Issue Number: 93
Martin Gayford on the ways US photographers depict the world around them
The question these days is no longer, ‘Is photography an art?’, but, ‘What kind of art is photography?’ Annie Leibovitz, whose work is surveyed in ‘A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005’ at the Brooklyn Museum, and at various venues including London’s National Portrait Gallery, is the official portraitist to the rich and famous of contemporary America.
Snap Shots Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983, by Nan Goldin. Cookie at Tin Pan Alley, NYC, 1983, by Nan Goldin.
Leibovitz’s images often contain an element of theatrical performance like the mise-en-scène of many painterly portraitists of the past. John Lennon, in a celebrated example, clings naked like an infant to Yoko Ono.
With conceptual photographer Cindy Sherman, however, the performance is the work, as can be gauged from the title of the exhibition, ‘Thirty Years of Staged Photography’ in Bregenz, Austria, which travels to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark next year. Her most famous body of work consists ofimages of herself, but they are not self-portraits.
The idea behind her work is to examine the diverse roles in which women have appeared in Old Master paintings and popular media.
The five photographers included in ‘So the Story Goes’ at The Art Institute of Chicago are all documentary artists. Each, in different ways, records the life around them, whether it is Nan Goldin’s existence on the edge in New York bohemia, or the ‘storybook life’ in Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s photos that blurs the boundary between real and imagined.
Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990–2005, Brooklyn Museum, New York (+1 718 638 5000), until 21 Jan; Thirty Years of Staged Photography, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (+43 557 44 85 94 13), 2 Dec–28 Jan, and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (+45 49 19 07 19), 16 Feb–20 May; So the Story Goes: Photographs by Tina Barney, Philip- Lorca diCorcia, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann and Larry Sultan, The Art Institute of Chicago (+1 312 443 3600), until 3 Dec
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