An early participant in the American school of street photography Tod Papageorge’s path has taken him from the streets of New York to the capitals of Europe, from black and white to color, and from small to mid-sized cameras. Central to his art (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 a revelatory moment.
Papageorge’s L.A. beach photographs (a series of pictures now 40 years old but looking surprisingly current) weave together the casualness of youth and timelessness of nature.
In random groups, Papageorge’s subjects unselfconsciously compose themselves into distinct tableaux. A young man, tanned and trim, rises above the ground like a statue. A girl with a flower in her hair tenderly brushes her boyfriend’s hair. A group of young surfers on their way to the waves arrange themselves like ducklings heading to a pond.
In these lightstruck black and white pigment prints we are transported by the singular vision that has brought us these sun-kissed moments.
The recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, Papageorge’s work is represented in the collections of MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, SF MoMA, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, as well as numerous other collections. He is the author of seven books and as the Director of the Yale MFA photography program from 1979 to 2013 Papageorge’s influence as both photographer and teacher continues to reverberate in the world of photography.