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"LAST CHANCE: Facts Showered with Light"
1999-05-02 until 2000-07-18
Museum of Photographic Arts
San Diego, CA, USA United States of America

The photographic medium is a democratic one, extending importance and validity to everything that is pictured. Even the fragments and inconsequential bits of information that find their way into the frame, along the edges and in the background, are considered equally by the camera eye. The American poet Walt Whitman, writing in the early part of the 19th century, was particularly taken by the new medium of photography and its potential to lend significance to the ordinary. ...As they emit themselves, facts are showered with light, he wrote, suggesting a certain luminescence, an understanding, that comes with really seeing something clearly. This phrase could easily be extended to the richly descriptive medium of photography, an image-making system suspended between factual record and pure fiction.

Like the written word, the photograph fixes perfectly but translates poorly, producing images altogether more luminous, more immense, more mesmerizing and quixotic than what we might actually have seen or imagined. Within the frame of the photograph all hierarchies are leveled, and a certain brutal and dear beauty emerges.

This exhibition considers the camera's unique means of translating the everyday world. The assembled images, all drawn from MoPA's permanent collection, represent a broad cross-section of 20th century photography and experience. Rather than a concise, linear history of the medium, this grouping presents areas of the collection's strength, featuring social documentary photography and portraiture in some depth. Among the photographers featured are Berenice Abbott, Linda Connor, Roy DeCarava, Andreas Feininger, John Gutmann, Lewis Hine, Pok Chi Lau, Duane Michals, Nicholas Nixon, Robert ParkeHarrison, Alexander Rodchenko and Aaron Siskind.


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