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America in Crisis Photography Exhibition

My projects focus on ‘The Performative Aspect’ of fashion and documentary photography allowed me to direct my research more specifically towards practitioners who’s outcomes held a strong purpose such as to educate, entertain and document. As primary research, I attended the America in Crisis Exhibition organised by the Saatchi Gallery in London with the intention of collecting inspiration and examples of variation of physical outcomes. ‘The Performative Aspect’ of my project allowed me to gain a different perception of the images presented in the exhibition, as I wanted to correlate it to the ‘Performance of Livelihood’ section of my magazine; a section focusing on how people’s rituals and practice is a performance within itself in an attempt to understand the purpose of ones actions.

Fig1: Emily Mobbs, America in Crisis exhibition taken on 35mm Film, 9 Feb 2022, SAATCHI GALLERY, London.

The America in Crisis Exhibition consisted of 40 leading American Photographers and over 120 works exploring social change in the U.S from the 1960s to the present day. The purpose of America in Crisis was to assess the state of the nation and was conceived in 1969; since then the project has been known as a “ground breaking group initiative”. It exhibits a collection of photographers work, from the 1669 Magnum Photo Project and new work created five decades later, creating a dialogue of how America and creative perceptions of events have evolved. The exhibition of  ‘great social, political and cultural change’ contextualises key historic events in the U.S in a diverse and contemporary way.

“America in Crisis,” Saatchi Gallery, London, Saatchi Gallery, 21, Jan, 2022.

Fig 2: Emily Mobbs, America in Crisis exhibition taken on iPhone 13 Pro on 0.5 Lens, 9 Feb, 2022, SAATCHI GALLERY, London.
Fig 3: Emily Mobbs, America in Crisis exhibition taken on iPhone 13 Pro on 0.5 Lens, 9 Feb, 2022, SAATCHI GALLERY, London.

In my sketchbook I aim to elaborate more specifically on the photographers I was most attracted to in the exhibition and how they correlated to performance. Through out my project I have continued to expand on the definition of performance, in attempt to pull away from the idea that it connotes a theatrical response.

The photographers exhibited within the America in Crisis exhibition are all documentative, including a variation of photos encapsulating the livelihood of America. For me this was inspiring, and showed how the simple scenes and situations captured conveyed the most powerful messages. It was a form of natural performance; performance of life.

Fig 4: Kris Graves, Photographs describing how protestors dismembered and painted over statues to cover up America’s white supremacist past, 2020, Lee Square, Richmond, Virginia.
Fig 5: Eve Arnold, Cutting apples and baking pies for supper, 1958, Miller Place, Long Island, New York.
Charles Harbutt, Riverdale Balcony, 1968, Upper Manhattan, New York.

These were a few of the images that really stood out to me due to several factors such as perception and simplicity. The lack of need for choreography simplifies the photography, however enhances the authenticity of the photos. Unlike most documentary photography, I was very attracted to pieces where the people were acknowledging the camera whilst appearing unfazed; it enlightens the shots and captures expression without being disruptive. Photographing a natural setting can often change the mannerisms of ones projects, resulting in a less candid shot, however photographers such as Eve Arnold and Charles Harbutt are exceptional at finding the balance. The photos show livelihood and comfortability, something I want to be able to capture within my photos. My aim is to capture the authenticity of my what was happening when I took the photos within the Performance of Livelihood section of my magazine, maintaining a key focus on the performers and an audience reaction, depending the setting.

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