Elton John began his collection of photography in 1991 and holds more than 8000 prints today, including iconic images like Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother or Man Ray’s Larmes (Tears). The exhibition is divided into five rooms, each for one specific photographic theme.
1. The Radical Eye
Man Ray, Noire Blanche
The title ‘Noire Blanche’ is more impactful in French than in English because there isn’t the distinction of female genre which brings a subtle nuance of meaning.
I was shocked to see this iconic image displayed in a large white frame in such a small size which is actually the size of a contact print. I change my perception of the image and its impact, which is more powerful as so small and intimate.
I like the series of Irving Penn’s portraits in a corner which is quite controversial in the standard of portraiture and questions about the meaning of taking a portrait.
3. Portraits, Experiments, Bodies
This section gathers a lot of surrealist experimental photographs (polarization, photomontage, multiple exposure, mask, mouvement…)
This small room contains great photographs, including the iconic Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother surrounded by two troubling portraits from her series. Documentary photography deals with the truth and the representation of reality with ‘objectivity’, the place of the photographer and the viewer, and the social and political impact of the image.
I was particularly attracted by Tina Modotti’s photograph above-down of a hated-crowd looking in the same direction. I have no idea of what event was depicted, until I made some researches, but I felt a strong cohesion of people, united for a same reason. The image below isn’t exactly Elton John’s print but I didn’t find any reproduction.
5. Objects, Perspectives, Abstractions
I wasn’t so impressed by this section which is kind of an already-seen theme, and the wall display make it impossible to isolate image and read it without distraction.
The three photographs treating the notion of ‘perspectives’ were the only interesting ones. Paul Strand’s Wall Street was among them, again a modest print but quite efficient.I loved Norman Parkinson’s After the Shower, Trafalgar Square, (1937) and when I looked at it again later during the day I saw in the puddles an eye looking at the sky,which reinforces the feeling of imaginative and dreaming state of mind.