mardi 29 janvier 2008

Photographs from the Postwar Decade

Currently running at the Jeu de Paume Hotel de Sully is a photography exhibition of the postwar decade. Titled Resonances 1: France-Germany, 1945-1955, it is the first in a new cycle of photographic exhibitions. For this exhibition, the Jeu de Paume requested a collaboration between the Mediatheque de l’Architecture et du Patrimonie of Paris and the Museum Folkwang in Essen. Its aim is to present a comparative study of a large body of photographic works carried out after the war years in France and Germany. According to the literature provided by the exhibition, the French-German photographs reflect the two major photographic trends of the era. The French school represents the humanist photography which emphasizes the inalienable dignity of the human being whereas the German school represents subjective photography which emphasizes the photographer’s artistic and authorial vision.
There are many notables present in the exhibition. From the German school, we have works by such luminaries as Otto Steinert, founder of the FotoFarm group, August Sander and Heinz Hajek Halke. Immortalized through their lenses are arresting images of abandoned structures and desolate landscapes of which Otto Steinert’s “On Ne Fume Plus” is a good example. Equally stirring were images of families reunited after the war and we see up close the ravaging effects of war. And since this was a period of experimentation we have as well the abstract works of Peter Keetman and Lotte Jacobi.
From the French school there are remarkable works by Rene Jacques whose nature and rail way photos show a Paris of the bygone era. It was remarkable to see Gare St. Lazare , looking as it does today except that it was completely covered in snow. Similarly, there is an evocative photo of the Place des Vosges under a blanket of snow by Marcel Bovis. In Noel Le Boyer’s skillful hands, railway workers achieve a quiet dignity while laying out the tracks of the train in the series of photos collectively titled Chemin Fer.
It is an interesting and ruminative exhibition. It is well worth seeing in order to appreciate the evolution of photography as art and to see precious images of an important era of our history, taken from the lenses of the main protagonists so to speak. Despite the adherence of each to a different philosophy, through their unified presentation in this exhibit the viewer is afforded the chance to have a cohesive view of the big picture.

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