Berenice Abbott - Henry Cartier-Bresson - Robert Doisneau - Helen Levitt - Tale of Two Cities - Hulton Getty Gallery

The exhibitions at Hulton Getty Gallery featured the photographer of the 20th century Berenice Abbott, with the spirit of New York in the 1930s; Henry Cartier-Bresson with the "decisive moment" of the street life in European cities; Jacques Lartique Robert Doisneau, with his beautiful shots of stage of Paris; and Helen Levitt. They all captured a moment in time. The images are strong, so powerful - no painter could stop time so vividly. The Hulton Getty Gallery in London staged an exhibition Tale of Two Cities with some of the most seductive and simple images of New York and London (Feb to April 2001). The exhibition came about after the acquisition by Hulton Getty's parent company, Getty Images of the Image Bank from Kodak and the pairing up of its New York-based American collection, Archive Film & Photo, Hulton/Archive. 60 images where selected from the 40 million strong archives of the city's life from both sides of the Atlantic: some from famous masters, many by unknown photographers. The exhibition contained pictures from the Stock Exchanges of the two cities: a very photogenic place where you can see the despair of the dealings when losing money and their happiness when making it!!Also shown were the traffic jams, children playing, rain falling, workmen on bridges taking photos of bridges, (particularly to get the reflection in the water, is a favourite of even amateur photographs like myself); and, of course, famous people like Frank Sinatra and Michael Caine.

The one I really like is the 1925 image Moving Eros, which shows some workmen moving the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus. It is great staging, yet it is such a natural photo, not posed, the held statue - wreathed in ropes and chains - flies forward with one enormous wing extended behind a leg and arm out-stretched as it seems to burst from captivity, fleeing the noose around its neck. The workmen anxious at the energy contained in this hunk of metal, grapple to contain their winged god, one grabbing at his knee and foot, another trying to restrain its back leg; it's a great shot. There are also very strong architectural images on display such as the Albert Bridge across the Thames being painted in 1926 and an image of Central Park taken by Nat Fein in 1947 with a look-alike Humphrey Bogart belted in raincoat. I really enjoyed seeing the 20th century shown to me in the original and seductive universal acts of everyday life.

Verinha Ottoni.


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