Writing for the Camera opens at the Getty
Los Angeles – Photography – a word derived from the Greek terms phos (light) and graph (writing or drawing) – is, by definition, a means of “writing with light”. The medium’s inherent relationship with writing is manifested in a variety of ways, from the use of captions and inscriptions to the appearance of words in images, signifying its expansive narrative potential.
In Focus: Writing for the Camera, from February 22 to May 29, 2002, presents ten artists who explore the deep link between writing and photography. Featuring works made since the 1970s, this exhibition showcases imaginative conceptual approaches to the practice of combining written words and photographic images over the past fifty years.
“Modern and contemporary artists have often used a variety of media to create their work, and many have incorporated photography into their practices,” says Timothy Potts, director of Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This exhibit celebrates the fruitful conversations such diverse media can spark when brought together.”
Drawn primarily from the Museum’s permanent collection and complemented by key loans, the exhibition will include photographs by Sophie Calle, Eileen Cowin, Anthony Lepore, Marcia Resnick, Carrie Mae Weems and William Wegman. Recently acquired works by Laura Aguilar, Hal Fischer, Shirin Neshat and Allan Sekula will also be exhibited at the Getty for the first time.
Many of the works selected for the exhibition represent the creators themselves, while some allude to their presence through textual traces that include handwriting and correspondence. These forms of authorship underscore the role of performance – which may involve theatrical concepts such as staging, posing, and acting – in the interaction between photographic images and text.
“In an interview with the Paris review, Joan Didion compared the impulse to become a writer to working as an actor because, she inferred, both careers constituted performance,” says Amanda Maddox, associate curator in the Department of Photographs and curator of the exposure. “I think the same goes for photography. It requires the performance of practitioners behind the camera who, in the case of this exhibition, also perform in front of the camera, so to speak, inscribing or writing their own words as part of their work.
The artists featured in the exhibition – or representatives of their estates – have been asked to write short texts for the labels that accompany their work. Their illuminating remarks reinforce the fundamental role that text can play in the interpretation of photographic images.
In Focus: Writing for the Camera will be on view from February 22 to May 29, 2022 at the Getty Center. It is organized by Amanda Maddox, associate curator in the Department of Photographs. This exhibition is presented in parallel with Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective.