Posts Tagged 'photography'

Finding Yourself at the DMA

As an art museum educator, I live for the tales of visitors who have had meaningful, inspirational, life-changing experiences in museums—perhaps because it was exactly this kind of personal experience that propelled me down the career path I’ve taken. Working in the Center for Creative Connections (C3), a participatory educational space for visitors of all ages, I have the privilege of hearing these kinds of statements often; however, a few months back I was surprised to hear from a visitor who literally found herself in a photograph by Geoff Winningham currently on view in the C3.

Geoff Winningham (artist), The Cronin Gallery (publisher), U.T. Cheerleaders, negative 1972, print 1976, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Prestonwood National Bank 1981.36.6

During a Late Night event, Laura was walking through C3 with her husband when they both stopped dead in their tracks as they walked by the photograph. “I think that’s you,” her husband stated. “I know it’s me!” Laura exclaimed.

I had so many questions for her. What was it like seeing yourself in a work of art in a museum? Did you know this photograph existed or that you were being photographed at the time? Can you recall the other cheerleaders in the photograph? Luckily, Laura was happy to meet up to discuss her experience.

As you might imagine, Laura was quite surprised to see a photo of her college-age self in the Museum. As a University of Texas cheerleader, she was aware they were photographed in action from time to time—once her image ended up as part of the opening montage of ABC’s Wide World of Sports for a full year—but she never imagined she would make it into a work of art in the DMA’s collection. Laura is uniquely well versed in the DMA collection, but until recently she had never seen this photograph before. Not only is Laura a DMA Member, but she was also part of the PM Docent class for five years, starting with the charter class under the leadership of Gail Davitt.

Both the University of Texas and the Dallas Museum of Art have loomed large in Laura’s life, but she never imagined that the two worlds would collide. In fact, UT Cheer isn’t just a distant memory as Laura regularly attends the Cheer Reunions and keeps in touch with fellow cheerleaders, including some of those captured alongside her in Winningham’s photograph. In the image below, the woman on the far right is the same woman on the far left of the UT Cheerleaders photograph by Winningham.

Now that Laura knows of the existence of this photograph, she comes back to visit it from time to time. She was also keen to meet the photographer, Geoff Winningham, and looked him up immediately to learn more about him and his work. Fortunately, Winningham was at the DMA in April to lead a Gallery Talk about the series this photograph is part of—A Texas Dozen.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Freeze Frame

It’s hard to believe, but we’re in the final week of the celebrated exhibition Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty. Prior to the show’s opening in April of this year, Allison V. Smith, photographer and granddaughter of Stanley Marcus, shared with the DMA Member magazine, Artifacts, her first encounter with the work of Irving Penn and the impact of his legacy.  Read about her experience below, and discover the work of Irving Penn for the first time or for the hundredth time through Sunday with buy one get on free exhibition tickets offered every day.

One of the Real Greats
By Allison V. Smith
Original publish date: Artifacts Spring–Summer 2016

Irving Penn’s name is synonymous with beauty in fashion photography. So it’s no surprise that in 1990 my grandfather Stanley Marcus gave me, a young, passionate photographer, a signed copy of Issey Miyake’s catalogue photographed by Irving Penn. An enclosed handwritten Post-it note read:
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 11.05.25 AM
“Dear Allie— Penn, in my opinion, is the greatest of the fashion photographers and perhaps one of the real greats of the 20th century. Are you friends with him?”

I wasn’t, but I quickly took the time to educate myself.

Penn’s prolific photographic career spanned seventy years, and in this time he managed to merge the lines between fashion and fine art. His first cover for Vogue magazine was published in 1943, and he would shoot at least 150 more.

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn’s assignments ranged from shooting striking models in designer dresses on location in Paris, to contemporary still lifes of familiar objects, to the simple “corner portraits” of artists that included Salvador Dalí and Truman Capote. These portraits were made sometime in 1948 in a constructed corner in his studio. The sitter embraced the corner, demonstrating his or her own personality and making the static background Penn chose into a private stage. Dalí fills the frame in a confident pose, with both arms placed firmly on his knees. Capote kneels on a chair, wearing an oversized tweed jacket and looking directly at the photographer. It’s hard to tell whether he’s feeling vulnerable or safe.

Irving Penn, Truman Capote, New York, 1979, printed 1983, silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Truman Capote, New York, 1979, printed 1983, silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn wrote in Passage: A Work Record about this process: “This confinement, surprisingly, seemed to comfort people, soothing them. The walls were a surface to lean on or push against. For me the picture possibilities were interesting; limiting the subjects’ movement seemed to relieve me of part of the problem of holding on to them.”

Working for Vogue, Penn had the dream job of traveling the world photographing portraits of everyday people—artisans and blue-collar workers in Paris and London, a gypsy community in Spain, and the tribes of New Guinea. Penn approached all of his portraits with the same respect and elegance as he did in posing a model in Paris or an Issey Miyake design.

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn’s photographs are subtle and sophisticated, often finding his subjects against a blank backdrop. His meticulous flowers are a study of visual rhythm. His nudes, whom he shot on countless rolls of film on his Rolleiflex camera between 1949 and 1950, went largely unseen until 1980. He closely examined the shapes of models of all sizes. The results were about form and less about nakedness.

A prolific photographer and a technical master, he made personal work throughout his life, including his early photographs of shop window displays, and later cigarette butts, smashed cups, and chewing gum. These simple photos of litter experimented with different photographic processes, such as platinum and palladium, giving them a rich quality—and also leaving an indelible mark on me.

Allison V. Smith is an editorial and fine art photographer based in Dallas. In 2008, the DMA presented “Reflection of a Man: The Photography of Stanley Marcus,” a retrospective of photographs taken by the department store magnate and produced by Smith and her mother, Jerrie Smith.

 

In-House Photography

It has been a few years since the DMA has hosted a photography exhibition, and it has been a real treat to present Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty—the artist’s first retrospective in 20 years and the first since his death. While Penn is well known for his work in fashion and portraiture for magazines like Vogue, the exhibition also features some of his lesser-known, personal work, like his street photographs and a series of nudes.

In celebration of National Photography Month, we sauntered down to the studios of the three DMA staff photographers—Chad Redmon, Ira Schrank, and Jerry Ward—for their take on the exhibition.

Chad Redmon, Assistant Photographer, Digital Media at the DMA

Chad Redmon, Assistant Photographer, Digital Media, at the DMA

Ira Schrank, Digital Collection Photographer at the DMA

Ira Schrank, Digital Collection Photographer at the DMA

Jerry Ward, Collection Photographer at the DMA

Jerry Ward, Collection Photographer at the DMA

On their own work
Chad: The piece that was in the DMA staff art show last year was a pretty good example of my work: I cut a hole and my arm was reaching through, taking a picture. It was a trompe-l’œil, speculative space. I like to play with your expectations of looking at photographs, something that would obviously not actually happen in real time. People have to take a second look at it, even if I’m standing next to them.

Ira: I shoot landscapes mostly. But I’ve also done environmental portraits. I’ll use backdrops to hide the background, or take the environment out, not quite like Penn; I didn’t try to have one specific look. I often use either paper or fabrics to isolate the things I shoot. To a photographer, it enables you to really look at what it is you are looking at, without letting the world cloud it.

Jerry: I’m a commercial photographer; this is my first museum job. My background is in sports, food, and journalism—mostly ads and billboards. I was a Saints team photographer when I was younger. So if it moves, I can capture it.

On their familiarity with Penn:
Chad: I saw an Irving Penn show at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. in 1988, when I was a freshman at art school. I saw that show 20 times. I went over and over again. I even bought the book, which was one of the first coffee table books I ever bought, and I still have it to this day.

Ira: I’m really fine art oriented, but of all the commercial photographers, he is my favorite.

On their favorite work in the show
Chad: Willie Mays, jumping up. It looks like he’s flying like Superman. It’s not an often-seen photograph. It’s one of the few actually manipulated. He took a photo from a long way away of Willie Mays in action, cut him out of whatever background he was on, and stuck him on a field of white. It doesn’t look like anything else in the show.

Ira: I don’t really have a favorite. There is so much different work. He is all over. The early work that he’s done, where he is an editorial photographer, I love those. But those are so different. It’s hard to see how he goes from those pictures—like traveling around the South—to how he got to his studio work. I guess his experience of being an artist in New York got him from point A to point B.

Jerry: The lady with the martini (Woman in Dior Hat with Martini (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), New York, 1952). It’s really high contrast. And it’s cool how the martini works in the glass. And I like food stuff, since I’ve shot food.

On Penn’s most interesting body of work
Chad: I like the portraits of intellectuals crammed in corners, on scaffolding, and what not. It’s really egalitarian the way he took portraits. He would take that mobile studio to North Africa and take pictures of the locals. It looked basically like the set he would shoot fashion people in in New York. It highlights the differences between the people, but it also highlights the similarities between them. It divorces them from the background to such a degree that you have to see the similarities and differences immediately.

Ira: I love the raw backgrounds, which allow the photographic process to show. His portable studio, in a way, cancels out the environment, and he can just engage in his process. And he took the portable studio everywhere, to South America, Africa.

Jerry: I like the food and the American South section. I’m from New Orleans—so, the old barber shop and the people outside. You still see those signs at home. It’s familiar.

On what’s surprising
Chad: I had never seen any of the early street photography. I don’t like it very much. There’s nothing exceptional about them to me, but seeing them doesn’t take the shine off of the rest of his work. It’s good to know that he grew into his aesthetic, as opposed to just arriving fully realized.

Ira: No surprises. But what makes so many of his pictures work so well is that he isolates them. None of the sets are fancy—sometimes it’s torn-up carpet turned upside down. It’s interesting that in our show, when you turn the corner and enter into that newer, color work, it doesn’t quite work in the same way. To me, there is a big difference between what looked like commercial work and his art, which is what we all respond to. Like that work when you walk in [to the exhibition]. What a spectacular photograph.

Jerry: What’s surprising is that Penn would go out and do it his own way. But a lot of [commercial] photographers buckle under to the art director. It’s pretty obvious that Penn was so great that they let him run free. They didn’t tie him up with an art director. The collaboration looked like this: Penn, and-oh yeah-there is an art director, as opposed to, an art director and-oh yeah-there’s a photographer pushing a button. As a commercial guy, that is really cool.

Thanks, Chad, Ira, and Jerry for your insight! Come celebrate National Photography Month with a visit to the DMA this May.

Andrea Severin Goins is Head of Interpretation at the DMA.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,358 other followers

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photo Stream

More Photos