Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through January 4, 2015

Yoga classes and lunch meetings meant I only took in one exhibit this week: photography at the National Gallery.  Rather than venturing off to Burma and India with Captain Tripe, this time I joined the Photo-Secessionists and went no further afield than Europe.

The Photo-Secessionists were early 20th century rebels, who viewed photography as a fine art.  Yes, yet another display that asks "is photography art?"  One can only imagine it must get wearisome to create a spectacular photograph, and then be greeted by people certain they can do the same thing with their new phone.  At least if you're a painter, critics may like or dislike your work, but they will admit it's art.

I decided some while ago that photography is art, and I was struck while looking at this small show by how abstract it can be.  Included in the second room is a photograph of Aubrey Beardsley taken by Frederick Evans, and it's almost entirely angles.  You'd think Picasso had created it.  The terribly long fingers, the straight line of his hair, his quite pointed nose - all very linear.  Contrast that with many of the other shots, which would have been right at home in the Pre-Raphaelite show from last year.

Verdict: A small show that's worth a look, especially if you're interested in the history of photographic techniques.

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