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A ‘Must-See’ Exhibition: The Hyland Collection

October 18th, 2012 No Comments

We’ll look at two very different exhibitions today and tomorrow starting with The Hyland Collection Of American Photography: At The American Museum In Britain.  Today we’re talking about a ‘real’ exhibition in a museum; tomorrow, a virtual one a ‘name’ website.

The first exhibition makes one reflect about the art of photography; the second enables one to learn about the practice of (street) photography.

Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Herb Ritts are some of the master photographers whose works comprise the Hyland Collection which is definitely about the ‘art of photography.’

The very first photograph featured in the Hyland article, one by Robert & Shana Parke Harrison, is an aesthetic yet charming example of photographic art.  This antiqued photograph, actually a photogravure from 1998, shows a man in a light-generating contraption cycling toward, apparently, a lightning bolt.  This ‘art photo’ is a triumph of conception and execution as much as of lighting effect and (probably above all) composition.

Snap to the middle of the article to the photograph by Marcus Leatherdale.  Notwithstanding the famous Greek’s bust, as much as Andy Warhol makes a show of hiding his face, (a) isn’t he quickly recognizable (the hair’s a giveaway ain’t it?) and (b) doesn’t something about that photograph come across as a little self-conscious?

As for the two photographs – the ‘chromogenic prints’ – by Bill Armstrong that are meant ‘to convey the concept of’ something, is that really a valid form of photography?  Or an artsy self-indulgence?  Do they belong to photography or to painting?  

Thomas Barbey’s Urban Offering seems like a missed opportunity to me.  First, there is no question that the falling sand ‘makes’ the photo; without it the image would have been dull and lifeless.  The falling sand symbolizes something (actually somethings).  

Here’s the trick Barbey seems to have missed.  Note the soft, urban, city-dwelling hands.  Why didn’t Barbey use a model with hard, tough, dirty, grimy hands to represent the anonymous blue collar construction workers who built those buildings held by those undeserving hands? 

Most down-to-earth is Shelby Lee Adams seriously humourous The Fly Swat.  Those are two wonderful expressions Adams has managed to capture and evidently there’s some backstory there!  I can’t help my eyes ping-ponging between those two faces (can you?)

This photo is a terrific example of street photography and it’s the perfect place to close this post because tomorrow’s exhibition and post will be (almost) all about street photography.

This is not an exhibition for the sake of an exhibition; it has some hidden value: an exhibition that is an eclectic collection of photographers with widely different styles allows an amateur to find his identity as a photographer; to find her style.  Watch the trailer, with many more images, here.


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