Friday, 18 July 2008
Street & Studio
I just came back from Street & Studio, the first exhibition at the Tate Modern to explore the urban photographic portrait through the parallel development of these two environments from the beginning of last century to the present day. It was quite impressive and reassuring to look and recognize some original images we have gone through during the first six months of the course: Walker Evans, Robert Frank, August Sander, Henri Cartier Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Paul Strand, Robert Mapplethorpe, Martin Parr, Richard Avedon. Some images are constructed using costumes and artificial backdrops in a controlled situation within the private space of the studio. Some others offer a new kind of portraiture, capturing people in the streets with new models of small handheld cameras. The encounter with the anonymous passer-by was already one of the key motifs of street photography.
Going through all the rooms to learn more about the urban history of photography, I discovered that Walker Evans was preoccupied with trying to capture what he called ‘ a cross section view of average hard-working people’, and that contemporary photographers like Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Joel Sternfeld work both with large format camera and tripod, though their photographs often resemble snapshots.
I was really surprised by the approach of some photographers I didn’t know anything about before my trip to the exhibition. In Malick Sidibe’s studio in Mali for instance, young people posed playfully with their new possessions, suggesting the euphoria of life after independence and the development of an African culture. David Goldblatt showed black and white citizens together on the streets of Johannesburg and Jeff Wall created images carefully constructed using actors and cinematic lighting of a scene of two police officers arresting a Hispanic man.
Photography is undergoing rapid technological developments during the digital age and I am starting to discover how some photographers came out everyday with different strategies and approaches to create series of images using in new ways sound, light and multimedia tools.