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On view are pieces by Charles Aubry, Carleton Watkins, Eugene Atget, E.J. Bellocq, Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Helen Levitt, Romare Bearden, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Sophie Calle, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Mel Bochner, Wardell Milan, Elisheva Biernoff, and Liz Deschenes.
Whitewaller spoke with President of Fraenkel Gallery, Frish Brandt, about the special occasion.
WHITEWALLER: What have the past forty years looked like for Fraenkel Gallery? What has changed over the years?
FRISH BRANDT: Jeffrey Fraenkel and I have always been committed to seeking out and exhibiting what we consider the best in photography as well as being a resource for San Francisco, offering guidance and perspective as collectors and museums shape their collections.
Forty years ago, photography was expressly not considered to be “art.” Over the past 40 years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with adventurous and challenging artists; to help shape the careers of photographers that we are deeply passionate about; and to play a role in the shaping of the market for artists such as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Robert Adams, among others.
WW: Take us back to the gallery’s very first show.
FB: Our very first exhibition in 1979 was a solo exhibition of works by Carleton Watkins. This started a long history of the gallery exhibiting 19th and 20th century photographs and, when the time came, 21st century. We could not have done this without an engaged community and a talented and hardworking staff.
We have always said that 99% of our audience never buys anything and we’re fine with that because the first thing we want to do is present work for people to have a first-person experience with. Photography is curiously well suited to reproduction in publication, however, having a gallery is our way of proving a point that there is still something to standing in front of a work of art.
WW: Tell us about “Long Story Short,” the anniversary exhibition, and its accompanying book.
FB: “Long Story Short” is an exhibition, as well as an accompanying catalog, that considers, in a personal and eclectic fashion, the roughly 180-year history of photography. Photography has come a long way, and we have all come this long way as well. We live in a time when we are inundated with images, mostly photographic and increasingly digitally. We see more pictures in a day than people of another generation saw in a year.
“Long Story Short” invites the viewer to pause and ponder images and image-makers who have created works that insist upon sustained viewing. This exhibition moves from pivotal photographs by artists like Carleton Watkins, Alfred Stieglitz, and Man Ray, to contemporary works by Sophie Calle, Katy Grannan, and Liz Deschenes, and includes the U.S. debut of a new animation by Christian Marclay.
As is the tradition of the gallery’s “eclections,” the show is punctuated by a series of vernacular photographs that help to capture what makes a photograph great without having a known maker attached to it. We have been collecting anonymous images since our first official anniversary catalog on the occasion of our 15th year and has always been an essential aspect of the way we ponder the known and the unknown.
WW: What have been some highlights of your time with the gallery?
FB: Without question it is the relationships that punctuate all that I do. Hosting events is of special meaning because it allows us to share some of what we value most in our work with a larger audience. This includes a range of conversations we have presented such as the evening with Sophie Calle and Larry Rinder; another with Vince Aletti and Nan Goldin; the book signings with Alec Soth, and another with Richard Avedon and Doon Arbus, and on rare occasion the very special class visits with Chuck Close, Robert Adams, Adam Fuss, and others.
And, a special shout out to our show with Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller – artists I had been dreaming of working with for 10 years.
It is also worth noting that a highlight of my time at the gallery is working with an amazing team of people. Jeffrey and I couldn’t do what we do without them. Working all together and with Jeffrey is a highlight all unto itself.
WW: What’s next for the gallery and how do you think the next 40 years will look?
FB: In many ways “Long Story Short” offers a look forward. It proposes a new way to think about photography’s history as well as photography’s present and future. We see ourselves continuing to expand our purview, as we trace the thread of photography through contemporary art. We are excited to see how the artists that we work with and the artists whose careers we are interested in continue to expand on the medium of photography while also engaging with and responding to new mediums.