Exhibition: ‘Photography: New Documentary Forms’

Yesterday I made the time to visit Tate Modern’s ‘Photography: New Documentary Forms‘ exhibition.  This features the work of

The exhibition was extremely busy, it being New Year’s bank  holiday, and so I kept the notes that I made brief.

I found Epstein’s ‘American Power’ to be the most interesting work on display.  Made over 2003-2008 Epstein explores the many potential meanings and implications of ‘American power.  A dedicated website, http://whatisamericanpower.com, explores this further. I particularly liked the design of the image ‘Gavin Coal Power Plant, Cheshire, Ohio, 2003’ in which the smoke dominates the image area and the two ‘small’ chimney areas are pushed to the edge of the frame.  The inclusion of images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina made the telling point that manmade power pales into insignificance against natural phenomena.  Note that if you suffer from motion sickness then don’t spend too long surfing the images on the whatisamericanpower.com site – it’s full of unnecessary and gimmicky movement.

I also rated Guy Tillin’s work highly – his image ‘Presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba enters a stadium in central Kinshasha flanked by his bodyguards, July 2006‘ juxtaposing the threatening rear view of the shaven headed, broad shouldered candidate with the sinister looking bodyguard facing the opposite direction.  Not all of the images on display had the power of this particular image but a strong overall selection.

Interestingly, Boris Mikhailov’s work generated the greatest crowds and longest queues.  A row of around 13 small, (c12″ x 6″),  blue toned images led to a text by Mikhailov describing his experience of bombings in 1941.  Lines such as ‘more people are dying than being born’ reflect the bleak desperation of the times and the later images.  A later Mikhailov project dominated the remaining walls of this particular gallery.  A wall of many many unframed images of Russian lifer were unified by the colour red which appeared in each of the images in many forms.  One of the strongest examples I have seen of unifying a series in such a way.

Luc Delahaye’s work is carefully considered in this review by The Guardian and so I won’t attempt to add more other than that personally, it reminded me strongly of the work of Simon Norfolk.

Finally, Akran Zaahari’s work was essentially an archive of black and white portraits – some with very sad stories attached to them.  Zaatari is an artist and he used the archive of a studio photographer, Hashem el Madani.  Perhaps the crowds got the better of me but, yesterday at least, this work didn’t appeal greatly.

All in all an interesting and worthwhile exhibition.  I found the small scale of the exhibition refreshing – you can give each piece of work the attention it deserves.


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