Portrait of Humanity is a new global initiative in partnership with Magnum Photos, seeking to prove that there is more that unites us than sets us apart. Through the power of photography, we want to portray the unity of human beings around the world, by inviting photographers to capture the many faces of humanity. There has been only one exhibition that has sought to spread a similar message on this scale before, and that was Family of Man, which toured the world for eight years in the 1950s. In 1955, almost a decade into the Cold War, and as anxiety was building surrounding the possibility of a catastrophic Nuclear War, Edward Steichen, the director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Photography, decided to take on a momentous challenge; to create a photography exhibition showing the “essential oneness of mankind.” Calling for images taken by photographers across the world, Steichen’s aim was to build a visual manifesto of peace. First shown at MoMA in New York (US), the exhibition then toured the world for eight …
Those who have had the pleasure of ambling along the corridors of the 17th-century building at the heart of the museum district in Kensington, London, will recall the Victoria and Albert Museum’s high ceilings and impressive galleries, with polished floors and walls adorned with historical oil canvases, all connected by staircases embellished with intricate mosaics.
Climbing one such stairwell in a far corner of the building, you surface to face two tall, fudge-brown doors with shiny handles. The pair of robust glass cabinets framing these doors are currently empty, but will soon be packed with some 300 cameras and image-making devices. To one side, a long wooden table will be laden with models of some of the first cameras – a large format perched on a tripod, a Rolleiflex, a camera obscura and 35mm camera. Visitors will be invited to play around and put themselves in the shoes of the photographers who used these devices, pausing to peek through the lenses and take note of this new way of looking and constructing an image of the world on the other side. It is a sculptural array of the golden age of photography, the grand entrance to the new photography centre, opening its first phase to the public on 12 October.
Marking the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest signed by King Henry III, and corresponding with the launch of the 2017 Charter for Trees, Woods and People, the V&A’s new display Into The Woods: Trees in Photography, celebrates the significance of trees in the work of photographers across the world and throughout history.
The exhibition is comprised of works from the V&A’s permanent collection as well as photographs recently transferred from the Royal Photographic Society ahead of their rehousing in the museum’s new Photography Centre in 2018. Curated by Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A, Into The Woods began as an impulse – “I just like trees!” – but gradually revealed itself to be the germ of a great idea.
If you type “Paul Outerbridge” into a Google image search it doesn’t take long before work by other photographers turns up – images by contemporaries, such as Edward Weston, but also by successive generations of photographers who’ve been inspired by his work. The feminist Jo Ann Callis explicitly referenced Outerbridge’s nudes in her 1970s work, for example; in contemporary photography, the new wave of still life photography championed by image-makers such as Bobby Doherty and Grant Cornett references his work, especially his lurid use of colour. Outerbridge’s striking photography comes in and out of fashion, as it did in his own lifetime, but, nearly 100 years on, somehow still retains a contemporary edge.