Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography

Bodies are back. Walking through The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White to get to Figure and Form in Contemporary Photography, I was struck by the insistent presence of the human figure. The body has always fueled the photographer’s imagination, but we seem to have returned to the dominance of the studio portrait, where model and photographer collaborate on fantasies of identity and form. Except now cameras—and the people posing for them—can go to, and come from, anywhere.

David LaChapelle, Abel, From the series Awakened, 2007/printed 2012, promised gift of Fred Torres, © David LaChapelle

In fact, Figure and Form offers a surprisingly diverse tour through the intimate exchange between body and photograph through the last century. Drawing from LACMA’s collection, the exhibition explores fashion photography, documentary photography, conceptual photography, the erotic, the playful, the ironic, and the deadly serious.

John Baldessari, Two Men with Alphabets, 1984, gift of Judy and Stuart Spence, © John Baldessari

Vivanne Sassen, Belladonna, 2010, printed 2011, purchased with funds provided by the Ralph M. Parsons Fund and the Photographic Arts Council, 2011, © Viviane Sassen

It demonstrates how central the body has been to photographic practice, both as a subject and as a catalyst for experiments with material and process. And it offers a visually delightful survey of the body posing, prancing, and working hard through some of modern and contemporary photography’s greatest moments.

Megan Driscoll, Research Intern

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