Andre Kertesz 1932
I went recently to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a couple of special exhibitions before they closed. One was the Dawn of Egyptian Art, with objects from the pre-dynastic and early dynastic periods of ancient Egyptian history.
The other one, and the one that I’ll be writing about (albeit briefly) is Naked Before the Camera, which uses photographs from the Met’s collection to illustrate the history of the nude in photography. The types of photos ranged from art studies to ethnographic images to crime scene photos.
The time period covered was from the mid-1800s to 1995, though the emphasis was heavily on the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the works on display were rare nude images by such great 19th Century image makers such as Gustave Le Gray and Nadar. In fact, I was surprised that while the exhibit includes several works each by Edward Weston and Irving Penn, there was nothing from photographers such as Helmut Newton, Lucien Clergue, Jock Sturges or Herb Ritts. The most recent photo – a large beautiful platinum print – was from a woman named Jennifer Johnson who I had been unfamiliar with prior to this. Only one color photo was included, by Paul Outerbridge.
I’m guessing that any such omissions are reflective of the breadth of the Met’s collection, which obviously has its greatest strength in the earlier periods. Thus, while this exhibit may fail to live up to the claim of covering the history of the nude in photography, it is still a worthwhile look at the nude as photographed over many years, with many beautiful prints to be seen.
Naked Before the Camera can be seen through September 9. You can find out more by going the Met’s website here, but here are a few images that I made (below). The captions include the photographer’s name with the year of the image.
Gustave Le Gray ca. 1856
Eugene Durieu 1853-54
Oscar Gustav Rejlander 1857
Daguerrotype by Felix-Jacques-Antoine Moulin ca. 1850
Irving Penn 1949-50
Man Ray ca. 1935
Franz Roh 1922-28
Jennifer Johnson 1995
Paul Outerbridge ca. 1936