Naked Before The Camera

Naked Before The Camera
Metropolitan Museum of Art
March 27- September 9, 2012


photo by Stephen Chanasyk

The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents a concise historical chronology of the nude in photography. Entering the dark narrow hallway leading into this exhibit, the curator has clearly intended to evoke a slight sense of illicit prurient discovery. I half expected to see a flashing "Live Nude Girls" sign around the corner. All that is missing are some red lights, and my guess is that more than a few less adventurous museum goers have decided not to enter this exhibit. They have nothing to fear. With a few exceptions, the images presented are quite tame by any modern standard. An early survey showcases 19th century works by Eugene Durieu, Oscar Gustav Rejlander, and Gustave Le Gray, as well as several images by unknown photographers. Mostly painterly examples reflecting the general style of of photography at that time. Early 20th century works by Man Ray, Brassai and Franz Roh show the departure from pictorialism championed by modernists of the 1920's and 30's. For me the exhibit really takes off with works from the mid 20th century and beyond, with brilliant examples by Diane Arbus, Bill Brandt, Irving Penn, and Emmet Gowin. It is a shame to see only one example from the current century, resulting in a sense of incompletion. The exhibit is produced entirely from the museum's own collection, and it had better start purchasing some contemporary works in this genre. That suggestion has me wondering what contemporary photographers would fit in with this survey?


Seated Female Nude
Eugene Durieu  (1853)


Arm
Man Ray (1935)


Nude, Campden Hill, London
Bill Brandt (1949)


Edith, Danville, Virginia
Emmet Gowin (1967)


Easter Sunday, Central Park, NY
Garry Winogrand  (1971)

Naked Before The Camera

Roberta Smith's excellent review in the NYT


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