The group exhibition Perceptions at the Fabian & Claude Walter Gallery features works by American photographers, which concern themselves with issues like human contact, corporeality, intimacy as well as fragility. The photographs explore problems of everyday topics and situations, the importance and necessity of which are made clear to us only at times marked by restrictions, distancing, and isolation. With its choice of high-quality vintage prints from private collections Perceptions outlines time travelling through 20th-century history of photography and focusses on perceptions and relations among humans.
One of the photographers taking up a vital position in early American photography is Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) who, as a member of the modernistic group f/64, determined the development of the history of photography. Cunningham’s interest is focussed on man and his environment. On the one side, her works excel by a strong formalism and on the other hand by her sensitivity.
Also within the documentary photos of the 1950s through the 1970s, portraying everyday life on the streets of American cities, man as such becomes the centre of interest. Three vital exponents of this Street Photography are represented in the exhibition: Saul Leiter (1923-2013), Vivian Maier (1926-2009) and Jill Freedman (1939-2019). The subtle observation of chance occurrences, fleeting encounters and unexcited get-togethers are central topics of this kind of social photography always revolving around the subject of man.
Within their sequential photographs shown here, Duane Michals (1953) and Jerry Uelsmann (1934) present an overlapping of a number of single shots in the focus of attention of which is man and the narrative. In their photographs Michals and Uelsmann tell fragmentary stories. The viewers have to think non-visible stopovers on their own, by which the individual field of perception is being broadened. Michals reaches this through multiple exposures, while Uelsmann fits together several negatives in the darkroom.
The photographs of Nan Goldin (1953), Sally Mann (1951), and Jock Sturges (*1947) confront us with an unusual intimacy. We are immediately there with what’s happening and have, while watching the photographs, a vague feeling to spoil those intimate moments by our presence. Goldin attains this with photographic impressions of some kind of parallel world on the fringe of society between identity search and delirious state, lust and loss, love and pain, while Mann and Sturges with their photographs grant insights into family life.
Herb Ritts (1952-2002) and Jack Pierson (*1960) on the other hand make a step back and examine the human – especially male – body with their photographs shown in a sculptural and yet natural way. Perceptions merges a many-faceted choice of important positions in the American history of photography and analyses the relations between photographer, those portrayed, and viewers.