Radical Eye study visit

I visited the Radical Eye exhibition at Tate Modern on Saturday as part of an OCA study trip. It is (according to the Tate) the greatest private collection of modernist photographs ever displayed and has been collected by Sir Elton John over the last 25 years.


Initial thoughts were wow! what a wonderful collection to own.

The first thing I noticed was a vast difference since my last exhibition visit to William Eggleston in the way I was looking at the images and analysing them which was interesting. I made lots of notes on images that I wanted to look back on for my next assignment which was useful; as well as trying to establish where my interest in photography was drawn to.

There was one image which for some reason irritated me, it was an Edward Weston (Whom I like) entitled ‘Tina reacting’ (Below), it somehow seemed off kilter , its fine when I view it in the book so I’m guessing this may be more to do with the framing than the image itself but it was interesting to note.

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Elton John is very evident in the collection, the frames seem too ostentatious for the images and you are aware that the images are curated in a similar way to how they are hung on Elton Johns walls.

I have mixed feelings on this as on the one hand he could be a collector that simply stores his collection in a vault whereas on the other hand ( And I like to believe this is true of Elton) they are collected to be enjoyed. Hung on his walls , however packed together, to be looked at daily as they were meant to be. It shows a love of the photographs rather than an investment and I like this thought. It makes me think that if one day I should take an amazing image I was proud of would I want to put it in my loft or on my walls? Some of the frames do unfortunately distract from the photograph.

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I absolutely loved the Irving Penn portraits but was surprisingly not as keen on some of the Man Rays, although I do like the glass tears photograph. I am drawn to looking at eyes in images and I didn’t feel that The Man Ray images were as strong in the eyes as the images of Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange, or maybe its the story I feel that lies behind the image that changes this perspective for me? The Irving Penn’s really showed the character of the sitter and the corner angle and possibly the curation made this set really strong. The Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange are more documentary in style and I was please to see a Helen Levitt in the collection.

There was one image (Below) however that did seem really misplaced, it has been placed in with ‘perspective’ and did not fit at all so it did make me wonder why? was it trying to say something by being so misplaced?

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Another image in the collection which intrigued me was by Ilse Bing titled  ‘Greta Garbo Poster’  I was convinced there was a little face peering out near the hotel sign although in truth I think it was just part of the building… funny how your mind can play tricks on you. Looking at the image printed in the book it is clearly part of a building but looking at the image in the flesh it looked more like a face which does make me question how authentic an image in book or on screen really is to the original.

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Overall I really enjoyed seeing this collection and it is wonderful to see images in the flesh as opposed to on the screen or on a printed page.

It would be interesting to know what other images were in Elton’s collection, perhaps they could have listed them and to know why it was these images that were chosen, I did purchase the book so I will see if there is any hint to what else might be in his collection. But at least they are enjoyed and seen.

I have come away with a long list of photographers to look into, some ideas for part 4 languages of light and lots of inspiration.

I want to experiment more and be more creative, maybe by manipulating images or adding another element, I think (Time allowing) I might start a separate scrapbook to my OCA work to experiment more and take risks, perhaps I will add some to my blog but I feel I need to explore being more creative, after all I do have a whole craft room at my disposal!

**Images of photographs taken from The Radical Eye Exhibition Book purchased on 22.04.2017.







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