News from the World of Photography: June 2017


A Bygone Era of Big City Life

The New York Times LENS Blog


“Mehr Licht” — more light — were Goethe’s famous last words. That deathbed declaration was also the title of Fred Stein’s only book, featuring images taken along Fifth Avenue, which was published posthumously. What could be more fitting?

The German photographer’s oeuvre has been largely overlooked, but more light is being shed on his work in an exhibition at the Maison Doisneau, just outside Paris, featuring Mr. Stein’s black-and-white images taken on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was born in 1909 to a Jewish family in Dresden, where he developed an early interest in politics and became an anti-Nazi activist. He studied law in Leipzig but was denied admission to the German bar because of anti-Semitism. In 1933, he married Liselotte Salzburg, known as Lilo, and the two fled their native Germany for Paris under the guise of a honeymoon, from which they never returned...

Today Mr. Stein’s photographs provide a record of the everyday pageantry of 1940s New York and Paris between the wars, portrayals of a bygone era of big city life. In his time, photographers were more often seen as technicians rather than artists. However, his own consideration of the medium was ahead of the curve: He once gave a lecture at the New York Public Library titled: “Is Photography Art?”

“It is remarkable that Stein chose the purist’s route in his photography,” Ms. Rosenberg noted. “Stein was trying to capture people and the essence of their lives; in so doing, he could not avoid picking up in his images the events and conditions which formed the universe inhabited by his subjects.”

“Fred Stein, Paris-New York” is on view through Sept. 24 at Maison Robert Doisneau in Gentilly.

Image: Fountain. Paris. 1935. Credit Estate of Fred Stein

Reconfigured Reality: Contemporary Photography from the Permanent Collection

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA)
Madison, WI
2 December 2016 - 12 November 2017 


Reconfigured Reality: Contemporary Photography from the Permanent Collection, drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, presents an overview of developments since 1970 that have helped define contemporary photography. From the time it was commercially introduced in 1839, photography has undergone continuous technical and conceptual changes—from the first daguerreotypes to today’s digital prints.

Through the majority of the twentieth century the film-based, black-and-white print served as the standard format for modern photography. Over the past several decades, however, artists have transformed the medium by exploring new technologies and by adopting older approaches in innovative ways, thereby opening up photography to fresh perspectives. As evidenced by works included in Reconfigured Reality, these contemporary approaches include the adoption of color as a primary means; the large format photograph; an exploration of vintage processes to express contemporary concerns; the staged photograph; the manipulated photograph; and conceptual strategies, among others.

What contemporary photography has amply discredited—and which, in fact, applies retroactively to the entire history of photography—is the narrow view that the camera is a recording device only, not a creative tool, and that its purpose is strictly representational. Laid to rest, too, is the notion that the camera can ever capture objective reality.

Despite the extraordinary technical shifts and proliferation of the photographic image, which has become the pervasive visual language of our time, great photographs continue to be what they have always been. In the hands of gifted and creative photographers, they are personal accounts that manifest poetic or critical reflections about the world.

Image: © Cindy Sherman

Exhibition: New Realities. Photography in the Nineteenth Century

British Photographic History

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
until 17 September 2017

Every so often a photography exhibition comes along which provides a new perspective on what may often be a familiar history of photography and re-excites one as a photo-historian. New Realities is one such show and, if you see no other photography exhibition over the summer, then this is the one not to miss.

Familiar photographs and styles of photography are re-contextualised within a beautifully designed physical space in Amsterdam's refurbished Rijksmuseum and the newly re-opened Philips Wing. Photographically-illustrated books and ephemera are given a rightful prominence (in special cases with glass that eliminates reflections and provide a 360-degree view of the object), and the application of photography is taken beyond science and documentation to its ephemeral use in advertising and mainly through the Steven F Joseph collection which the Rijksmuseum has acquired. 

Using some 300 photographs, photographically-illustrated books and magazines with tipped-in photographs, New Realities tells a story of how photography was put to use after its announcement in 1839. Six themed rooms commence with an introductory room devoted solely to Anna Atkins' British Algae (1843-53). The book itself is displayed with appropriate reverence facing a wall which shows every plate contained within and sets the scene for the way photography changed the way people saw and recorded the world, people and places around them, and created a new art form. 

Getting Others Right

The New York Times Magazine

A woman holds a little dog in the crook of her arm. Her sleeveless open-necked top is richly patterned. She wears lipstick, earrings, a bangle. The dog, a puppy perhaps, is both alert and relaxed, looking directly at the camera, just as the woman does. The photograph has such an informal mood, such disarming warmth, that we might suppose it had been made recently, were it not in antique-looking black and white. It’s wonderful when an old picture lets us in like this, obliterating the distance between its then and our now.

The woman in this photograph was named Trecil Poolaw Unap, and the photographer was her brother, Horace Poolaw. They were Kiowa, born and raised in Oklahoma. Horace Poolaw made the photograph in 1928, near the beginning of a career in which he went on to become an avid photographer of Native American life. His photographs, some of which he sold at fairs, often came with a stamp: “A Poolaw Photo, Pictures by an Indian, Horace M. Poolaw, Anadarko, Okla.” It was clear that he wanted to assert that these were pictures with a particular point of view...

Room 29: A Century of Photography 1840-1940

National Portrait Gallery
London, UK

Photographs have been collected at the National Portrait Gallery almost since the Gallery was founded in 1856. However, it was not until the 1960's that the Gallery embraced photography as an art form, and began collecting for aesthetic, and not simply documentary reasons. Currently, the Collection includes some 250,000 examples, spanning the history of photography and representing a wide variety of techniques. It is designated as the National Collection of Photographic Portraiture.

The photographs in this room have been chosen to illustrate photography's expressive power. The best photographs show us not just what a person looked like, but also provide a window on their character, giving us a sense of what it might have been like to be in their prescience. This is one of the great paradoxes of photographic portraiture – that something of a person's spirit, thought, and feeling might be glimpsed in one, carefully chosen moment in time...

 Image: © The National Portrait Gallery, London


Sonja Hamad, Jin – Jiyan – Azadi (Women, Life, Freedom) 
Athens Photo Festival
14 June - 30 July 2017

It is said that death at the hands of a woman deters a martyr from entering paradise. One-third of all Kurdish fighters in Western Kurdistan are women. Unafraid of death and fulfilled by their passion for their homeland and their love for their families and people, these women muster up the courage to face the heavily armed IS in Syria. One of their most recent victories includes the recapturing of the City of Kobane in northern Syria from the IS. These women refuse to succumb to the patriarchal view of the role of women that regards women as objects, trapped in their homes, and upholding the family’s honor. It is without exaggeration to say that one could describe the current Kurdish feminist movement viewed from a military, ideological, and organizational perspective as the world’s strongest movement on behalf of the rights of women. This series by Sonja Hamad entitled Jin – Jiyan – Azadi (Women, Life, Freedom) pays them homage.

Image: Sonja Hamad

The World According to Black Women Photographers

The New York Times LENS Blog

As a young photographer growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn was deeply influenced by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s book “Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers.” The 1986 book took a historical look at female photographers from the 1800s to the present day and left her eager to see more.

“I’ve always been waiting for an update,” Ms. Barrayn said. Had she left it to others, she’d still be keeping vigil. Tired of waiting, she and several colleagues finally decided to self-publish “Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora,” the first of a planned series of biannual journals, which features images by 100 women photographers from around the world. The journal is named in memory of Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien, a young black photographer who died from breast cancer in 2001, one day before her show “The Amazon’s New Clothes” was to open at the Brooklyn Museum.

“I feel black women are very underrepresented in the field of photojournalism and fine art photography,” said Ms. Barrayn, who published the journal with her friends Adama Delphine Fawundu, a visual artist, and Crystal Whaley, an Emmy-winning producer. She explained that while there are photography books that feature black men and women photographers, nothing is solely devoted to black women.

Ms. Barrayn was seven when she got her first camera as a gift from her father. Ten years later, she got professional gear and would embark on a career covering arts and culture for local papers and magazines like Vibe. She now travels the world and juggles documentary and fine art photography.

Image: ©Adreinne Waheed

The Force of Photography: Works from the Museion Collection

South Tyrol, Italy
25 November 2016 - 17 September 2017 


The exhibition explores the photographic works in the Museion collection. Portraits and self-portraits – images of others’ bodies and one’s own – investigate the notions of identity and otherness, the body and social space. The exhibition also features a selection of sculptures around the same theme.

A longside the exhibition, photographic works will be presented in the study collection room. These can be described, in the broadest sense of the word, as political works. They express a direct criticism of a socio-political situation and will be counterposed by idealistic and utopic visions.

Artists: Eleanor Antin; Vanessa Beecroft; Günther Brus; Letizia Cariello; Marcel Duchamp; VALIE EXPORT; Michael Fliri; Isa Genzken; Gilbert & George; Nan Goldin;
Douglos Gordon; Roni Horn; Joan Jonas, Elke Krystufek; Ketty La Rocca; Zoe Leonard; Ana Lupas; Santu Mofokeng; Zanele Muholi; Brigitte Niedermair; Luca Patella; Arnulf Rainer; Lili Reynaud Dewar; Niki de Saint Phalle, Jana Sterbak, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nico Vascellari, Francesco Vezzoli.

Image: Santu Mofokeng

A Critical Understanding of Edward Curtis’s Photos of Native American Culture


Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian 
Muskegon Museum of Art (Muskegon, Michigan)
through 10 September 

Can one come to a revelation through a visit to an art museum, or is it something that can only be arrived at through a more intensive personal journey? This is the question that emerged for me as I visited the Muskegon Museum of Art for Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian, a massive installation of the 30-year-plus ethnographic survey of surviving Native American culture by turn-of-the-20th-century, Seattle-based photographer Edward S. Curtis.

The North American Indian is a seminal and controversial blend of documentary and staged photography — one which contributes to much of the foundational imagery and, often-stereotypical, understanding possessed by white America about some 82-plus native tribes that the United States eradicated over a century of colonization. Much has been made 
about the complexities, contradictions, and conflicts of interest in Curtis’s masterwork, by Native and non-Native scholars. Some argue that in staging photographs and, at times, adding props or accessories, Curtis took liberties with the concept of ethnography, both imposing and reinforcing white notions of Native American appearances and culture. Others argue that without Curtis, there would be hardly any extant imagery of the cultural heritage of the tribes he worked with.

Teenie Harris Archive

Carnegie Museum of Art 
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania


Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908–1998) photographed Pittsburgh's African American community from c. 1935 to c. 1975. His archive of nearly 80,000 images is one of the most detailed and intimate records of the black urban experience known today.

A Painting? Bruce Berman Prefers Photographs

The New York Times

There is a photograph taken on the coast of Cuba with the lights of Miami in the distance — what a refugee would see just before setting out. Taken by Virginia Beahan, a large-format photographer, it hangs in the home of Bruce Berman, chairman and chief executive of Village Roadshow Pictures and possibly Hollywood’s most ardent photography collector. Mr. Berman said that he acquired Ms. Beahan’s photo because its desolate beauty spoke to him. “A very magical picture — it fit into the collection nicely,” he said.

Mr. Berman has overseen more than 100 movies — including “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Training Day” and Steven Spielberg’s coming “Ready Player One” — but considered becoming a fine-art photographer himself while an undergraduate at U.C.L.A., Bennington College and the California Institute of the Arts in the 1970s, when he shot roll upon roll of Kodak Tri-X and Ektachrome film on road trips. “Those were great opportunities to take photographs of a part of America you don’t see if you’re born and raised in New York,” he said.

Mr. Berman’s collecting aesthetic runs to the unsparing Americana of Walker Evans, William Eggleston and Dorothea Lange, as well as the contemporary acolytes Christian Patterson, Sheron Rupp and Joel Sternfeld, whose haunting photo of a condemned house in the toxic Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, N.Y., remains a favorite. Mr. Berman and his former wife, Nancy Goliger, amassed 2,600 photographs that they auctioned after their divorce in 2007 or donated (source for the J. Paul Getty Museum’s 2006-7 exhibition “Where We Live: Photographs of America”). This year, Mr. Berman donated 400 additional photos from his collection to the Getty and other institutions.

Image: © Monica Almeida for The New York Times

Edward S. Curtis: Treasures from The North American Indian

Pro Photo Daily  

Edward S. Curtis: Treasures from The North American Indian
The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University (San Marcos) 
17 January - 3 December 2017

In celebration of its recent acquisition of Edward S. Curtis’ monumental publication, the Wittliff has selected more than 50 of his photographs for this special exhibition.

In 1906 Curtis received a large grant from financier J.P. Morgan to record, through photography and the written word, all Native American tribes who maintained some degree of their “primitive” lifestyle. Native Americans were almost wholly confined to reservations by Curtis’ day, and he felt 
passionately that their culture should be chronicled before it disappeared altogether. The North American Indian is one of the most ambitious photographic projects ever undertaken. Published from 1907 to 1930, its twenty bound volumes contain documentation of more than 100 tribes’ languages, stories and songs, along with extensive illustration with Curtis’ photographs. The volumes are paired with large portfolios, from which the framed prints in this exhibition were selected.

Artist or Faker?

A tremendously gifted artist, Curtis made many unforgettable images, and his photography is enjoying a surge of popularity today. Yet Curtis manipulated many of images by retouching his negatives and created “inaccurate” photographs by using the same clothing, accessories or blankets for multiple tribes. For these reasons, Curtis is now regarded by some as a notorious “
faker,” and he is dismissed for romanticizing Native Americans by eliminating signs of Western influence, especially at a time when their forced assimilation into Western culture denied their rights and dignity. Nevertheless, many Native Americans today defend Curtis’ images, often as they are the sole depictions of their forebears, but also because Curtis gave his subjects a dignity they likely did not experience in their daily lives.

Image:  The Chief and His Staff -- Apsaroke by Edward S. Curtis, 1905, published 1909 

The New York Times LENS Blog

Staring into Ironing Board Sam’s smile, beautiful and bright as his fingers dance across a keyboard, one can easily forget that somewhere above him is a man balanced next to a 14-foot-high stand, aiming a large-format camera down at him, waiting for a strobe light to fire.

And that’s just how Timothy Duffy prefers it.

“My goal is to disappear somehow from this experience,” Mr. Duffy said, “so when you see the photo it’s just you and the artist.”

For too long, it was his subjects who were invisible. They are American roots musicians, many of whom were “ignored in their communities for decades,” which prompted Mr. Duffy to step in and help. In 1994, he founded the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which helps them cover basic living expenses as well as promote and develop their careers. By helping them, the foundation has also preserved the work of these musicians, who are the living history of American music’s foundation...

Image: Timothy Duffy

Pérez Art Museum Miami Brings Art to Miami-Dade County Neighborhoods with Inside | Out

Perez Art Museum Miami

Inside|Out is a program generously funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that brings high-quality reproductions of works from PAMM’s permanent collection to communities throughout Miami-Dade county.

 Miami is the fourth city to host Inside|Out, a program conceived by the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2010. It proved so successful in Detroit, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing $2 million over three years to expand Inside|Out to communities across the country, including Philadelphia and Akron, Ohio. 

The program kicked off in Miami in 2016 in the communities of Hialeah, Homestead and West End. A total of 30 reproductions were installed in the selected locations of Hialeah Park; Losner Park; Hammocks Community Park; Olympic Park; Milander Center for Arts and Entertainment; Mayor Roscoe Warren Park; Blakey Park; Robert Is Here; and Westwind Lakes Park.

This February, PAMM will kick off the second year of Inside|Out. PAMM issued a call to participants to host this year’s Inside|Out program and received 17 applications from communities all over Miami-Dade County. Six communities were chosen for this year’s round of installations that will kick off this spring in Biscayne Park, Opa-Locka and Overtown. Over the summer, the reproductions will rotate to Little Haiti, North Miami Beach and Surfside. 

The New York Times 

Marie Cosindas, a photographer whose painterly, artfully composed still lifes and portraits, made with Polaroid film, broke with the dominant black-and-white aesthetic of the early 1960s and opened up a new world of color, died on May 25 in Boston. She was 93.

The death was confirmed by her nephew Julius R. Teich Jr.

Ms. Cosindas, a painter by training, turned to photography early in her career and was immediately stymied by an unwritten law: For the medium to be true to itself, images must be black and white. Color was for advertising.

She rebelled. “The world in black and white did not totally satisfy me, and color seemed the way to add more feeling and mood to what I was already doing,” she later wrote in an introductory note to the book “Marie Cosindas: Color Photographs” (1978).

A solution arrived when Polaroid, in 1962, asked her to test a new product, Polacolor, that it was planning to introduce for its instant cameras. Within three years, after much experimentation, Ms. Cosindas was working exclusively in color, producing highly stylized images that broke radically with the documentary approach then in vogue...

Artist's Choice: Photographs from the Judy Glickman Lauder Collection

Portland Museum of Art (PMA)
Portland, Oregon
3 February - 30 July 2017


The photographs in this focus exhibition all belong to the artist and collector Judy Glickman Lauder, who has spent her life immersed in photography. She is an acclaimed photographer herself, yet her joy in the medium began during her childhood, when she would model for her father, Irving Bennett Ellis. Lauder began collecting photographs over 40 years ago, visiting the studios of other artists whenever possible and finding community and friendship through photography—both as an artist and an admirer of the works of others. An active participant in the Maine Photographic Workshops (now the Maine Media Workshops) in Rockport, she began swapping photographs with friends she met there in the 1970s and '80s. As a result, one notable aspect of her collection is that it includes art by many of the Workshops' most illustrious alumni.

Artist's Choice presents highlights from Lauder's collection, including prints of some of the most celebrated images of the 20th century. They are mostly, but not exclusively, American, and many works were made either in Maine or in her home state of California. Every collector chooses a path by which to build a collection, ranging from exploring one particular area of art history to offering a comprehensive historical sweep. Lauder's collection is unified by virtue of her interest in the way that photography is closely linked to the human condition in the modern area. While many works in Lauder's collection display dramatic formal properties such as intense contrasts of light and dark, they all convey her profound interest in humanity and suggest a highly personal approach to this most modern of media.

Image: Richard Misrach 

Irving Penn Reinterpreted, by Irving Penn

The New York Times LENS Blog


Irving Penn wasted few days and even fewer images. Over the course of his 70-year career, he often went back to his earlier images from the pages of magazines and reprinted them in platinum, palladium and other alternative processes.

“He treated himself to the pleasure of transforming his images, many of which had already been published in Vogue, some of which were published in black and white, but a lot of them were published in color,” said Jeff Rosenheim, the curator in charge of the department of photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Irving Penn: Centennial — the biggest exhibition of the photographer’s work to date — is up through July 30.

Born in Plainfield, N.J., Mr. Penn studied design in Philadelphia before working as a graphic artist and illustrator in New York. After purchasing and experimenting with a Rolleiflex, he traveled to Mexico in 1942 to focus on painting, but ended up destroying much of his work. When he returned to New York City at year’s end, he was hired as the editor and artist Alexander Liberman’s assistant at Vogue, a position that led to Mr. Penn’s lifelong connection with Condé Nast. Less than a year later, Mr. Penn had his first Vogue cover.

Image: © Irving Penn

The ’60s Photographer Who Captured the Street in Vivid Color

The New York Times Style Magazine


In 1962, Joel Meyerowitz left his job in advertising and set out to be a photographer. He started by venturing outside with two Leica cameras (one loaded with color film and the other with black and white) to snap the world in motion: In one image, a man strides through the streets of New York cradling an enormous dog in his arms; in another, a couple zooms through Greece on a scooter, the woman’s scarf blurred by the wind.

“Along with half a dozen other photographers of his generation, Joel Meyerowitz is responsible for the re-evaluation of color photography as a significant form of art,” says Giles Huxley-Parlour, the director of London’s Beetles+Huxley Gallery, which opens a show focused on the photographer’s influential street photography this week.

Image: Joel Meyerowitz 

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea with Pieter Hugo



Whether directly or not, you’ve almost definitely seen Pieter Hugo’s work – or at least his ideas. The South African photographer shot to prominence in the mid-2000s, most notably with his 2007 series The Hyena and Other Men. It’s this project that’s been appropriated the most: the jaw-dropping similarities in Beyonce’s video for Girls is the most glaring example, though Hugo also claims that Nick Cave’s Grinderman project used “at least a dozen direct visual copies from my Nollywood series” in the video for Heathen Child.

In the ten years that have passed since The Hyena and Other Men, Hugo has learned a lot; not least about being “pigeonholed” as an African artist (his work is far more international in scope than many would realise, encompassing advertorials and fashion as well as fine art), and about ultimately having to relinquish control of the perception of images you create as an artist.

Image: Pieter Hugo