Time, place and context caught in passing

Time, place and context caught in passing Cañón de Chelle (1873), © Bank of America Collection. Photo: Timothy H. O’Sullivan
Moment in Time: A Legacy of Photographs. Works from the Bank of America Collection.
Curated by Anne Hodge and Sarah McAuliffe  National Gallery of Ireland, Rooms 6-10 | Beit Wing, until March 22, 2020
Moment in Time: A collection of Photographs
(Museum of Photographic Arts, €45.00)

Continuing the National Gallery’s new involvement in the arts of photography, in many ways the art form of modern times, this exhibition (made possible through the generosity of the Bank of America) will prove a delight to many visitors.

It draws on a remarkable collection which the Bank initiated with Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, the distinguished historians of photography.

Unlike earlier collectors such as Helmut Gernsheim in the late 1940s who concentrated on saving examples of historic photographs from oblivion, the Newhalls had the opportunity of concentrating the Bank of America collection on prize examples of the work of eminent photo artists.

Hastobe seen

In the present show, one can see examples of many of the most eminent, making this a show which has to be seen. However, being a special collection, the vision is limited. For instance the examples of the work of Elliot Porter and Ansell Adams do not, I think, truly reprint the genius of those artists, which was for large landscapes in monochrome or muted colour.

Nor indeed is European photograph broadly represented – this is after all an American collection, though there are some very striking images from the extraordinary Jacques Henri Lartigue.

Nor indeed given the date of the collection are their samples of work from such areas as Asia, African and Latin America, only now being tentatively explored – though Japanese and Indian images have already passed into our common heritage.

Fine production

The book associated with the show is a very fine production, and well worth acquiring for those with a special interest in the history of photography.

There are Irish notes to the show. Timothy H. O’Sullivan (born into Famine Ireland) widely known for his grim images of the American Civil War is represented by some striking landscapes in New Mexico — which one would love to see more of.

And among the most striking images in the show (one remarked on by several people I have talked to) is one of a herd of white deer in a Wicklow forest, by Paul Caponigo (1967), which is something quite magical, evoking echoes of  Celtic Ireland.