fifty Years of The Photographer’s Gallery: 1990s

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Untitled #9. the year of 2010. From the series Sun City, courtesy the artist plus Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery © Sunil Gupta. Every Rights Reserved, DACS. 2020

As The Photographers’ Gallery celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Director Brett Rogers looks back again at its legacy-shaping exhibitions during the 1990s.  

The entire year 2021 marks 50 yrs since The Photographers’ Gallery first opened its doors in London. To mark the event, director Brett Rogers and her team have put together 50 Exhibitions for 50 Years – a selection of displays from the TPG archive comprising some of the most significant moments in both the Gallery’s history, as well as the landscape of photography more broadly. We have already discussed through the 1970s and the 1980s at the Gallery. Now Rogers introduces us to some associated with her highlights from the 1990s.  

“The scale, breadth and ambition of the 1990s programme continued to reveal the cultural shift which usually had already begun to happen during the late 1980s, ” she says, “what I would call the ‘expanded view of photography’ which moved outside of reportage/straight documentary of figures such as Sebastião Salgado (1990) and Gordon Parks (1993), to incorporate wider notions associated with lens based image-making plus computational photography, whilst also acknowledging the growing importance of identity politics and multidisciplinary practice. ”

Francesca Woodman, Self-Deceit # 1, 1978
© Betty and George Woodman

Bo from “Being and Having”, 1991 Number of Gregory R. Miller plus Michael Wiener © Catherine Opie, Courtesy Regen Tasks, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Soloman L. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Much of the credit with this change in emphasis, Rogers says, is down to the incoming director Paul Wombell, who held the posting at Gallery from 1994 to 2005. “He went on to appoint curators along with extraordinary vision, ” the girl continues – people which includes Jeremy Millar, “who has been responsible for curating Quickness with TPG as well as the Whitechapel Gallery, and Kate Bush, who curated trailblazing exhibitions by women photographers, and introduced artists for example Francesca Woodman (1999) and Catherine Opie (2000) in order to British audiences for the first time. ”

One of the shows that felt especially key when plotting out the coordinates of this 10 years in photographic history consist of An Economy of Signs – Modern Indian Photography (1990), which Rogers explains as a seminal exhibition for TPG. “India had been lengthy interpreted through Western eyes, but this exhibition, curated through the eyes of American indian artist, writer and curator, Sunil Gupta , took a new approach. The eight artists particular represented a generation given birth to since the country’s independence. Their own work was evidence of a brand new vision addressing the variety of the subcontinents’ histories and cultures, ” she clarifies.

Relatedly, The particular Impossible Science of Being – dialogues between Anthropology and Photography (1996) has been another major moment, getting, “at a time when series of anthropological photography inside British museums were being reassessed in relation to colonial, Western histories, ” Rogers states. Curated by three anthropologists from the Royal Anthropological Company, the show featured works in the form of lantern slides, cartes de visite, rare publications and projected images, supplying what Rogers calls, “a critical and thought-provoking hunt for anthropology’s photographic legacy. ” 

Elsewhere in the program of that decade, Photovideo: Photography in the Age of the Computer (1991) was an additional obvious choice for inclusion. “The show featured mixed media and experimental practices from a diverse and dynamic group of artist including Keith Piper, Susan Boyce and Kativa Sharma and was prescient in the later growth (from 2012) of our very own digital programme , because it analyzed the digitisation of pictures and technology’s critical function in reformulating our knowledge of the image. ”

Throughout the 90s, Rogers says, Wombell transformed up what it meant to be a director by combining this with the role of curator, and in doing so, he shaped a powerful legacy. Not only did he launch the Digital photography Prize in 1997 (first supported by Citibank, after which by Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation since 2005), but also in curating timely plus relevant exhibitions that shown how the medium was changing as the turn of the centuries approached.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and publisher based in Brighton. She has created on photography and culture for over 40 international mags and journals, and held positions as editor intended for organisations including The Photographers’ Photo gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Personal Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MOTHER in comparative literature plus criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London

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