This is the first exhibition ever staged in Brazil to chart a course through British photography in modern times. It spans almost a century - from the new photographic directions of the 20s and 30s that developed alongside the emergence of mass media, to the diverse practice of today’s image-laden world – and features the work of many of Britain’s most significant, celebrated and influential photographers.
The exhibition takes Britain itself as subject - its society and culture, places and people - presenting the work of those photographers who, rather than looking at the world beyond or at inner worlds, focused their attention on their own country – on the customs, character and conditions of those around them . As such, it explores a fertile and dominant strand of subject matter and a broad tradition of documentary practice which has always been at the core of British photography.
It explores the ways in which humanist and social documentary modes emerged as a dominant force, the motivations and conditions that sustained these modes – professional, artistic and political - and the ways in which they have been challenged, changed and superseded. The photographs on display draw on, or work against, a variety of visual codes, clichés and conventions. They cross genres from the urban street scene to landscape and the portrait, and touch on an extraordinary range of subjects, from celebrity and high society to gritty realism and subversive street culture. Photographers adopt varied positions from detached voyeur to committed participant; the photographs portray attitudes of nostalgia or rebellion, moods of elation and despair. Throughout, the exhibition questions its own premises, asking what, if anything, can be portrayed in images of the essential character of a people over time; and it asks questions of the nature of the photographic medium itself, and the uses to which it has been put.
The exhibition presents works by over thirty photographers, including: Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Humphrey Spender, George Rodger, Paul Nash, Madame Yevonde, Nigel Henderson, Roger Mayne, Ida Kar, Norman Parkinson, Terence Donovan, Ian Berry, Shirley Baker, Tony Ray-Jones, Raymond Moore, Paul Trevor, Tish Murtha, Daniel Meadows, Chris Killip, Martin Parr, Paul Graham, Keith Arnatt, Anna Fox, Derek Ridgers, Peter Fraser, Jem Southam, Karen Knorr, Richard Billingham, Paul Seawright, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jason Evans, Simon Roberts, Nigel Shafran, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Sarah Jones, John Duncan, Gareth McConnell.
Curated by Joao Kulcsar in Sao Paulo and Martin Caiger-Smith in London
Observers is also part of Transform, a four year programme developing artistic and creative dialogue between the UK and Brazil