Simon Bainbridge, editorial director of the British Journal of Photography, picks out the projects that most caught his eye in 2018 – including The Anarchist Citizenship, a collaboration between Nadine Stijns, Amal Alhaag and Mustafa Saeed
The Parisian curator Quentin Bajac has spent the past two decades working in three of the world’s leading cultural destinations – starting out at the Musée d’Orsay, he moved to Centre Pompidou, and then the most coveted post of all, chief curator of photography at MoMA in New York. Here he shares his insights into photography and life with BJP editorial director Simon Bainbridge
Quentin Bajac is leaving the coveted role of chief curator of photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for a new job in Paris – director of the Jeu de Paume. He succeeds Marta Gili at the Jeu de Paume, who announced in June that she would resign as the museum’s director after 12 years in the role. MoMA has stated that it will “immediately launch a search for a new chief curator of photography”, a role first made famous by John Szarkowski from 1962 to 1991.
Tate Modern’s show Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art includes over 300 works by more than 100 artists, making it the first show of this scale to trace abstract art and photography’s parallel development. On show from 2 May to 15 October, the exhibition spans from early experiments of the 1900s to digital innovations of the present day, examining how photographers through the years have responded to the emerging field of abstract art. It places pioneering work such as Alvin Langdon Coburn’s Vortographs (1917) and Imogen Cunningham’s Triangles (1928) alongside iconic paintings and sculptures by the likes of George Braque and Jackson Pollock.
When she was a teenager, Ohio-based artist Carmen Winant discovered a collection of photo albums filled with pictures of her mother giving birth to her three children. “It was an amazing and slightly terrifying feeling to witness myself being born [in 1983],” she recalls. In 2016, Winant became a mother herself, and noticing a lack of visual work about the experience of giving birth, was moved to produce her own series. “Though it is so common, there is nothing normal about birth,” she says. “I wanted to create a visual, pictorial language that might contribute towards a greater, and more nuanced, understanding.” The resulting installation at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) and the coinciding book, My Birth, incorporate her mother’s photographs of herself giving birth and found imagery of anonymous women undergoing the same experience, as well as a written piece by Winant exploring the shared yet solitary ownership of the experience of birth. Presented chronologically, the images trace the process of labour and birth from the earliest contractions to the breastfeeding of …
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.
Photography is often considered a solitary pursuit, but the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) in Toronto, Canada hopes to overturn this conception with a research project led by artists, scholars, and curators such as Ariella Azoulay, Wendy Ewald, Susan Meiselas, Leigh Raiford, and Laura Wexler. Now an exhibition at RIC called Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography is putting their work on view. Featuring approximately 90 photographic projects the work on show demonstrates some of the many ways photographers have collaborated with their subjects and other participants. It includes Wendy Ewald’s Reciprocating in Arabic installation, which combines image and text in an attempt to show the experience of walking through the Arabic language, and WEB Du Bois’ The Potential of the Archive I, a look into the history and present challenges of black America, among many other projects.
It would be an understatement to say that the legacy of Gyula Halász – better known by his pseudonym, Brassaï – has been the object of extensive research and countless curatorial projects. Yet the Fundación Mapfre, the private institution that has shown the highest devotion to photography in Spain, has entrusted Peter Galassi, the former chief curator of photography at Museum of Modern Art, to conduct what will probably be the definitive exhibition about the Hungarian-French photographer at its Barcelona gallery, the Garriga i Nogués exhibition hall (19 February to 13 May). The exhibition could be considered to be Galassi’s biggest curatorial endeavour so far since he retired from MoMA, and the catalogue, published by Fundación Mapfre, can attest to the pertinence of this major survey of Brassaï.
London’s Hayward Gallery is reopening with a huge Andreas Gursky retrospective on 25 January, celebrating its 50th anniversary and its return after a comprehensive two-year refurbishment. The first major retrospective of the acclaimed German photographer in the UK, Andreas Gursky will include around 60 of images from the 1980s to the present day. Focusing on man-made structures and large gatherings of people. Gursky’s images draw attention to our changing relationship with the natural world, and chronicle the effects of globalisation on daily life; his subjects range from a crowded techno music festival in Germany (May Day IV, 2000/2014), to an underground water tank in the Kamioka Nucleon Decay Experiment in Japan (Kamiokande, 2007), in which a boat glides amid a gold-studded interior. “I only pursue one goal,” he has said, “the encyclopedia of life”.
100 works by legendary fashion and portrait photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe are going on show at The Fashion and Textile Museum from 20 October-21 January 2018. A Style Of Her Own features over 100 photographs shot from 1931-59, celebrating work that helped define the image of the modern, independent woman, and inspired photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Born in San Francisco in 1895 to Norwegian parents, Dahl-Wolfe studied art history and design at the San Francisco Art Institute, taking up photography in 1921 and going professional in 1930 after meeting Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. A leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar between 1936 and 1958 (where she worked extensively with influential editor Carmel Snow, fashion director Diana Vreeland, and designer Alexey Brodovitch), Dahl-Wolfe is credited with having invented the idea of the ‘supermodel’, and creating distinctive styles for models such as Suzy Parker, Jean Patchett, Barbara Mullen, Mary Jane Russell and Evelyn Tripp. She is said to have kickstarted actress Lauren Bacall’s Hollywood career, after shooting her for a Bazaar cover in 1943.