Saturday, 3 June 2023, 4-6 pm. 

The artist will be present!

Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to present the solo exhibition At the Beach featuring a selection of Tod Papageorge’s black and white photographs taken between 1975 and 1988 on the beaches of California. Although the photographs were taken over three decades ago, they still seem surprisingly current today and timeless in their classic composition. They embody the Zeitgeist and the Californian way of life with its unmistakable mix of lightness, body culture and consumer culture against a scenic backdrop of dazzling beauty.

As one of the most influential figures of the American Street Photography school, Tod Papageorge’s path has taken him from the streets of New York to the capitals of Europe, from black and white photography to color. At the heart of his art is the question how photography is able to reveal extraordinary poetic moments through the observation of our everyday, physical reality. On the beaches of Los Angeles and the adjacent beaches up and down the coastline, Papageorge put aside his Leica and worked intensely with a medium format camera for the first time. While produced during these visits, Papageorge’s images of the beaches and boardwalks effectively constitute a single, if extended, encounter with a densely populated—and physically contained—landscape not unlike those found in his other bodies of work, namely New York’s Central Park, Studio 54, professional sports stadiums, and the Athenian Acropolis. I think that part of what these beach pictures are about is the difference between our preconceptions of a place and what, when we get there, that place turns out to be. In this case (of Los Angeles and its coastline), I think it’s also fair to suggest that those preconceptions are particularly strong, shaped as they irresistibly have been by the movies and popular music. So, as a first point, what I wanted to do on this At the Beach project was examine those preconceptions (at least as I conjured them) through the descriptive power of photography in order to pin down what two semi-myths–the world of surfers and the life of southern California beaches–‘really’ looked like.” (Tod Papageorge)

Far from the hustle and bustle of metropolises, the light-filled images in the series At the Beach once again bear witness to Papageorge’s unique artistic vision: In groups of young people, Papageorge’s motifs arrange themselves unselfconsciously into multilayered tableaus that find their model in classical painting. A lifeguard, tanned and muscular, rises like a statue above the beach. Long-haired young surfers carrying their boards into the waves; women in bikinis lolling on blankets; children digging in the shallows; sunbathers on the sand. Tod Papageorge’s photographs from Studio 54 in the late 1970s have a similar aspect of exaggerating and condensing beauty and bodies in space. “I knew I was using a camera that could capture the beauty of light in a stunning way. The light is a very, very powerful component.” In order to show these complex light scenarios and its precisely balanced silvery greyscales, the complete portfolio with 26 images as well as selected large-format individual prints are presented in high-quality produced analog gelatin silver prints.

Tod Papageorge has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts grants. His work is represented in numerous museum collections, including the MoMA in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. As director of the MFA photography program at Yale University from 1979 to 2013, Papageorge’s influence as a photographer and teacher continues to impact contemporary photographic art. He has influenced generations of photographers, some thirty of his students went on to become Guggenheim fellows and among such them acclaimed artists are Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Gregory Crewdson, and Anna Gaskell.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Stanley/Barker, London, June 2023.

An interview of Tod Papageorge talking about the series At the Beach is available on YouTube.

Watch the video here.

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