Published on Monday, January 14, 2019
Reflections: The Year that Was; the Year to Come
Tony Vacarro, Eartha Kitt and Givenchy, Paris, France, 1961
©Tony Vaccaro. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography
A new year offers a chance to stop, catch one’s breath, and zoom out to reflect on the past and look toward the future. Below are some meaningful things that happened in the world of fine art photography in 2018, as well as events we are keenly anticipating during 2019.
A Glance Back
2018 brought exhibitions that explored what change looks like, and we’ll first look at exhibitions that examined change of the medium itself.
The Tate Modern’s Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art exhibition explored, as The Guardian phrased it, “the history of photography as experiment.” It was an exhibition that showcased abstract photography, and celebrated how artists began to use the darkroom like a laboratory in the early 20th century. At the National Portrait Gallery, Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography highlighted four pioneers of early British portrait photography, one of whom was Oscar Rejlander. The National Portrait Gallery described Reijlander as the “father of Photoshop;” in a complex photograph of his, “Two Ways of Life” (1856-57), he created a single image by merging several different negatives.
The bond between art and activism came forth in Represent: Hip-Hop Photography, an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibition explored the influences of present-day hip-hop culture and how hip-hop origins moved in sync with the civil rights progress of the time. A quieter political perspective was on display in Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950. Parks’ early work in this exhibition featured subjects and their lives in cities, including a 1941 portrait of Langston Hughes titled “Langston Hughes, Chicago.”
We also saw exhibitions that explored humans’ relationship with the land, such as The Anthropocene Project, which we profiled earlier this year. Edward Burtynsky asked those who interacted with his project to acknowledge the physical reality of our impact on the Earth, which he captured in massive photographs and film. The manmade grooves in the earth’s surface captured by Burtynsky echo a gash in a tree from a photograph by Sally Mann titled “Deep South, Untitled (Scarred Tree),” which was on display in Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings. This exhibition explored how Mann’s relationship with the land of the South, which she loved, has shaped her own work, and how the legacy of the South continues to shape American identity.
California Wildfires Claimed Manfred Heiting’s Photograph Collection
At least 85 people died from the California wildfires of 2018, which also destroyed over 1.5 million acres of land. The fires took homes, valuables, and items of personal significance. A particularly devastating loss for art, history, and the fine art photography world was the destruction of one of the most complete photobook collections in the world: Manfred Heiting’s 36,000-strong library of photobooks.
Adding to the tragedy is the fact that Heiting had recently donated his library to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. A few thousand books had already been transferred, but, sadly, the rest had been kept in Heiting’s personal collection until 2023 for use in his research and publications.
Read more in the British Journal of Photography.
Remembering Great Photographers and Luminaries We Lost
In 2018, the world of photography lost artists who created and shared dynamic work throughout their careers. Among them were Art Shay, who captured common humanity between those in Hollywood and the streets of Chicago; David Douglas Duncan, who brought a soldier’s reality to civilians; and Henry Wessel, who discovered and honored the minutiae of the American West.
We also remember David Goldblatt, Erich Lessing, Henry Wessel, Ara Guler, Desmond Boylan, Laura Aguilar, Cui Xiuwen and Jacqueline Hassink, all of whom were influential, inspirational photographers who passed in 2018.
The fine art photography community also lost luminaries such as collector Gloria Katz Huyck, co-founder and Chair of PAC LA (Photographic Arts Council of Los Angeles), former Chair of LACMA’s Photo Council and an active member of the Getty Museum Photographs Council; and Tom Halsted, a pioneer of the fine art photography marketplace and founding member of AIPAD.
George Tice, Railroad Bridge, High Bridge, NJ, 1974
Courtesy of the artist and Joseph Bellows Gallery
The Photography Show
Tickets are now on sale for 39th edition of The Photography Show, taking place in New York April 4-7, 2019 with an Opening Preview on April 3. This year's Show will feature leading galleries from nine countries and 33 cities from across the U.S. and around the world, including Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. Our list of exhibitors can be found here.
The Photography Show, presented by AIPAD, is one of the world’s most highly-anticipated annual art fairs, and is the longest running and foremost exhibition dedicated to the photographic medium. In 2019, The Show will feature a special exhibition curated by photographer Alec Soth: “A Room for Solace,” which will highlight scenes of domestic interiors that speak to the possibility of finding refuge during turbulent times. Says Soth, “With this exhibition, I want to take a break from the fractious public square of photography and wander quietly into people’s homes. Behind these doors I hope to find a sliver of solace in these unstable times.”
Make plans to see Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery between June and September this year. This exhibition will explore the development of photographer Cindy Sherman’s work from the mid-1970s to the present day, and will feature around 150 works from international public and private collections, including the ground-breaking series, Untitled Film Stills, 1977-80.
From February through June, Paris’s Jeu de Paume will showcase Luigi Ghirri: the Map and the Territory, the first retrospective of photographs taken outside Ghirri’s native Italy. It covers a decade in which Ghirri produced color photographs of the streets, piazzas and suburbs of Modena. He explored the ways the landscape and housing in the Reggio Emilia, the province in which he was born, had been changed by humans.
And finally, this summer, The Photographer’s Gallery in London will explore the cultural and political shifts that have occurred in Latin America over the past 50 years in Urban Impulses: Latin American Photography 1962–2016. The exhibition will compile works from influential artists like Juan Enrique Bedoya and José Moreno, drawing heavily from the extensive collection of Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski.