The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection at Tate Modern, SE1

The exhibition including 191 works will be interesting for everyone who likes art and photography.


All the 191 works were chosen from the famous Sir Elton John’s private collection of photographs. The exhibition shows the talents, the topics, and the quality standards of the great specialists in modernist photography.

The event will show everyone how the pioneers in the new era of photography opened a whole new view on portraits, landscapes, and all other things that can be photographed. Another reason to visit the event is the quality of printing these photo have, which is excellent. This is one of the best things in the world that money can buy.

Glass Tears (1932) by Man Ray. Elton John has has one of the world’s best private collections of the photographer’s workTHE SIR ELTON JOHN PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION COPYRIGHT/ THE IRVING PENN FOUNDATION

For example, here is the Edward Steichen’s 1924 photograph of the actress Gloria Swanson. Her cat-like face is obscured by a layer of lace, overlaid on the picture. The pin-sharp quality of the black lace over her black turban — phenomenally difficult to achieve — is astonishing. Or André Kertész’s tiny first contact print of his Underwater Swimmer, a 1917 photograph of his brother, swimming at full stretch across a pool in Hungary. As an example of the modernist obsession with capturing refracted light and movement it is glorious, but it’s also so clear that you can pick out the stripes on his (also tiny) swimming trunks.


As Sir Elton points out in the charming audioguide he has recorded for the show, it’s also a homoerotic image, seen through certain eyes. His commentary is worth a listen, because it gives a personal view that you can’t get from a curator (though there’s that too, also illuminating). His view is important — the singer is a serious collector, but he’s also a guy who lives with and loves his pictures. A couple of walls here are laid out as they are at his house in Atlanta, and the frames — “quite flamboyant” as he accurately describes them — are a refreshing change from boring black.

The singer has one of the world’s best private collections of Man Ray, and here we see the artist’s Noire et Blanche diptych shown together — a rare treat. He also has a lot of Irving Penn, and there’s a choice group of the American’s corner portraits: the jazz musician Duke Ellington looks the most reserved of a bunch that includes Gypsy Rose Lee, Salvador Dalí and Noël Coward. There is hard-hitting documentary — Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans’s images for the Farm Security Administration are as shocking as they must have been in 1936. Next to Lange’s famous Migrant Mother hangs another shot of a girl, dirty, suspicious and scrawny with hunger. The title: The Damage is Already Done.

There’s also playful experiment — the original airbrushed print of Herbert Bayer’s Humanly Impossible (self-portrait), in which a section of his arm has become detached, or Edward Weston’s nude, ingeniously reduced to a collection of perfect limbs. For anyone who even vaguely likes photography, this is a must-see show.
Tate Modern, from November 10 to May 7