29 December 2011.
It’s always gratifying and enlightening to discover “new” photographers. I saw for the first time photographs by Fred Lyon, Fan Ho, and Francesca Woodman, even though their work has been around for some time.
After feasting on dim sum in Oakland, we waddled onto a BART train to head across the Bay and into the City. The first stop was 49 Geary. How had I not discovered these galleries in previous visits to San Francisco? After roaming through a couple of galleries, we arrived at the Modernbook Gallery, where I learned about Fred Lyon and Fan Ho.
Fourth-generation San Francisco native Fred Lyon photographed a diverse set of subjects including work with the U.S. Navy, advertising, design, fashion, food, travel, and wine. His photos of people and daily life provide a portrait of San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s, as published in “San Francisco Then”. You can discover his work here, here, or with a short 3-minute video here.
Based out of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and California, Fan Ho is a long-time photographer, actor, and director. Mostly self-taught, he photographed people and daily life in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. At the risk of overusing the phrase, one look at Fan Ho’s work may remind you of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the “decisive moment”; it’s about being patient and about being at the right place at the right time.
We made the short walk to the Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) where we witnessed the photographic work by Francesca Woodman. I think her work is amazing, but two obvious questions arise:
- Is my impression of her work coloured by her suicide?
- Would we have even heard of or known about her work?
There are no easy answers. The SFMOMA’s own description of the exhibit reads:
SFMOMA: Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) was an artist decisively of her time, yet her photographs retain an undeniable immediacy. Thirty years after her death, they continue to inspire audiences with their dazzling ambiguities and their remarkably rich explorations of self-portraiture and the body in architectural space. This retrospective, the first in the United States in more than two decades, explores the complex body of work produced by the young artist until her suicide at age 22. Together with Woodman’s artist books and videos, the photographs on view form a portrait of an artist engaged with major concerns of her era — femininity and female subjectivity, the nature of photography — but devoted to a distinctive, deeply personal vision.
ArtInfo has a story here, and the SF Gate/The Chronicle also writes about the exhibition.
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