Something in the Way: A Brief History of Photography and Obstruction and Photography Is are on view September 9, 2016-February 19, 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA-Based on NOMA’s permanent collection, Something in the Way: A Brief History of Photography and Obstruction explores what obstructions in photographic images, be they accidental or intentional, can tell us about photographic vision, and photography’s relationship to the world it records.

Since the earliest days of photography, camera based photographers have had a contentious relationship with the real world. Every photograph is a negotiation between what exists in front of the camera and what the photographer is willing to include. Some photographers have employed methods to eliminate distracting parts of the picture—masking out sections of the negative, manipulating the print, etc.—but others have chosen to accept everything within the frame as a necessary condition of photography, even when certain elements in the picture obscure others. Still others, especially in the twentieth century, intentionally sought out obstructions, framing the world aggressively with bold occlusions that prevent us from seeing part of it. Sometimes playful, sometimes staunchly conceptual, these kinds of photographs draw attention to photography’s dual dependence on the real world and on the photographer, who determines how much of that world we get to see.

“NOMA’s photography collection is one of the finest in the country and its full range allows us to explore the history of photography through a variety of approaches and themes,” said Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director. “This exhibition takes a single concept, photography and obstruction,  and examines photographs from 1843 to 2015 that are alternately serious, humorous, touching, and visually challenging.”

“This will be the fifth exhibition in NOMA’s series of ‘Histories of Photography’,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints and Drawings. “Each of these exhibitions take a particular theme in the history of photography and explore it from the beginnings to the present, using NOMA’s incredible and vast permanent collection.”

The exhibition spans almost the entire history of photography, beginning with a photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot (one of the inventors of photography) made in 1842, and ending with a contemporary work made by Bernard Voita in 2014. The exhibition also features recent acquisitions of work by the PaJaMa group,Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Kenneth Josephson, Ray Metzker, and Ralston Crawford, all of which will be presented for the first time.

Organized in conjunction with Something in the Way: A Brief History of Photography and Obstruction, Photography Is presents a survey of the work of Kenneth Josephson (American, born 1932), one of the most inventive photographers of the second half of the twentieth century.

Throughout his career, Josephson has explored photography’s central relationships: between light and shadow, flatness and depth, the real world and its representation, and the image and the object. In his work, these explorations take many different forms—multiple exposures, richly printed street photographs, landscapes, and pictures of pictures—but these disparate works all share one thing in common: every Josephson photograph refers back to itself or to the processes that created it. While these ideas might lead to dry, analytical images, in Josephson’s hands they result in playful, beautifully composed photographs that surprise, challenge and delight. In one, for example, he photographs his own shadow looking down into a ravine. As a result, his shadow is split by the depth of the ravine. In another, the strange silhouette of a car, which appears to be the result of darkroom manipulation, is in fact un-melted snow, preserved by the car’s shadow blocking the sun.

The world, as it exists in his photographs, seems to be made for photography, but sometimes Josephson is the one who made it. His early images of bright white ferns in the forest record the dappled light filtering through the trees. Later, however, he painted the leaves white himself and then recorded the results of his actions. Collectively, his work suggests a host of definitions for photography—photography is about lightness and darkness, about immediacy, about representation—but individually, each photograph seems to celebrate the existence of photography, to revel in the process that brought it into being, and to delight in the simple fact that photography is.

Born in Detroit, Josephson’s training as a photography student at the Rochester Institute of Technology before being drafted into the army in 1953. After working as a photolithographer in Germany for the army, he returned to R.I.T. where his teachers included the influential historian Beaumont Newhall and prominent photographer, Minor White. He continued his study of photography as a graduate student at the Institute of Design in 1958 working under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. Josephson was later hired to teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he worked for almost forty years.

Something in the Way is organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art. Support is provided by Tim L. Fields, Esq. and the A. Charlotte Mann and Joshua Mann Pailet Endowment Fund.

 About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 5,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents, courtesy of The Helis Foundation. (May not include special exhibitions.) Teenagers (ages 13-19) receive free admission every day through the end of the year, courtesy of The Helis Foundation.