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.