The launch of Life magazine in 1936 set the stage for a hugely influential approach to using and seeing photographs: the photo essay came to dominate – and direct – the social, economic, and political narratives that underscored the 20th century. So much so that, today, images as “the photograph” are an essential tool for conveying all manner of scenes, incidents, stories of daily life, human experience and personas. “Double Take” presents the work of two exemplary, and hugely influential 20th-century photo essayists, the documentary photographers Brian Brake and Steve McCurry. Both Brake and, twenty years later, McCurry made their reputations as visual storytellers providing eyewitness accounts of great events.

The career of New Zealand-born Brian Brake (1927 – 1988) was launched in 1957 with a first photo essay on China – a second followed in 1959 with Brake the only Western photographer present to cover the 10th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.The work of American Steve McCurry (1950 – ) became a regular feature of National Geographic from the early 1980s, following the first publication in the New York Timesin 1979, of his photograph of the war in Afghanistan. Both men photographed the Indian monsoon — Brake in 1960, McCurry in 1983-1985 — which is where this exhibition begins.

“Double Take” also considers the work of these two renowned photographers from a contemporary perspective, raising critical issues about the West’s historical fascination with “exotic Asia”. What deeper stories are revealed by rereading these photographs today?

“Double Take” was initially developed from a proposal by New Zealand photography collector Jonathan Flaws to mark the 60th anniversary of Asia Society, New York. It was organized and first presented at the Society’s Hong Kong branch in 2016, and subsequently, under the auspices of the Auckland Arts Festival, at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, New Zealand, in 2017. All three iterations are curated by Auckland-based independent curator Ian Wedde, formerly Head of Art and Visual Culture at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 1994-2004.

About the exhibition

Dates: June 17, 2018 – September 9, 2018

Venue: SCôP

Courtesy of the artists and SCôP, for further information please visit www.scop.org.cn.

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