Posts Tagged ‘poetic photography

26
Oct
19

Exhibition: ‘Wolfgang Schulz and the Photography Scene around 1980’ at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 24th November 2019

Featured photographers: Wolfgang Schulz, Hans Christian Adam, Dörte Eißfeldt, Verena von Gagern, André Gelpke, Dagmar Hartig, Andreas Horlitz, Reinhard Matz, Angela Neuke, Heinrich Riebesehl, Wilhelm Schürmann, Holger Stumpf, Petra Wittmar, and Miron Zownir

 

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) 'Michael' 1980

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944)
Michael
1980
Silbergelatine | Gelatin silver paper
24 x 30 cm
Privatsammlung | private collection
© Wolfgang Schulz

 

 

I love this gritty, inventive, subversive German photography from the late 1970s – early 1980s. Challenge me. Take me bleak places. Tell it like it is, baby…

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the 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.

 

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) 'Selbstportrait' | 'Self-Portrait, Riesweiler' 1978

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944)
Selbstportrait | Self-Portrait, Riesweiler
1978
Silbergelatine | Gelatin silver paper
24 x 30 cm
Privatsammlung | private collection
© Wolfgang Schulz

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) 'Ohne Titel' | 'Untitled' um | c. 1980

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944)
Ohne Titel | Untitled
um | c. 1980
Silbergelatine | Gelatin silver paper
24 x 30 cm
Privatsammlung | private collection
© Wolfgang Schulz

 

 

As part of its exhibition series Reconsidering Photography, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg is undertaking a survey of the German photography scene around the year 1980. The springboard for the examination is the journal Fotografie. Zeitschrift internationaler Fotokunst, published by Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) between 1977 and 1985. On the occasion of the exhibition, MKG is inviting photography experts Reinhard Matz (Cologne), Steffen Siegel (Folkwang University Essen), and Bernd Stiegler (University of Konstanz) to relate their research project on the 1980s to the historical photographs in the MKG collection. The aim of the collaboration is to create a historical archaeology of German photography around 1980 based on the example of the journal Fotografie and its protagonists. The exhibition will show some 150 photos by Wolfgang Schulz, Hans Christian Adam, Dörte Eißfeldt, Verena von Gagern, André Gelpke, Dagmar Hartig, Andreas Horlitz, Reinhard Matz, Angela Neuke, Heinrich Riebesehl, Wilhelm Schürmann, Holger Stumpf, Petra Wittmar, and Miron Zownir, together with the journal itself, accompanied by a series of interviews conducted with contemporary witnesses expressly for the exhibition.

Something remarkable happened in the field of photography between 1975 and 1985: important galleries were established and photography increasingly became a coveted item on the art market. Suddenly, collecting and exhibiting photographs in museums was no longer the exception. Photography really stepped into the limelight in style at the so-called Mediendocumenta in 1977. Basic academic reference books were published and a large number of journals were founded. These include both periodicals that since that time have dominated the scholarly discourse, such as History of Photography and Fotogeschichte, as well as magazines designed for the broader public with an interest in photography, including Camera Austria, European Photography, Volksfoto, and Fotokritik.

Among this second group was a journal that was published between 1977 and 1985 with a total of 40 issues, for which its editor, Wolfgang Schulz, who had studied physics and then taught himself photography, chose a name that was as concise as it was ambitious: Fotografie. Zeitschrift internationaler Fotokunst (later Fotografie: Kultur jetzt). Today, this journal seems to have been almost completely forgotten. And yet the achievements of the editor and the contributing authors and photographers surely deserve a closer look. The mix of images and texts they came up with is an important resource for exploring a photography scene that, around 1980, was working hard to establish the medium as an independent art form. At the same time, the 40 issues of Fotografie exude the charm of the open-ended and were shaped by the personal predilections of their editor. An in-depth study of the journal lets us return to the origins of recent photographic history in Germany, which today – surprisingly enough – seem largely to have been buried in the dust of the past.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. It pays tribute to the photographic work of Wolfgang Schulz from the period around 1980, presents works by photographers that for the most part found their way into the MKG collection during that era, displays all 40 issues of the journal Fotografie (unfurling an impressive creative panorama), and lets contemporary witnesses have their say in video interviews as a kind of “oral history.”

Wolfgang Schulz was not merely one of the first journal editors to set himself the task of presenting “a complete overview of contemporary photography with a focus on German photography” but also a notable photographer in his own right. In his photography, as in his editorial work, Schulz tried to evade established norms, while also trying his hand at different styles and subjects. In his Ireland pictures, for example, he followed the narrative tradition of pictorial reportage but simultaneously created a strictly documentary-seeming typology of barns and their various manifestations. With a series of shots of undergrowth, he turned his attention to the unspectacular, and he also portrayed the protagonists on the photography scene who crossed his threshold. For the first time ever, the exhibition is showing his photographic works from the period around 1980.

The images in the MKG collection give an idea of the broad scope covered by art photography in the 1980s. The selection is based on the photo spreads published in Fotografie and thus undoubtedly reveals the preferences of its editor, who seems to have been interested neither in the circle around Bernd and Hilla Becher nor in Michael Schmidt, and who deliberately set out to provoke his readers. Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) explored the North German landscape in his documentary series Agrarlandschaften (Agricultural Landscapes). In a similarly factual style, Wilhelm Schürmann (b. 1946) devoted himself to a highly subjective theme: his childhood surroundings on Steinhammerstrasse in Dortmund. These images are supplemented by his photographs of urban landscapes and residential architecture. Riebesehl and Schürmann both sought their motifs in the realities of life in West Germany that confronted them everywhere they looked. André Gelpke (b. 1947) for his part explored Hamburg’s St. Pauli entertainment district for an independent series he called Sex Theater. He conveys here his view of erotic theatre as a mirror of society that tellingly reveals the audience’s double standards. Wolfgang Schulz also printed Miron Zownir’s pictures of New York’s underground SM, queer, and transsexual scene. These photo spreads reflect the editor’s interest in non-establishment subcultures and in people living on the margins of society.

The photography scene around 1980 was predominantly male: of 147 portfolios published in Fotografie, only 24 presented female photographers. One of the privileged few, Dörte Eißfeldt (b. 1950), combined in her work Große Liebe (True Love, 1980) photographic montage techniques with the serial principle, creating in the darkroom photograms with motifs from her own daily life. Her approach might be dubbed “poetic photography,” the term used by photographer Verena von Gagern (b. 1946) to describe the “representation of private realities.” Von Gagern made pictures in the late 1970s within the “emotional realm” of her own family, among them the image Barbara (1978). Petra Wittmar (b. 1955) pursued by contrast a stricter documentary concept. In her series Spielplätze (Playgrounds, 1979), she takes a critical look at the dreary world of the modern metropolis.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

André Gelpke (b. 1947) 'Pulverfaß' | 'Powder Keg III' 1978

 

André Gelpke (b. 1947)
Pulverfaß | Powder Keg III
1978
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
22 x 32.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© André Gelpke

 

Miron Zownir (b. 1953) 'New York' 1983

 

Miron Zownir (b. 1953)
New York
1983
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
23.2 x 15.4 cm
© Miron Zownir

 

Verena von Gagern (b. 1946) 'Barbara' 1978

 

Verena von Gagern (b. 1946)
Barbara
1978
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
29 x 19.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Verena von Gagern

 

Reinhard Matz (b. 1952) 'Blutwurst' | 'Blood Sausage' 1981

 

Reinhard Matz (b. 1952)
Blutwurst | Blood Sausage
1981
Aus der neunteiligen Serie “Wurst” | from the nine-part series “Wurst”
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
22.5 x 27 cm
© Reinhard Matz, Köln

 

Hans-Christian Adam (b. 1948) 'Unterwasser-Gruppenportrait' | 'Underwater Group Portrait' 1985

 

Hans-Christian Adam (b. 1948)
Unterwasser-Gruppenportrait | Underwater Group Portrait (Salzburg College Photo Students)
Vigaun bei | near Hallein, Salzburg, 1985
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
19.2 x 26.5cm
© Hans Christian Adam

 

Angela Neuke (1943-1997) 'US President Ronald Reagan visiting Germany for the NATO Ministerial Conference in Bonn on June 9 and 10, 1982'

 

Angela Neuke (1943-1997)
Deutschlandbesuch von US-Präsident Ronald Reagan in Zusammenhang mit der NATO-Ministerkonferenz am 9. und 10. Juni 1982 in Bonn, 1982 | US President Ronald Reagan visiting Germany for the NATO Ministerial Conference in Bonn on June 9 and 10, 1982
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
18,6 x 28 cm
LVR Landesmuseum Bonn
© L. Lutz, 2019

 

Andreas Horlitz (1953-2016) aus der Serie | from the series "Essen, Frühling 1981" 1981

 

Andreas Horlitz (1953-2016)
Aus der Serie | from the series “Essen, Frühling 1981”
1981
C-Prints
40.3 x 59.4 cm + 13.9 x 59.4 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

Dagmar Hartig (b. 1952) 'Ohne Titel' | 'Untitled' 1981

 

Dagmar Hartig (b. 1952)
Ohne Titel | Untitled
1981
Aus der Serie | from the series “Plastic World”
C-Print
20.3 x 30.2 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

Dörte Eißfeldt (b. 1950) Aus | from "Dunkelrücken" 1986

 

Dörte Eißfeldt (b. 1950)
Aus | from “Dunkelrücken”
1986
Dia-Installation mit 170 Kleinbilddias und Tonspur | Slide installation with 170 35mm slides and soundtrack
© Dörte Eißfeldt

 

Holger Stumpf (b. 1953) 'Planetarium, Stadtpark' | 'city park Hamburg' 1979

 

Holger Stumpf (b. 1953)
Planetarium, Stadtpark | city park Hamburg
1979
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
16 x 23.5 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Holger Stumpf

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) 'Schillerslage (Hannover), Okt. 78' 1978

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010)
Schillerslage (Hannover), Okt. 78
1978
Aus der Serie | from the series “Agrarlandschaften” (Agricultural landscapes)
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
22.6 x 35.9 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

Wilhelm Schürmann (b. 1946) 'Kohlscheid' 1978

 

Wilhelm Schürmann (b. 1946)
Kohlscheid
1978
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
21.4 x 28 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Wilhelm Schürmann, Herzogenrath

 

Petra Wittmar (b. 1955) Aus der Serie | from the series "Spielplätze" 1979

 

Petra Wittmar (b. 1955)
Aus der Serie | from the series “Spielplätze” (playgrounds)
1979
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
17 x 26 cm
© Petra Wittmar

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

30
May
19

Exhibition: ‘Dave Heath: Dialogues with Solitudes’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 8th March – 2nd June 2019

 

Dave Heath. 'California' 1964

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
California
1964
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

The master of what we see / visions of the self

In which the visions (ghosts?) in these haunting photographs live, breathe, and barely exist in a strange closed world. Where the subjects seem so vulnerable.

In which there is little sentimentality. The portraits emit a deep sense of melancholy in their re/pose, in the subjects temporal existence separated out from time. Heath photographs people as they are. He projects himself, not his ego, into this vision of vulnerable humanity.

In which this vision of truth illuminates the complex relationship between human nature and reality through emotional energy.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“… the conundrum of the title is a reference about how to navigate the terrain of solitude one wishes to experience (to be alone), but also how to make that extend into a conversation with the subjects in front of you that will eventually become a single body of work for many to view (to be of more than one). This is of course conditional to your position within the world at large and how you view your presence within the greater universal ether. You must carry your solipsism like a rusty bucket of dirty brown well water. In Heath’s case, the solitary monologue and the ramble of the flaneur become something of a mantra – an incessant need to repeat, to be part of the cacophony of the worship of modern life in which the self and the crowd / city are forced to adjust to one another, but at safe distance with impassioned and yearning eyes.”

.
Extract from Brad Feuerhelm. “David Heath: “Dialogues With Solitudes”,” on the ASX website November 23, 2018 [Online] Cited 26/05/2019

 

“”A Dialogue with Solitude” is a self-portrait in which the artist himself never really appears, but is revealed and interpreted by every detail. Its revolt is alive with sympathy and acceptance of man’s modern placement in the world, mated with contradictory realization and resistance which deny and combat the absurdities of existence. This is expressed with a sincere poetry which is never shocked out of countenance by reality.”

.
Edwards, exh. label for A Dialogue of Solitude, 1963, on file in the Photography Department, Art Institute of Chicago quoted in Hugh Edwards. “Dave Heath,” on the Art Institute of Chicago website [Online] Cited 26/05/2019

 

 

The first major UK exhibition dedicated to the work of this hugely influential American photographer.

Heath’s psychologically charged images both reflect and respond to the alienation particularly prevalent in post war North American society. He was one of the first of a new generation of artists seeking new ways to try and make sense of the increasing sense of isolation and vulnerability that typified the age.

Predominantly self-taught, Heath was nonetheless extremely informed and versed in the craft, theory and history of photography and taught extensively throughout his life. Although greatly influenced by W. Eugene Smith and the photographers of the Chicago School, including Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, Heath cannot be neatly pigeonholed as either a documentary or experimental photographer. His work feels more at home within a narrative or poetic tradition, where an interior reality takes precedence.

Taking his masterwork and first publication, A Dialogue With Solitude, as a point of departure, this exhibition highlights Heath’s preoccupations with solitude and contemplation and further makes explicit the importance of sequencing in his practice. Heath was clear that “the central issue of my work is sequence” and held the belief that the relativity and rhythm of images offered a truer way of conveying a universal psychological state than a single image. He perfected a form of montage, often blending text and image to create visual poems, which captured the mood of the decade in a manner akin to a photographic protest song.

Heath’s photographs are shown in dialogue with cult American films from the 1960s similarly focused on themes of solitude and alienation. These include: Portrait of Jason by Shirley Clarke (1966); Salesman by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Mitchell Zwerin (1968); and The Savage Eye by Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers and Joseph Strick (1960).

“The fact that I never had a family, a place or a story that defined me, inspired a need in me to join the community of mankind. I did so by inventing a poetic form linking this community, at least symbolically, in my imagination, through this form.” ~ Dave Heath

Curated by Diane Dufour, Director of LE BAL. Exhibition conceived by LE BAL with the support of Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto), Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York), Archive of Modern Conflict (London) and Les Films du Camélia (Paris).

Text from the Photographers’ Gallery website [Online] Cited 25/05/2019

 

Dave Heath. 'Sesco Corée' 1953-1954

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Sesco, Corée
1953-1954
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Carl Dean Kipper, Korea' 1953-54

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Carl Dean Kipper, Korea
1953-54
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'New York City, 1958-59'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
New York City
1958-59
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Janine Pommy Vega, Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, New York' 1959

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Janine Pommy Vega, Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, New York
1959
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath, (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Erin Freed, New York City' 1963

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Erin Freed, New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'New York City (Young Couple Kissing)' 1962

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City (Young Couple Kissing)
1962
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery, in collaboration with LE BAL Paris, presents Dave Heath: Dialogues with Solitudes; the first major UK exhibition dedicated to the work of this hugely influential American photographer (b. 1931 USA, d. 2016 Canada).

Heath’s psychologically charged images both reflect and respond to the alienation particularly prevalent in post war North American society. He was one of the first of a new generation of artists seeking new ways to try and make sense of the increasing sense of isolation and vulnerability that typified the age. Predominantly self-taught, Heath was nonetheless extremely informed and versed in the craft, theory and history of photography and taught extensively throughout his life. Although greatly influenced by W. Eugene Smith and the photographers of the Chicago School, including Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan, Heath cannot be neatly pigeonholed as either a documentary or experimental photographer. His work feels more at home within a narrative or poetic tradition, where an interior reality takes precedence.

Heath was born in Philadelphia in 1931 and had a turbulent childhood, abandoned by his parents at the age of four and consigned to a series of foster homes before being placed in an orphanage. He first became interested in photography as a teenager, and joined an amateur camera club. He was fascinated by the photo essays in Life Magazine and cites one in particular as having a decisive impact on his future. Bad Boy’s Story by Ralph Crane, charted the emotional landscape of a young orphan. Not only did Heath identify with the protagonist, he immediately recognised the power of photography as a means of self expression and as a way of connecting to others. In the following years he trained himself in the craft, taking courses in commercial art, working in a photo processing lab, and studying paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While stationed in Korea with the US Army, he began to photograph his fellow soldiers, eschewing the drama of the battlefield for quiet and private moments of subdued reflection.

On his return, Heath dedicated himself to photography, continuing his interest with capturing an “inner landscape” and training his lens on anonymous strangers whom he identified as similarly lost or fragile. Although he photographed in mostly public spaces, on the streets of Chicago and New York (where he moved to in 1957), his subjects seem detached from their physical context, shot in close-up, articulated by their isolation. His frames possess an intensity of concentration, showing single figures or close-knit couples entirely wrapped up in their own world. An occasional sidelong glance conveys a momentary awareness of being photographed, but for the most part Heath is an unobserved, unobtrusive witness. By concentrating on the fragility of human connection, focusing on the personal over the political, Heath gave ‘voice’ to those largely unheard and joined a growing community of artists searching for alternative forms of expression. His work was pivotal in depicting the fractured feeling of societal unease just prior to the rise of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War and his ground-breaking approaches to narrative and image sequence, his exquisite printing techniques, handmade book maquettes, multimedia slide presentations culminated in his poetic masterwork, A Dialogue with Solitude, 1965. This sensitive exploration of loss, pain, love and hope reveals Heath as one the most original photographers of those decades.

After 1970, Dave Heath devoted much of his time to teaching (in particular at Ryerson University, Toronto) in Canada, where he later became a citizen. He died in 2016.

Press release from The Photographers’ Gallery website [Online] Cited 25/05/2019

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Philadelphia, 1952'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Philadelphia
1952
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath. 'Untitled' c. 1960

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Untitled
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016) 'Elevated in Brooklyn, New York City' 1963

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931-2016)
Elevated in Brooklyn, New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
© Dave Heath / Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street
London
W1F 7LW

Opening hours:
Mon – Sat: 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday: 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sunday: 11.00 – 18.00

The Photographers’ Gallery website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

21
Apr
09

Vale Helen Levitt: Always ‘Here and There’

April 2009

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1972
© Helen Levitt

 

 

“For the perfect flaneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world … Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy …”

.
Charles Baudelaire. ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ 1863

 

“At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work that I know. In their general quality and coherence, moreover, the photographs as a whole body, as a book, seem to me to combine into a unified view of the world, an uninsistent but irrefutable manifesto of a way of seeing, and in a gently and wholly unpretentious way, a major poetic work.”

.
James Agee

 

 

Speaking of pioneers of colour photography the wonderful American photographer Helen Levitt died recently at the end of March. Here is a selection of her colour work from the 1970s – 1980s. With two Guggenheim Foundation grants in 1959 and 1960 she switched from black and white to colour dye-transfer prints photographing the theatre of the street, the serendipity of the decisive moment previsualised and captured through awareness and an intimate knowledge of her subject matter. Unfortunately in a burglary in 1970 most of her colour transparencies and prints were stolen from that initial period.

What remains, as Sally Mann would say, are the eloquent bones of the matter: superb lush colour photographs taken after 1970 that engage the viewer not in memory but in the moment, not in nostalgia but in joy. In colour she found “beauty in correspondences.”

Marcus

.
Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1971
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1971
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1971

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1971
© Helen Levitt

 

 

Helen Levitt

… Her pictures were mostly of Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side. She shot them in black and white, as silver gelatin prints, in the 1930s and 1940s and in colour dye-transfer prints in the 1960s and 1970s. In between, she got into movie-making for a while. Her theme was the same, the streets of New York. Apart from a trip in 1941 to Mexico City, she never found a better subject in her life.

The grittier parts were her particular joy. Her world was run-down streets, rubble-filled building sites, warehouses and litter-strewn front steps. This was urban photography with a vengeance: small scraps of sky, no trees. When she was going with Walker Evans in 1938, borrowing his camera as well (“of course”) as sleeping with him, he used to be afraid of going as far uptown as she did. Some of her young male subjects, lounging around in their zoot suits and fedoras, had an unmistakable air of menace. But mostly she brought back images of gossiping women and her favourite, scrambling children. A right-angle viewfinder allowed her to take the picture without them knowing, even, as Evans showed her, when riding right beside them in the subway.

 

Here and there

Her birthplace was in Brooklyn, where her father was in the wholesale knitwear business. She aspired to something more artistic, but found she couldn’t draw. For a time she trained in ballet, which taught her to appreciate the musculature of posing bodies and the spontaneous grace of her child subjects. After dropping out of high school she went to work in the darkroom of Florian Mitchell’s commercial portrait-photography studio on $6 a week. There she was hooked.

A good image, she thought, was just lucky. But her New Yorker’s instinct seemed to tell her exactly where to wait for one. A broken-down car would soon attract people to lie under it, peer under the hood or try to push it. A cane chair, put out on the sidewalk, would draw an elderly man with cigar and newspaper, or a plump young woman in a housecoat wilting in the heat. With luck dogs would come out too, rough-haired mutts or poodles with fresh-shampooed coats. The open back of a truck would reveal delivery men moping on piles of sacks, or dozing among pink and blue bales of cloth. Any abandoned thing – a tea-chest, a mirror frame, the pillared entry of an empty building – would soon sport knots of children diving in, climbing up, fighting and contorting their small bodies in every kind of way.

Her pictures did not have names. “New York”, and the year, was the label on most of them. They did not need explaining; they were “just what you see”. Many had a backdrop of posters, graffiti or billboards, which gave a commentary of sorts. “Special Spaghetti 25 cents.” “Post No Bills.” “Nuts roasted daily.” “Buttons and Notions, One Flight Up.” “Bill Jones Mother is a Hore.” Her earliest project with her first, secondhand camera was to photograph children’s chalk drawings on the pavements. She never tried to speculate on them. What mattered was the patterns they made.

In the 1960s, when she got two Guggenheim grants, she began to shoot the streets in colour. The tricky developing ultimately frustrated her, and the streets, too, had changed. The children had retreated indoors to watch television. But where she had found grace and texture in black and white, colour now provided beauty in correspondences. The multi-coloured balls in bubble-gum machines could be picked up in a girl’s dress, or the red of a stiletto shoe matched with the frame of a shop window. Her broken-down cars were now lurid beasts against the stucco walls. And out of her peeling, greenish doorways could come women in furs, or pink hair-curlers, or orange-striped socks.

She did not rate her own work highly. Though her original prints eventually sold for tens of thousands of dollars, she let them pile up in her apartment in boxes labelled “Nothing good” or “Here and there”. Her hopes when she started were for photographs that would make a socialist statement of some sort, but she abandoned that on Cartier-Bresson’s advice. A “nice picture”, as she reluctantly admitted some of hers were, was a work of art that had value in itself, as well as a celebration of the random, teeming work of art that is the city of New York.

Anonymous. “Helen Levitt,” on The Economist website April 8th 2009 [Online] Cited 16/04/2009

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c. 1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1972
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1972
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1972

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1972
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1980

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1980
© Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1971

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
1971
© Helen Levitt

 

 

Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt by John Szarkowski, Powerhouse Books, 2005 is available from the Amazon website. The photograph above is used on the cover of the book.

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

23
Nov
08

Photographer: Alec Soth

November 2008

 

Alec Soth (American, b. 1969) 'Two Towels' 2004

 

Alec Soth (American, b. 1969)
Two Towels
2004
From the series Niagara (2006)

 

 

Minneapolis-based photographer Alec Soth has attained international recognition for his photographic series. Notable are the two series Sleeping by the Mississippi (1999- 2004) portraying the river and the life along it’s banks and Niagara (2006) where Soth focuses his large format camera on the hotels, residents loves and lives and the environs around Niagara Falls.

His work is firmly rooted in the documentary traditions of Walker Evans and Robert Frank but pushes the documentary form. Whereas Frank used a foreigners eye and ‘snapshot’ photography to challenge traditional notions of American culture in his seminal book The Americans (1958), Soth photographs everyday events of American life – home, romance, religion, bliss, heartbreak and agony – and constructs his vision of the land and people in poetic form. His use of handwritten notes is especially poignant.

His view of America is both narrative, truth and epic construction. Working in a serial form, Soth builds the themes within his series. The connections between people living their lives and facing their plight together – with dignity – becomes fully evident.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Alec Soth website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

Join 2,550 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

November 2019
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Archives

Categories