News from the World of Photography: March 2017

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The Getty Museum and National Gallery of Art Acquire Hundreds of Major Gifts for Photography Collections


American Photo

This week the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Art in Washington got a big boost to their photography collections thanks to collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. Thanks to the generous donation The Getty added 386 pieces from 17 different photographers to their collection including works from Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson, and Richard Misrach, while the National Gallery received 143 gelatin silver prints by Dorothea Lange. 

“While collecting is a mysterious endeavor, and living with the art is profound, the act of gifting is a joyous and wonderful moment in time,” Daniel Greenberg said in a press release. “As Susan and I begin a new chapter in our lives, and after decades of acting as temporary stewards for these photographs, we are excited that now is the time that we can share some of the best works we have owned with the public.”

The gifts were the largest that the two collectors have made to date.

Catherine Opie, All-American Subversive


The New Yorker

In the course of a thirty-year career, the photographer Catherine Opie has made a study of the freeways of Los Angeles, lesbian families, surfers, Tea Party gatherings, America’s national parks, the houses of Beverly Hills, teen-age football players, the personal effects of Elizabeth Taylor, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Boy Scouts, her friends, mini-malls, and tree stumps. But her most famous photographs are probably two that she took of herself, early in her working life. In “Self-Portrait/Cutting,” which Opie made in 1993, when she was thirty-two years old, she stands shirtless with her back to the camera in front of an emerald-green tapestry, which offsets her pale skin and the rivulets of blood emerging from an image carved into her back with a scalpel: a childlike scene of a house, a cloud, and a pair of smiling, skirt-wearing stick figures. In “Self-Portrait/Pervert,” made the following year, Opie is faceless and topless and bleeding again: she sits in front of a black-and-gold brocade with her hands folded in her lap, her head sealed in an ominous black leather hood, the word “pervert” carved in oozing, ornate letters across her chest.

They are unnerving images—“ ‘Pervert’ is too intense for me now,” Opie told me recently—and they had a particularly jarring effect at the time she made them. When the photographs were exhibited at the Whitney Biennial, in 1995, they were “like shock troops crashing a mannerly art-world party,” the critic Holland Cotter wrote in the Times...

Stories of the City: A Magnum Exhibition on the Paris Metro


Magnum Photo

“I’ve always seen cities as somewhat exotic and remote from my experience,” says Alec Soth, who has never lived in a major city. For him, and others like him, visiting a city can be an alien and overwhelming experience. “Being born in a small and very quiet town, I experience mixed feelings in big cities, I feel a sense of fascination for megacities as well as rejection, and sometimes anxiety. I think that this image evokes my vision of the city as a voluntary confinement with the others – loneliness,” concurs Jérôme Sessini.

To mark Magnum’s 70th anniversary, RATP, which runs the famous Paris metro system, is hosting an unprecedented exhibition across their territory of the city. From February 28 to June 30 2017, 174 images by 91 photographers will be displayed across 11 Metro stations. The diverse curation explores the city in all its guises and is showcased to its diverse audience in its public spaces.

Learning to See: Photography at Black Mountain College


Aperture

The impact of Black Mountain College on the history of twentieth-century arts is still coming to light. A small, liberal-arts institution that ran from 1933 to 1957 in rural North Carolina, the school brought some of the most inventive minds of a generation—including European intellectuals fleeing the ravages of World War II—into contact with an intrepid student body that was ready to change the cultural gears of history.

The backbone of Black Mountain’s curriculum was the arts program, famously shaped and directed by Josef Albers from 1933 to 1949. Before coming to America, Albers had studied and taught at the Bauhaus, where he developed an understanding of Werklehre—the noble, “handicraft” aspect of art. He brought this pragmatic approach to his teachings at Black Mountain College. While at the Bauhaus, Albers created a series of semi-experimental photocollages (a selection of them is currently on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art). His interest in photography as an art and as a mode of seeing continued upon his move to the States. “Photography,” Albers once observed, “is still a child among the crafts”; indeed, its newness might well have been part of the medium’s allure for him.

One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers


The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
Through 2 April 2017

Josef Albers (American, born Germany, 1888–1976) is a central figure in 20th-century art, both as a practitioner and as a teacher at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale University. Best known for his iconic series Homages to the Square, Albers made paintings, drawings, and prints and designed furniture and typography. The least familiar aspect of his extraordinary career is his inventive engagement with photography, which was only discovered after his death. The highlight of this work is undoubtedly thephotocollages featuring photographs he made at the Bauhaus between 1928 and 1932. At once expansive and restrained, this remarkable body of work anticipates concerns that Albers would pursue throughout his career: seriality, perception, and the relationship between handcraft and mechanical production.

The first serious exploration of Albers’s photographic practice occurred in a modest exhibition at MoMA in 1988, The Photographs of Josef Albers. In 2015, the Museum acquired 10 photocollages by Albers—adding to the two donated by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation almost three decades ago—making its collection the most significant anywhere outside the Foundation. This installation celebrates both this landmark acquisition and the publication of One and One Is Four: The Bauhaus Photocollages of Josef Albers, which focuses exclusively on this deeply personal and inventive aspect of Albers’s work and makes many of these photocollages available for the first time.

Controversial and renowned Chinese photographer Ren Hang dies aged 29

The British Journal of Photography

Ren Hang, one of the leading lights of the new generation of Chinese photographers, despite enduring censorship and intimidation from the authorities throughout his career, has died at the age of 29, his gallerist has confirmed.

Championed by Ai Wei Wei, and talked of as China’s answer to Ryan McGinley, Ren Hang’s photography was highly explicit, featuring nude group and solo portraits of men and women often contorted into highly performative positions. They were not models, but his friends, and increasingly, his fans, often shot in his tiny high-rise apartment. “I usually shoot my friends,” he once said. “Because strangers make me nervous.”

Ren Hang endured a long battle with depression throughout his life, an experience he would often document on his website, sometimes in the form of poetry, under a menu item titled My Depression.

Ren Hang was in the process of working on a major solo exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam, after receiving the Outset Exhibition Fund at Unseen
 Photography Festival last September.

Fred Stein: Talking with Photography


L'Oeil De La Photographie

When Peter Stein met us in 2015, we were amazed to discover his father Fred Stein’s images he had brought along. They were vintage press photos, often reframed, which was common practice among professional photographers in the 20th century. Who was this Fred Stein we had never heard of? Who was this American photographer of German-Jewish origin, a socialist and a militant anti-fascist who managed to escape Nazism twice, first in 1933, taking refuge in Paris, then a second time, in 1941, when he migrated to the United States?

The images tell the story of a life caught in the tide of History against the backdrop of two cities—Paris and New York—which the stateless man and his family successively called home. The photographs naturally document places and events, but they also reveal other things, offering a glimpse into the photographer’s mind, his thoughts and ideas. Fred Stein took up photography as a profession out of necessity. Although he was fluent in French, he knew he would not be able to put his education to use and practice law. With no hope of return, Fred and Lilo Stein were forced to adapt and make a living in a country in which they were outsiders and where, as a result, it wasn’t easy to fit in. Fred Stein was an amateur photographer, and since he enjoyed taking pictures, before long he came up with the idea of opening a studio...

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017


The Tate Modern
Until 11 June 2017

This is Wolfgang Tillmans’s first ever exhibition at Tate Modern and brings together works in an exciting variety of media – photographs, of course, but also video, digital slide projections, publications, curatorial projects and recorded music – all staged by the artist in characteristically innovative style.

The year 2003 is the exhibition’s point of departure, representing for Tillmans the moment the world changed, with the invasion of Iraq and anti-war demonstrations. The social and political form a rich vein throughout the artist’s work. Alongside portraiture, landscape and intimate still lifes, Tillmans pushes the boundaries of the photographic form in abstract artworks that range from the sculptural to the immersive. 

German-born, international in outlook and exhibited around the world, Tillmans spent many years in the UK and is currently based in Berlin. In 2000, he was the first photographer and first non-British artist to receive the Turner Prize.

The Photographic Inspirations behind Moonlight, 2016's Best Picture


Lens Culture

One of the founding myths in the history of cinema (and it is likely a myth) centers on the screening of a 50-second, black-and-white silent film made by the Lumière Brothers showing the arrival of a train at a station. When the film was first shown, in the 1890s, this seemingly banal scene was astonishing. The urban legend goes that the captivated audience was so shocked by the sight of a moving locomotive bearing down on them that many began to panic and flee the cinema.

According to Moonlight cinematographer James Laxton, much of today’s cinema has lost this subjective intensity. For all of the modern marvels of special effects, 3-D glasses, even shaking seats and simulated experience, what these films lack is the capacity to engage our imaginations. If the images on the screen do all the work, Laxton reasons, our brains are left with little space to roam. “All of these visual fireworks are the antithesis of why we enjoy movies: activating our imaginations and being able to feel we are somewhere else.”

By contrast, for Laxton there is one medium where the imagination is given a great deal of free rein: still photography. He says, “When I look at still images, my brain becomes actively engaged and I am able to picture a whole experience, a different world…photography enhances my sense of what happened just before or after the frame was captured.”

Eli Lotar (1905-1969)


Jeu de Palme
Concorde, Paris
14 February - 28 May 2017

French photographer and cinematographer of Romanian origin, Eli Lotar (Eliazar Lotar Teodorescu, Paris, 1905 - 1969) arrived in France in 1924 and rapidly became one of the first avant-garde photographers in Paris. Close to Germaine Krull —Lotar worked as her apprentice for a time —and later to the Surrealists, his work was published in many of the avant-garde publications of the day, and featured in several major international photography exhibitions, including Fotographie der Gegenwart, Film und Foto, Documents de la vie sociale, etc.

The Eli Lotar Retrospective (1905 – 1969) allows visitors to discover the scope of
Lotar’s work from a new light and reveals the role of this important figure in modern photography. The exhibition is organized around key themes ranging from the New Vision Movement to documentary film, as well as Lotar’s urban, industrial and maritime landscapes. A selection of portraits taken by the photographer can also be seen, revealing his interest in having his models adopt various poses for the camera. They also demonstrate the close ties he had to many of the leading artists of his day.

Roger Mayne


The Photographer's Gallery
London, United Kingdom
3 March - 11 June 2017

This major exhibition is the first since 1999 to show the iconic work of British photographer Roger Mayne (1929-2014).

It includes his pioneering photographs of 1950s and early 1960s community life in London’s Southam Street. Mayne’s humanistic approach has influenced subsequent generations of photographers, and made a significant contribution to post war British photography. 

Also featured are examples of Mayne’s less well known work from outside the Capital, including early work in Leeds where Mayne first developed his photographic interests. These pictures of street life around the city chart his development from pictorialism to his characteristic realist style. Between 1961-65, Mayne was commissioned to photograph the newly developed estate of Park Hill in Sheffield. His photographs captured both the nuance of daily social interactions and the sharp angles, shades and abstract forms of the urban environment.

At the Raleigh Cycles in Nottingham in 1964, Mayne embraced the dynamic setting and low lighting of the factory to produce a series of dignified portraits of the workers in his distinctive black and white tonality. Restaged for the first time since 1964 is Mayne’s pioneering installation The British at Leisure. Commissioned by architect Theo Crosby for the Milan Triennale it features three-hundred and ten colour images projected on five screens to a commissioned jazz score by Johnny Scott.

‘Everybody was a dandy then.’ These portraits of celebrities in 1920s Paris launched Berenice Abbott’s career


The Washington Post

It’s not uncommon these days to see images of celebrities, artists and other famous people posing for their friends on social media. Whether they are showing off their latest lipstick, snuggling with a puppy or announcing their pregnancy, Snapchat and Instagram are brimming with images of the cultural elite of our time. While the technology may be new, the phenomenon is not. Decades before the invention of the smartphone, if you were a socialite in Paris in the late 1920s, the person to pose for was Berenice Abbott.

Abbott, an American photographer who was a member of the generation of master photographers that included Man Ray, Andre Kertesz and Ansel Adams, was sometimes called the “semiofficial portraitist of the intelligentsia” in the 1920s. While she is most known for her 10-year photographic effort of New York City’s evolving landscape in the 1930s — a work that critics have called the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made — she actually got her start in Paris as an assistant to Man Ray, the well-known American photographer, painter and surrealist. And it was there that she started taking portraits on his balcony. “Everybody was a dandy then. You see all this careless dressing is only in recent years. In Paris men wore white gloves and they dressed up,” Abbott told her biographer Hank O’Neal in the late 1970s.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Images à la Sauvette


The Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris
11 January - 23 April 2017

From January 11 to April 23, 2017, the Foundation devotes an exhibition to Cartier-Bresson’s famous publication Images à la Sauvette. Initated by the French publisher Tériade, the project is finally achieved on October 1952 as a French-American co-edition, with the contribution of Matisse and the American publishers Simon and Schuster. The latter chose “The Decisive Moment” as the title of the American version, and unintentionally imposed the motto which would define Cartier-Bresson’s work. Since its publication in 1952, Images à la Sauvette has received an overwhelming success. It is considered as “a Bible for photographers” according to Robert Capa’s words. The innovative design of the publication stroke the art world with its refine format, the heliogravure quality and the strength of the image sequences. The publication reveals the inherent duality of Cartier-Bresson’s work; between the photographer’s intimate interpretation and his documentary approach.

Images à la Sauvette is the fruit of joined efforts of a famous art publisher, Tériade, a talented photographer, a painter at the peak of his career, Matisse, and two American publishers, Simon and Schuster. From his beginnings, Cartier‑Bresson considers the book as the outcome of his work. In the thirties, he met the publisher of Verve, Tériade, who he would later likely acknowledge to be his mentor. They plan, at the time, to carry out a book project on large cities rough areas together with Eli Lotar, Bill Brandt and Brassaï, but this ambitious project will never see the light of day.

Images à la Sauvette established itself as an extremely pioneering work by its wish to claim the images strength as the unique narrative form and the emphasis on the photographer text. It proposes a daring purity, allowing the 24 x 36 to spread out on its very large format pages. A model of its kind with the heliogravure printing by the best craftsmen of the era, the Draeger brothers, and the splendid Matisse cover has been called “A bible for photographers” by Robert Capa. In Spring 1951, Cartier-Bresson explains, “While our prints are beautiful and perfectly composed (as they should be), they are not photographs for salons […] In the end, our final image is the printed one”. This affirmation definitely proclaims Images à la Sauvette as an artist’s book.

The exhibition presents a selection of vintage prints as well as numerous archival documents to recount the history of this publication, until its facsimile reprint by Steidl Verlag, in 2014. This edition comes with an additional booklet containing an essay by Clément Chéroux.

12 African American Photographers You Should Follow Right Now


TIME Magazine

For Black History Month, LightBox gathered a panel of experts—from major artists such as Carrie Mae Weems to curators such as Azu Nwagbogu and educators like John Edwin Mason—and asked them to each nominate one under-the-radar, exciting African American photographer. By no means a definitive list of panelists or nominees (for that, check out TIME’s “100 Photos” project), this is instead a personal and subjective tribute to the thriving field of contemporary African American photography.

While some artists such as Joshua Rashaad McFadden make use of archival material, others like Jasmine Murrell incorporate sculpture, while Gerald Cyrus’ work is firmly documentary in nature and Shamayim’s is clearly fashion-based.

The nominators include Awol Erizku, artist; Azu Nwagbogu, director African Artists’ Foundation; Carrie Mae Weems, artist; Deborah Willis, chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University; Derrick Adams, artist; Jamel Shabazz, artist; John Edwin Mason, Associate Professor at University of Virginia; Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at Brooklyn Museum; Kalia Brooks, Adjunct Professor in the Photography and Imaging Department in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University; and the staff of The Studio Museum in Harlem.

The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel


The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
Through 7 May 2017

The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel presents an engaging survey of The Museum of Modern Art’s multifaceted collection of photography. Borrowing its title from the eponymous work by Carrie Mae Weems, the exhibition is drawn entirely from works acquired over the past 40 years with the support of Robert B. Menschel, telling the story of photography from its beginnings.

Covering more than 150 years of photography—from an 1843 view of Paris by William Henry Fox Talbot, the English father of photography, to An-My Lê's depictions of US military exercises in preparation for war in Iraq and Afghanistan—the exhibition underscores an equal attention to the past and the present, and a strong belief that they complement each other; and that each generation reinvents photography. Since Menschel joined the Committee on Photography at MoMA in 1977, over 500 works have entered the collection through his support, including 162 photographs he recently donated from his personal collection.