Photos, films find profound in ordinary people

Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:46pm EDT
 
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - An exhibit of photographs from the 1930s and 1940s and the work of a contemporary artist and filmmaker both show the profound in the everyday lives of ordinary people.

"Signs of Life; Photographs of Peter Sekaer," which began this month at the International Center for Photography (ICP) and runs through January 8, 2012, is the first major museum exhibit dedicated to Sekaer's work.

The Danish documentary photographer, who died in 1950, contributed to U.S. government photographic projects during the Great Depression after immigrating to the United States and studying photography with Berenice Abbott.

"Sekaer's photographs are among the finest produced in the Depression era in the United States," said ICP associate curator Kristen Lubben.

Working with American photographer Walker Evans in the South under the auspices of the U.S. Farm Security Administration, Sekaer photographed everyday scenes from New York to New Orleans: a machine factory in Savannah, Georgia, Salvation Army Musicians in Cleveland, Ohio, a prison chain gang in Georgia.

By earning his living as a sign painter, he inhabited both the working and artistic classes.

His photographs documenting government-sponsored relief efforts, and the conditions that required them, make his work particularly timely. The U.S. Census Bureau's latest annual snapshot of living standards shows 22 percent of children live below the poverty line, the largest percentage in nearly two decades.

"The images encourage the viewer to examine the attitude toward federal involvement in relief efforts in times of economic crisis," Lubben explained.   Continued...

 
<p>A photograph by Peter Sekaer, "Navajos in front of sign for Tuba Trading Post, n.d.", is seen in this handout released to Reuters by the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York on September 16, 2011. The "Signs of Life; Photographs of Peter Sekaer," which began September 9, 2011, at the ICP and runs through January 8, 2012, is the first major museum exhibit dedicated to Sekaer's work. REUTERS/International Center of Photography/Peter Sekaer Estate High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA/Handout</p>