In 1938, 75 years ago this fall, MoMA installed its first one-person photography show, comprising 100 prints by Walker Evans, with the self-consciously ambiguous title American Photographs. (After all, what exactly makes a photograph American?) Read more
Posts tagged ‘photography’
MoMA’s new book Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light by Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA, is a fresh look at the work of an iconic British photographer. The exhibition currently on view isn’t the first time MoMA has presented Bill Brandt’s work to the public—the last Brandt retrospective was in 1969. Since then, the Museum’s perspective of Brandt’s work has evolved into a more complete consideration of the nuances and variations in Brandt’s own photo-historical approach.
Brandt’s photography is traditionally presented in thematic groupings at the artist’s own request, but this view alone simplifies a body of work that is multifaceted and far-reaching in style, influence, and subject matter. Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light is the most comprehensive overview of Brandt’s work to date, and it attempts to create a coherent trajectory across five decades of his career.
Beyond the 160 tri-tone reproductions of his photographs, the book features a rich appendix that illuminates different aspects of Brandt’s oeuvre. A section on Brandt’s photo-stories from 1939 to 1945 reproduces spreads from the publications in which they originally appeared, and a detailed survey of his methods for retouching his photos is especially fascinating in today’s world of digital cameras, smart phones, and instant photo filters. Brandt often spoke about how important the retouching process was in his work, and by looking at the various tools and techniques he used to edit and perfect his final images, photo conservator Lee Ann Daffner’s illustrated glossary dives deep into Brandt’s working process. As discussed in a prior INSIDE/OUT post, Dating Brandt, the same negative can look completely different depending on when Brandt retouched it.
Though his influences, subject matter, and technical approach shifted over his long career, Brandt never lost what Meister describes as “his obvious delight in the uncanny aspects of the everyday.” Her introductory essay opens with a quote from Brandt on the role of a photographer:
I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being. In most of us it is dormant. Yet it is there, even if it is no more than a vague desire, an unsatisfied appetite that cannot discover its own nourishment….This should be the photographer’s aim, for this is the purpose that pictures fulfill in the world as it is to-day. To meet a need that people cannot or will not meet for themselves. We are most of us too busy, too worried, too intent on proving ourselves right, too obsessed with ideas, to stand and stare.
Bill Brandt took the time to “stand and stare” in many different ways. Whether through juxtapositions of class structure, wondrous nudes, inventive portraiture, or unearthly landscapes, Brandt’s far-reaching inspirations and approaches generated arresting imagery that still holds magic and wonder today.
For more on Brandt’s expansive career, preview a free PDF sample of the exhibition catalogue.
One of the underlying principles of Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light, currently on view in MoMA’s third-floor Photography Galleries, is the importance of vintage prints to understanding Brandt’s oeuvre—and by vintage print I mean a photographic print that was made around the same time as its negative. Anyone who visits the exhibition will surely be impressed by the fine quality of prints Read more
Sean Vegezzi is a 22-year-old alumnus of our In the Making program, which offers free art classes to NYC teens. Like many students attending public schools here in the city, Sean came to us as a high school student who was seeking an outlet for his creativity as well as a public platform to showcase his work. Read more
During this election season, it’s hard to imagine a time when photographs—let alone television, the Internet, and social media—did not play a central role in presidential campaigns. Read more
In the audio slideshow above, the Shanghai-based artists Ji Weiyu and Song Tao, who work together under the collective name Birdhead, talk about their installation in MoMA’s New Photography 2012 exhibition. Read more
Walker Evans’s American Photographs is a touchstone for modern photography—a remarkable collection of photographs that shows a “poetics of editing and sequencing,” according to MoMA’s former Chief Curator of Photography Peter Galassi, that “helped to establish the photographer’s book as an indivisible unit of artistic expression.” Read more
In the audio slideshow above, photographer Zoe Crosher talks about the wall installation from her ongoing series The Michelle duBois Project, currently on view in MoMA’s New Photography 2012 exhibition. Read more