After we had a terrific experience at the Environmental Portrait photography workshop out at Shaw Nature Reserve, we decided to continue the theme with a class called Exploring the Photographic Portrait at the St. Louis Art Museum. This isn’t a workshop — it’s a lecture series by various curators and professors in conjunction with the new photography exhibit: The Weight of Things: Photographs by Paul Strand and Emmet Gowin.
Yesterday was only the second time we’ve been to the Art Museum since the new wing opened and we have yet to really explore it. My first impressions were positive for the interior, skeptical for the exterior. But if I keep capturing delightful lines like these, the new wing is going to grow on me.
The Weight of Things exhibit is in the older part of the museum, in a new double gallery carved out of the old Special Exhibit space. The curator, a friend of ours (sometimes I really love how St. Louis feels like a small town), reports that this new space is splendidly proportioned for the prints, drawings, and photographs that will be displayed here. It’s an obvious improvement in the viewing experience over the old tiny space at the top of a stairwell.
We got there a bit early because we weren’t sure where the class was, so I goofed off posing Rick like Alfred Stieglitz in Paul Strand’s portrait of him. Stieglitz was a friend and mentor to Paul Strand.
The curator caught us doing this and said “Now, none of that. This is serious.” He was kidding. I think.
This was our second viewing of The Weight of Things. Focusing on just the portraits, this time, provided a good grounding for the whole exhibit. The photographic techniques and the journeys of the photographers can be seen in their portraits with the other photographs as setting.
At the end of the class, we were invited up to the Print Study Room where a selection of photographic portraits were displayed in their mats but without frames or glass. I was most intrigued by Harry Callahan’s portraits of his wife, Eleanor. Photographs of their wives was a theme in the works of both Paul Strand and Emmet Gowin. Of course, they were all inspired by Alfred Stieglitz’s portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe — an exploration that I read about most recently in How Georgia Became O’Keeffe by Karen Karbo.
I’m linking this post to the Saturday Snapshot round-up today. I’m curious: what opportunities have you had to explore photography as art?