Larry Clark, Untitled, from the portfolio Tulsa, 1971, printed 1980; 20.32 x 30.48 cm; Collection SFMOMA; © Larry Clark
Thomas Demand, Camera, 2007, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York and Sprüth Magers Berlin London © Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / DACS, London.
Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Audience in the Palace Theater, c1943, © Weegee / International Center of Photography / Getty Images.
Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Their First Murder October 9, 1941, © Weegee / International Center of Photography / Getty Images.
Enrique Metinides, Secuencia rescate de un suicide en la cúpula el toreo (Suicide rescue from the top of the Toreo Stadium) (detail), 1971; six gelatin silver prints; dimensions variable; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Enrique Metinides.
Ron Galella, What Makes Jackie Run? Central Park, New York City, October 4, 1971; gelatin silver print; 7 3/8 x 9 7/8 in. (18.73 x 25.08 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Ron Galella, Ltd., courtesy the artist.
Abraham Zapruder, Assassination of John F. Kennedy, November 22 1963, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art © 1967 (Renewed 1995) The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. All Rights Reserved.
Laurie Long, Compact, from The Dating Surveillance Project, 1998, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art © Laurie Long.
Walker Evans, [Subway Passenger, New York], 1941; gelatin silver print; 12.07 x 14.61 cm; Collection SFMOMA, fractional and promised gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein; © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Shizuka Yokomizo, Stranger No. 2, 1999, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art © The artist.
Tom Howard, The Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, 1928; gelatin silver print; 10.16 x 10.16 cm; Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase.
Giuseppe Primoli (1851-1927), Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Rome, 1890.
Georges Dudognon, Greta Garbo in the Club St. Germai, ca. 1950s, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Members of Foto Forum, 2005.200 © Estate of Georges Dudognon.
Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Marilyn Monroe, c1950s, © Weegee / International Center of Photography / Getty Images.
Miroslav Tichý, Untitled, ca. 1950s-1980s; gelatin silver print and ink; 17.78 x 11.75 cm; Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Miroslav Tichý / Foundation Tichý Ocean.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
(between Mission and Howard Streets)
and the Camera since 1870
October 30, 2010-April 17, 2011
Facilitated and encouraged by the camera, voyeurism and surveillance provoke uneasy questions about who is looking at whom, whether for power or for pleasure. Voyeurism has long been acknowledged as an essential aspect of photography and represents its most common use.
Yet there have been surprisingly few attempts to examine the history of this invasive form of looking. Exposed aims to fill this critical void by highlighting five types of voyeuristic photographs: street photography; the sexually explicit pictures normally associated with voyeurism; celebrity stalking; photographs of death and violence; and surveillance in its many forms.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents the U.S. debut of a major survey that examines photography's role in invasive looking. Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera Since 1870 is co-organized by SFMOMA and Tate Modern, and gathers more than 200 pictures that together form a timely inquiry into the ways in which artists and everyday people alike have probed the camera's powerful voyeuristic capacity.
Works by major artists, including Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Nan Goldin, Lee Miller, Thomas Ruff, Paul Strand, and Weegee are presented alongside photographs made by amateurs, professional journalists, and governmental agencies, exploring the larger cultural significance of voyeurism and surveillance technology.
Conceived by SFMOMA Senior Curator of Photography Sandra S. Phillips and co-curated with Tate Curator of Photography Simon Baker, Exposed traces how voyeuristic observation with cameras in the 19th century influenced street photography in the 20th century.
Moving beyond typical notions of voyeurism and surveillance as strictly erotic or predatory, the presentation will address these concepts in their broadest sense — in both historical and contemporary contexts — investigating how new technologies, urban planning, global intelligence, celebrity culture, and an evolving media environment have fueled a growing interest in the subject.
With the proliferation of cell-phone cameras, YouTube videos, security cameras, reality television, satellite views, and infrared technology, our potential to spy on others seems increasingly boundless.
The exhibition tour begins at Tate Modern, London, in May of 2010. Following its stateside premiere at SFMOMA in the fall, Exposed travels to Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in spring 2011. The presentation draws from renowned private and museum collections worldwide, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives, and features a concentration of important works from SFMOMA's collection. Exposed is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with original essays that examine the surreptitious use of the camera in all walks of life.
"As the importance of photography has grown over time, and the art museum itself has become a place for investigating larger cultural issues, this seems an appropriate moment to look at these kinds of pictures to learn from them and to better know ourselves," says Phillips. She first conceived the project as a follow-up to her groundbreaking 1997 SFMOMA exhibition Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence, the first museum presentation to examine mug shots and other police photographs as cultural artifacts. Phillips continues, "The camera is now more adept at concealment, and we often feel protected because we are watched—a telling and relatively recent development. The spy who used to be consigned to the shadows and often called shady is now tolerated in the open and can, in fact, be you or me with a cell phone, even as we are being observed through a surveillance camera."
While Exposed focuses primarily on the medium of photography, the exhibition will also showcase examples of film, video, and installation work by artists such as Thomas Demand, Bruce Nauman, and Andy Warhol, selected by Phillips in collaboration with SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling. Exposed also features a selection of archival cameras that were designed to be concealed in artful ways, including models used by spies during the cold war.
Five Themes of Forbidden Looking
The Unseen Photographer
The first section of the exhibition considers ways in which photography can reveal the world unawares and show people caught with their guard down. This idea begins with the technologies that have allowed images to be made surreptitiously, from 19th-century cameras hidden in walking sticks, shoes or inside suit-jackets, to 20th-century devices such as the lateral view-finder which allows the photographer to apparently face one direction while taking a picture in another.
In the first room two sets of photographs from opposite ends of the 20th century are presented, both of which rely on specific equipment and strategies. Walker Evans's Subway Passengers were made on New York City underground trains in the 1930s with small hidden cameras, allowing Evans to record the natural, un-posed faces of the city’s inhabitants. Philip-Lorca diCorcia's Heads, by contrast, were taken on the streets of New York in 2000, also without their subjects' knowledge or permission, but this time through an elaborate series of hidden cameras and automatic flashes that were triggered as people walked past. One of his unwitting targets took legal action against diCorcia, which resulted in a landmark ruling that the artist's right to self-expression took precedence over the subject's right to their own image.
The Notion of the Unseen Photographer also extends to the practices of photographers that enable them to "capture" images stealthily or by surprise. Working in the slums of New York at the end of the 19th century, Jacob Riis's pictures of tenement dwellers include those sleeping or so tired and inebriated they are barely aware of him entering their rooms and setting off his bright flash bulb. Paul Strand used a false lens to photograph poor immigrants while seeming to point his camera the other way. Hired by the National Child Labor Committee, Lewis Hine's revelatory photographs of children working in mines and factories appear to show the subjects' awareness of the photographer, but were taken without the permission of the factory owners.
Some of the 20th century's most important photographers are also presented. In each case, they exploit the camera's ability to create images without the knowledge of some, or all, of their subjects. Ben Shahn used a lateral viewfinder to make candid street photographs. Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed people from above to great visual effect, while Lee Friedlander and Harry Callahan seem to sneak up on their subjects from behind. Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank's lightning-fast snapshots of street life suggest photography working faster than the eye to capture a split-second slice of real life. Winogrand liked to use an extra wide lens, so that people on the edges of his photographs wouldn’t have realised they were in the frame. Many of these photographers produced series of works on the same theme or in the same location, epitomised by Harry Callahan's sequence of images Women Lost in Thought, made in 1950.
Celebrity and the Public Gaze
The notion of celebrity as we know it today is inseparable from the invention of photography. By the 1860s, photographic studio portraits allowed notable figures to become instantly recognisable to the public. However, this period of controlled self-publicity was short-lived. Smaller, more portable cameras allowed for covert picture-taking during private moments, and faster shutter speeds opened up opportunities for capturing subjects off-guard. Whilst some famous figures have manipulated the medium to their advantage, the infringement of privacy represented by such photographs remains controversial.
As far back as the early 1880s, Italian photographer Giuseppe Primoli was taking impromptu snapshots of the rich and famous in embarrassing situations, such as artist Edgar Degas leaving a pissoir. One of the earliest figures to deliberately exploit the potential of the camera to construct a celebrity persona was the Countess of Castiglione, a Florentine noblewoman and courtesan. Aided by photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson, the Countess devised elaborate private fantasies to enact in front of the camera.
Some more recent icons have been less willing to invite the photographer's gaze. His intrusive photographs of Jackie Kennedy made Ron Galella one of the most notorious paparazzi, devoted to the candid image-taking of celebrities for publication in the press. The Italian word derives from "Paparazzo" a fictional news photographer in Fellini's film La Dolce Vita, whose real world equivalents, such as Tazio Secchiaroli and Marcello Geppetti, were famed for their relentless pursuit of film stars and other celebrities. The angry reactions of their targets are obvious from their hounded expressions and violent outbursts.
Contemporary photographer Alison Jackson has exploited the comic potential of this genre through her staged photographs of celebrity lookalikes. Jackson takes the candid picture to an extreme, picturing her "celebrities" in their most intimate moments.
Voyeurism and Desire
Sexual or erotic images have been made throughout the history of photography. This section includes photographs that gaze openly at willing subjects as well as those depicting illicit and intimate acts made without the knowledge or permission of their subjects. Many of these images seem to position the viewer in the role of a "peeping tom." At the same time, they pose difficult questions about who was looking and why, when the picture was made, and whether we should collude with, or reject, this point of view.
The fine line between art and eroticism was already present in the 1850s. Louis-Camille D'Olivier's photographs of female nudes were intended as exemplary images for art students to draw from, but they soon acquired a secondary value as images of erotic contemplation for their mostly male audience.
In the 20th century, this ambiguity was particularly associated with fashion photography, exemplified here by the work of Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton. Newton's Self-Portrait with Wife June and Models offers a master-class in fetishistic looking, complicating the play of gazes by a complex interior space within which his wife June occupies a prominent position.
In contrast to Newton's polished images, the photographs of Miroslav Tichý preserve the frisson of their production through their grainy, home-made feel. An eccentric, marginal figure, Tichý stalked the streets and swimming baths of his home town in provincial Czechoslovakia with hand-made cameras that none of the local people believed were real. The results surprised and stunned their subjects when they were shown many years later, offering an unnerving and strangely poetic record of a life on the outskirts of society.
The French pioneers of photography often supplemented their income by producing pornographic pictures printed on small stereo cards, which appeared as three-dimensional when viewed correctly. Respected artist and photographer Auguste Belloc used the false name "Billon" when he created a series of stereoscopic prints showing women with their skirts raised and legs apart. His contemporary Felix-Jacques Moulin was sentenced to a month in prison after the discovery of his obscene photography.
Surrealist photographer Jacques-André Boiffard's photographs of women in sadistic leather masks are precursors to Robert Mapplethorpe's pictures of fetishistic dress and sexual acts. Out in the open, figures such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassai and Weegee created images of lovers stealing intimate moments in public places. Data collected for the Kinsey Reports — a scientific study of sexual behaviour in post-war America — includes less skillful photographs of furtive couples.
Susan Meiselas described the strippers she photographed in the mid-1970s as "as close to a man's world as you can be". Following her lead, Merry Alpern surreptitiously photographed the comings and goings of a Wall Street brothel from a hideout across the street; while Cammie Toloui turned her gaze onto the audience whilst she worked as a stripper at the Lusty Lady Theatre in San Francisco.
When first shown in 1979 at the Komai Gallery, Tokyo, Kohei Yoshiyuki's series of photographs titled The Park were visible only by flashlight, as each visitor shone a torch over the pictures. As a young commercial photographer, Yoshiyuki uncovered a nocturnal phenomenon of Japanese park life. Whilst walking in Chuo Park in Shinjuku one night with a colleague, he noticed a couple on the ground, and then a number of men creeping towards them. The men were trying to get close enough to touch the bodies on the ground without being noticed. Yoshiyuki participated in the voyeuristic "sport" for several months before he started to document it using his 35mm camera and an infrared flash bulb. "To photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be considered one of them", he has said. "I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was not a real "voyeur" like them. But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer."
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a slide show (recently transferred to digital format) made up of hundreds of photographs taken by photographer Nan Goldin over nearly three decades. It documents the intimate lives of her friends, lovers and those she came into contact with in the bar scenes of New York and Boston. "There is a popular notion that the photographer is by nature a voyeur, the last one invited to the party", Goldin has said. "But I'm not crashing, this is my party. This is my family, my history."
The accompanying soundtrack includes songs by New York bands like The Velvet Underground, whose lyrics evoke themes explored within the photographs such as heterosexual and homosexual relationships, violence and addictive dependencies, domesticity and family roles, death and vulnerability. Picturing the photographer's friends and trusting acquaintances, the slides seem to invite us into a world that is universally human yet highly specific. The title of the work is taken from a song in Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera.
Photographs of violence produce paradoxical responses. On the one hand, the acknowledgement of the crime and confrontation with its gruesome effects is an admittance of the need for social improvement; on the other, repeated confrontation with such images may simply numb us to their shocking effects. Does photography allow us to bear witness to a victim's suffering, or does it anaesthetize us to the horror?
The photographs in this section show the human drive to witness and document violent events. Weegee's photographs of curious bystanders in New York depict their morbid fascination with death by unnatural causes. Different series from Italy, Mexico and South Africa all record the dramatic moments leading up to suicides. Originally published as news pictures for local tabloids, these pictures raise questions about the ethics of depicting the moment of death.
The supposed veracity of the camera has often been used to provide evidence of particular social or political issues. Letizia Battaglia used a forensic visual style to expose the Mafia culture of Palermo in the hope of ending the city’s endemic violence. Equally stark is Lee Miller's photograph of the daughter of the Bürgermeister of Leipzig, dead by suicide at the end of the Second World War. By contrast, Stephen Shames' portrait of an IRA gunman shows the confrontational sitter in his home surrounded by weapons, as well as domestic objects. Though Larry Clark's photographs of drug-takers may shock the viewer, they maintain an ambiguity that hints at the photographer's own involvement in the scene.
The works shown by Alexander Gardner, Felice Beato and John Reekie are among the earliest examples of war photography. While confronting the general public with the gruesome sightsof the battlefield, photographers would sometimes manipulate the "props" of the scene, such as guns and limbs, to portray their own side more favourably. William Saunders's decision to capture a public execution in China during the Second Opium War fulfils his audience's expectation that the enemy is "savage," helping to justify the British military offensive.
Photographic evidence of the Concentration Camps in Poland and Germany was vital in establishing the truth about the Holocaust. The shifting attitudes to capital punishment in the United States of the early 20th century are conveyed in two sets of photographs from this period. A surreptitious photograph of the convicted murderer Ruth Snyder shows the inhumanity of the electric chair. Around the same time, lynching photographs were printed and circulated as postcards, celebrating these brutal acts of vigilantism. An installation by contemporary artist Oliver Lutz puts the viewer into the frame, forcing us to imagine ourselves as witnesses to the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of murder but now widely regarded as innocent.
Derived from the French word "surveiller," meaning "to keep watch" or "to watch over," the surveillance camera has been used to police borders, to assist war-time reconnaissance, to gain advantage over political enemies or simply to gather information. Techniques of surveillance are closely linked to developments in photographic technology — from the earliest aerial photographs to satellite pictures. In the twenty-first century, cameras on street corners, in shops and public buildings silently record our every move, while web-based tools such as Google Earth adapt satellite technology to ensure that there is no escape from the camera's all-seeing eye.
Since the early years of the 20th century, aerial photography has been linked to military activity and espionage. Prior to the D-Day landings, photographs of the beaches at Normandy revealed the location of mines that would be invisible at high tide. In the 1960s spy planes captured the Star of David patterns formed by missile sites in Cuba. In the 1990s, photographer Sophie Ristelheuber used aerial views to document the scars on the landscape created during the first Gulf War.
More recently, photographers have taken surveillance technology as their subject, turning the camera back on itself. Andreas Magdanz has documented the surveillance cameras and look-out points of Pullach, a village in southern Germany from which the US spied on the Eastern Bloc, while Jonathan Olley has photographed the invasive watchtowers built by the British Army in Northern Ireland. Other photographers make visible what is usually hidden from public view. Mark Ruwedel's photographs of sites on the US/Mexico border show evidence of attempted illegal crossings; while Simon Norfolk has photographed the almost invisible web of wires that enables governments to capture mobile phone conversations.
With the development of conceptual art in the late 1960s artists began to use photography to document performances or actions. Every day for one month in 1969 Vito Acconci followed a randomly selected stranger on the streets of New York, recording his experiences with photographs and a written account. Sophie Calle has made a number of works that explore the artist's voyeuristic nature, whether following strangers or employing others to follow her. In 1981 she took a job as a chambermaid in a Venetian hotel with the intention of gathering information about its occupants.
Photographer Merry Alpern hid a video camera inside her handbag so she could take it into the harshly lit fitting rooms of a number of fashion boutiques, and found that it revealed a disconcertingly unfamiliar image of herself: "I had always seen myself quite differently when I looked in the mirror. Suddenly I no longer knew what I really looked like". Artist Emily Jacir also appeared in front of the camera, inserting herself into the frame of a live webcam trained on the main square of Linz, Austria over the course of a month. Though she is barely visible in the resulting pictures, her diaristic text directs the viewer to her presence.
Artist Bruce Nauman recorded his studio in New Mexico at night using an infrared video camera. For a period of several months he positioned his camera to show different areas of the studio, documenting the objects in the room as they had been left that day as well as the mice that scuttle in and out of the frame. This early version of Mapping the Studio, made in 2001, focuses on his office desk as well as a number of works in progress. Nauman later used the footage to make a seven-screen video installation which puts the viewer into the position of a spy or voyeur invading his private working space.
Hours and hours of surveillance footage recorded all over the world remain unseen by the human eye, played back only when incidents are suspected or the alarm is raised. Harun Farocki's series Eye/Machine explores the "intelligent" image processing techniques used by machines or technicians in modern warfare for purposes such as programming the path of a cruise missile. Part II of the trilogy, the film shown here pieces together computer-simulated images, leading us to question the distinction between man and machine.