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Everyday Epiphanies: Photography and Daily Life Since 1969

By Ruth Dunn on June 25th 2013

Documenting subjects in our personal space is common practice in an age of online image sharing, smart phones and affordable cameras. You might be very aware of that fact, but did you know that since the birth of photography in 1839 artists have also used photography to explore daily life and intimate and aspects of everyday existence?

‘Everyday Epiphanies: Photography and Daily Life Since 1969’, an exhibition currently on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explores 4 decades of artists who have used photography to capture these moments of everyday experience. Through these 4 decades of work, the audience can see the transformations that have occurred in the way daily life has been lived over time.

3._Untitled_Jan Groover

Jan Groover (American, 1943–2012),Untitled, 1980, David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1981, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1981.1077) © Jan Groover.

Included in the exhibition are images that explore the way daily life in Western Europe and America was called into question in the late 1960s by a counterculture that rejected and broke free from the previous “cookie-cutter” lifestyle. In the 60s feminism, psychedelic drugs and space exploration opened new and alternative ways to perceive reality, while artists and thinkers in the ’60s and ’70s proposed a “revolution of everyday life.”

Likewise, in the ‘80s and ‘90s factors present in society and life-changing events led to new trends in the way daily life was lived and the way photographers captured this. In the ‘80s, artists’ often made highly staged or produced images that hinted at how we are mediated by the images that surround us.

8._Untitled_Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953), Untitled (from the series “Kitchen Table”), 1990, printed 2013,Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art © Carrie Mae Weems.

Then came the digital age–photographs and videos that confused the real and the imaginary, the use of photography to comment on the shifting sands of how we come to know the world in our digital age, and a proliferation of new ways to produce, edit and create photographs.

Though the digital age brings with it new ways of capturing images, in our day and age there also seems to be a mixture of past decades present in the way we produce photographs. We see photographs of countercultures trying to break free of the conventional, photographers exploring new ways to perceive reality and life-changing events documented by photography.

What are your thoughts on using photography to explore daily life in this day and age?

‘Everyday Epiphanies: Photography and Daily Life Since 1969’ runs until January 26, 2014.


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Ruth is a Brisbane based journalist specialising in articles about visual art, photography, design and fashion. Co-founder of Raw Ink magazine, she enjoys uncovering interesting and unique events, issues and people to write about.

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