The PhotoBook

October 27, 2011

Streetwise: Masters of 60s Photography

Copyright of the photographers 2010 & courtesy of Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA), published by Modernbook Editions

The museum of Photographic Arts had a thematic exhibition in 2010, which resulted in the catalog book published by Modernbook Editions, Streetwise, Masters of 60s Photography. The curators have selected eight photographers whose photographic intent might have been influenced by Robert Frank in 1950’s and who worked through the 1960s to define the genre of photographer flaneur, a.k.a. street photographer.

The book is not meant to provide an inclusive examination of each of the nine photographers included in the exhibition and subsequently the book, but highlight well know photographs made by each during the turbulent 1960’s period in the United States and perhaps illustrate how they might have been mutually influential during this period.

The photographers selected include Robert Frank (b.1924), Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971), Ruth-Marion Baruch (1922 – 1997), Jerry Berndt (b.1943), Bruce Davidson (b.1933), Lee Friedlander (b 1934), Danny Lyon, (b.1942), Gary Winogrand (1928 – 1984), and Ernest Withers (1922 – 2007). All of the photographic work is drawn from the 1960’s, with the exception of Robert Frank, whose photographs were made in the late 1950’s and produced in his seminal photobook “The Americans”.

Nicely stated by Deborah Klochko, “Streewise builds on what Robert Frank began with his new “snapshot esthetic”, and the capturing of an alternative view of society (as compared to the 1955 Family of Man exhibition at MoMA) with photographs depicting the “outlaw culture” of bikers and chain gangs by Lyon, to Brendt’s images of the Combat Zone taken in the red-light district of Boston; and the darker subcultures photographed by Arbus. These photographers spent time with their subjects, presenting a challenging view of Americaundergoing radical change”.

I would expect that some of these photographers are better known that others, with Arbus and Frank nearing cult status, while Withers, Baruch and Berndt are not as well-known today. Thus the curators should be lauded in their broad selection of photographers in maintaining a balanced representation of the genre and period.

I believe that Andy Grundberg in his essay describes this collective body of work very eloquently “In sum, these image makers produced a distinctly engaged and personalized version of what had come to be known as social-documentary photography, a new and sophisticated postwar approach embodied in the fresh term “street photography.”

The introduction is provided by Deborah Klochko, Director,Museum of Photographic Arts and an essay by Andy Grundberg, Chair of the Photography Department at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Following the Plates section for each of the nine photographers, there are Notes and Biographies for each of the photographers and authors. The pages are numbered and a caption for each photograph is provided in the Notes section.

The book object: Hardcover with translucent printed dust cover, with a horizontal design well suited to illustrate the black and white photographs created with 35mm film, the now classic street photographer’s camera from this period. The horizontal photographs have a generous white margin, while the horizontal photographs are a bleed off the top and bottom of the page to maximize the print size. A clean book design and beautifully printed and bound.

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1 Comment »

  1. Ernest Withers was a paid FBI informer.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/us/14photographer.html

    and he shouldn’t be included in this book because he is far from being a seminal figure of the genre of street photography.
    After so many others, still relatively unknown like Levinstein for example, the inclusion of Withers is totally unjustifiable if not suspicious.

    Comment by Zisis Kardianos — November 12, 2011 @ 7:38 am


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