In terms of history and photography, 1938 was a significant year. With Germany’s annexation of Austria, the Munich Agreement, the November Pogrom and the Évian Conference, which addressed the international response to the refugee crisis, it was a decisive point in time, with repercussions that would shape generations to come. It was also the year that six iconic photographers, who would document this shifting world, were born. This spring, the occasion will be honoured with a special celebration at the Sprengel Museum Hannover, titled 1938. Birthday Party with Guests. Initiated to commemorate the 80th anniversary of German photographer Heinrich Riebesehl, whose archive is housed at the museum, the exhibition evolved into a wider historical survey that sketches an international perspective on the second half of the 20th century. Joining Riebesehl are Johan van der Keuken, Josef Koudelka, Boris Mikhailov, Daido Moriyama and Helga Paris. For curator Inka Schube, this wave of artists born in 1938 represents a very particular generation: those who experienced the Second World War as children, too young to remember much more than playing in its rubble but growing up in the world it created.
When New York’s Museum of Modern Art first introduced its New Photography series, it did so to locate contemporary work in a dedicated space, often providing the selected image-makers with the opportunity to get their foot in that most revered of doors. The inaugural exhibition opened in August 1985, curated by the late, great John Szarkowski, and over the following 32 years, these shows have remained true to their moniker, tracking some of the most exciting developments in new photography in its myriad forms – be that in books, on screens, in posters or through zines. As the years brought evolved types of media, it fed artists’ appetites both for new ideas and for fresh means by which to execute them. MoMA’s latest instalment, Being: New Photography 2018 (18 March–19 August), is a deft demonstration of how effectively such collections can reflect a moment in contemporary consciousness. Being presents 17 artists working in photo-based media around the world, and “all the works in the exhibition take on charged and layered notions of personhood and subjectivity,” explains Lucy Gallun, its curator and the assistant curator of MoMA’s department of photography.