Gesture and Pose: Twentieth-Century Photographs from the Collection

January 13–April 5, 1994


Henri Cartier-Bresson. Valencia, Spain. 1933. Gelatin silver print, printed 1930s; 9 1/4 × 11 5/8″ (23.5 × 29.5 cm). Gift of James Thrall Soby. © 2016 Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

An exhibition surveying photography’s ability to capture the expressive attitudes of the human body, Gesture and Pose: Twentieth-Century Photographs from the Collection is part of an ongoing series of small exhibitions exploring the richness of the Museum’s collection.

“Like the expressions of the face,” curator Peter Galassi writes, “the attitudes of the body are full of meaning. Some of our gestures and poses are contrived for an audience (or a photographer); some are involuntary. In both cases our bodies send messages we might prefer to disguise, as well as those we intend to project: messages about who we think we are, or how we feel, or what we mean.”

Gesture and Pose includes some sixty works by such major photographers as Diane Arbus, Roy De Carava, Dorothea Lange, Irving Penn, August Sander, and Shomei Tomatsu, as well as by less well-known figures, including Richard Kalvar, Masatoshi Naitoh, and Chandler Weston, among others. Landmark works, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Valencia (1933) and Paul Strand’s The Family, Luzzara, Italy (1953), are presented along with less familiar photographs, such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo’s Rene d’Harnoncourt (1930s) and Steven Milanowski’s Tow Truck Driver at Scene of Fatal Accident (1982). Opening with a range of poses adopted explicitly for the camera, the exhibition proceeds to explore in turn such attitudes as introspection, repose, confrontation, affection, and such intense emotions as anguish, ecstasy, and surprise.

Organized by Peter Galassi, chief curator, Department of Photography.




If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to