The Art Gallery of Ontario’s latest exhibit dissects the precarious politics of looking, co-curator Jim Shedden says.
Photojournalists are most prominently featured in Outsiders: American Photography and Film, 1950s–1980s, bridging the documentation of subcultures and artistic expression in the United States.
More than 300 photographs and five films present subjects at odds with dominant American culture across four decades to make up the largest exhibition of photography the AGO has ever presented.
Outsiders opened on March 12, featuring musicians, protestors, cross-dressers, bike gangs, politicians, beat poets, the working poor, and socialites.
Gordon Parks (1913–2007), a black photojournalist and writer was featured in the exhibit.
Parks’ photo essay “A Harlem Family,” documents the Fontenelle family, searching for a way out of poverty in the winter of 1967-1968.
He produced the works for Life Magazine in its March 8, 1968 issue, called “The Negro and the cities: the cry that will be heard.”
“My whole purpose was to bring to the people of the United States an inner look at the thing that brings chaos,” Parks said in the magazine.
“I wanted to show what it was like, the real, vivid horror of it- and the dignity of the people who manage, somehow, to live with it.”
The issue’s front cover features “Little” Richard Fontenelle, a toddler, crying out in tears.
The photo was chosen as the front cover to humanize, expose, and address the realities of Black poverty in pockets of populated urban cities, mostly unknown to the white readership of Life Magazine in the 1960s.
Garry Winogrand is another prominent photographer in the exhibit who held that “the press all deal in illusions and fantasies.”
He maintained that there is “real” news and “fake” news.
He therefore wanted to capture simple realities through photography, in an attempt to document the precarious relationships between subject and objects.
“Everybody nowadays is a filmmaker, photographer, journalist, and there’s a sense from him (Winogrand) that there are no checks and balances, or analysis, as to why that is,” Shedden said.
Winogrand’s photos are known for their subjectivity, and how he inserts his own perspective into his photographs.
“That’s why it’s important today, as we generally have less faith in the official media,” Shedden said.
“In his day, he was trying to break through that.”