Colin Westerbeck

  • Charles Marville

    A hundred and twenty-five years ago, when the Haussmann renovations were under way, one person who was not sorry to see the working class evicted from Paris was Charles Marville. As Maria Morris Hambourg points out in her catalogue introduction, Marville’s motives for undertaking a documentation of the Old Paris that Haussmann was pulling down have long been confused with Eugène Atget’s motives for a similar project four decades later. Marville was not enamored of the old quarters as Atget was, nor do his photographs bathe his subjects in the peerless light of romanticism that Atget was so deft

  • Amy Bedik, “Fleeting Gestures”

    The most promising work in the Paris “Avant-Garde” show was by a young American named Amy Bedik, and when I moved on to London I found she was having a one-woman exhibition there. The London show of views done in Italy and Spain, was better than the work shown in Paris. Like Jacques Wendenbergh, Bedik has an eye for the interplay of light and space, and like him, too, she doesn’t trust her eye to be enough to make her photography distinctive. Just as he prints on too contrasty a paper, thereby sacrificing a lot of his image for a fake visual style, Bedik tricks up her work by using a Diana

  • Fionuala Boyd and Les Evans

    The Photographers Gallery isn’t London’s only game in town, though it might sometimes seem to be. Started in 1971, it is a private institution comparable to ICP. Since London wasn’t in the midst of a photo fete like the one in Paris, only a few other shows were on while I was there. That two of them were very good therefore seemed a pretty high rate of return on the time spent in galleries. If Amy Bedik’s show reminded me of Jacques Wendenbergh’s in certain ways, Les Evan’s and Fionuala Boyd ’s reminded me of Ken Snelson’s. A husband and wife who collaborate on Photo-Realist painting, Boyd and

  • Nigel Henderson, Peter Kennard

    The other show I liked was Nigel Henderson’s, of photographs taken 30 years ago when Henderson was an art student living in Bethnal Green, the working-class district where the Half Moon Gallery is now located. Like Ben Shahn in the 1930s, Henderson was willing to try for any and every kind of shot since it was only the imagery, not photography for its own sake, that attracted him. The result of this casual, amateur approach was to make the photographs more intense and moving. The other show at the Half Moon was probably more typical of the current photography encouraged by this photo cooperative,

  • Don McCullin, Jane Bown

    It was equally pointless to hang Don McCullin’s photo journalism in a museum. Detached from their social and journalistic context, McCullin’s assorted characters of blight and death become objets d’art whose beauty is reprehensible. The subjects of his photographs become as titilating and pleasant to look at as the celebrities in the informal portraits by The Observer’s Jane Bown, who is the Jill Krementz of England. English photography has always been dominated by its social (and class) consciousness. This is what produces photography like McCullin’s, Kennard’s and even Bown’s. But in the long

  • Charles Marville

    Last November was a municipally-sponsored “Mois de la Photo” in Paris, with about three dozen shows presented at two dozen locations ranging from major museums and private galleries to bookstores and Métro stations. Reasons given for this extraordinary honoring of photography varied, depending on who was speaking. Publicly, Mayor Jacques Chirac sounded a populist note (All Photography to the People!). Privately, one photographer I spoke with took a more skeptical view, pointing out that elections were coming up soon, some sort of glorious public celebration was needed, photography exhibitions

  • Julia Margaret Cameron

    Other shows of rare and interesting 19th-century material also seemed to be altered by their presentation. It was as if Heisenberg’s Principle—the hypothesis in physics that every phenomenon is disturbed by the way in which it is observed—applied to photography exhibitions. To get to the Julia Margaret Cameron show in Victor Hugo’s house, you first had to pass through a room full of Hugo’s own painting and drawing. Done while he was in exile on Guernsey, an island noted for boredom and mushrooms, Hugo’s art was remarkable for its hallucinogenic qualities. After those paintings, the photographs

  • Etienne-Jules Marey

    I haven’t begun to exhaust all the 19th-century shows that were worth looking at. Two exhibitions of scientific photographs—the Carnavalet’s of Etienne-Jules Marey pictures never seen before, and an exhibition of physiognomical photographs—were both “worth the trip,” as the Michelin guide would say. As you progressed into the 20th century, the gallery spaces and installations were sometimes better, but the shows themselves frequently weren’t.

    Colin Westerbeck

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Willy Ronis, Sabine Weiss, Luigi Comencini, Lucien Aigner, Gina Lollobrigida, George Hoyningen-Huene, Claude Sauvageot and Marie Ange Donzé

    This wasn’t the case with Henri Cartier-Bresson’s show, of course, though its size—more than 300 pictures—was overwhelming despite the familiarity of many of them. The few older pictures that hadn’t been seen before were often doubly interesting because they were not only good photographs, but also shed light on Cartier-Bresson’s life. Another Leica pioneer whose work has remained engaging is Andre Kertesz, who was on hand for the opening of his show, and who, at age 86, is as vigorous and garrulous as ever. In the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, however, slightly younger photographers softened and

  • Jacques Wendenbergh, Kenneth Snelson

    One of the few contemporary exhibitions that seemed to reflect a real passion for its subject was that of Jacques Wendenbergh, who has photographed in Provence for the last decade. His pictures of both crowds and space filled the frame powerfully, and his work gave evidence of the kind of instinct for light necessary for a truly original vision. Yet even this work often seemed to fall short of first-rate because it was printed on contrasty paper (Agfa #5?) which blew away backgrounds and otherwise simplified images, as if that would somehow simplify as well the social issues that interested

  • Diane Arbus, Lou Lanzano

    Lisette Model’s photography is more than a little perverse in its enjoyment of the ugliness and inadequacy in human experience. One Model photograph that has always seemed central is that of a voodoo doll large as a child and seated in a chair wearing a dress. The doll looks as if it’s alive, or was alive at one time, as if it were a mummy whose wrappings are coming undone. The photograph animates all the spookiness and malevolence in the world. The photographs appear to have an attitude toward human nature that can only be described in the language of neurosis. It is a form of “attraction-repulsion,”

  • Lucien Aigner, Dan Weiner

    Just as Model was a mentor for Arbus and Lanzano, so might LUCIEN AIGNER have been for DAN WEINER. Aigner came to photography in a peculiar way. An Eastern European journalist freelancing in Paris in the ’20s, Aigner was having trouble with the language barrier, and the camera seemed a natural way to hurdle it. Since he had none of the predispositions of the professional press photographer, he bought one of the new Leicas instead of the press camera that was customary. In those days the photographers with their big, bulky cameras were restricted to the gallery at press conferences and other