Past Exhibition Tate Modern – Cruel and Tender

Posted on November 27, 2011


I came across this article whilst reading an article by David Bate  After Postmodernism? . Bate is responsible for the Photography Studies programme at Westminster University. In this essay he argues that Post Modernism with its inter-textual referencing and ‘genre-switching’ …where one genre of photography is switched for another one…(usually a genre regarded as most irrelevant, indifferent or ethically opposite to that institution) to pull the rug out from under the viewers feet. may have been replaced by a renewed interest in expressive realism. Bate cites the 2003 Tate Modern Exhibition Cruel and Tender, with a sub-title, the Real in the Twentieth Century  as an example of this.

Bate regards Walker Evans as the most influential photographer in this exhibition. Walker Evans photographs emphasised the vernacular and he deliberately avoided romanticising or aestheticising his subjects. Indeed he often photographed in harsh (or cruel) light. Evans was concerned with the subject, not with the process of photography as was the case with other Modernist photographers such as Edward Weston.

The exhibition featured a wide range of photographers many of whom have continued to be influential today. Several amongst them work on portrait series. The Tate Modern website  here has a number of videos of the artists which will be a useful resource for my studies.