I had the pleasure of seeing two well-organzied retrospectives featuring the work of Lewis Hine and Zoe Strauss last week with my good friend, Bill at the International Center of Photography. http://www.icp.org/museum
Lewis Hine, champion of the poor and disenfranchised in his photography, is considered to be one of the precursors of both modernist, and documentary photography. His works on child labor, immigration, and the poor are still well known today. The retrospective showing at I.C.P. goes further by exhibiting a broad overview of Hine’s work along with complementary materials that anchor his work to its own era while allowing us the pleasure of rethinking his place in the pantheon of photographers today.
“Zoe Strauss: 10 Years” is a retrospective of Zoe Strauss’s work that is divided into three categories — all of which show her strength as a photographer. The exhibit contains over 100 photographs spanning 10 years. At this retrospective we get a good look at her portrait work, her urban landscape photography, and street documentation photographs. Strauss’s photography originated in 2001 when she first began to exhibit her photography on concrete columns beneath an I-95 underpass near her home in Philadelphia. Beginning to photograph at the age of 30 when she was a babysitter collecting welfare, Zoe Strauss explains that her photographs are, “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life.” Focusing on her neighbors – people who were just getting by – allowed Strauss to hone a style that is more empathic than exploitive. Strauss’s portrait work, oftentimes of complete strangers, is certainly unique, and idiosyncratic. But she is more than just a portrait photographer. Her urban landscape photographs are certainly of equal beauty and distinction.
At first glance one might not see much in common between the two photographers currently exhibiting at I.C.P. But upon closer examination one notices that both photographers’ work contains an emphatic spirit unmatched by most of their peers. I highly recommend you visit the museum before they go. Both exhibits are up till January 19th. I.C.P. is located at 1133 Avenue of the Americas on the corner of 43rd Street, near Bryant Park and is easily accessible by many trains.