December 16: Some photography galleries are making a last bid for attention before they close for the end of year, while others are wisely mounting shows that will attract audiences when they have time to look.
Of exhibitions opening today there is Henry Leutwyler’s Document at Foley Gallery 59 Orchard St, New York, which capitalises on the capacity of the camera to be loaded like Colonel Pewter’s Holdall with as much stuff as you could possibly collect and still have room for more, and yet weigh no more than when you started.
Into Leutwyler’s have been squeezed Michael Jackson’s sequinned glove, Chaplin’s cane, Warhol’s paintbrush, Ali’s boxing shoe, Audrey Hepburn’s typewriter, Marilyn Monroe’s suitcases, and Gandhi’s sandals, Elvis Presley’s plastic comb, Donald Judd’s credit cards, Prince’s “symbol” guitar, Hendrix’ Fender Mustang guitar and more, all photographed in a deadpan style against neutral flat backgrounds. As photographs they are solely proxies of objects. For the obsessive collector they no doubt are delight, and that is probably all they are since they sell for $US1800 up to $12000 depending on size and medium (silver gelatin prints being more pricey).
It is a phenomenon that this attribute of photography is so ready for generating the billions of ‘dumb’ pictures of ‘stuff’ that crowd the virtual and real world, duplicating or photocopying what is already there. It remains to be seen which will outlast the other, the object, or the photograph.
However, once the moment is gone, the object deteriorates but the photograph may be renewed, as long as the medium, the negative or the digital file, survives to print or view and eventually becomes historical, the more so where the object is a human being!
Harry Benson: Get the Picture opens tonight at Staley-Wise in New York and continues to January 28, 2017. His photojournalism has collected major figures of the latter part of the twentieth century and he counts among his credentials a CBE, NPPA Magazine Photographer of the Year, the Leica Medal of Excellence, both awarded him twice, and 40 one man exhibits and 17 books, not to mention honorary doctorates. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Harry traveled to America with The Beatles in 1964 and never went back.
He was at Robert Kennedy’s side when the Senator was assassinated…
…and in interview in August this year said “I’ve photographed Donald Trump for 40 years. I did ten pages of photos of Trump for Time magazine last week. He hasn’t changed. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen anything so crazy.”
Clearly Benson is good at what he does, and Get the Picture is a great title for a show of one of the many ‘guns for hire’ in PR photography, exemplifying the ‘collecting phenomenon’ in photography (lots of famous people). It was once a job, but now social media has changed the scene so that we have come to expect the photojournalist to have an opinion (preferably one like ours) and to project their perspective, not just “Be there, f8 and don’t be late”!
In Benson’s account of Trump at Trump Taj Mahal holding a million dollars the photograph resulted from an escalating dare, for which Benson says, Trump was only too happy to comply. Trump’s Richard “Richie” $ Rich, Jr. poor-little-rich-boy-holding-his-favourite-toy expression is just too precious, so subtly I guess Benson is revealing of at least that aspect of the sinister president-elect.
Opening today at the Pinakothek der Moderne at Barer Str. 40, 80333 München, Germany is Albert Renger-Patzsch: Ruhr Landscapes, a survey of 83 photographs, rare private landscape pictures not undertaken on commission by leading New Objectivity photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch. In an act of preservation during the years 1927–1935 he wandered the Ruhr taking photographs of an increasingly industrial landscape that was replacing the mining activity and the small towns and villages with a sprawling urbanisation. The show continues until April 23 in 2017.
At Collection Regard gallery in Berlin at Steinstr. 12 10119 Mitte, Resonances by Thomas Sandberg (the German, not the Norwegian Thomas Sandberg who died in 2014) closes today. His show responds to the moment in James Joyce’s Ulysses “when Leo Bloom watches Dedalus from a distance he looks at him and sees himself through him.” Sandberg’s impulse to photograph comes from a resonance, “as in physics, when two things happen to vibrate in the same manner, what you read superimposes with reality.” His cycle of photographs, that he says are associations not illustrations, was produced during the last 10 years on travels through Europe and is called Bronze By Gold and is organised into sections names after writers “Casanova”, “Joyce” or “Bulgakov”.
Amongst more atmospheric available-light imagery Sandberg chose to light the pictures above harshly with on-camera flash, but clearly has predicted the result, giving us the Dublin busker’s meagre collection of coins an optimistic shine, and turning the organic-looking deposit of minerals around the spring-fed inlet at the Budapest thermal baths into a weird cancerous growth which seems to attach to the elderly bather. The exhibition is available also in the form of a photobook and was part of the European Month of Photography.
Like the coins in Sandberg’s Dublin photograph these are exhibitions that illustrate the acquisitive impulse in photography, the value, or otherwise, of acquiring, accumulating and storing images which, providing the photographer has chosen the subject matter and the moment well, will gather value with time.