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"Gisele Freund: The World And My Camera"
2002-07-25 until 2002-11-03
Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona
With this exhibition devoted to Gisèle Freund (Berlin, 1908 – Paris, 2000), the CCCB presents Spain’s first complete exhibition specifically about this extraordinary photographer, a pioneer in colour portrait photography and renowned for her contributions to the theory of photography. The exhibition is a co-production of the Fundació Sa Nostra and the CCCB, and is sponsored by the Fundació Caixa de Catalunya.
Gisèle Freund was born into an upper middle-class German Jewish family. She studied sociology at the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute of Social Research) in Frankfurt under Adorno and Manheim, where she attended left-wing student meetings and took part in the fight against National Socialism, which obliged her to flee Germany and take refuge in Paris. In France, she started to work as a photographer for the magazines Vu, Life and Weekly Illustrated. In 1935, with a series of photographs of André Malraux, Gisèle Freund began a collection of portraits of personalities from the world of culture which she completed over the next fifty years of her life, and which were published in magazines such as Time and Life. In 1936, she presented her doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne: La Photographie en France au XIXème siècle. With the progressive occupation of France by the Nazi troops, in 1942 Freund went into exile in Buenos Aires. There, she continued to work as a photographer and promoter of French culture throughout the American continent. When the war ended, she settled definitively in Paris, where she continued to work as a freelance photographer but now with international recognition. In the course of the following years, she also devoted herself to writing; her works include Le monde et ma camera (1970) and Photographie et societé (1974) (Photography and Society). She died in Paris in 2000, at the age of 91.
In the form of a journey to the places which marked the life of the photographer, visitors to the exhibition GISÈLE FREUND. THE WORLD AND MY CAMERA can discover the gallery of celebrities portrayed by Freund: influential personalities from the fields of culture, art, literature and politics whom she had the opportunity to meet and get to know and who shaped one of the most stimulating and prolific periods of the twentieth century: James Joyce, Walter Benjamin, Virginia Woolf, Evita Perón, Jorge Luis Borges, Victoria Ocampo, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Simone de Beauvoir, Henry Matisse, Julio Cortázar... These images that time was to turn into icons contain a story, a human relationship and a whole procedure of capturing the face of which Gisèle Freund was master and theorist: we live in a face that we do not see. This exhibition gives it back to us.
The exhibition is divided into five sections: 1. Frankfurt; 2. Paris; 3. Saint Sozy: the second refuge; 4. South America: exile, and 5. A time for friends, a time for museums, a time for written reflection. It makes its way around half a century of the professional life of Gisèle Freund in the form of in the region of a hundred and fifty photographs. The itinerary reveals the evolution of her visual perception, influenced by new friends, different backgrounds and cultures, light and colours; the precision and sensibility of her camera allowed her to capture the atmosphere of the places, the foremost events and the prime movers of the time in every field.
The portrait was certainly one of the fields in which Gisèle Freund best expressed herself. The photographer used her camera not just to reproduce reality, but also to capture the personalities of her subjects and tell us their stories. In order to draw us into the private world of her sitters, Freund created a style of her own which included in the photographic take her own form of stage set, the backdrop of the room or place, and highlighted the personal belongings, the clothes and effects which made up the background and the life of her subject. We have therefore decided to include a large number of images of her sessions with the subjects of her portraits which give us a greater understanding of Freund’s way of working.