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A PILGRIMAGE

09/27/2009
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Robert Adams

Recent Corcoran grad Will Knipscher and I made the pilgrimage to the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY last week to see the resurrected New Topographics show. Robert Adams, Frank Gohlke, and Stephen Shore, all part of the New Topo group, have been peripheral influences on my current personal photo project, so to see the seminal exhibit re-installed at Eastman was a treat.  About the show, from NPR:

“In 1975, eight young Americans — and one German couple — were featured in an exhibition that pretty much flew in the face of Ansel Adams. Curated by William Jenkins at the George Eastman House, the exhibit was called ‘New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape’ and, according to some historians, it marked a paradigm shift in the world of photography, although that shift was imperceptible at the time. What was so impressive about photos of tract housing and abandoned buildings? Maybe ‘impressive’ is the wrong word — but it was unusual that they were considered landscapes. Unlike their predecessors, these new ‘topographic’ photographers…were less concerned with portraying an ideal image of nature and were more interested in showing plainly how man has altered it. Their photos were descriptive, unemotional and simple — a fusion, almost, of traditional landscape and social documentary photography, with man as the focus, but out of the picture.

The museum is nice and quaint, and the visit there made for a nice afternoon. Besides looking at photography, Will and I spent the rest of the time on the make for refreshments and cheap food in various locales around town. We saw Inglorious Basterds at the Little, too, and it was great. Nearly 24 hrs after we arrived, and after finding plenty of refreshments, we stumbled out of town.  I took some pictures with my iPhone to document the trip – check them out after the jump —

We discovered that the greatly influential conceptual photographers, Bernd and Hilla Becher, part of the New Topos, drove a VW van. Here it is as it appears in the lower right corner of one of their coal mine pictures –

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Here is Will making a picture from our swank, 10th floor hotel room. It overlooked the Genessee River. The Priceline Negotiator got 50% off our room –

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and here is Will again, at Eastman House and looking at the very camera with which Alfred Steiglitz shot “The Steerage” –

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Waking up –

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Looking down –

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Oh, the Genny Cream Ale, and mucho Tecate at Taco John’s

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We waited for buses –

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We checked out of the hotel –

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We flew back home –

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A great trip.

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