The Radical Eye…

For me this exhibition was the highlight of my trip.  Selected from Elton John’s private collection of photographs, spanning the years 1920-1950, the exhibition presented almost 150 prints including works by many well-known modernist photographers. As a photography student, seeing all of these famous works, many of them for the first time was over-whelming. I really enjoyed the figurative and portrait prints. The exhibition covered most areas including documentary, objects, abstract and experimental prints, solarized and warped images. I highly recommend the exhibition catalogue as it gives a great overview of classic modernist photography.

A selection of my favourite pieces from the exhibition includes the discovery of André Kertész and his piece, ‘My Brother Eugene’, 1919, a very small print. I adore all of Man Ray’s portraits in the exhibition, but ‘Anatomies’, 1930, really stood out to me, a soft focus close up of a reclined neck. Edward Steichen’s ‘Gloria Swanson‘, 1924. Ilse Bing’s, ‘Greta Garbo Poster‘, Paris 1932. Edward Weston’s ‘Igor Stravinsky’ 1935 and ‘Nude‘, 1936; it was fascinating to see these in real life. Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother‘, 1936, is one of the most famous documentary portraits. Tina Moodotti, ‘Edward Weston with his camera‘, 1923: is a very small image, you have to get up close to see the detail. Other artists included Ivering Pen,Walker Evans and Imogen Cunningham.

This exhibition taught me that an image, or any piece of art, doesn’t have to be large to make an impact. A number of the prints were very small: some contacts from the negatives, some deliberately small prints. However they held their own amongst the larger works. I think seeing exhibitions, particularly in photography, really helps you to visualise how your work would look in a gallery context. This is an area I have been struggling with this semester as my work has gone through significant change in the last six months. Seeing these works made me understand the different connection viewers may have with different sizes of work; perhaps smaller work invites a more intimate connection.


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