Photographing the City – Transportation, commerce, disaster, and community

Posted January 30th, 2013 under Architecture, Photography, Shows


This exhibition explores how nineteenth- and twentieth-century photographers responded to cities and towns, presented and preserved their history, and influenced their perception by the public. Among the artists represented are Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, Aaron Siskind, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand. Photographing the City opens Saturday, February 9, and continues through Sunday, May 26. Museum exhibitions and educational programs are sponsored in part by The Stuart Society, and the Tampa Bay Times is the Media Sponsor.

The major themes include transportation, commerce, disaster, and community. Both documentary and fine art photographs are on view. The earliest image is an albumen print, Panorama of Paris (1852) by Edouard Baldus, one of the great photographers of architecture and monuments.

In fact, the exhibition has a number of albumen prints, one of the first photographic processes, as well as two striking cyanotypes, with their blue cast, of The Paris Exposition of 1900 by Albert Levy. The most recent image is Garry Winogrand’s famous 1970 photograph of people gathering in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, from his series Women are Beautiful.

Photographing the City was developed by graduate students at the University of South Florida in a fall 2012 seminar. Katherine Bussard, Associate Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, was the instructor. She was the Eminent Guest Scholar, Kennedy Family Artists-in-Residence Endowment. Half of the classes were taught at the Museum, and many of the images are drawn from The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection, now numbering more than 14,000 works. Photographing the City is the fourth exhibition based on this impressive collection.

“The Museum of Fine Arts has become a center for the display and study of photography, thanks to major donors,” said Director Kent Lydecker. “We always encourage the community to take advantage of this vast educational resource. The students in the seminar made new discoveries about the photographs, and their research is now available to our visitors through this engaging exhibition.”

History comes alive through images of storefronts and factories, railroads and bridges, street scenes from cities like New York and Paris, and urban disasters like the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, which resonate with our own like hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. The presence of people is felt even in the photographs of buildings and sites alone.

Many of the photographs depict the rise of cities, both at home and abroad. Clark Blickensderfer’s pictorialist Arteries of Industry (1920) conveys a country on the move through factories and the railroad. The city and modernism are intertwined, which is suggested in Berenice Abbott’s El, 2nd and 3rd Avenue Lines (1936) and her stunning New York at Night (1933). Photographs by Aaron Siskind and Walter Rosenblum capture the growing diversity of the modern city, in this case, New York.

The city is comprised of details and moments, of crowds and isolation. It can be skyscrapers or storefronts. It can be devastation and beauty. The vivid images in Photographing the City tell fascinating parts of that story.

Image of old New York from Wallpaperwide.com. Click on it above for the big version.

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