Une Histoire de la Photographie à travers la collection Lola Garrido – 16 February to 13 May 2018, Musée de la Photographie Charles Nègre, Nice

Just a quick post – I almost didn’t write this up but reflecting on it after reviewing Photo London I realised that a thread was emerging in my current research and inspiration.

A few weeks ago I was in Nice on holiday, and two minutes walk from the flat is the city’s Musée de la Photographie, which I like to pop into whenever a new exhibition is on.

This travelling exhibition is drawn from the collection of photography curator, critic and collector Lola Garrido. Most of her collection ranges from around the 1920s to the 1970s, with a few outliers at either end. It was interesting to see some iconic images in person for the first time, such as original prints of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (1936) and Robert Capa’s Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death (1936), alongside recognised images from the likes of Steichen, Stieglitz, Evans, Arbus, Winogrand, Modele, Sherman, Goldin and more.

However, I have to say that although most of the photos held only minor interest to me beyond historic curiosity, two pictures in particular really stood out in my visual memory and it took me a little reflection time to identify why.

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Marlene Dietrich, 1952 by Milton H. Greene

Although it looks like an outtake, the composition on this is just exquisite. The triangular line of the falling hair exactly follows the edge of the light top left, and the line continues downwards through the leg, subtly aided by the pointing finger. The glass on the floor is a perfect visual punctuation at the end of this eye-wander.

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Approaching Shadow, 1954 by Fan Ho

While the Greene image was (I think) more naturally ‘shaped’, this by Fan Ho is a great example of intentional use of stark geometric shapes. The wall and the shadow pin the subject to the ground (which, though shallow, looks very intentionally included in the frame). The downward gaze and back-to-the-wall stance, along with the overall scale, intensify the sense of the woman being pinned down. Am I reading too much into it to interpret it as a comment on the subjugation of women in Ho’s home country of China? In any case, it’s a striking image.

What these two have in common, if not already obvious, is the use of shape. I’m increasingly interested in shape as a component of a visual vocabulary – how shapes can be used to carry elements of the intended photographic message.

I think – photographically speaking – I’m starting to prefer shapes to people!