The Radical Eye – Tate Modern 11th March 2017

On my birthday I went to London to visit ‘The Radical Eye’. This is the showing of an assembly of Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection at the Tate Modern (10th Nov 2016 – 7th May 2017).

The entrance is dominated by a large scale reproduction of the Man Ray image ‘Glass Tears’ and the exhibition is divided into 6 areas:

  • The Radical Eye
  • Portraits
  • Portraits / Experiments / Bodies
  • Exhibition Film
  • Documents
  • Objects / Perspectives / Abstraction

The exhibition is made up of over 175 images spanning the first half of the 20th Century, taken from Elton John’s world class collection of over 8000 photographs. The exhibited images are the work of almost seventy of the key photographers of that time.

Among these photographers are some of the works of:

  • Man Ray
  • Irving Penn
  • Dorothea Lang
  • Walker Evans
  • Margaret Bourke-White
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Edward Steichen
  • Helen Levit

I was struck by the framing of the photographs, though beautifully mounted the fames could be thought by some to be gaudy. However, when you realise that these paintings came straight off the walls of Elton John’s apartment you begin to realise they fit their hanging environment. I prefer the idea that they come from a home, are on display and loved, rather than stuck in boxed archives.

I enjoyed the exhibition and was very taken by a series of corner portrait images by Irving Penn taken in 1948, which were very striking. In particular, those taken of; Spencer Tracy, Noel Coward, Duke Ellington and the boxer Joe Louis.

Overall the exhibition presents a good cross section of photographs from some of the leading protagonists of the Modernist Photography movement.

Science Museum Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph exhibition

On the 24th August I was lucky to be on leave and had the chance to visit the Science Museum Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph exhibition.

From the exhibition website information; ‘In the nineteenth century, as the industrial revolution boomed, Fox Talbot revolutionised culture and communications by inventing the negative-positive process, a technique that formed the basis of photography around the world for over 150 years and immortalised him as father of the photograph.

Discover the influence Talbot’s revolutionary technology, techniques and practices had on his contemporary practitioners – Anna Atkins, Hill and Adamson, and Calvert Jones – and see original prints from his seminal publication ‘The Pencil of Nature’.’ (Fox Talbot: Dawn of the photograph, 2016).

The day was warm and the cool temperature/humidity controlled environment of the exhibition was very welcome. The exhibits were displayed in several rooms in a chronological fashion, with the earliest works of Fox Talbot and various contemporaries displayed first.

The pale ghost like early prints from waxed photogenic drawing and calotype negative experimentation seem so fragile compared to the stunning Daguerreotype positives of the same era. Progress through the rooms shows the steady improvement of Fox Talbots repeatable print process via the use of negatives. Also they also include the works of other luminaries producing important works at the same time a Fox Talbot such as, Rev George Wilson Bridges and Rev Calvet Richard Jones.

A selection of images from the book of the exhibition (Roberts and Hobson, 2016) are shown below:

fox-talbot-1fox-talbot-2fox-talbot-3fox-talbot-4fox-talbot-5fox-talbot-6

Overall a very interesting and historically important exhibition. My only criticism was that the lighting on the few Daguerreotypes that were on display were poor positioned and I found that I had to contort myself to view them clearly.

Reference:

Fox Talbot: Dawn of the photograph (2016) Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/fox-talbot# (Accessed: 11 September 2016).

Roberts, R. and Hobson, G. (2016) William Henry Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph. United Kingdom: Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers.