Friday, June 29, 2007

Seen on the Street: Photographers’ ‘Everyday Epiphanies’

Alex Webb


When artists talk about “training the eye,” they generally don’t mean doing exercises to maintain 20/20 vision. They mean honing a set of instincts, learning to see relationships among colors or objects or spaces. The title of this small but potent collection of contemporary photographs from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection describes this kind of vision another way: seeing what is “Hidden in Plain Sight.” The show focuses mostly on versions of street, rather than studio, photography.

The artists here discovered “found still lifes,” as the wall text puts it, which resulted in “everyday epiphanies.” These are prefaced by an epigraph from Henry David Thoreau, written in his diary in August 1851: “The question is not what you look at but what you see.” Thoreau may have been speaking of nature or writing, but his dictum works well enough for photography. (It’s still an odd choice for a show focusing on 20th- and 21st-century photography, but never mind.)


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