The works included in Being take on contemporary existence and human experience through a range of issues and tactics, including interrogations of traditional modes of portraiture in the history of photography, the use of surrogates or masks as replacements for the body, tensions between privacy and exposure, and the agency of the artist. Some works might be considered straightforward figurative depictions, while others do not include imagery of the human body at all. Since its earliest manifestations, photography has been widely seen as a means by which to capture an exact likeness of a person, and the artists featured in Being mine or upset this rich history in their considerations of the ramifications of photographic representations of personhood in the contemporary moment. In turning toward the personal, some arts evoke feelings of introspection or intimacy, while others investigate social relations of community, and in so doing foreground the subject of humanity or being in the world.
The works respond to diverse lived experiences and circumstances. “While personhood is something that we all share, also inherent in these representations is the recognition of difference, which is especially urgent in our current moment when rights of representation are contested for many individuals,” said Gallun. “Universality in humanity does not mean sameness.”
Being: New Photography 2018 is constituted primarily of works made since 2016, both by artists who are just starting out in their careers, showing in New York for the first time, and by others with more established practices—and who, in some cases, have been supporting the field of photography through teaching or creating other platforms for production. For all the artists, this will be the first exhibition of their work at the Museum.