The Radical Eye at Tate Modern // Review

The Radical Eye - Tate Modern

The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection

On the very first page of Susan Sontag’s book, ‘On Photography’, she says ‘To collect photography is to collect the world.’ That’s exactly what The Radical Eye is.

Taken down from the walls of his home, The Radical Eye exhibition has been curated from the collection of Sir Elton John. These photographs hang in the same frames here at the Tate Modern as they do in Sir Elton’s Atlanta base.

Since 1989, the music legend has built up a fantastic collection of photographs from the golden age of modernist photography. This was from the 1920s/50s, a time of experimentation, a time where these photographers wrote the rule book for what we now know.

From the image of Man Ray’s ‘Glass Tears’, which has been used to promote the exhibition, to Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’, these are world known images and I felt like a kid in a candy store, wandering through the exhibition.

Before Instagram, before being able to take a photograph on your phone, these were the pioneers. Film was expensive, developing film was pain stakingly slow in today’s terms. Each frame set up was a deliberate click, not a series of random clicks until you get the one that works. The results these photographers were able to achieve with their knowledge of their equipment and media is staggering.

Curator, Shoair Mavlian has done a fantastic job choosing from Sir Elton’s 8000 piece collection, one of the biggest private collections in the world.

It runs until May 21 2017. Go see it! Who knows when you’ll ever get a chance to see all these masterpieces together in one place again. That is of course, unless Sir Elton invites you over for a cuppa.

You can see some of the images here but you know what? Go see it, the vintage prints look better in real life than on a computer screen.

Find out more from Tate Modern.

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