The Mexican Suitcase represents images drawn from the most famous group of recovered negatives of the twentieth century. In December 2007, three boxes filled with rolls of film, containing 4,500 35mm negatives of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Chim (David Seymour)—which had been considered lost since 1939—arrived at the International Center of Photography. These three photographers, who lived in Paris, worked in Spain, and published internationally, laid the foundation for modern war photography. The exhibition will present most of these negatives as modern contact sheets as well as in magazines of the period and vintage prints. Because they were lost so long ago, and as no contact sheets were made, these films show us for the first time the order in which the images were conceived and shot, and in some cases the full extent of the photographers’ work on the story. Images that have become iconic over the years can now be read in their original sequence. The exhibition is organized by ICP assistant curator Cynthia Young. The Mexican Suitcase is accompanied by a fully-illustrated two-volume catalogue with numerous essays by international scholars and writers on photography and Spanish history.
Wang Qingsong: When Worlds Collide marks the first U.S. solo show of Beijing artist Wang Qingsong, one of China’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. Trained as a painter at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Art, Wang Qingsong turned to photography in the late 1990s in order to convey a distinctive and often acerbic vision of Chinese society during the country’s current economic boom. Working in the manner of a film director, he stages elaborate scenes involving dozens of models on enormous stages. His large-scale color photographs combine references to classic Chinese art with ironic nods to China’s new material wealth and rapidly growing consumer culture. Organized by ICP curator Christopher Phillips, the exhibition will include approximately 15 of Wang Qingsong’s photo works, as well as a screening room featuring a selection of his recent videos. In addition, a series of documentary videos will allow visitors to follow step-by-step the artist’s production of several of the major works that will be on view.
Jasper, Texas: The Community Photographs of Alonzo Jordan is organized by Guest Curator Alan Govenar. The quiet East Texas town of Jasper achieved notoriety as the site of one of the most brutal race crimes in U.S. history: the June 7, 1998 killing of a forty-nine-year-old African American named James Byrd, Jr., who was dragged to his death by three white men in a pickup truck. The protracted media coverage of this crime and of the trial of the perpetrators, in addition to the local and national trauma caused by this event, did not for the most part reveal either the longstanding pattern of racial animosity in the area or the rich and complicated social life in the African American half of that starkly segregated town. Many years before however, Alonzo Jordan (1903–1984) had been extensively chronicling that unseen portion of the populace. A barber by trade, Jordan took up photography to fill a need he recognized in his community, and over the course of his career actively documented the world in which he lived and worked, focusing on those civic events, social organizations, schools, churches, and activities that were integral to the daily life of the people he served. In so doing, he created images that not only affirmed the identities of his subjects, but strengthened self-esteem by enabling people to see themselves as individuals and in relation to others in the context of the social fabric of family and community.
Take Me to the Water: Photographs of River Baptisms is a small exhibition of vintage postcards and a panorama is drawn from a unique archive of vernacular river baptism photographs in the collection of the International Center of Photography. Religious rituals in America are not often public spectacles. A key exception was the tradition of river baptisms that flourished in the South and Midwest between 1880 and 1930. These outdoor communal rites were public displays of faith, practiced by thousands of Protestants, and witnessed by whole communities. A combination of economic depression and industrialization spurred religious fundamentalism in rural areas, and media-savvy preachers promoted mass revivals and encouraged a dialogue about religion in popular culture and media. Photographs of river baptisms were often disseminated as postcards, both by worshippers documenting their personal life-affirming experiences and by tourists noting exotic practices and vanishing folk traditions. This exhibition is organized by Erin Barnett, ICP Assistant Curator of Collections.