Exhibit Review




In and out of the studio: Photographic Portraits from the West Africa is located at the Metropolitan Museum on the second floor, in the Mezzanine Gallery. As you get to the gallery you come across a big yellow sign that has an introduction of the exhibit. As you walk into the exhibit the room is filled with a row of photography going vertically on each wall. The walls are white so the only thing that stands out, are the photographs. The room is very dull and simple and had lots of negative space all around. There wasn’t too much information given. There were only a few photographs that had descriptions on them. There were different photographers that took photographs that were throughout. I believe the main concept of all the photographs were to capture the people of West Africa. It was to grab the attention of photographers who are into travel or history and can see for themselves the different things there is to see in West Africa. All the photographs were of people, their cultures, and everyday lives. As you explore more into the exhibit you see that the room has a mood of emptiness, like it still could have been under construction or something must have been missing.

The different things that are shown throughout the exhibit are photographs of people in West Africa. The photographs pertain traditions. We also come across different mediums that the photographs were made off. For example I came across a photograph that was very interesting. It was of several men sitting right by each other in their suits and the whole photo sort of looked like an x-ray because of the color aspect it had. The photograph’s medium was glass negative, which refers to two separate formats the collodion wet plate negative and the gelatin dry plate. Both of these formats consist of a light sensitive. What we do not see throughout the gallery is color; everything in the exhibit was kept simple and colorless.

Even though I found the exhibit and most of the photos dull, I did come across a photograph that caught my eye. It was a self-portrait of the photographer himself in his photo studio. He was sitting down reading a newspaper and starring right into the camera with a shocking stare. The photograph has a contrast of different tones of grey but you can see the lighting of the sunlight beaming into the photograph. The photograph was shot on eye level and was a close up of the photographer. Malick Sidibé taken in 1956 calls the photograph Self-Portrait. The medium of the photo is a gelatin sliver print, which refers to the photographic process used in printing paper. This particular photograph caught my attention because it had a colorful hand painted frame of different patterns throughout. It was the only color I came across throughout the exhibit. The frame was bright orange and was said, to be added to the photograph decades later after the photo was made in order to add traditional feel to the photograph.

The exhibit conducts photographs of portrait photography in the West Africa. We see many photographs of people in their everyday lives. In my defense, I believe the exhibit ties up well with the matter of the subject, which is culture. I think we are so used to seeing things that are so spectacular and eye catching that we never notice details. In this exhibit the photographers wanted us to capture the details and meaning of each photograph by looking at each one of them. I believe that all the negative space all around was purposely done in order to get us to focus on what the main subject was; which were the people of the West Africa. The emotional aspect throughout is very delicate because you have to grab a sense of a different perspective than what you are used to seeing in your everyday life.


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One Response to Exhibit Review

  1. rmichals says:

    I agree that the exhibit was a bit dull. I had thought that it would include a generous selection of photographs by Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibi. Instead there were only a few. I am glad you picked out one to focus on. The lighting and the expression are both great in this self-portrait by Sidibi. Think about both lighting and expression as you take some portraits in the next few weeks.

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