Exhibit | The Photography Show, Presented by AIPAD
Photo: Bobby Johnson. Untitled, ca. 1990. Color photo paper. 3 1/2 × 5 in, 8.9 × 12.7 cm, courtesy of Harper’s Books.
Celebrating its 36 edition, The Photography Show was held ar the Park Avenue Armory, New York, in April 2016. Presented by The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), the show is the longest-running and foremost exhibition dedicated to the photographic medium. Featuring 86 of the leading photography galleries around the world, The Photography Show offered an incredible cross section of work ever produced. Contemporary, modern, and nineteenth-century photographs filled the walls, while photo-based art, video, and new media offered new ways of exploring the form.
The Photography Show wasa a delight to stroll, each gallery offering their own vantage point. In the plush environs of the Armory, the works hum and vibe, creating a resonant symphony featuring some of photography’s highest highs. Then there’s the price point, posted frequently. If you’re a collector it’s easily a slippery slope into a wonderland filled with infinite possibility. Photography offers something for everyone possessed by the power of sight to watch a single moment over and over again. The stillness of the image holds a compelling truth: we want to freeze time so that the moment never ends.
Eve, 2015, by Ysabel LeMay at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, did this magically. Here we enter a fantastical world, one that exists in the mind and is made manifest. The photograph as landscape is among some of the most compelling work, as it evokes a world that exists outside of the walls. But we mount the photograph like a trophy and take solace in the oasis it offers us.
On the other side of the coin, we found Sarah Anne John’s Zombie Dance, 2015 at Julie Saul Gallery, New York. Here the manipulation shows another way in which photography works, to transform reality by playing with our perception of color and light, revealing how quickly the mundane takes on surreal overtones. Once again the photograph provoked a response to its uncanny ability to be at once familiar and foreign at the same time.
Witness Steve Schapiro’s work at Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, which included a recently rediscovered photograph of David Bowie taken during a break in filming “The Man Who Fell to Earth” in New Mexico, back in 1975. As Schapiro observed, “I’ve found things I hadn’t expected because I’ve gotten transparencies I didn’t have back from Bowie and the record people. They were photographs I’ve never seen or don’t remember.”
In keeping with the theme of buried treasures unearthed, The Family Acid’s Joan Didion in Berkeley, 1972, at Benrubi Gallery, New York, was an absolutely delight. Photographer Roger Steffens’ children Kate and Devon, began going through their father’s archive of more than 40,000 Kodakchrome slides, hundreds of thousands of black and white and color negatives. The Steffens began publishing the work on Instagram under the name The Family Acid. The majority of the work had never been seen before, and the prints did it right. The lush and lascivious color of Kodakchrome film shone with a the patina of past and you could hear the strains of Bowie singing “Golden Years” somewhere in your ear.
Christopher Makos’ Portraits of An Era, Polaroid Collage #1, 1975–1984 at Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles made an immediate impression, as Polaroids are known to do. The collage featured 81 portraits, originally made as SX-70 Polaroids from some of Makos’ most memorable shoots, reminding us of the way in which Polaroids acted the warm up act. There’s a sense of casual glamour that pervades every frame. It’s the beauty of the penultimate moment, before the main event. It’s everything you want it to be—and more. It’s everyone from Andy Warhol to OJ Simpson, Man Ray to Tom Ford. Throw in Halson, JFK Jr., and Peter Beard and it feels like a Love Boat cruise to Fantasy Island.
And then there’s Bobby Johnson, whose archive is now represented by Harper’s Books, East Hampton, NY. Johnson was a founding member of the Crips. His photographs date from the 1970s through the early ‘90s, and provided a distinct vantage point, that of someone true to the game and living the life. There’s a profound sense of truth and integrity in the work that reads a visual autobiography.
For fans and collectors alike, The Photography Show is the greatest show on earth. There’s something for anyone who could spend the day looking at photographs.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.