Modern City Life, Captured on Camera
Private moments in the public sphere are the focus of the Los Angeles exhibit “Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin,” which features work by three seminal photographers who captured 20th-century urban life. From 1930s Paris to 1980s New York, the exhibit features vignettes of city dwellers sitting nose-to-nose at mirrored cafés, staring coolly at the camera from park benches, and cackling over cigarettes and cake at a waterside picnic.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Nan Goldin captured the queer community during the height of the AIDS epidemic; high-contrast lighting and saturated colors infused drama into her intimate portraits, as seen in Millie With the Cheeseburger Radio at Home, New York City (pictured above). In the 1930s, Brassaï’s black-and-white photography embodied the joie de vivre of pre-war Parisian nightlife. His candid shots of partygoers and prostitutes are powerfully juxtaposed with 1960s photos by Diane Arbus, including her iconic portraits of park passers-by and social outcasts. With their humanist focus on the overlooked romance of everyday life, all three photographers tell a story of the rush and resilience of the urban experience.
“Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin” is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles until September 3.