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Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera at Tate Modern

Juxtapoz // Friday, 28 May 2010

Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera

Tate Modern Museum, London

Words by Leah Borromeo


An exhibition intended to open discussion about surveillance and the gaze, Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera opens this week at London’s Tate Modern. The show explores themes of eroticism, celebrity, violence and security in the world around us. Over 250 works have been selected by Tate Modern in conjunction with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“Human hunger for seeing the forbidden has not changed,” says curator Sandra Phillips from SFMOMA. “This show explores invasion and the rules of privacy.”


Its curators concede that words used in photography are also used in hunting. Capture. Shoot. Release. Like a hunter, a photographer either sneaks up on prey or chases after it. The strength in Walker Evans’ composition lies not only in a clever use of thirds, but in his covert methods. Nobody knows their photos are being taken candidly. Yale Joel photographed people as they arranged themselves in a one-way mirror – spying on people going about the everyday and capturing them at their most vain. Some people made a television programme based on that idea, franchised it and called it Big Brother.


Exposed is an intelligent and informed show. Everywhere you go in the exhibition, you cannot escape what artyfarts call “the gaze”. If you feel dirty viewing Gilles Peress’ images of the Rwandan Genocide, you should. If you’re captivated by Merry Alpern’s sneaked shots through a bordello’s window, brilliant. The show is showcasing the theft of privacy and questions the basic notion of privacy. You should walk out of it feeling like a thieving pervert. What steals your soul isn’t the act of photography, but consuming the image and walking away without considering it. You ask yourself at what point does nosiness and prying become art? At what point does the documentation of death and oppression become pornography?


Surveillance is a “functional image taken with purposeful intent”. As you walk around the show, look up. Find one of the five million CCTV cameras in the UK gazing at you with impassive regard. Then see if you can view the show with your new, more complicit eyes.

Garry Winogrand - New York 1969

Harry Callahan - Atlanta 1984

Morris Engel - Shoeshine Boy with Cop 1947

Shizuka Yokomizo - Stranger No. 1 1998

Chris Verene - Untitled (Red Back) 1997

Larry Clark - Untitled from the portfolio Tulsa 1971

Untitled from the series The Park 1971

John Goodman - Tremont Street #3 Boston 1978

Susan Meiselas - Pandoras Box Security TV I

Jonathan Olley - Golf Five Zero

Alison Jackson - Queen playing with the corgis 2005

Weegee - Marilyn Monroe c.1950s

Marcello Geppetti - Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burt


Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera

Tate Modern, London

May 28 - October 3, 2010





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