I saw a couple of interesting exhibitions recently at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. One exhibit, titled “Collective Restraint: Four Decades of Czech Photography,” shows how photographers responded to challenges presented by the political environment during the 1930s through the 1960s. The censorship that was in effect more often than not during this period forced artists to subdue or stifle the expression of certain ideas. Even so, creativity will out as in this photo of a fly on a window screen.
The screen itself evokes the bars of a jail cell while the tiny size of the print echoes the claustrophobic feeling the photographer must have felt. In the background, closed windows further symbolize the repression. I can even see how the vulnerability of the fly trapped against the screen might be a way of expressing vulnerability felt by the photographer.
Nudes were largely forbidden during this period so photographers who wanted to work in this genre were compelled to work anonymously and/or disguise the content of their images. In this example, the nude form becomes a barely recognizable secondary layer obscured by the shadows cast by the blinds.
Finally, I saw in the background of this ostensibly innocent photo of flowers in a vase a menacing visage that might well represent Big Brother. Just my imagination? Maybe, maybe not.
Exhibit runs through 2/8/15.
The other exhibit, “We Are Family,” includes “lens-based artwork“ submitted by students in grades K-12 across San Diego County. I found some of this work to be mundane as might be expected in a show of this kind. At the same time, I found some of the photos to be truly inspired. For example, one photo shows a close-up of an older couple holding hands. All of the technical details are correct and it’s a nice photo. Still, it’s clichéd although one might be willing to overlook this in a photo by a young person. But in the same exhibit I also found this variation on that theme:
This shot by Tyra Crawford, titled “Together Forever,” showed me something I haven’t seen before. It has both visual elegance and emotional impact.
This next image, by Isaac Gray, initially elicited a ho-hum reaction on my part.
But after looking at the title, “No,” I took a second look at the photo. I could see the figure shaking her (his?) head back and forth in a gesture of no. As I tried to see the ruling of “no” from an authority figure through the eyes of a child I also wondered if I was seeing something oppressive in that face.
Exhibit runs through 2/1/15.