"Colour before Color"

By Tully, Nola | New Criterion, September 2007 | Go to article overview

"Colour before Color"


Tully, Nola, New Criterion


"Colour Before Color"

Hasted Hunt Gallery, New York.

June 7, 2007-August 17, 2007

The gallery venue has played a significant role in deciphering photography's past as well as ushering in its future. Take Steiglitz's 291 Gallery, for example, established at the turn of the twentieth century to enlighten the public about the artistic possibilities of "modern" photography. Hasted Hunt Gallery in Chelsea, opened exactly a century later, regularly shows the cutting-edge work of contemporary photographers, while precociously mining the past for little-known photographers who will shed new light on old beliefs. As a case in point, until now, most of us believed that the photographers who put color on the map were American and could be named on one hand. This summer, Sarah Hasted and William Hunt mounted an exhibition of color photography, mostly European, mostly from the 1970s. So far, nothing about it sounds revolutionary or even particularly educational, and that is was makes it a nice surprise.

The six artists in "Colour Before Color"--Luigi Ghirri (Italian, 1943-1920), Keld Helmer-Peterson (Danish, born 1920), John Hinde (British, 1916-1998), Peter Mitchell (British, born 1943), Carlos Perez Siquier (Spanish, born 1930), and Ed van der Elsken (Dutch, 1925-1990)--offered up a luscious palate in a range of styles surpassing straight documentary and distinctly in the realm of the extraordinary. This is no surprise, as the show was guest-curated by the British Magnum photographer Martin Parr, whose discerning eye has earned him a reputation in the fields of journalism, fashion, and advertising. Pards early influences range from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Bill Brandt to Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. These latter three departed from the rigid paradigm of Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment" and by emphasizing form over content, launched what Walker Evans termed the "documentary style."

The show's big revelation lies in its expansion of the history of color photography. The late John Szarkowski, the legendary curator of photography at MOMA, green-lighted color photography with his 1976 exhibition of William Eggleston's color work. …

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