"Dead Reality" by Nobuyoshi Araki. Photo: Vikki Tobak
I spent an afternoon being transported from Broadway and Canal in 1984, to Chicago in 1949, to Memphis in 1968. Nepal, Okinawa, Cape Town. I saw Muhammad Ali boxing underwater, Frida Kahlo “acting clownish,” and The Beatles having a pillow fight. I stood before a mountainous wave as it was about to swallow me whole and beneath a towering sequoia covered in snow.
All of this, and much more, was on view at Pier 94 at the 38th edition of The Photography Show, one of the few art shows in the world dedicated to photography as a medium. It is presented by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD). The show ran from April 5-8 and featured 96 galleries and over 30 book sellers from 14 countries and 49 cities. There were three special exhibitions including, “A Time For Reflection,” curated by Sir Elton John, and “All The Power: Visual Legacies of the Black Panther Party,” curated by Michelle Dunn of the Photographic Center Northwest.
While this year’s edition of The Photography Show has wrapped, you can still view many of the works at galleries around New York, including two of the picks listed below. A Nobuyoshi Araki solo retrospective will be on view at The Museum of Sex through the end of August, and Adama Delphine Fawundu will be included in “Refraction: New Photography of Africa and Its Diaspora,” which opens at Steven Kasher Gallery on April 19.
I walked the show with legendary subcultures photographer Janette Beckman and Vikki Tobak, photo curator and author of “Contact High,” a forthcoming book about hip-hop contact sheets. Among their picks for “Best in Show:”Nobuyoshi Araki “Dead Reality” (Little Big Man Gallery and Polaroids at Komiyama Books)
Tobak: Nobuyoshi Araki is a either a genius or a master pornographer, depending on who you ask. To me, he’s both, in the best sense. Little Big Man Gallery has shown his work extensively and honors the Japanese photobook tradition with this series “Dead Reality.” These images of scenes, ruined by developing the prints in boiling fixative, speak to his dedication to analog tradition and also themes of death and destruction. He’s a prolific photographer who has produced thousands of photographs over the course of his career. Meanwhile Komiyama Books has a portfolio of Araki’s Polaroids of flowers as well as female muses in sexualized poses of “Kinbaku,” Japanese traditional rope bondage. Sex, death, life. Araki is all of those things.Dorothea Lange, “Towards Los Angeles, Calif.” 1937 (Richard Moore Photographs)
Beckman: Ever since I read the “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck as a kid ... I always had this image of America and the dusty roads stretching into the nowhere, because you don’t get those vistas in Europe. It’s the dust bowl era. It’s so atmospheric. It looks like they’re carrying all their belongings and they’re heading towards California on a dusty road and there [are] no houses or anything in sight. It’s a really deep picture. Very soulful. It’s a silver gelatin print, not a digital print, and it has all these beautiful mid-tones, blacks and grays that you don’t normally see because everything now, with digital, is so hyper-contrasty and the colors are all turned up and everything is on this kind of hyper plane, as if you’re listening to music with no bass and no treble. It’s a certain pitch. Whereas this has so many waves and tones.Adama Delphine Fawundu “Intersections” (Steven Kasher Gallery)
Tobak: Delphine started her career photographing the male-centric hip-hop world in the early 90s and those early photos are some of my faves. Her new work shows how she has evolved as a fine artist pushing the boundaries. She is one of the founders of “MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora,” a publication committed to establishing and representing a collective voice of women photographers of African descent.LaToya Ruby Frazier “Woodlawn Street, Braddock, PA” 2010 (Steven Kasher Gallery)Helmut Newton “Rue Aubriot, Yves Saint Laurent, Paris Collections” 1975 (Staley Wise Gallery)
Beckman: I didn’t know who LaToya Ruby Frazier was but I was attracted to the image because it’s a gorgeous, strong woman on the street. Steven Kasher told me that it was an homage to the Helmut Newton photo that was hanging nearby. I was blown away by the synchronicity of the two photos hanging near each other. I just love strong, beautiful women on the street.