Chasing Stories: ‘Eyes wide open! 100 years of Leica photography’ featuring Christer Strömholm The stories behind the images, by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle at Eyes Wide Open! in Madrid

Following its enormous success in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Portugal the spectacular exhibition ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 years of Leica photography’ is now visiting Spain on the next stop of its tour and can be seen in Madrid from May 11th to September 10th, 2017. More than 400 original prints are being shown in Madrid. Photographs by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nick Út, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Lebeck, Julia Baier and François Fontaine document significant moments in the history of art and culture from 1914 to the present day. The exhibition showcases significant moments of the past century of Leica photography. Chasing Stories are written by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle and the exhibition will take place at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid.

© Christer Strömholm, Estate 2014: Nana, Place Blanche, Paris 1961

Christer Strömholm: Nana, Place Blanche. Paris, 1961

This photograph is a chronological latecomer. Taken by Christer Strömholm in the early 1960s, it did not find a way into his 1983 coffee table book, Vännerna Fran Place Blanche (Joy of the Place Blanche). The picture was only discovered after Strömholm’s death by his son Joakim, who has made it available as a “key visual” for our exhibition. Strömholm, who was born in Stockholm in 1918 and passed away in 1997, is counted among the most important Scandinavian photographers of 20th century. He was not the only foreigner for whom Paris in the 1950s had a profound impact, aiding in the development of his themes and visual vernacular. Names like Tore Johnson and Rune Hassner almost evoke the sense of a Swedish diaspora, in which artists were drawn to Paris, feeling at home in the intellectual climate of existentialism. Strömholm lived in very humble lodgings near the Place Blanche, and soon became familiar with a group of young transsexuals there. “Every night I would gather my pipe, my old Leica, some rolls of Tri-X film, and my poor French language skills, and go to the brasserie at the Place Blanche,” Strömholm recounted. “Everybody knew what I was about. I never photographed in secret. I worked without a flash, and instead focused on utilizing the available, often neon, light.” The gorgeous Nana was something of a star among his photographic discoveries, and it is by no means a coincidence that she graced the cover of his Vännerna Fran Place Blanche. Strömholm’s pictures emanate closeness, empathy, understanding and humanity. This was no small feat at a time when people of other sexual orientations were ostracised and discriminated against – if not thrown in jail. Our photo was taken on the street. Nana gazes mischievously at the photographer, striking a teasing pose with a gesture that speaks of both seeing and being seen. Nana wanted to attend the opening of the 2014 Eyes Wide Open! exhibition in Hamburg, but unfortunately died of a brain tumour shortly before the vernissage.

Visit this website for more information about ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 years of Leica photography.’

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