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PERFORMING FOR THE CAMERA, THE TATE MODERN

06.06.16

To gain a closer insight into what this season’s campaign title, A Portrait Of Reiss means, we took to London’s Tate Modern to view their exhibit, Performing for the Camera. It’s scheduled to run until the 12th June so now is the time to book a visit if you’re yet to experience the pop-up photography display on offer at one of the city’s most iconic galleries. The exhibit is open daily 10.00 – 18.00 and until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday. Find out more about the exhibit and book tickets here Shop our SS16 collection, A Portrait Of Reiss

Curated by Simon Baker to examine the relationship between storytelling and photography, Performing for the Camera presents a range of imagery spanning everything from the introduction of print photography to today’s social media-governed society. In an interview with the Tate, Baker states that photographic language is taking over modern day culture, and that we, as a society, are becoming increasingly familiar with the consistent need to perform for the camera. This makes his curation ever timelier, and he explores a range of sub themes within it, presenting ideas from how these stills can document a performance to the opportunities surrounding self-portraiture.

Of particular interest was the Staging and Collaboration space, as it relates directly to any fashion feature or editorial shoot produced both in the past and present day. It examined how photographers stage scenes in order to create a certain mood or theme as opposed to simply capturing a natural event. What was most interesting about this curation was the exploration of how this notion has evolved over time, with black and white photography stealing particular focus. In his interview, Baker states that photography is; ‘a much more sophisticated operation than simply documenting a performance.’ This room that elaborates on that.

Another sector worth setting time aside to wander is the Public Relations focus which displays a round-up of how portraiture has been used as a form of advertising over the years. Exploring the ways in which the art world is becoming increasingly more marketing-related and nodding to the use of celebrity endorsement, it’s an especially relevant topic.

‘When we think about photography we should think not only about how it originated but also where it ends up’ says Baker. ‘We might think of photography as being about cameras but’s it’s also about dark rooms and publishing and books.’ This section explores that notion, putting a slightly different spin on the overall theme.

Performing Real Life is the closing section of the exhibition and the place that we found the topics outlined to be the most relatable to the here and now. The curation looks into the use of photography in social media and the ways in which we have all become “photographers”, documenting the day to day happenings of our lives. Interestingly, at an earlier point in the exhibit, an Andy Warhol image was annotated with the words; ‘Following a gift of a camera in 1976, Warhol began to photographically document every aspect of his life, from the people he met to graffiti on the streets.’ This seemed somewhat ironic when read in the light of present day media considering that something that has become the norm was once considered a revolutionary exploration of art.

Here, the stand-out works were that of Amalia Ulman, whose project, Excellences & Perfections is a scripted performance via her Instagram feed. Unsurprisingly, comments and reactions were mixed, but highlighted the notion that photography such as this is not only a case of performing for the camera but is also a way of bringing people into your performance. The comments became part of her work.

In summary, the Tate Modern’s exhibit, Performing for the Camera, offers a detailed insight into the themes surrounding portrait photography and explores both historic and present day ideas.

In order to view the exhibition before it ends on the 12th June, book your tickets now.