Pictures at an exhibition – RFK Funeral Train. The People’s View

This was the fourth and final exhibition I visited. According to the Center’s website:

On June 8, 1968, thousands of people lined the train tracks from New York to Washington, DC, paying their last respects and expressing bewilderment and sorrow at the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Photographer Paul Fusco documented the funeral train’s journey and his images have become emblematic of the loss of idealism during a period of political upheaval in the United States. Dutch visual artist, photographer, and filmmaker Rein Jelle Terpstra has been tracking down the bystanders’ views of this day. He has collected more than two hundred images, including snapshots and home movies of the train. In RFK Funeral Train: The People’s View, Terpstra combines a multiscreen video projection that stitches together this collection of vernacular photographs and audio and video remembrances of these mourners with prints by Fusco. Through this project, Terpstra adds a new chapter to a collective memory that is slowly disappearing. This exhibition is organized by Erin Barnett, Director of Exhibitions and Collections.

An interesting concept, but once again I didn’t spend much time on it – although I did sit through the entire multiscreen video presentation.

The exhibition runs until September 2, 2018.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

Pictures at an exhibition – Multiply, Identify, Her

According to the Center’s website:

This exhibition features an intergenerational group of women artists whose work explores representations of identity. Working in photography, video, and film, through assemblage, collage, multipart portraiture, and the use of avatars both analogue and digital, these artists reckon with the complex and changeable elements that inform who we are. These selves emerge from intersecting confrontations: with the artist’s own image, with the weight of personal and social stereotypes of race, class, gender, and age, and with the ambivalent promises of technology. These hybrid and multiple selves are depicted through mirroring and cloning, repetition and transfiguration.

Made between the late 1990s and today, the work on view has roots in feminist art historical discussions of the ways artists have visualized selfhood as manifold, presenting portraits that in their multiplicity and radicality challenge patriarchal ways of looking that define narrowly while presuming broadly. Featuring work ranging from cut-photograph collage to an exploration of life-extending artificial intelligence, the exhibition considers our enduring impulse to push against the limits of the discrete human body—from stretching the boundaries of representation to anticipating a future in which our consciousness is not bound to a physical body at all.

Transcending the singular, unified self is a psychological and political aspiration—to appear in all the disparate ways that we are—as well as a future, technology-enabled reality. The artists brought together here create a space in which the feeling of longing for other possibilities of being and being seen is made palpable.

– Marina Chao, Curator

The exhibition features the work of Mickalene Thomas; Geta Brătescu; Wangechi Mutu; Lorna Simpson and Barbara Hammer.

I’m afraid this exhibition didn’t really appeal to me – maybe just a bit to avant-garde for my tastes (for example a series of photographs seemed to portray a nude figure with internal organs overlaid and titled “What You Are Not Supposed to Look At”. So I didn’t spend a lot of time there. Maybe I should have? Maybe I would have understood more?

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

Pictures at an exhibition – Pittsburgh 1950, Elliott Erwitt

The second exhibit I visited was “Pittsburgh 1950” and the work of Elliott Erwitt. According to the Center’s website:

In 1950 Elliott Erwitt, then just twenty-two years old, set out to capture Pittsburgh’s transformation from an industrial city into a modern metropolis. Commissioned by Roy Stryker, the mastermind behind the large-scale documentary photography projects launched by the US government during the Great Depression, Erwitt shot hundreds of frames. His images recorded the city’s communities against the backdrop of urban change, highlighting his quiet observations with the playful wit that has defined his style for over five decades. After only four months, Erwitt was drafted into the army and sent to Germany, leaving his negatives behind in Stryker’s Pittsburgh Photographic Library. The negatives remained at the Pennsylvania Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for decades. This exhibition, organized by Assistant Curator Claartje van Dijk in association with the photographer, will present these images in the United States for the first time.

This exhibition is right next to “The Decisive Moment” – so close in fact that I didn’t immediately realize that I was no longer seeing works by Cartier-Bresson. I’m something of a fan of Erwitt too (particularly for the humor he brings to his work), but seeing it right next to Cartier-Bresson I couldn’t help be feel it was a step down. I did try to bear in mind, however, that this is very early Erwitt (he was only 22 at the time where Cartier-Bresson was 44 when “The Decisive Moment” was published) and I’m such a fan of Cartier-Bresson that, to me, almost anything would suffer by comparison.

The exhibition runs until September 2, 2018.

For more on the story behind these pictures see the video below: “What Were You Thinking?” with Legendary Magnum Photographer Elliott Erwitt

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

Pictures at an exhibition – The Decisive Moment, Henri Cartier-Bresson

We went into New York City the other day and while my wife was shopping I went down to the International Center of Photography. The exhibitions used to shown in their location in midtown west, which was quite convenient when I was still working. I hadn’t been to this new location before, but it turned out to be only a short train ride from Grand Central Terminal.

Four exhibitions were being held. The picture above shows Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment. According to the Center’s website:

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment examines Cartier-Bresson’s influential publication, widely considered to be one of the most important photobooks of the twentieth century. Pioneering for its emphasis on the photograph itself as a unique narrative form, The Decisive Moment was described by Robert Capa as “a Bible for photographers.” Originally titled Images à la Sauvette (“images on the run”) in the French, the book was published in English with a new title, The Decisive Moment, which unintentionally imposed the motto which would define Cartier-Bresson’s work. The exhibition details how the decisions made by the collaborators in this major project—including Cartier-Bresson, French art publisher Tériade, American publisher Simon & Schuster, and Henri Matisse, who designed the book’s cover—have shaped our understanding of Cartier-Bresson’s photographs. Through vintage gelatin silver prints, first-edition publications, periodicals, and correspondence, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment brings new insights to this iconic work.

I’m a big fan of Cartier-Bresson and it was inspiring to see some of his work “in the flesh” (i.e. not on the internet or in books) as it were. I’ve always been in awe of his ability to blend form and content in the split second it took him to see and take the photograph.

The exhibition runs until September 2, 2018. It’s well worth seeing.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

Henri Cartier-Bresson Documentary: Pen, Brush and Camera

Informative documentary on Henri Cartier-Bresson. It revolves around an exhibition put together by four leading London galleries on the occasion of Cartier-Bresson’s 90th birthday in 1998 (he passed away six years later in 2004).

Things I didn’t know about Cartier-Bresson:

  • He spoke English well and with little accent. I’d never heard him speak before and somehow I thought he would have a broad, stereotypical French accent, but he didn’t.
  • Although I knew that he had started as a painter, moved to photography, and then returned to drawing towards the end of his life I’d never seen examples of his non-photographic work until now. Not at all bad.
  • I hadn’t realized that he had studied the moving image and had worked on and even appeared in some movies in his native France (while working with Jean Renoir).

And some quotations:

  • “Photography is nothing more than instant drawing for me”
  • “It’s mere luck, photography, just luck” (Talking about ‘Behind the Gare Lazare’).
  • “Some of the boys are alive, some are dead, and some people are dead while they’re alive also” (talking about the Magnum photo archive).
  • “The thing that is wonderful is to watch him work and I’ve walked with him on the streets and seen him. He moves with great speed. He sees instantaneously and he does a sort of little ballet, like a little dance. He rises on his toes, the camera goes to the eye, the click comes and you don’t even know you’ve been photographed and he’s off to the next.” Eve Arnold (talking about Cartier-Bressons shooting style).
  • “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”
  • “Using a camera is for me keeping a diary, a visual diary just like some writers keep a journal. So in that sense I’m a journalist”
  • “Everything is just mere chance and the joy with the camera is to take that chance, to be available”.

At the very end of the documentary the interviewer says: “What do you say to people who call you the greatest photographer of the 20th century?” There’s a pause and then Cartier-Bresson leans in closely to the interviewer and with a smile and a twinkle in his eye whispers “Bullshit”.

I also came across this two part interview in the New York Times (you may have to be a subscriber to the NYT to get access however):