An exhibition in Vienna is gathering three of the best women photographers who shaped the social documentary genre with Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, and Nan Goldin. The Vienna-based West Licht Gallery in Vienna organized this very particular mix of three artists on a common denominator: all three photographers were the ones who expanded their view of human society by reaching out to the extraordinary, eccentric, and marginalized. More than 100 photographs from the three collections are now up on display.
When looking at the three photographer's works, they all brought a mirror up to the face of the spectator. Authors of The Camera is Cruel: Model Arbus Goldin, Peter Coeln, and Roland Jörg said:
“They [Model, Arbus, and Goldin] captured the social life of America, in which the world is still mirrored today as an immigration country, at different stages of the 20th century. Over three generations, starting with the model who grew up in Vienna, they re-formulated the dialogue between photographer and portrayed in their own way and combined the documentary with the subjective. Their personal views on man and his disparate worlds of life, their access to the existential and their use of the medium of photography went hand in hand with a critique of existing norms that consistently questioned cultural and aesthetic conventions.”
The exhibition is arranged like a timeline, starting from Austrian-born American photographer Lisette Model whose prime was around the late 1930s to early 1940s. She's one of the first photographers to establish herself in the Humanist Movement in street photography. The photographer was known for her sense of weakness and special characters, all visualized in her imagery. Model also taught photography at the New School for Social Research in New York up until her death, in which she also taught Diane Arbus.
Arbus has picked up the photography lessons and imbued them into her eccentric and iconic photography. Around the 1950s while still studying under Model, Arbus was already recording the masks and flaws in human society. The marginalized was her muse -- be they transgender people, performers, dwarves, nudists, and more. While Arbus photographed unique identities. she was also equally drawn to the ordinary. Her overall theme is the concept of familiarity of the environment, her images set in homes, streets, offices, workplaces, parks.
Nan Goldin's work is quite an antithesis to Arbus' personal portrayal of the transgender people. Goldin differs in such a way she captures stories by also being part of them – the late 1970s New York culture and LGBTQ community, the early 1980s punk era, the HIV crisis, the opioid epidemic, and more. Her most famous series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986) not only documents the gay subculture in the post-Stonewall uprising, but also her personal life and relationships.
This exhibition is open until the 24th of March 2019.