The Bad Boys of Photography

June 17-August 6

Curated by Amy Moorefield

The exhibition featured 34 images by 14 photographers culled from the Gallery’s extensive photography collection.  Bad Boys will showcase the rebellious nature of some of the most famous photographers with a focus on extreme methods of process, subject matter and persona. The exhibition roster includes such 20-21st century luminaries as: Robert Beckmann, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Harry Callahan, Larry Clark, Thomas A. Daniel, Bruce Davidson, Elliot Erwitt, Robert Frank, Thomas Florschuetz, Danny Lyon, Roger Mertin, John Pfahl, Stephen Shore, Aaron Siskind, and Garry Winogrand.

Bad Boys features some of the best examples of artists breaking the traditional rules of photography. Each used defiant means to push the preverbal envelope of the ever-shifting medium of photography. Exhibited works include Larry Clark’s “hyper-realist” compositions from his Tulsa series documenting his and his friends amphetamine use and abuse during the 1960’s and 70’s. Bruce Davidson’s featured works are from his famous series entitled Subway, whichexploresthe subway as the “connector” (metaphorically and physically) between the people of New York. To prepare himself for extended periods on the subway, he went on a crash diet and started a military fitness exercise program.

VCUarts Photography and Film Distinguished Visiting Artist faculty member, Thomas A. Daniel, explores the seedy underbelly of Daytona Biker Bars. Daniel, one of the first photographers to be invited to document this subculture, catches dancers and bikers in a dangerous bacchanal.  Danny Lyon used subversive means to gain permission from the Texas prison administration to photograph inmates whom he had befriended in Texas in the 1960s. Garry Winogrand’s documentary images of political rallies demonstrate his talent at thrusting himself into the center of action to capture the evocative moment. Robert Frank images challenged the boundaries between the still and moving image.

Other exhibited photographers, such as Stephen Shore and Aaron Siskind, made images as a reaction to a visual challenge. For Shore, it was the re-documentation of the rural landscape of North America in color photographs. This served as an art historical challenge to his predecessor photographer Walker Evans, who photographed similar scenes, but who once said “color photography is vulgar.”   Aaron Siskind, who was closely aligned with the Abstract Expressionist School of painting, used his camera as a “paintbrush” and his skill as a master photographer forever changed how we look at everyday objects. The exhibited photographs are from a series that Siskind dedicated to his friend the Abstract expressionist painter, Franz Kline. The images of John Pfahl and Robert Beckmann challenge the government’s encroachment on the environment.

Exhibited images by Roger Mertin, Manuel Alverez Bravo, Harry Callahan and Thomas Florschuetz provoke the viewer through daring interpretations of the nude.

Image: Danny Lyons, The Yard (from Conversations with the Dead), 1967-68; silver print, 11 x 14 inches. From the permanent collection of VCUarts Anderson Gallery. Gift of Stanley Kogan, MD.