Forbes 275h


Helen Levitt, New York, 1980

Rethinking the Historical Subject of Street Photography: From Helen Levitt to Keizo Kitajima

Friday, 8 November 2019, at 18:30
Concordia University, EV-1.605 (map)

Duncan Forbes
Independant curator and writer
Getty Research Institute and Research Fellow at the Canadian Photography Institute

This talk investigates the “living ‘who’” of street photography, conceived in relation to others in the street and the relentless motor of historical change. Exploring the work of key practitioners – including Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, and Keizo Kitajima – I want to complicate recent accounts that position street photographers narrowly as mediators of a “psychological gesture,” or as exemplars of documentary photography’s “subjective turn.” Rather, what might it mean for the street photographer to be understood as insistently social, as inexorably temporal? How are we to account for her evolution as an historical subject? The talk concludes with a conundrum: if during the course of the twentieth century the street photographer became photography’s liberal democratic subject par excellence, is anything resembling street photography even possible today?

Duncan Forbes is a curator and writer based in Los Angeles (US), where he also works at the Getty Research Institute. He was previously Director of Fotomuseum Winterthur (CH) and Senior Curator of Photography at the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (GB). His publications and exhibitions include Provoke: Between Protest and Performance: Japanese Photography 1960–1975 (Steidl, 2016), Beastly/Tierisch (Spector Books, 2015), Manifeste! Eine andere Geschichte der Fotografie (Steidl, 2014), and Edith Tudor-Hart: In the Shadow of Tyranny (Hatje Cantz, 2013). Recent essays have appeared in Helen Levitt (Kehrer Verlag, 2018), Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins (Prestel, 2018), Camera Austria International (AU), ZUM (BR), and History Workshop Journal (GB). He is currently a Research Fellow at the Canadian Photography Institute.


Of Related Interest:

A Conversation with Duncan Forbes (Circulation Exchange)