I was happy to be invited to have an early look at a new major exhibition on at the AGO called Outsiders : American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s. Including over 300 photographs and four films, the show is the largest of its kind ever hosted by the gallery, and features the work of several American photographers and film-makers.
The artists, who include photographers Garry Winogrand, Gordon Parks, Diane Arbus, Casa Susanna guests, Nan Goldin and Danny Lyon, and film-makers Robert Frank, Alfred Leslie, Marie Menken, Shirley Clarke and Kenneth Anger, observed that mainstream media was not presenting the full picture of what life was like in America at the time. In their art they sought to delve below the surface and portray the grittier, less perfect aspects, and to therefore provide a more accurate representation of what was happening in the country during those years.
The show is fantastic! For one thing, the technical challenges inherent in photography and film-making back then, prior to the invention of anything digital, (including the careful threading of spools of film into heavy cameras, the darkrooms and chemicals, and the not knowing what the shots would look like until after they were developed), made for an awe inspiring exhibition. But, of course, beyond the difficulty and expense of dealing with film, the more impressive thing is what these artists were able to capture through their lenses. These are images you feel.
The exhibition begins tomorrow and runs until the end of May, 2016. Tickets, with a set arrival time, are required, and can be obtained here – tickets.
There are separate rooms for each photographer, with small screening rooms interspersed between the galleries, where the films are showing. I’ve arranged these pictures based on the placement of the sections within the show.
Garry Winogrand : b1928 – d1984. A street photographer from the Bronx, New York, who mainly concentrated on taking pictures in New York.
↑ Central Park Zoo, New York, 1967 ↑
↑ Diane Arbus, Love-In Central Park, New York City, 1966. (Note, you’ll see the work of the subject of this photo further on) ↑
Film “Pull My Daisy” by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, written and narrated by Jack Kerouac.
Gordon Parks : b1913 – d2006. Born into poverty in Kansas, he became a prominent documentary photojournalist. He was the first African-American staff photographer at Life Magazine.
↑ The Fontenelles at the Poverty Board, Harlem, New York, 1967 ↑
Film “Go Go Go” by Marie Menken.
↑ AGO’s Associate Curator of Photography, Sophie Hackett, being interviewed. ↑
Diane Arbus : b1923 – d1971. American photographer and writer noted for photographs of marginalized people. Unfortunately, prone to depression, she committed suicide at the age of 48.
Today the prints of her photographs, which were produced in limited quantities, are very valuable. For example, number 32/75 of “Triplets in Their Bedroom”, sold for $73k US in 2008.
It seems that the Arbus photos displayed in this exhibit, of which there are many, were loaned to the gallery by a private local collector.
↑ Identical Twins, Roselle New Jersey, 1966. There’s a very interesting story about this photo and these twins as grown ups here – the Washington Post. ↑
↑ Triplets in The Bedroom, New Jersey, 1963 ↑
↑ The Junior Interstate Ballroom Dance Champions, Yonkers, New York 1962-1963 ↑
↑ Santas at the Santa Claus School, Albion, New York, 1964 ↑
Casa Susanna: from the mid 50s to 1969 Susanna ran a resort for cross-dressers in upstate New York. The photos in this section were taken by the people who visited.
Film “Portrait of Jason” Act 1, by Shirley Clarke.
The sole on-screen subject is Jason Holiday, a gay African-American hustler and aspiring cabaret performer.
Nan Goldin : b1953. American photographer known for her work which usually features LGBT-related themes, images or public figures.
↑ Robin and Kenny at Boston, Boston. 1978 ↑
Danny Lyon : b1942. Self-taught photographer known for his immersive approach. The exhibit includes shots he took while a member of the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club.
↑ Crossing the Ohio, Louisville. 1966 ↑
↑ From Lindsey’s Room, Louisville. 1966 ↑
↑ Jack, Chicago. 1965 ↑
Film “Scorpio Rising” by Kenneth Anger.
This one was playing beyond the enclosed area for the exhibit and could be watched by anyone visiting the gallery.
There certainly is a lot to see, so you’ll want give yourself plenty of time. I’m actually seeing it again tonight, when Nick and I join our friend Meghan for the AGO members’ preview.
Thanks very much for taking a look,