Assignment 4 – Selection of the photograph

This assignment is about writing a critical essay on a photograph of my choice.

Early in the process for assignment four, I decided that I wanted to comment on an exhibited image rather than on an image printed on a book or found online. The scale of a printed image is usually one of the key decisions made by a photographer when presenting her work and I thought that it had to be variable to taken into consideration when writing my essay on such image. More generally, there is also something special about seeing a photograph that was printed by the artist or under her direction. In addition to a better appreciation of the subject matter, there is also the additional enjoyment that comes from looking at the artefact directly. Like in the case of a painting, there is some texture in an original photograph which is subtle and can only be appreciated when confronted with the original.

With this in mind, I scouted three exhibitions that were within my reach during the period of preparation:

  • “Another kind of life: Photography in the margins” at the Barbican Art Gallery, London UK (from 28 February to 27 May 2018)(link). This show features 20 photographers and collectives that have covered in their work individuals and communities living at the fringes across the world. Most of the photographs included were black and white portraits and serials, some of which were of interest to me. I was particularly attracted to a photograph by Diane Arbus entitled “Russian midget friends in a living room on 100th street, NYC” (1), which has a classic, painterly feeling in its composition and careful use of mirrors and reflections to add depth. I also considered briefly the work of Alec Soth in connection with his project “Broken Manual” (2), documenting the life of people who have chosen to cut themselves completely from society and live an isolated, survivalist life. The images exhibited here, particularly “2006_08zl0036″ (link) and “2008_08zl0238b” (link), were striking in their portrayal of the unexpected, while the overall theme of this work also resonates with me on a personal level.
  • “El Azar Objetivo. Fotografia de vanguardia en la Coleccion Ordóñez Falcón de Fotografia” (The random objectivity (3). Vanguard photography from the Ordóñez Falcón Collection) at Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain (from 22 March to 15 July 2018)(link). This exhibition was curated by Georges Sebbag from images in the Ordóñez Falcón collection, one of the largest private collection of photographs in Europe. There were a number of classic photographs from Man Ray, Edward Weston, Robert Mapplethorpe, Brassai, Andre Kertesz and many others that you will find in the regular photographic canon, but there were also some very intriguing images and series by lesser known artists, including Arnold Odermatt, who photographed crashed vehicles (see for instance “Hergiswil, 1964/2004″ (4) and “Bouchs, 1957″ (5). In spite of showing the consequences of something terrifying, the images had a pacifying effect, alike to the feeling of calm after a storm.
  • “Andreas Gursky” at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre (from 25 January to 22 April 2018)(link), a retrospective exhibition of Andreas Gursky’s photography since the mid-1980s until today. This provided an opportunity to look at some of Gursky’s photograph in their intended scale. Most of his famous photographs, such as “99 Cent” (6), “Paris Montparnasse” (7) and “Rhein II” (8) where shown, along with some of his lesser known work and his early photographs. One of the things that I did not like about this show is that the larger, more famous photographs were all given prominent space in well illuminated galleries whereas some intriguing but smaller pieces (such as for instance “Illinois, Stateville” (9), a picture of the last panopticon prison built in the USA, taken from the perspective of the central guard tower), were displayed in narrow corridors or poorly lit staircases, where it was impossible to examine them in detail or they may go unnoticed. The whole show felt a little bit like it was more about the artist than the works.

_________________________

  1. Russian Midget Friends in a Living Room on 100th Street, NYC | LACMA Collections. 2018. Russian Midget Friends in a Living Room on 100th Street, NYC | LACMA Collections. [ONLINE] Available at: https://collections.lacma.org/node/197145. [Accessed 16 April 2018].
  2. Broken Manual « Alec Soth. 2018. Broken Manual « Alec Soth. [ONLINE] Available at: http://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=213. [Accessed 18 April 2018].
  3. Objetivo in Spanish can be used to mean both objectivity and lens. The title of this show is a pun in connection with the central theme of the exhibit, which explored photography’s oscillating relationship between chance and objectivity.
  4. Fotomuseum Winterthur. 2018. Hergiswil – Collection – Explore – Fotomuseum Winterthur. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.fotomuseum.ch/en/explore/collection/18672. [Accessed 17 April 2018].
  5. Buochs, 1957 by Arnold Odermatt on artnet. 2018. Buochs, 1957 by Arnold Odermatt on artnet. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/arnold-odermatt/buochs-1957-a-wHfKln5lB6R2FLt8Cqg5rA2. [Accessed 17 April 2018].
  6. Andreas Gursky | works – 99 Cent. 2018. Andreas Gursky | works – 99 Cent. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.andreasgursky.com/en/works/1999/99-cent. [Accessed 19 April 2018].
  7. Andreas Gursky | works – Paris, Montparnasse. 2018. Andreas Gursky | works – Paris, Montparnasse. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.andreasgursky.com/en/works/1993/paris-montparnasse. [Accessed 19 April 2018].
  8. Andreas Gursky | works – 99 Cent. 2018. Andreas Gursky | works – 99 Cent. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.andreasgursky.com/en/works/1999/99-cent. [Accessed 19 April 2018].
  9. Andreas Gursky | works – Illinois, Stateville. 2018. Andreas Gursky | works – Illinois, Stateville. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.andreasgursky.com/en/works/2002/illinois-stateville. [Accessed 19 April 2018].

 

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