection and experience, and who can tell about it accurately. By this definition, we are all witnesses for one another, whether or not by choice. Some instances of bearing witness, whether legally or psychologically, do not require the permission of the witness. At other times, the witness is a willing and active participant.

Art is a wonderful avenue for us to bear witness…”

Dr Kristi Pikiewicz. “The Power and Strength of Bearing Witness: A witness assures us that our stories are heard, contained, and transcend time,” on the Psychology Today website, December 3, 2013 [Online] Cited 16 November 2018

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Many thankx to Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The exhibition DELETE at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) explores the production conditions under which photojournalists work and the selection processes their photographs go through before journals and magazines print them. How do publishers, editors, authors, and graphic designers influence the photographers’ work and the expressive force of their pictures? What requirements do the commissioned reports have to fulfil? What mechanisms determine which photos are shown and which never see the light of day? What then ends up being remembered, and what is forgotten? Guided by these questions, the MKG takes a look at four reportages from 1968 to 1983. On view are some 60 reportage photographs, four photo-spreads from the magazines, Stern, Playboy, Kristall, and Der Bote für die evangelische Frau, and four interview films which the photographers made for the exhibition. By comparing and contrasting the published photo-spreads with the original contact sheets as well as with the pictures selected by the photographers for the museum collection, and based on the photographers’ own accounts, viewers can discover the background behind the selection process, how journalists work, and what scope photog