Posts Tagged ‘Susan Meiselas Nicaragua

14
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus’ at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 29th February – 24th May 2020

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur.

The Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

 

“Moments even of beauty. “Well I speak of ‘the lust of the eye’ – a biblical phrase – because much of the appeal of battle is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange… but, there is of course an element of beauty in this. And I must say that this, is, surely from ancient times one of the most enduring appeals of battle.””

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Anonymous. From Episode 26 of ‘The World Art War’, 1973-74

 

 

The lust of the eye

While “there has been a long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones”, and this exhibition “explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men,” how do war photographs taken by women differ from their male counterparts? What does being a woman bring to the table of war photography that is different, in terms of engagement with people, feeling, context, and time and place? Do they have to differ?

The press release states that, “Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them.” In other words they defy the patriarchal structures that define contemporary society, because they operate outside what is expected of them. But does that make their photographs any different to that of men? Or, while defying hegemonic structures, do they still buy into a systematic photographic representation of war that has existed for decades?

While the press release offers a sop to difference – positing that, “in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population” – this nuancing is not greatly evident in the photographs in this posting.

Personally what I am looking for is a more empathetic way photography can portray the effects of war through storytelling, not just the physical evidence – I was there, I captured this – but the feelings that war evokes. I, for one, never get this from the war photography of the photojournalists. The images they make are made for the fast-moving world of news reportage, and they are always working to find the one image, the one instance, that bears “witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers.” Rarely does this strategy work.

Much of the display of the appeal of battle in the history of war photography “is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange…” With much war photography, “there is of course an element of beauty in this.” Consider Carolyn Cole’s ethereally beautiful photograph Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia (2003, below). Who could not agree with the artist that there is not an element of beauty in this – held in opposition to its being “other” than reportage.

But if you read the poem Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) by the British war poet Keith Douglas (below), dead at 24 on the battlefield of Normandy, this poem has more engagement, more heartfelt feeling about war, death, love and loss in its prophetic lines than a thousand images I will never remember.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) (1943)

Keith Douglas 

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone,
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.

 

Remember the war poet Keith Douglas (English, 1920-44) killed in the Invasion of Normandy on June 9, 1944 at the age of 24.

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain' 1937

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain
1937
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Fall of the citadel' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Fall of the citadel. The black cloud of smoke mounts high after first bombs have been dropped by P38s, Saint-Malo, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau' Germany, 1945

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau
Germany, 1945
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

Lee Miller wrote: ‘Prisoners were prowling these heaps, some of which were burning, in the hope of finding something more presentable than what they were wearing already’

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary' 1946

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary
1946
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' April 1967

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US Navy officer Vernon Wike with a dying US Marine at the Battle of Hill 881, near Khe Sanh
April 1967
Gelatin silver print

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' September 1966

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US bombs pummel Binh Dinh province
September 1966
Gelatin silver print

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon' 1976

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia' 30 May 1991

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia
30 May 1991
Pigment print on baryta paper
42 x 29.7 cm
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

Fall of Addis Ababa. F.D.R.P.E. (Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian People). Ethiopia, May 30, 1991

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945) 'Nouenna, Western Sahara' December 1976

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945)
Nouenna, Western Sahara. A woman holds her child and a rifle during training of Polisario soldiers in Western Sahara. The Polisario was an army dedicated to fighting Moroccan and Mauritanian occupation
December 1976
Gelatin silver print
© Christine Spengler

 

 

The exhibition Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus is devoted to photojournalistic coverage of international wars and conflicts. On display are some 140 images shot between 1936 and 2011 by a number of women photojournalists and documentary photographers: Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), Françoise Demulder (1947-2008), Catherine Leroy (1944-2006), Susan Meiselas (b. 1948), Lee Miller (1907-1977), Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014), Christine Spengler (b. 1945) and Gerda Taro (1910-1937). Their pictures provide a fragmentary insight into the complex reality of war, taking in a range of military theatres from the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War to more recent international conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

The positions of the eight photographers present different ways of engaging with war and its effects – from traditional war reporting and embedded photojournalism to innovative approaches to social documentary photography. The particular perspectives chosen for the exhibition shift between objective distance and personal emotional involvement.

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur, the exhibition focuses on women’s positions, making clear the long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones. In the process, it explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men. Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them. On the other hand, in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population.

The pictures shown in the exhibition were primarily intended for the fast-moving world of news reportage. Their distribution via mass media has made them a significant force, influencing the discourses being conducted around war and discussions about the controversial impact of images of war. Shot over a period of almost a century, these pictures also bear witness to the evolution of photojournalism as a professional field – especially when seen in the context of a constantly changing media landscape that is once again undergoing radical upheaval as the digital revolution takes its course.

The photographers’ choice of visual and narrative strategies is the product of an ongoing quest, as they seek to bear witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers, to sensitise them to the complex geo- and sociopolitical circumstances in the combat zones, and ultimately to have an effect on people’s attitudes and actions by making these situations visible. In an age when global conflict is a constant, these strategies continue to express the belief that engaging with images of violence can help us to take responsibility and bring about change.

 

The Women behind the Camera

In her pictures of the Spanish Civil War, German Jewish photographer Gerda Taro (1910-1937) sided with the political agenda of the Republicans. With the genre of photo essays still in its infancy, her pictures found their way into magazines like Vu and Regards. Taro was the first woman war photographer to be killed in the field: her tragic death in 1937 at the age of only twenty-six garnered international attention. However, she faded into oblivion soon afterwards, as picture agencies increasingly accredited her photographs to her partner Robert Capa.

In 1944, as a correspondent for the fashion magazine Vogue, American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977) began documenting the Allied push against the German Reich. Initially commissioned to take pictures in a military hospital, Miller found herself on the front line owing to an internal error in military communications. She accompanied the Allied troops as they advanced from Normandy into southern Germany. Miller was one of the group of photojournalists who witnessed the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps at firsthand directly after their liberation.

One of the best-known photojournalists of the Vietnam War is French photographer Catherine Leroy (1944-2006). Her pictures give a clear indication of the freedom of movement she enjoyed on the front lines, where she took photographs of the conflict both from the air and on the ground, often creating short sequences of images showing a particular chain of events. Magazines like Paris Match and Life made use of the narrative potential of these pictures and printed full-page spreads of her work.

Françoise Demulder (1947-2008) likewise began her career in Vietnam, where in 1975, after most foreign journalists had already left the country, she took exclusive pictures of North Vietnamese troops invading Saigon. While working for the Gamma and Sipa Press photo agencies, Demulder also turned her attention to military actions and their impact on the civilian population.

Christine Spengler (b. 1945), who was born in Alsace, took her first photographs of an armed conflict in Chad. Later, in the 1970s, she began documenting a range of conflicts and crises in different parts of the world, including Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Iran, Western Sahara and Lebanon. A particular focus of her photographs are the local women and children and the lives they lead behind the front lines.

As an independent photographer, American Susan Meiselas (b. 1948) documented the Sandinista uprising against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Her photo of the “Molotov Man” went on to become a cult image and is still in circulation today as a symbol of protest used in a wide range of contexts. Meiselas, who would become a Magnum photographer, chose colour as a medium for her documentary work at a time when its use was mainly limited to commercial projects. Her book Nicaragua is one of the earliest colour publications documenting war.

American Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), who has worked for the Los Angeles Times since 1994, also takes pictures in colour. She has worked as a photojournalist in the Kosovo War, Afghanistan, Liberia and Iraq. Her photographs, which are still used today in both print and online media, reveal a contemporary approach to war photography that is a reflection as much as anything of technical changes within the profession.

In the 1990s German photographer Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014) began working in war and crisis zones ranging from the Balkans to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Niedringhaus felt a special sense of connection to the civilian population, whose living conditions she documented. As an “embedded journalist”, she would accompany soldiers on operations, reporting up-close on their deployment in the different combat zones. On 4 April 2014, Niedringhaus was shot and killed inside a base used by security forces in Khost Province during her coverage of the elections in Afghanistan.

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website [Online] Cited 11/03/2020

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter's burned house in Monimbó, asking "Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer", Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter’s burned house in Monimbó, asking “Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer”, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua' July 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua
July 1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall, Managua, Nicaragua' 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall, Managua, Nicaragua
1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes' April 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes, is painted over by Salem Yuel. Symbols of the leader disappeared quickly throughout Baghdad soon after US troops arrived in the city and took control, Baghdad, Iraq
April 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq' 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq
2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia
August 2003
Gelatin silver print
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia' August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia
August 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq' August 2004

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq, where American forces spent weeks bombing and fighting their way to the city’s holy Imam Ali Shrine, before negotiating an end to the fighting, Najaf, Iraq
August 2004
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers with the Royal Canadian Regiment during a patrol in the Panjwaii district, southwest of Kandahar, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'An Afghan boy holds a toy gun' September 2009

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
An Afghan boy holds a toy gun as he enjoys a ride with others on a merry-go-round to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Kabul, Afghanistan
September 2009
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm in his backpack while his unit pushes further into the western part of the city, Fallujah, Iraq
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat. Seconds later, the Canadian patrol comes under attack by militants who toss grenades over the wall, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip' March 2006

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip
March 2006
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book cover

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book cover

 

 

Discover eight remarkable women war photographers who have documented harrowing and unforgettable crises and combat around the world for the past eighty years.

Women have been on the front lines of war photography for more than a century. With access to places men cannot go and with startling empathy in the face of danger, the women who photograph war lend a unique perspective to the consequences of conflict. From intimate glimpses of daily life to the atrocities of conflict, this powerful book reveals the range and depth of eight women photographers’ contributions to wartime photojournalism.

Each photographer is introduced by a brief, informative essay followed by reproductions of a selection of their works. Included here are images by Lee Miller, who documented the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald. The first woman to parachute into Vietnam, Catherine Leroy was on the ground during the Tet Offensive and was captured by the North Vietnamese Army at the age of 22. Susan Meiselas raised international awareness around the Somoza regime’s catastrophic effects in Nicaragua.

German reporter Anja Niedringhaus worked on assignment in nearly every major conflict of the 1990s, from the Balkans to Libya, Iraq to Afghanistan. The work of Carolyn Cole, Francoise Demulder, Christine Spengler, and Gerda Taro round out this collective profile of courage under pressure and of humanity in the face of war.

163 colour photographs

 

About the Authors

Anne-Marie Beckmann is an art historian and curator. She is Director of the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany. She has published several books on photography. Felicity Korn is an art historian, curator, and an advisor to the Director General at the Museum Kunstpalast in Dusseldorf, Germany. She was previously a curator at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt.

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book pages

 

 

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Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

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Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

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04
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Susan Meiselas: Mediations’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 20th May 2018

Curators: Carles Guerra and Pia Viewing

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : "L'homme au cocktail Molotov", Nicaragua' 16 juillet 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : “L’homme au cocktail Molotov”, Nicaragua
16 juillet 1979
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Esteli. 1979. Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters

 

 

The second of a double header from Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Whatever you write or say doesn’t matter. It’s the images that matter, the work before you.

Meiselas’ work offers respect, that is the key word, respect for the individuality of the people she photographs. You can feel it in her images; it is what gives them their power. Unlike the previous posting on the work of Raoul Hausmann, where it was all about the photographer, here the work is authored but the photographs are all about the subject: their place in the world, their trials and tribulations.

Meiselas’ photographs are very strong – graphic work (in form and declaration) balanced with an existential, human touch. Meiselas questions the nature of the original photograph and photographic process in order to understand how the photograph and its ongoing testimonies change in specific times and places, by developing multilayered narratives which integrate the participation of her subjects into her works. As such they are as much meditations on the human condition as much as mediations between place, her role as witness, storytelling, and how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion, which is facilitated by technology.

On the compilation of her visual histories, I can’t put it better than the text below:

“Lauded documentary photographer Susan Meiselas has been working at the nexus of history, politics, ethnography, art, and storytelling throughout her prolific career, producing multi-layered photographic narratives about individuals and societies across the U.S. and the world. Sensitive to both the potential and limitations of images, the 1992 MacArthur Fellow approaches her projects aware of their inevitable impartiality and incompleteness, supplementing her own photographs with texts, interviews, archival images, and other forms of documentation. “My projects are authored but I’d like to think they are not authoritative,” she says.

“About Susan Meiselas” on the Artsy website

Marcus

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

 

A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’ unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

 

 

“It is important to me – in fact, it is central to my work – that I do what I can to respect the individuality of the people I photograph, all of whom exist in specific times and places.”

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“This photograph is for whom. And so, for a long time that’s been the question motivating almost everything that I do.”

.
Susan Meiselas

 

 

Susan Meiselas: Mediations at Jeu de Paume on Vimeo

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sharif and Son' 1971

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sharif and Son
1971
Série 44 Irving Street, 1971
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena après le spectacle, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena on the Bally Box

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena after the show

 

 

“Meiselas is known for her searing, visceral photographs of civil unrest and political revolution around the world, from Central America to Kurdistan. However, it is her “Carnival Strippers” that defines her career for many.”

“A History of Magnum Photos in Ten Photographers” on the Artsy website.
See what they mean on the Susan Meiselas: “Carnival Strippers” 1972 – 1975 web page.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972' 1972

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972
1972
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Rockland, Maine. 1972. Debbie and Renee

 

 

Meiselas’s first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women performing striptease at New England country fairs, whom she photographed during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in New York City public school classrooms. Carnival Strippers was originally published in 1976 with a new edition of the book (which included a CD of the audio recordings) produced by Steidl/Whitney in 2003. In 1976, Meiselas was invited to join the photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Beginning in 1976, she photographed a group of young girls living in her neighbourhood of Little Italy, New York. Entitled Prince Street Girls, they inspired an on-going relationship.

Meiselas is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America for over a decade. In 1978 Meiselas made her first trip to Nicaragua, and that year one of her iconic images was published on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. In 1981, she published Nicaragua: June 1978-July 1979, reprinted in 2008 (with a DVD of the film “Pictures from a Revolution”) and in 2016 (with a customize AR app, to trigger film clips from the photographs). Her image of Pablo Jesús Aráuz, the ‘Molotov Man’, made on July 16, 1979 just before the triumph of the Sandinistas, has become an icon of the revolution. The image is shown recontextualised in the installation The Life of an Image: ‘Molotov Man’, 1979–2009. Meiselas served as an editor for two collaborative projects, both of which support and highlight the work of regional photographers. The first, El Salvador: The Work of Thirty Photographers, Writers and Readers, 1983, also features her own images. The second project, Chile from Within, W. W. Norton, 1991, focuses on work by photographers living under the Pinochet regime. Meiselas has also co-directed four films: Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family, 1986 ; Voyages, on her work in Nicaragua produced in collaboration with director M. Karlin, Pictures from a Revolution, 1991, with R. P. Rogers and A. Guzzetti; and Reframing History, 2004.

In 1992, Meiselas produced Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, Random House, 1997; University of Chicago Press, 2008. The book was produced along with akaKURDISTAN, 1998, an online archive of collective memory, currently shown as a physical map with story books made by contributors from the Kurdish diaspora worldwide. Pandora’s Box, Trebruk/Magnum Editions, 2003, is an exploration of an underground New York S&M club that began in 1995. Both projects are shown as exhibition works.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Mississippi' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Mississippi
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Caroline du Sud' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Caroline du Sud
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976' 1976

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976
1976
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978
1978
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. New York CIty. 1978. Roseann on the way to Manhattan Beach

 

Alain Dejean Sygma. 'Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua' Septembre 1978

 

Alain Dejean Sygma
Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua
Septembre 1978
© Alain Dejean Sygma

 

 

The retrospective devoted to the American photographer Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) brings together a selection of works from the 1970s to the present day. A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’s unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

Her early works already illustrate her interest for documentary photography. Her very first project, 44 Irving Street (1971), was a series of black and white portraits. Here, she used her camera as a means of interacting with the other tenants of the boarding house where she lived during her time as a student. For Carnival Strippers (1972-1975), Meiselas followed strippers working in carnivals in New England over the course of three consecutive summers. The reportage is completed with audio recordings of the women, their clients and managers.

From this period originates also Prince Street Girls (1975-1992), which was shot in the district known as Little Italy, in New York, where Susan Meiselas still lives. She photographed a group of young girls over several years, capturing the changes that took place in their lives as they were growing up, constituting a chronicle of the evolving relationship between the young girls and the photographer.

Three important series represent the center of the exhibition: Nicaragua, El Salvador and Kurdistan. Made between the late 1970s and 2000, the works reveal the way in which the artist challenges and practises photography. During the course of her extensive travels in Latin America, over a number of decades, in times of war and peace, Meiselas returns to the sites where she took the original photographs, using the images to find the people she had met in order to pursue a record of their testimonies. With her project Mediations (1982), Susan Meiselas reveals how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion. Her novel approach is almost prophetic in a world where the diffusion of the image is facilitated by technology.

As from 1997, Meiselas addresses each conflict in a different way according to the context. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997) is an archive of the visual history of a people without a nation. Meiselas, who gathered those elements all around the world in collaboration with Kurdish people, constructed her work as an installation composed of a compilation of documents, photographs and videos.

In 1992, Meiselas, asked to contribute to an awareness campaign exposing domestic violence, began by photographing crime scenes, accompanying a team of police investigators, and then selected a number of documents with photographs from the archives of the San Francisco Police Department. This research led her to create Archives of Abuse, collages of police reports and photographs, exhibited in the city’s public spaces as posters on bus shelters.

For the retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, Susan Meiselas has created a new work, begun in 2015, based on her involvement with Multistory, a regional arts organisation based in the United Kingdom. This last series A Room of Their Own was made collaboratively in a refuge for women and focuses on domestic violence. The installation includes five narrative video works, featuring Meiselas’s photographs, first-hand testimonies, collages and drawings.

The exhibition of the Jeu de Paume is the most comprehensive retrospective of her work ever held in France. It retraces her trajectory since the 1970s as a visual artist who associates her subjects to her approach and questions the status of images in relation to the context in which they are perceived.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l'insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l’insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua
[Traditional mask used during the popular uprising, Masaya, Nicaragua]

1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

In the late 1970s, without an assignment of any sort, Susan Meiselas went to Nicaragua to cover the popular insurrection following the assassination of the editor of the opposition newspaper La Prensa. She became one of the most celebrated photojournalists in the world for her colour photographs of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Some of them became icons of the Nicaraguan revolution. She didn’t see the insurrection as a series of isolated news events as a photojournalist would, but rather a historical process that was unfolding every day. Her approach was specific to the context of the conflict and the terrain.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Cuidad Sandino. Searching everyone traveling by car, truck, bus or foot

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Masaya. September, 1978. Returning home

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Matagalpa. Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1980. Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador' 1983

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador
1983
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1983. Road to Aguilares.

 

 

With Mediations, 1982, the project that lends its title to this retrospective exhibition, Meiselas revealed the effects that the circulation of images produces on their meaning. At a time when, thanks to new technologies, photography has become the object of an all-reaching exchange, Meiselas’s attitude becomes unprecedented, while her archival projects constitute a valuable precedent. Two of them, the ones devoted to Nicaragua and Kurdistan, are widely represented in this exhibition.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
1992
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NORTHERN IRAQ. Kurdistan. June, 1992. Widow at mass grave found in Koreme

 

 

The retrospective emphasises the development of Susan Meiselas’ photographic practice from the 1970s onwards. In most of her early work, she addresses the subjects of her portrait-based images by including them in one way or another in the process of her work. In 44 Irving Street, (1972), she asks the persons portrayed to comment on their representation and in Carnival Strippers (1975), a sound recording of the context in which the photographs are taken gives further perspective on the strippers lives. In addition to this aspect, her interest in archival documentation and the compilation of visual histories can also be traced back to this period (Lando, 1975) and one can see this develop in her research work on Kurdistan. Her treatment of images reveals that, in her artistic practice, she considers the photographic frame as a moment in time complementary to other forms of framing and capturing reality, which may be seen and reviewed over time.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
[Concrete blocks signaling Koreme Mass grave, northern Iraq]

1992
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

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05
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 14th November 2010

 

Many thankx to the The J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

 

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

 

Leonard Freed (American, 1929-2006)
New York City
1963
Gelatin silver print
24.6 x 16.4 cm (9 11/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
© Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918 - 1978). 'Industrial Waste from the Chisso Chemical Company' 1972

 

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918 – 1978)
Industrial Waste from the Chisso Chemical Company
1972
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 34 cm (9 5/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
Minamata photographs by W. Eugene Smith & Aileen M. Smith – © Aileen Smith
H. Christopher Luce. Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York, New York

 

 

In the decades following World War II, an independently minded and critically engaged form of photography began to gather momentum. Situated between journalism and art, its practitioners created extended photographic essays that delved deeply into topics of social concern and presented distinct personal visions of the world. On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, June 29 – November 14, 2010, Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties looks in depth at projects by a selection of the most vital photographers who have contributed to the development of this documentary approach. Passionately committed to their subjects, these photographers have captured both meditative and searing images, from the deep south in the civil rights era to the war in Iraq in 2006. Their powerful visual reports, often published extensively as books, explore aspects of life that are sometimes difficult and troubling but are worthy of attention.

“This exhibition focuses on the tradition of socially engaged photographic essays since the 1960s,” explains Brett Abbott, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition. “Working beyond traditional media outlets, these photographers have authored evocative bodies of work that transcend the realm of traditional photojournalism.”

Engaged Observers is structured around suites of photographs from the following projects: “Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield, “The Mennonites” by Larry Towell, “Streetwise” by Mary Ellen Mark, “Black in White America” by Leonard Freed, “Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979” by Susan Meiselas, “Vietnam Inc.” by Philip Jones Griffiths, “The Sacrifice” by James Nachtwey, “Migrations: Humanity in Transition” by Sebastião Salgado, and “Minamata” by W. Eugene and Aileen M. Smith.

Although one does not always associate style with photojournalism, where objectivity and neutrality are traditionally valued, aesthetics have been an important consideration for all of the photographers represented in the exhibition. One of the strengths of this tradition has been its ability to harness artistic decisions in reporting on the world. Meiselas chose colour film for her Nicaragua project because she felt it better conveyed the spirit of the revolution as she experienced it. Salgado noted that the solemn beauty so characteristic of his approach is important in conjuring a persistent grace among his migrant subjects, allowing him to present them in a dignified way while calling attention to their plight. Nachtwey used tight framing of messy conglomerations of tubes, instruments, and arms in The Sacrifice as a way of conjuring the atmosphere of controlled chaos that he experienced in trauma centers in Iraq. In this kind of work, subject and style, message and delivery, are deliberately intertwined.

All of the photographers in this exhibition use a series of images to address conceptual issues. For instance, Freed was concerned with bridging cultural divides to engender support of basic civil rights, while Griffiths denounced violent commercialisation; Salgado pointed to the effects of globalisation, while the Smiths addressed the related issue of industrial pollution; Meiselas engaged and countered the fragmented process by which we receive news and understand history, while Towell challenged the meaning of “newsworthy” and explored, as did Greenfield, how cultural values affect life; Nachtwey found the human toll of war unacceptable, and Mark, the idea of homeless street kids in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Many of the photographers have published books to further convey their socially engaged messages. Books allow for a greater depth of reporting than magazine articles since their length can be tailored to the needs of a particular project. And because they can be read in private, books are conducive to extended contemplation and the slow absorption of ideas, both of which are important to understanding projects that are broad in scope and have layers of meaning that, in many cases, were developed over the course of years. Moreover, they provide photographers authorial control over the presentation of their work. Each artist has the ability to decide how pictures are captioned and with what information.

A final section of the exhibition is devoted to tracing the origins of the documentary photography tradition, touching on American Civil War photographs by Alexander Gardner, turn-of-the-century activism by Lewis Hine, Depression-era photography, and photojournalism in pre-World War II picture magazines. This section also looks closely at the formation of Magnum Photos. Founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Besson, and several other photographers, Magnum provided a new platform for an independent documentary approach to photojournalism and became one of the world’s most prestigious photographic organisations. Magnum was structured to allow its members to pursue stories of their own choosing, spend as much time as they wanted on a particular topic, and be as involved as they desired in the editing, captioning, and publication of their work. The organisation was meant to harness commercial assignments as a base from which to pursue independent work, and the concept has given rise to generations of independent photographers, including many of those in Engaged Observers.

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 28/12/2019

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903 - 1975). 'Sharecropper's Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Woods and His Family' 1936

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Sharecropper’s Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Fields and His Family, Hale County, Alabama / Bud Woods and His Family
1936
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 24.3 cm (7 5/8 x 9 9/16 in.)
© The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936 - 2008) "Vietnam" 1967

 

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936-2008)
Vietnam
1967
Gelatin silver print
21.3 x 31.8 cm (8 3/8 x 12 1/2 in.)
© The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation / Magnum Photos
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Limits of friendship. A Marine introduces a peasant girl to king-sized filter-tips. Of all the U.S. forces in Vietnam, it was the Marines that approached Civic Action with gusto. From their barrage of handouts, one discovers that, in the month of January1967 alone, they gave away to the Vietnamese 101,535 pounds of food, 4,810 pounds of soap, 14,662 books and magazines, 106 pounds of candy, 1,215 toys, and 1 midwifery kit. In the same month they gave the Vietnamese 530 free haircuts.

 

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948) "The Sacrifice" negative 2006 - 2007; print 2010

 

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948)
The Sacrifice
negative 2006-2007; print 2010
Inkjet print
111.8 x 983 cm (44 x 387 in.)
© James Nachtwey
James Nachtwey, New York, New York

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944) "Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India" negative 1995; print 2009

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944)
Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India
negative 1995; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 51.4 cm (13 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
© Sebastião Salgado
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Photographic essays

Leonard Freed

BLACK IN WHITE AMERICA

“Photography shows the connection between things, how they relate. Photography is not entertaining, this is not decoration, this is not advertising. Photographing is an emotional thing, a graceful thing. Photography allows me to wander with a purpose.”

Leonard Freed (American, 1923-2006), interview in Worldview, 2007

.
While working in Germany in 1962, photographer Leonard Freed happened to notice a black American soldier guarding the divide between East and West as the Berlin Wall was being erected. It was not the partition between the forces of Communism and Capitalism that captured Freed’s imagination, however. Instead, he was haunted by the idea of a man standing in defence of a country in which his own rights were in question. The experience ignited the young photographer’s interest in the American civil rights movement raging on the other side of the globe. In June 1963 Freed headed back to the United States to embark on a multiyear documentary project, published in about 1968 as Black in White America, that would become the signature work of his career.

The Black in White America series is a kind of visual diary with a moralising purpose. It is highly personal and socially engaged with an implicit goal of effecting change through communication. While Freed made pictures of important events in the civil rights struggle, including the 1963 March on Washington, he quickly found that his interests lay not in recording the progress of the civil rights movement per se but in exploring the diverse, everyday lives of a community that had been marginalised for so long. Penetrating the fabric of daily existence, his work portrays the common humanity of a people persevering in unjust circumstances. His sensitive and empathetic approach sought not to stimulate outrage but to foster understanding and bridge cultural divides as a means of transcending racial antipathy.

 

Lauren Greenfield

FAST FORWARD and GIRL CULTURE

“Girl Culture has been my journey as a photographer, as an observer of culture, as part of the media, as a media critic, as a woman, as a girl… I was… thinking about my chronic teenage dieting, my gravitation toward good-looking and thin friends for as long as I can remember, and the importance of clothes and status symbols in the highly materialistic, image-oriented Los Angeles milieu in which I grew up.”

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966), Girl Culture, 2002

.
Photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has built her reputation as a chronicler of mainstream American culture. In 2002 she published a photographic project, Girl Culture, that delves into the ways consumer society affects the lives of women in America. Of central concern to Greenfield was the exhibitionist tendencies of contemporary American femininity. Visiting girls of all ages at home, in doctors’ offices, and out with friends,

Greenfield examined personal issues of public consequence, providing an intense and intimate exploration of girls’ relationships to their bodies and the effects of popular culture on self-image.

Many of her pictures and accompanying interviews focus on what she refers to as “body projects,” the daily grooming rituals undertaken in an effort to express identity through appearance. Others look at the social and consumerist influences from which these young women take their cues as well as the difficulty of living up to such expectations.

Girl Culture grew out of an earlier study, Fast Forward, that critically surveyed what life is like for children growing up in Los Angeles. The work revolves around her perception of an early loss of innocence among her young subjects and traces Hollywood’s role as a homogenising force in their lives.

Greenfield’s lens becomes a mirror in which to reflect upon ourselves. Together Fast Forward and Girl Culture sensitively explore how culture leaves its imprint on individuals.

 

Philip Jones Griffiths

VIETNAM INC.

“The “bang-bang” aspect of any war is the least likely to offer any explanation of the underlying causes. My task is to discover the why, so it’s the actions surrounding the battlefields that present the best clues.”

Philip Jones Griffiths (Welsh, 1936-2008), Aperture, spring 2008

.
A lifelong desire to leave the world a better place drove Philip Jones Griffiths, whose work is marked by a fiercely independent approach, deep engagement with his subjects, and a skeptical view of authority. Vietnam Inc., the photographer’s critical 1971 account of America’s armed intervention in Southeast Asia, is one of the most detailed photographic stories of a war published by a single photographer. The project’s exploration of the why, and not just the what, behind the war’s failures made it a particularly engaging and ambitious work of advocacy journalism and a model to which many photographers still aspire.

Griffiths’s independent approach is remarkable because of its sensitivity to the people of Vietnam and its eschewing of a Western point of view. In Vietnam Inc. there are few photographs documenting American troops and the might of their military prowess. Instead, his primary focus was on Vietnamese civilians and a culture in crisis. His book put the conflict in the context of Vietnam’s history and culture, showing the ways in which the Capitalist values that America promoted in its efforts to contain the spread of Communism were out of sync with Vietnam’s predominantly communal and agrarian way of life.

Vietnam, for Griffiths, became a “goldfish bowl where the values of Americans and Vietnamese can be observed, studied, and, because of their contrasting nature, more easily appraised.” And in Griffiths’s appraisal, it was America’s “misplaced confidence in the universal goodness” of its own values that would ultimately lead to an imperialist failure and, more importantly, the unjust devastation of a people.

 

Mary Ellen Mark

STREETWISE

“One of the reasons we chose Seattle was because it is known as “America’s most livable city.” Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York were well known for their street kids. By choosing America’s ideal city we were making the point “If street kids exist in a city like Seattle then they can be found everywhere in America, and we are therefore facing a major social problem of runaways in this country.””

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015), Streetwise, 1988

.
Mary Ellen Mark has reported on the state of our social environment for more than four decades. Far removed from the immediacy of war and conflict, her work plumbs the basic commonality of human experience.

In 1983 Mark traveled to Seattle to do an article for Life magazine on runaway children. Focusing on a set of streets in the city’s downtown area, she began building a sense of trust with the community of runaways and learning about their survival methods. Her pictures showed teenagers who managed to survive on the tough streets through petty crime, prostitution, foraging in dumpsters, and panhandling. She presented the abandoned buildings and underpasses they inhabited and the bonds they built with one another in the absence of family. Mark’s compositions are striking and uncomfortable, emphasising her subjects’ youth while capturing them engaged in activities beyond their years.

Following publication of an article in Life, she continued to develop the story as both a documentary film and still photographic project with her husband, filmmaker Martin Bell, and reporter Cheryl McCall. The film, titled Streetwise, was released the following year and was nominated for an Academy Award. Mark published her still photographs from the project in a book of the same title in 1988.

The Streetwise project provided dimension to an important issue of its day. In giving specific shape, individuality, and visibility to the problem of runaway children, it called for greater social and political commitment to addressing America’s epidemic of broken families.

 

Susan Meiselas

NICARAGUA, JUNE 1978 – JULY 1979

“We all cross histories, and the ones that we cross shape us as much as we shape them.”

Susan Meiselas (American, born 1948), in conversation with the curator, 2010

.
In 1978 Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas traveled to Nicaragua. Tensions were high following the assassination of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, the editor of an opposition newspaper critical of the repressive, hard-line government. Meiselas witnessed the eruption of a full-scale revolution in August of that year. Aware that a momentous process was taking place, she stayed to record its unfolding, including the celebration of the revolutionaries’ victory in the central plaza of Managua in July 1979.

Meiselas was taken by the bravery of those who were willing to risk their lives against the dictatorship for the promise of a better future, and she took pains to photograph the action from the perspective of those involved in it. The record of her movements around the country formed a narrative about the progress of their insurrection. She made a decision, which at the time was still considered somewhat unusual in serious war reportage, to record the revolution on colour film, seeing it as a more appropriate medium for capturing the vibrancy and optimism of the resistance.

The photographer’s compelling pictures were picked up by major newspapers and magazines around the world, giving individual images a public life, but one that was beyond her immediate control with regard to captioning and that was fragmented from the context of her larger body of pictures. In collecting seventy-one of her photo-graphs into a book, first published in 1981 as Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979, Meiselas reasserted the narrative of the revolution as she experienced it and gave greater permanence and coherence to her documentary endeavour.

 

James Nachtwey

THE SACRIFICE

“For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war. And if it is used well, it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.”

James Nachtwey (American, born 1948), from the film The War Photographer, 2001

.
For nearly thirty years James Nachtwey has dedicated himself to delivering an antiwar message by documenting those around the world affected by conflict. Traveling with emergency medical units in Iraq in 2006, the photographer began a photo essay, The Sacrifice, that documents the struggle to save and rebuild lives. The series depicts the helicopter transfers from battle sites to treatment centers, the emergency rooms where lives hang in the balance, and the difficult process of recovery.

In anticipation of showing the work, Nachtwey created a monumental installation print, consisting of sixty individual trauma-center images, tightly framed and digitally collaged into a grid. The work stands as a grim reminder of the human costs of war. The object’s sheer size, in which one picture gives way to the next in a seemingly endless stream of torn flesh, metal instruments, snaking tubes, and bloodied hands, effectively conveys a sense of the controlled chaos that permeates these medical centers as well as the overwhelming volume of casualties flowing through the medics’ hands on a daily basis.

While it may be easy to contemplate and even support war in abstract, strategic terms, it is difficult to face Nachtwey’s portrayal of its inevitable results. In its aggressive scale, his intentionally unsettling work demands that we reconcile the goals and achievements of armed conflict with its human costs, that we be prepared to acknowledge in particular visual terms the sacrifice it entails and the valiant work of those who do their best to mend its path of destruction.

 

Sebastião Salgado

MIGRATIONS: HUMANITY IN TRANSITION

“My hope is that, as individuals, as groups, as societies, we can pause and reflect on the human condition at the turn of the millennium. Can we claim “compassion fatigue” when we show no sign of consumption fatigue?”

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944), Migrations, 2000

.
Trained in economics before taking up photography, Sebastião Salgado has used his camera to raise awareness of the world’s economic disparities and provoke discussion about the state of our international social environment. Between 1994 and 1999 Salgado pursued an enormous project to document migrant populations around the world. Published in 2000 as Migrations: Humanity in Transition, this epic work of twentieth-century photojournalism documents people across forty-three countries who have been uprooted by globalisation, persecution, or war. The pictures in this exhibition represent several themes in Salgado’s study, including the effects of population surges in cities of developing countries, the conditions of refugees fleeing war in Africa, and the process of migration from Latin America to the United States.

Salgado’s work is marked by a heightened attention to aesthetic grace that attempts to endow his subjects with dignity even as it communicates the discomfort of their circumstances. His photographs are constructed with careful attention to dramatic lighting, elegant contours, and striking visual impact. Ultimately, Salgado sees himself as a storyteller and a communicator, a bridge between the fortunate and the unfortunate, the developed and the undeveloped, the stable and the uprooted. Portrayed lyrically and sensitively, his subjects are transformed into metaphors for complex inequities that exist in the world – problems that must be recognised and acknowledged before they can be addressed.

 

W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith

MINAMATA

“[Pollution] is closing more tightly upon us each day… After reflecting on the rights and wrongs of the situation in Minamata, we hope through this book to raise our small voices of words and photographs in a warning to the world. To cause awareness is our only strength.”

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918-1978) and Aileen M. Smith (American, born 1950), Minamata, 1975

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In 1971 W. Eugene Smith, a major figure in the history of socially concerned photography, and his wife, Aileen M. Smith, were told of a controversy over industrial pollution taking place in the small Japanese fishing village of Minamata. Beginning in the 1950s, thousands of people in the area were severely affected by mercury poisoning, brought about by eating fish contaminated with chemical waste dumped in the bay by the Chisso Corporation. Victims were afflicted with brain damage, paralysis, and convulsions. The ailment, which came to be known as Minamata Disease, is not reversible.

When the Smiths arrived in Minamata, lawsuits had already begun, and the couple set out to document the progress of the claims. They spent three years on the project, calling attention to the victims’ cause. Aileen acted as an equal collaborator, making pictures and writing texts with W. Eugene. The work resulted in numerous magazine publications, exhibitions, and a coauthored book, Minamata, published in 1975.

The Smiths’ study records the course of the trial through the court’s ruling in favour of the plaintiffs in 1973. The essay relates the importance of the sea and fishing to the town’s culture, reports on the company’s drainage pipes into the sea, chronicles the lives transformed by the disease, and depicts the demonstrations that took place in opposition to Chisso. As a tale of the dangers of industrial pollution, the project gained traction within the political atmosphere of the 1970s, when the environmental movement was taking off.

 

Larry Towell

THE MENNONITES

“When a Mennonite loses his land, a bit of his human dignity is forfeited; so is his financial solvency. He becomes a migrant worker, an exile who will spend the rest of his life drifting among fruit trees and vegetable vines, dreaming of owning his own farm some day. But for these who struggle with God at the end of a hoe, the refuge of land, Church, and community may be at least a generation away.”

Larry Towell (Canadian, born 1953), The Mennonites, 2000

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Wary of the media’s commitment to speed, photographer Larry Towell insists on the integrity of extended-coverage reporting. In 1989 he came into contact with members of a Mennonite community near his home in Canada. The Old Colony Mennonites are a nonconformist Protestant sect related to the Amish that originated in Europe in the 1500s.

Over the centuries, they have migrated between countries to preserve their way of life, living in colonies where faith and tradition are intertwined and modern amenities, such as cars, rubber tires, and electricity, are not welcome.

The Mennonites Towell befriended had migrated to Canada from colonies in Mexico in search of seasonal work. Due to shrinking water tables in Mexico, the effects of international trade, and a rising population in the colonies, many Mennonites have found themselves landless and economically marginalised, forced to compromise their beliefs in order to survive. Towell was eventually invited to join them in their treks back to Mexico for the winter. With his unique and intimate access, he spent the next ten years photographing their activities, capturing their struggle to preserve a lifestyle incongruent with the larger world on which they have become interdependent.

Towell’s work documented the Mennonites’ way of life for the historical record and inspires greater understanding today for a group whose attempts to embrace life could be easily overlooked. In spending a decade on a subject that would be of only passing interest to mainstream media, he asserts a form of visual reporting in which reflection takes precedence over profitability and immediacy.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944). 'Mexico Border, desert of San Ysidro, California' negative 1997; print 2009

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944)
U.S. – Mexico Border, desert of San Ysidro, California
Negative 1997; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
34.4 x 51.4 cm (13 9/16 x 20 1/4 in.)
© Sebastião Salgado
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, born 1940). 'Lillie with Her Rag Doll, Seattle' 1983

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
Lillie with Her Rag Doll, Seattle
1983
Gelatin silver print
22.6 x 34 cm (8 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
© Mary Ellen Mark
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, born 1940). '"Rat" and Mike with a Gun, Seattle' 1983

 

Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015)
“Rat” and Mike with a Gun, Seattle
1983
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 34.2 cm (9 x 13 7/16 in.)
© Mary Ellen Mark
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966). 'Sheena tries on clothes with Amber, 15, in a department store dressing room, San Jose, California' negative 1999; print 2002

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, b. 1966)
Sheena tries on clothes with Amber, 15, in a department store dressing room, San Jose, California
Negative 1999; print 2002
Dye destruction print
32.5 x 49.1 cm (12 13/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, born 1966). Erin, 24, is blind-weighed at an eating-disorder clinic, Coconut Creek, Florida. She has asked to mount the scale backward so as not to see her weight gain' negative 2001; print 2002

 

Lauren Greenfield (American, b. 1966)
Erin, 24, is blind-weighed at an eating-disorder clinic, Coconut Creek, Florida. She has asked to mount the scale backward so as not to see her weight gain
Negative 2001; print 2002
Dye destruction print
32.5 x 49.1 cm (12 13/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
© Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

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The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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


Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: 'Sleep/Wound' 1995-96 *PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY - IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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