In a collaborative effort Bennington Museum and Bennington College have selected photographs from the portfolios of Jonathan Brand, John Hubbard, Neil Rappaport, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander, to present a very special exhibition entitled People/Place: American Social Landscape Photography, 1950-1980. “Each of these photographers explores the human condition within the public sphere, the social landscape. Careful framing and split second timing are key aspects of their practice, and we have selected a wide range of their best work,” states Jonathan Kline, Faculty Member at Bennington College and his students. Combining these photographs to create an exhibit of wordless literature is an effort made by the College and Museum to link themselves as one, share photographs from separate archives, and allow visitors to enjoy the exhibit as a community.
Jonathan Brand’s journey In October 1967, from Manhattan’s Upper West Side to Bennington, Vermont was fully documented in black and white images by Brand. He shot approximately 45-50 rolls of film in three days. Images from the series include gleaming new gas stations and rusty old cars, interiors of the Paradise Motel and a diner on West Main Street, portraits of family members and candid shots of people on the street. He photographed tourists visiting the Bennington Battle Monument, and people viewing displays at an antique show, monks at the monastery at the Everett Mansion and policemen perched on stools at a luncheonette counter, and daughters Ulrika dancing in a yard and Jenny asleep in her stroller. Over one thousand images were taken, and in 2010, 174 were donated to the Bennington Museum.
While John Hubbard’s photographs vividly capture the people of Bennington as they worked and played 35-40 years ago, they too reflect his personal vision, offering glimpses into the lesser-known social aspects of the town. As a young, socially conscious man living in Vermont in the early 1970s, many of his images depict young progressive types including artists, craftspeople and back-to-the-landers. Added to these are portraits of older people.
Neil Rappaport lived and worked in Pawlet, Vermont for nearly thirty years. He was a self-taught photographer who established the photography program at Bennington College, where he served on the faculty from 1970 – 1997. Around 1979, Rappaport began taking students from his Advanced Photography class on field projects into the communities that surrounded the college. Here they were to make a visual record of what they saw as Rappaport taught them “how to find subject,” and put themselves in environments that were new to them. He taught them how to let the camera be the bridge to the subject. These photographs, over 165 of them and all anonymous, became a “Bennington Visual Census,” providing a glimpse at life in Bennington in the late 1970s.
Although Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander rarely travelled through southern Vermont, they are both known as the most influential American street photographers of the second half of the 20th century. Winogrand’s spontaneous images of everyday life frequently incorporate unusual camera angles along with implausible configurations of people within his viewfinder. Friedlander is best known for complicating the viewing experience by the use of reflections and shadows, and using street signs and windows as framing devices. Both address issues of fragmentation, alienation, and the wonder of the everyday.
Participants from Bennington College included students Michael Ash, Iris Bennett, Amelia Bois-Rioux, Rocco Farano, Cassandra Langtry, Abby Mahler, Nathaniel Miller, Nathan Paul, Hannajane Prichett and faculty member Jonathan Kline. They, along with Jamie Franklin, curator at the Bennington Museum curated and installed this exhibition. People/Place: American Social Landscape Photography, 1950-1980 will be on view at Bennington Museum from August 15 through November 8.