This was my third study visit with the OCA and it was one I thoroughly enjoyed. The things that particularly appealed to me about this exhibition was that firstly there were going to be photographs on display by a number of famous photographers from over the past 80 years - some of whom I had heard of and whose work I had wanted to see. But also and probably more importantly for me was that it was an exhibition of essentially straight photography. After viewing some of the exhibitions at the Brighton Photo Biennial, I was a little confused about what photography is. Of course, all art is subjective and for me straight, and technically 'correct' photography is what I appreciate the most. I am still very much on the upslope of the learning curve though and it remains to be seen whether I develop more of an interest beyond what a layman would recognise as normal or straight photography.
The Constructing Worlds exhibition at The Barbican Centre in London was described as 'a collection of images from 18 exceptional photographers from the 1930s to the present day , who have changed the way we view architecture and the world around us.' I decided to work my way through the exhibition in chronological order so started with Berenice Abbott and finished with Iwan Baan. The gallery texts for this visit can be seen here. The review in The Guardian is also worth a read. So rather than repeat all that is written in the gallery notes I will briefly summarise my thoughts on each display.
Berenice Abbott - c. 1930s Unsurprisingly Berenice Abbott's work was in monochrome. The room where her work was displayed was dimly lit and the the frames were black. What I like about Abbott's photography was the smart framing/cropping and the clarity and detail of her images. Not only that but they depicted interesting scenes of New York, which you couldn't help but be interested in.
Walker Evans. c.1936 Displayed brightly lit with white frames. I noticed Evans' images often contained words and vertical foreground objects. There were several images of the Burroughs sharecropping family.
Julius Shulman. c. 1959 Shulman's images were in both colour and monochrome and depicted Californian 'modernity'. The images were very much designed to 'sell' the lifestyle as well as the product. It was interesting to compare and contrast these to the advertising images in the UK, where housewives posed with new pans while their pipe-smoking husbands relaxed with a newspaper. Domestic bliss!
Lucien Herve - Herve worked with the famous architect Le Corbusier and his images and contact sheets showed how he had photographed Le Corbusier's work.
Ed Ruscha. These were fascinating images. All were overhead taken from aircraft and showed carparks complete with oil leaks showing which spaces were most commonly occupied by vehicles. The one of the Dodgers stadium showed the vast scale of the car park there. These images were very much two dimensional.
Bechers. Again, a seemingly mundane topic - water towers - turned into a fascinating array of images. All were shot in the same dry weather conditions with a flat grey sky.
Stephen Shore - All colour. Lots of blue sky.
Thomas Struth - Main streets B&W mainly. The point of view was invariably from the centre of the street looking through the town.
Luisa Lambri - these 4 images were quite abstract and conceptual. Even though I had read the brief, it didn't really do much for me. I browsed them for a short time and moved on.
Hiroshi Sugimoto - large 6' prints. Impressive from a distance. I didn't thnk I'd appreciate these but the large scale meant they actually worked well. My eyes were opened! I had expected that I'd pass these by quite quickly, as I had with Luisa Lambri's images but I was actually quite engrossed.
Lungi Ghirri - Elementary school and cemetery. Curved image fagnano olona. Not balanced. Upsetting imbalance! I didn't see a lot in Ghirri's work that appealed to me. Maybe I was missing something?
Helen Binet -
Guy Tillim - These were interesting images of what I understood to be abandoned hotels which had since been populated.
Andreas Gursky - Paris apartments. Montparnasse
Bas Princen - big images, Jordan, Cairo, Dubai, monolithic. Colour. Cairo recycling City
Simon Norfolk - I had seen one of Simon Norfolk's images on the cover of the BJP (Ikhtiaruddin Citadel, Herat, Afghanistan). Beautiful colours.
Nadav Kander - Kander's images were shot along the length of the Yangtze River in China. It was really interesting and slightly disturbing to see how people lived and interacted with the river. Industrialisation has had major impact on riverside life and it was clear in the colour of the water and the air that pollution was rife.
Iwan Baan - I was looking forward to seeing these images, as I'd seen a TV programme about the 'Tower of David' and it was fascinating. The images certainly lived up to my expectations.
Although I haven't completely filled out my review I want to post it now so it's on and up. I will endeavour to flesh it out after I've had a bit more time to research the various displays.