Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930-1980, Tate Britain | Visual arts reviews, news & interviews
Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930-1980, Tate Britain
Black and white photographs colourfully portray the tribes of London
Unadulterated happiness: swinging on the wheel, high above the ground, at the fair on Hampstead Heath in 1949, in Wolf Suschitzky’s photograph that effortlessly conveys that sense of moving at ease through the sky. Fourteen years earlier the same photographer, just arrived from Vienna, immortalised a gravely courting couple smoking their cigarettes over a tea in Lyons Corner House, the behatted lady apparently entertaining a genteel proposition; and inbetween Suschitzky shows us the view of total devastation in 1942, flattened streets strangely punctuated by arbitrary heaps of rubble, taken from the vantage point of St Paul’s Cathedral, that miraculous survivor of wartime bombing.
Suschitzky – he was a film cameraman and director as well – is but one of two score photographers whose work is on view in Another London. Among the group are the stars of the profession - Henri Cartier-Bresson and Irving Penn, Bruce Davidson and Elliott Erwitt for starters – as well as the lesser known. All are from elsewhere, and they came as tourists, visitors, immigrants and refugees.
What absorbed visiting Impressionists in the 1870s occupied visiting photographers a century on
An enthralling and unexpected selection, the anthology resonates beyond this showing. It’s taken from the Eric and Louise Franck collection which has been donated to the Tate, and it’s part of the process by which the gallery has very belatedly but with almost overwhelming enthusiasm entered into collecting and showing photography as a medium in in its own right, with a very active patrons group supporting acquisitions. One of the benefits of Tate joining the fray is evident in the installation of this show, roughly chronological and rhythmically paced throughout its seven sections, with images shown in clusters, and individual photographers in depth. Vitrines show a number of books with images from settlers by such as the American Alvin Langdon Coburn, the German E O Hoppé, and passers by (usually on the way to America) such as the Hungarian Moholy-Nagy.
There are claims that this is another London, and on the grounds that nothing is so remote as the recent past, there is an element of truth in this. In Bill Brandt’s 1930s Early morning on the doorstep, four glass milk bottles form a gracefully statuesque group next to two folded newspapers, the Telegraph and the long defunct News Chronicle. The Telegraph’s front page is a dense maze of small ads, whilst the Chronicle is graced with a smiling picture of the hugely celebrated 1930s New Zealand aviatrix, Jean Batten, the dignified tableau hinting at the breakfast soon to take place behind the as yet closed door. (Pictured above right: James Barnor, Mike Eghan at Picadilly Circus, London, 1967; ).
Everything is naturally in all shades of black and white, and the predominant silvery greys ensure that colour, often so profoundly unnatural, is not missed one bit. Among the many things we are reminded of is the ubiquity of London fog and smog, which make for a fascinating and mysterious atmosphere: what absorbed visiting Impressionists in the 1870s occupied visiting photographers a century on.
theartsdesk is changing
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. In September we reached our fourth birthday and feel that the time is now right, in line with other media outlets, to start asking our regular readers for a contribution to help us develop the site further. Theartsdesk has therefore moved to a partial subscription model. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
Take an annual subscription now simply click here.
more Visual arts
theartsdesk's Jillian Edelstein recalls being sent to snap the South African president
The paintings are wonderful, but the curator does a huge disservice to this forgotten artist
This year, it was two women who made the most enduring impression
A poet and artist talks to Annie Freud and Bobby Parker about the art of the word
The Chapman brothers hijack our affections by being brilliant and funny
Bold new gallery continues grand project to spread contemporary art throughout France
You want to know what the future of music looks like? Read on
A retrospective of the Russian suprematist may be bound for Tate Modern, but the Stedelijk is the place to catch it
Sober choral concert from The Sixteen and a vivacious centenary photographic exhibition
This year's shortlist highlights the often uneasy relationship between photographer and subject
To mark the 50th anniversary, we count the cultural responses to Kennedy's assassination
Artichoke's spectacular four-night event lights up the city