A new exhibition considers the relativity of photographic taste, and how something that is a mistake for one generation may become a success for the next
When approaching Mathieu Pernot’s 20-year-spanning work on a Roma family settled in southern France, you should leave all misconceptions and prejudices aside, as he did, and read the introduction to Les Gorgan, the photobook published by Editions Xavier Barral to accompany his critically-acclaimed exhibition at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles festival. When he began, the French photographer writes, he didn’t know anything about the Gorgan family, nor was he aware that its members had been living in France for over a century. It was to be a transformative experience, one that led Pernot to witness the birth of a child for the first time, attend funerals and engage in a type of intimacy that only time and surrender can offer.
“There are two important things about this show,” says Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “First, the quantity of work – more than 300 photographs, quite a large selection, because we were able to get support from most of the big institutions – MOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and so on, and private collections from around the world. Second, is the fact that it is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Usually when you look at important retrospectives they are chronological, but we organised by theme because we wanted to organise it around Evans’ passion for the vernacular. He was fascinated with vernacular culture.”
With 40 books and 20 exhibitions to his name, a doctorate in art history from Panthéon Sorbonne, 10 years teaching the history of photography, and another decade as curator at the Pompidou, Frenchman Clément Chéroux is the ideal replacement for the legendary Sandra Phillips at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. BJP caught up with him in an interview first published in issue #7853 The work of a curator functions on a principle of association between images and ideas. The greatest pleasure is when you introduce a tension between these two poles and a spark appears. I worked at the Centre Pompidou for 10 years. It is an extraordinary place, located in the heart of Paris and in the heart of people. It will stay in mine. I am very excited to discover San Francisco, its people, its sun and its fog. I will miss the gargoyles up on the Saint-Jacques tower that I used to greet every morning on my way to work. Photography is not merely a passion. It’s a life. I met photography on …