LOS ANGELES – Acclaimed filmmaker Noah Baumbach, best known for The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Marriage Story (2019), selected 16 photographs from the Acropolis photo series, shot during the summers of 1983 and 1984, by Tod Papageorge, for an exhibition running April 8-May 27 at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, according to The Hollywood Reported (THR).
“In March 2020, James Danziger launched an exhibition of famed photographer Tod Papageorge's Acropolis photographs at his Danziger Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York City,” THR reported, adding that “the gallerist was excited to mount the show not only because he's a fan of Papageorge — an influential figure in photography who served as director of Yale's graduate photography program for more than 30 years — but also because it was to be the first exhibition after bringing Papageorge into the Danziger fold from another gallery.”
The COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately forced the show to close a week after opening.
“It was grim and disappointing," Danziger told THR which noted that “the abrupt closure […] left only the gallery's website as host of the black-and-white images.”
Shortly after the New York show closed, Danziger “received an email from an assistant requesting one of the images for her boss,” THR reported, adding that “the interest led to a sale of a Papageorge photograph, Danziger's favorite from the show” and “little did he know at the time that the unnamed buyer was acclaimed auteur Noah Baumbach.”
“I was absolutely delighted because I'm a big fan of his films," Danziger told THR which noted that “he was also pleased to see Papageorge's work going to such an inspiring artist, as was Papageorge, but then came an inspired idea.”
“There's such a connection between Noah's aesthetic and Tod's aesthetic that I thought there might be an opportunity to see if he would curate the show when we relaunched it in Los Angeles,” said Danziger, THR reported, adding that “through a partnership with longtime friend and fellow gallerist Peter Fetterman, Danziger planned to bring Papageorge's Acropolis images to Bergamot Station, where they have a joint space at the Santa Monica art hub.”
“I put in the request and it was immediately accepted,” he told THR.
Baumbach's 16 selected images, according to Danziger, "all have drama or incident," THR reported, noting that they “reveal much about the scene surrounding the Acropolis with its camera-toting tourists dressed in everything from sandals and jean shorts to wide-brimmed hats and sundresses.”
Baumbach, whose most recent film Marriage Story is available on Netflix, released a statement about the photos: “Tod's beautiful sunburnt photos are an incredible document of a time and a place but also a hilarious and incisive commentary on how we are all tourists at some point in our lives. These people become both invaders of the Acropolis and also a subject all their own,” Baumbach said, THR reported.
Papageorge said in the press release for the exhibition, “I made these photographs in the summers of 1983-84, a month each year of dry heat and biting light. To my eyes, their often shallow, plate-like space calls up Greek vase painting and the low relief sculpture (collected/connected here like a frieze). Not to mention that their ‘characters’ tend to burn with vitality or charged solemnity of myth. But that’s just me, remembering how the immemorial procession up to Athena’s temples set me buzzing every time I joined it, thrilled to be near the great place.”
One of the most notable photographers of our time, Papageorge was born in Portsmouth, NH in 1940. He is known for both the originality and quality of his work as well as his influence on the generation of students he mentored while the Director of the Yale MFA photography program from 1979-2013.
An early participant in the seminal American school of street photography practiced by his contemporaries and friends Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and Joel Meyerowitz, Papageorge’s path through photography has taken him from the streets of New York to the capitals of Europe, from black and white to color, from small to mid-sized cameras, but always towards describing in his work an increasing clarity and luminosity. Central to this project (if not his life) is the question of what makes a photograph extraordinary, even as he uses nothing more than direct observation of our common, physical world in his efforts to trace on film a revelatory or transcendent moment.
Papageorge is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, as well as numerous other collections. He is the author of seven books, including Passing through Eden: Photographs of Central Park; American Sports, 1970, or How We Spent the War in Vietnam; Studio 54; and Dr. Blankman’s New York.
More information about the exhibition, On the Acropolis: Tod Papageorge Curated by Noah Baumbach, at Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica is available online: https://www.peterfetterman.com/ and https://www.danzigergallery.com.