News from the World of Photography: December 2016


The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection

Tate Modern
10 November 2016 – 7 May 2017

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography, drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s–50s. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, including portraits of Matisse, Picasso, and Breton. 

With over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage prints on show from seminal figures including Brassai, Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, this is a chance to take a peek inside Elton John’s home and delight in seeing such masterpieces of photography.

Ruth Gruber, a Fearless Chronicler of the Jewish Struggle, Dies at 105

The New York Times

Ruth Gruber, a photojournalist and author who documented Stalin’s gulags, life in Nazi Germany and the plight of Jewish refugees intercepted by the British on the infamous passage of the Exodus to Palestine in 1947, died on Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 105.

Her son, David Michaels, confirmed her death.

Ms. Gruber called herself a witness, and in an era of barbarities and war that left countless Jews displaced and stateless, she often crossed the line from journalist to human rights advocate, reporting as well as shaping events that became the headlines and historical footnotes of the 20th century.

Over seven decades, she was a correspondent in Europe and the Middle East and wrote 19 books, mostly based on her own experiences. Acting for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she escorted nearly 1,000 refugees from 19 Nazi-occupied nations to a safe haven in the United States on a perilous trans-Atlantic crossing in 1944. They included the only large contingent of Jews allowed into America during World War II.

Harley Weir: Boundaries

Foam Museum, Amsterdam
2 December 2016 - 19 February 2017

Foam presents the first solo-exhibition of Harley Weir (b. 1988, London). With a remarkable eye for detail, she finds beauty in the mundane. Close to the skin of her objects, Weir’s intimate approach is what marks her work in any context, be it a border zone in a politically charged area, or in a room with a model. 

The title of this exhibition refers to what is ultimately dissolved in the work of Harley Weir. But even as she crosses the lines of what usually holds people apart, on personal as well as political levels she is not out to make any statements. The exhibition therefore reads as a visual poem, open to interpretation.

Harley Weir graduated in 2010 from Central Saint Martins College (London) with a degree in Fine Arts. Via her Tumblr-page, she was discovered by the fashion industry, and since her breakthrough in 2014 she has worked for AnOther Magazine, i-D, Pop Magazine, Dazed & Confused, and shot campaigns for renowned fashion brands such as Maison Martin Margiela and Calvin Klein.

As He Turns 100, John Morris Recalls a Century in Photojournalism

The New York Times LENS Blog

John Morris may be an avowed pacifist, but his career has been largely defined by war. He was born during WWl, was Robert Capa’s photo editor at Life magazine during WWll and was the first to put graphic photos of the Vietnam War on the New York Times front page. He is widely considered to be one of the most important editors in the history of photography.

Perhaps the oldest living one at that: He will celebrate his 100th birthday on Wednesday.

“Living past 100 has become more and more popular,” he said in jest during a phone interview from his home in Paris.

Mr. Morris plans to celebrate his birthday there and share his cake with a couple of hundred friends that he has accumulated during his 40-plus years of editing at Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Magnum, The Washington Post and The New York Times, as well as during his decades of retirement.

William A. Christenberry, Photographer of Rural South, Dies at 80

The New York Times 

William A. Christenberry, whose widely admired color photographs of the red-clay landscapes and kudzu-wreathed dwellings in his native corner of the rural South describe the slow passage of time there with plain-spoken eloquence, died on Monday in Washington. He was 80.

Few American artists have been so identified with one small patch of terrain as Mr. Christenberry was with Hale County, Ala. One of the poorest counties in the state, it was also photographed indelibly by Walker Evans during the Depression. But where Evans made his famous portraits of the Burroughs family as an empathetic visitor from New York, Mr. Christenberry observed the Deep South as a native son, its landscape signifying his ancestral home.

“Everything I want to say through my work comes out of my feelings about that place — its positive and its negative aspects,” he said in an interview in 2005. For more than 50 years he made photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures and assemblages, and collected artifacts (commercial signage, bottle caps, gourds), that reflected this ambivalence. His life’s work became a meditation on his attachment to the Alabama countryside and his reasons for leaving it.

“I’m Very Much in Love with Where I'm from": William Christenberry's American South

The New Yorker

The photographer William Christenberry, who died last week, at the age of eighty, was often described as a chronicler of a decaying American South. It is true that in much of his work—shots of older buildings emptied of people, beams gap-toothed and nature ready to overtake—there is an attraction to what is passing, or what has passed. But Christenberry rejected the idea that his work was a lamentation or an elegy. “I feel that I’m very much in love with where I’m from,” he told the journal Southern Cultures, in 2011. “I find some old things more beautiful than the new, and I continue to seek those places out, and I go back to them every year until sooner or later they are gone.” Born in Tuscaloosa in 1936, Christenberry moved to New York City as a young man, but the place he returned to each year was Hale County, Alabama, where he had spent childhood summers on his grandparents’ farms. It was a region memorialized decades earlier by James Agee and Walker Evans in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” “What Agee was doing in the written word was what I wanted to do visually,” Christenberry once said.

Robert Frank: Sideways

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME
15 September 2016 - 29 January 2017  

In 1951, four years before the Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank (born 1924) began work on his most famous series, The Americans, he stated, “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”

The Americans, comprising 83 photographs culled from more than 27,000 that Frank shot careening around the country in a second-hand Ford coupe, has often been identified as the most influential photography book of the twentieth century. Frank’s quick-reflex, camera-vérité style shocked some traditional critics (one writer complained about his “drunk horizons”), but it was at heart straightforward, at least to Frank: “I was tired of romanticism,” he explained. “I wanted to present what I saw, pure and simple.” The impact was overwhelming. The exposure of melancholy and alienation lurking behind the scrim of red, white, and blue altered our awareness of ourselves as a country. It also altered our understanding of what photography could do, to a degree that could be inspiring, but also daunting.

In Pictures: The Art of Building 2016

BBC News

The 15 finalists of this year's Art of Building architectural photography competition have been selected from thousands of entries. Here we present the photos along with a comment from each photographer...

(Pictured) Roman Robroek: "This beautiful control room is one of a kind and built in a beautiful Art Deco style."

Rare Photos Show World War II From the Soviet Side

The New York Times LENS Blog

Arthur Bondar looked forward to childhood summers when he shuttled between his grandmothers, who lived in different rural areas of Ukraine. He wandered the countryside picking mushrooms and fishing, and at night he listened to their stories about World War II, when the Nazis pressed them into slave labor. He grew so fascinated by the Ukrainian wartime experience that when he became a photographer, he spent years documenting that generation of Ukrainian and Russian veterans.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bondar heard that the family of a Soviet war photographer was selling his negatives. The photographer, Valery Faminsky, had worked for the Soviet Army and kept his negatives from Ukraine and Germany meticulously archived until his death in 2011. Mr. Bondar had seen many books and several exhibits of World War II photography but had never heard of Mr. Faminsky. He contacted the family, and when he viewed the negatives Mr. Bondar realized that he had stumbled upon an important cache of images of World War II made from the Soviet side. 

American Photographs, 1845 to Now

Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX   
20 August 2016 - 12 February 2017

American Photographs, 1845 to Now brings together more than 70 photographs drawn from the Amon Carter’s permanent collection. Spanning the history of the medium, the works reflect the diversity of photographic practices in the United States that grew along with the country’s industrial development beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Covering 170 years of photography’s history, from unique daguerreotype portraits to large-scale contemporary works, the exhibition provides a glance at photography’s central role in recording the people, places, and events that have come to define the United States.

Our Land

Akron Art Museum, OH            
6 August 2016 - 12 February 2017

The majestic views of unspoiled landscapes offered by our country's national parks have inspired countless artists. This August marks the centennial of the National Park Service, established to conserve natural and historic scenery by leaving it "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations," as stated in the Congressional act that founded the agency.

In celebration of this landmark anniversary, the Akron Art Museum exhibits photographs of these lands belonging to all United States citizens. Many of the artists represented in Our Land composed their images with both aesthetics and advocacy in mind; photography has been instrumental in lobbying government officials for parkland preservation for decades.

In addition to historic photographs by artists including Ansel Adams and Carleton E. Watkins, Our Land will feature contemporary landscape photography demonstrating that National Park Service land continues to spur new aesthetic explorations. 

National Media Museum appoints new Curator of Photography and Photographic Technology


British Photographic History          

Dr Geoffrey Belknap, a historian of photography, visual culture and Victorian science, has been appointed Curator of Photography and Photographic Technology at the National Media Museum. He replaces Colin Harding who is undertaking PhD research looking at the work of Horace Nicholls. The Museum is due to announce its new name and re-brand in Spring 2017. 

Dr Belknap has spent a large part of his career studying and writing about photography: in particular its contribution to scientific communication in the Victorian era and the publication of photographs in 19th century periodicals. He has previously worked at Harvard University, leading a team of graduates in a study of Charles Darwin’s personal correspondence and use of photographs at the time On the Origin of Species was being produced. He completed a PhD at Cambridge University which included an analysis of photographic images in the British periodical press in the late 1800s. Dr Belknap joins the National Media Museum from his current role at the University of Leicester and the Natural History Museum (London). 

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 the photocollages 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.

Debi Cornwall Wins Punctum Photography Award

L'Oeil de la Photographie

A former lawyer, Debi Cornwall quit pleading for the defence to go into photography but without giving up her areas of investigation. Her latest project? Guantānamo Bay and its sadly famous prison, which she put into pictures while submitting to the censorship and rules of the army.  The result, Welcome to Camp America, won at the Liangzhou International Festival of Photography in China. The series is divided into three parts: the places where the soldiers and the prisoners live and relax, the souvenir shop at the camp, and portraits of the released prisoners. A disturbing exploration of all the facets of this place of non-law, which Barack Obama promised to close but his promise went unheeded.

The "Lost Rolls" Project

Lost Rolls America 

The Lost Rolls America project opens the magical reencounter with the past to anyone who possesses unprocessed film rolls. Contributors provide one roll of film, which is developed and scanned free of charge by FUJIFILM North America Corporation, and made available back to them. Participants then choose one image and, in a small write-up, explore the meaning of the photo and the significance of re-viewing a piece of their personal, sometimes lost past. Ultimately, these observations offer points of identification, through descriptions of similar memories or associations, for other viewers of this collective experience.

Lost Rolls America ensures the creation of a national archive of images from the public’s lost rolls, and acts as a digital repository of visual memories living on PhotoShelter’s unique platform. This is a form of collective memory that prioritizes the role of photos in constructing our personal and shared pasts. In revisiting the past, this project also encourages contemplation of how the present and future will be remembered: Which artifacts do we use to record and remember history? How do these artifacts evolve with time? In what ways has the shift from analog film to digital impacted our relation to our own personal memories?

Photography Reinvented: The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker

The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
30 September 2016 - 5 March 2017        

The collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker brings together works of critically important artists who have changed the course of photography through their experimentation and conceptual scope. In celebration of a pledged gift of 33 photographs from this important collection and the reopening of the East Building galleries, seminal works by Thomas Demand, Thomas Struth, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Jeff Wall, among others, will be on view. Especially rich in holdings of work by photographers of the famed Düsseldorf School, among them Struth, Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky, and Thomas Ruff, the collection also includes examples by photographers exploring the nature of the medium itself, such as Demand, Cindy Sherman, and Vik Muniz.

LensCulture Emerging Talents 2016 Jurors’ Picks


"Here are 50 amazing photographers — emerging talents — who we think you should know. We believe “emerging talents” should be celebrated without regard to age or how long they’ve been practicing photography but rather by two criteria: excellence in the visual language of photography and the fact that they are not yet widely known internationally. The photographers presented here may have already achieved success and recognition on a local or national level where they live or work—but we think they are now ready for the world stage.

What’s special about these 50 photographers (who hail from 29 countries on six continents) is the distinctive manners in which they are using photography. With fluency and nuance, they are able to engage diverse audiences on wide range of topics in unique, intriguing ways. They help us to see the world through their eyes, and thereby expand our knowledge and understanding of important ideas, make us ponder complex situations, and allow us to appreciate instances of pure beauty (or horrible injustice) that can be found every day when looking with an energized, open mind."

Best Photo Books of 2016


Photo-Eye Blog      

"For the 2016 Best Books list, photo-eye’s staff wanted to try something new. It might be better to say, something different, as it is still a list of books that experts in the field of photography and photobooks admired, deemed significant, or otherwise loved since the publication of our 2015 Best Books last December.

In previous years, we asked our contributors to select ten books each. This year we asked for three. In doing so, we wanted our experts to spend more time writing about why they had selected each title. What we received was a wonderful assortment of books along with some moving and informative writing.

We hope that every photobook lover enjoys our Best Books 2016 selections and that you will find some of your favorite titles from the past year, along with exciting new discoveries."

The Great Abandonment: How decades of economic hardship and neglect have turned Nebraska's farming towns into Donald Trump country

New Republic Magazine  

"My father jokes that people in his hometown came to believe in a flat Earth: all their children left and never returned. Those who do stay, those documented by photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier, become landlocked castaways, marooned in crumbling farmhouses amid oceans of corn and soybeans. As tax revenues dwindle, rural communities struggle to provide adequate hospitals and schools. The worse things get, the more people go. And the more people go, the redder the state has become: Nebraska has not voted for a Democrat for president since LBJ..."