Being just a jaunt across St James Park from PA towers, the National Portrait Gallery is a popular destination for us –
My colleague Fran Lambert has already written an excellent blog on their Hoppe Portraits exhibition.
Meanwhile I’ve been enjoying the NPG’s slightly less feted but equally enjoyable companion exhibition ‘Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer’.
Born in Russia in 1908, of Armenian heritage, Kar worked in Egypt & Paris before arriving in England in 1945 where she gained renown documenting the emerging post war arts & literary world of London & Europe.
Henry Moore, George Braque, Bridget Riley, Iris Murdoch and Jean-Paul Sartre were just some of those who Kar photographed.
What is most striking about Kar’s compositions are how contemporary they seem. Sculptors such as Barbara Hepworth are placed interacting with their work. Artists are photographed in their studios, behind the scenes. She had the mature photojournalist style of the early 21st century, and she had it 50 years before everyone else.
Hindsight and celebrity can sometimes lend such material a value beyond it’s own ascetic worth. But that’s not the case with Kar, her portraits are so well designed that they stand as images in their own right, regardless of the subject
Later Kar broadened her repertoire photographing in Cold War East Germany and Cuba. Again she seemed able to blend into every environment, documenting government officials, artists and ordinary people, none of whom were routinely accessible to other western photographers.
Kar died in 1974 but not before becoming the first photographer to have a retrospective exhibition at a major London art gallery in 1960.
Her legacy and achievement in changing how photography was viewed has faded somewhat since. But this exhibition, which runs to 19 June 2011, gives her work a well deserved platform to be re-appreciated.
Post by Tim Kerr, Head of Photography @ TNR Communications