On the Wall: December 2014

The month's best photography exhibitions

Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY | Dec. 13 - April 26, 2015 | moma.org This image is by German photographer Will Ruge: "Seconds before Landing," from the series I Photograph Mysem during a Parachute Jump_. See our review of the exhibition by Tema Stauffer below._© Will Ruge—Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, Thomas Walther Collectionl, gift of Thomas Walther
Mario Testino: Alta Moda Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, TX | through Dec. 22, 2014 | dallascontemporary.org Best known for his celebrity and fashion images, Testino takes a different approach to "high fashion" in portraits of Peruvians adorned in traditional festive dress in south­ eastern Peru. Inspired by the archives of the late Martin Chambi, one of Latin America's first indigenous photog­raphers, Testino's striking studies of men and women fuse fashion, art, and ethnography.© Mario Testino
The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, & L.A., 1960-1980 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL | through Jan. 22, 2015 | artic.edu This show explores the transformation of America's three larg­est cities during two seminal decades through varied media—street photos, planning docu­ments, artist books, slide shows—to trace urban life in a state of unrest and flux.Gift of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Gordon Parks: The Segregation Story High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA | through June 7, 2015 | high.org An exhibition about U.S. racial inequality spotlights color photos shot by Parks for a 1956 Life magazine photo­ essay, "The Restraints: Open and Hidden," investigating the activities and rituals of three related African­ American families in segregated Alabama. Many images are on view for the first time after surfacing in 2012. The untitled image above was made in 1956.© The Gordon Parks Foundation
Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA | through Feb. 16, 2015 | cmoa.org The most comprehensive retrospective of Michals's work to date, this exhibition ranges from celebrity portraits to rarely seen experiments, from commercial work to masterful narrative sequences. See our extensive interview with Michals from last month.© Duane Michals—The Henry L. Hillman Fund
Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness George Eastman House, Rochester, NY | through Jan. 4, 2015 | eastmanhouse.org Produced between 2005 and 2010, Burley's photographs bear witness to the rapid demise of film-manufacturing facilities and industrial darkrooms as the digital technology radically alters the photographic industry in the 21st century. See our feature on the work from last month.© Robert Burley—Courtesy of the Ryerson Image Centre/George Eastman House

In photography, modern work is a moving target. During the first half of the 20th century, photogra­phers experimented with radical new approaches to representation and abstraction to shape modern­ist imagery. Departing from the conventions of pictorialism, these photographs emphasized sharp focus, straightforward documenta­tion of modern life, and attention to formal qualities through the recognition of the camera as a mechanical and technological tool. In 2001 MoMA acquired more than 300 photographs of this era from the prolific photography collector Thomas Walther, who was born in Berlin and is based in New York City. These pieces became the focus of a collaboration between a group of international photography scholars and MoMA's departments of Photography and Conservation, and four years later their work has culminated in an expansive exhibition presented in the Edward Steichen Photog­raphy Galleries. It's accompanied by a hardcover publication, Object Photo: 1909–1949. On display are historic photographs by major figures such as Berenice Abbott, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and more than 100 other photo­graphers, including Will Ruge who leads the gallery above, providing a rich and complex overview of the period.
—Tema Stauffer on "Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection"