Louisiana Arts and Science Center
Baton Rouge, LA
Newman's Gift: 50 years of Photography
August 25 -- November 1, 1998
Throwing his hands up in the air during a 1994 interview with Kathie Meredith, photographer Arnold Newman exclaimed animatedly, "I love people. I love them. They interest and intrigue me more than anything else. It's not how famous they are. It's the way they live their lives, what they do with their lives."
Taking this as his working credo, Newman early began to photograph subjects in their own surroundings, together with the trappings of their work. In so doing, he has become known as the dean of environmental portraitvre. Along the way, Newman has also become one of the handful of world-class portrait photographers of the 20th century.
Although Newman's subjects are frequently icons of modern culture, his interest in them as "doers," not as famous persons, is in keeping with his unpretentious attitude toward his own work. Critics and viewers of his portraits would disagree with him, but Newman regularly repudiates the term artist for himself, declaring instead that he takes pride in being a hardworking professional photographer with a creative approach. His photographs are in the collections of George Eastman House, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among other museums throughout the world.
Now 80, Newman was only 20 when he began his career as a professional portraitist. His early photographs of the urban poor in southern Florida reveal a social consciousness that evolved in the early 1940s into his unique vision. That vision was firmly established in a touring one-man show sponsored by the Philadelphia Museum of Art entitled Artists Look Like This. Both Alfred Stieglitz and Beaumont Newhall encouraged his new direction, and Newman moved to New York. There he has lived and worked for most of his career as a freelance portrait and magazine photographer.
The title of this retrospective exhibition, Newman's Gift, refers both to Newman's talent and to his generous donation to George Eastman House of 96 prints of his work to match a donation of 80 prints from Kodak. The 140 prints in this exhibition, including rare vintage prints, are drawn from that combined donation.
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