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Within the halls of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), two shows enter the intersection of light, art and imagery – an exploration of the fine art of photography, localized for an audience that lives in one of the nation’s most photographed cities.

Something in the Way – A Brief History of Photography and Obstruction is the fifth exhibition in NOMA’s series “Histories of Photography.” This latest exhibition examines how real-world obstructions often intrude on the photographer’s original intent. Painters can exclude whatever they want from their work, but photographers often must make do with life’s interruptions. Sometimes, these are happy accidents that elevate the artistry of the picture.

“Photography means the acceptance of the world as it is,” says Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings at NOMA. “Things we want and sometimes things we don’t want end up in the picture…Sometimes the thing we come to value most about a photo isn’t the reason the photo was taken.”

The obstructions can lend a subtext to the photo that otherwise wouldn’t exist. An example: Walker Evans’ A Graveyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, PA. The placement of the cemetery in front of the mill implies a relationship -perhaps causal – between the two subjects; namely, that grueling labor in the mills led many to an early grave.

Some of the selections are more comical: a number of photos feature the photographer’s finger or thumb blocking some of the shot. Others feature a photographer’s shadow obstructing the intended subjects. These are flaws that are less likely to be duplicated in the modern era of digital cameras, where a photo can be instantly reviewed, deleted, and retaken if such an error occurs.

Whether humorous or profound, the intrusions of the unexpected lend these photos a sense of authenticity and spontaneity lacking in many other forms of art media.

“There’s something illicit about an obstruction,” says Lord. “You feel like you’re stealing this moment from the rest of the world.”

Sometimes the thing we come to value most about a photo isn’t the reason the photo was taken. Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings at NOMA.

Five images from Kenneth Josephson, one of the most innovative photographers of the 20th century, are on display in Something in the Way. NOMA’s other new exhibit, Photography Is, is dedicated solely to Josephson’s work.

Born in 1932 and still alive, Josephson was a photography student at the Rochester Institute of Technology before joining the army in 1953. After working as a photolithographer in the army, he returned to finish his studies at RIT, then pursued graduate studies in photography at the Institute of Design. He later taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for forty years.

His work explored many of the central relationships in photography: flatness and depth, light and shadow, and the real world and representation of it.

“He’s never been given the credit I think he deserves,” says Lord. “He’s really inventive. He always keeps us guessing as to what might be real and might be fabricated.”

Stockholm, 1967 is a photograph of a car with what looks like its white outline colored into the street. The reality of the picture: it had snowed recently. However, the snow on the street has melted while the snow in the shadow of the car has been protected from the sunlight.

One photo in the collection, Hollywood, plays with depth and perspective. Josephson took the picture standing downhill from the iconic Hollywood sign. In his left hand, he holds a meter stick towards the sign; at that angle, the stick look like the center line of a road leading to the sign.

A common theme in Josephson’s work is the photography of photography. For example, one of his photos is a picture of a picture of a brick wall attached to the same wall, slightly peeling away so the viewer can tell the photo is there. Here, the photo functions as both an image (the picture itself) and an object (the photo peeling off the wall in the picture).

Both exhibits will be on display at NOMA through January 1, 2017. All of the above images are by Kenneth Josephson.

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The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

WWNO

WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

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WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

PRC

Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

NOMA

As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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