BLOW-UP THE EXHIBITION // Cinema + Photography

Back from Germany, The Other Sight opens this Berlin segment with the excellent exhibition dedicated to the cult movie Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. This Italian, American and British film won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1967, but it is also the work of great photographer Arthur Evans, of Carlo di Palma and of David Montgomery. The works of photographers such as Don Mc Cullin or Shezad Dawood directly inspired this film.

David Montgomery, Michelangelo Antonioni & Carlo di Palma / Blow-Up / 1966

We know Blow-Up for its perfect artistic direction but also for its way of making photography part of the plot, but had we ever considered all the aspects of it?

The pitch: The main character in Blow-Up is a London photographer, well known on the 60s fashion scene. In the middle of putting together reportage on the social stakes of those times in England, Thomas, the young photographer –played by David Hemmings—becomes the witness of a crime. He discovers it little by little as he processes his rolls of film.

David Hemmings / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans

The Blow-Up exhibition works around 4 main themes: voyeurism, fashion photography, so-called social reportage but also the 60s “Swinging London“.

First voyeurism since Thomas (David Hemmings) is hiding while shooting a couple in love in a park. Every angle and widening of this scene is dissected in this part of the exhibit. To the point of transforming photography into abstract art.

Vanessa Redgrave & Ronan O’Casey / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans.

David Hemmings / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans.

The next theme is a little lighter: fashion photography. The shoots of English models wearing pop art of the day are highlighted. Indeed, the pictures insist on the looks on their faces, the entire film’s style and Thomas’ nonchalant but demanding attitude. We spot a young Jane Birkin, rather naïve, ready for anything to become a model. The outfits are extravagant, sexy and colorful. The art direction is very clean and sophisticated. Through these scenes, the movie Blow-up refers to the historical influence of the three photographers founders of the Black Trinity group: David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy.

Jill Kennington, Peggy Moffitt, Rosaleen Murray, Ann Norman, Melanie Hampshire & David Hemmings / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans.

Jane Birkin & David Hemmings / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans

Now, let’s get into the 60s Swinging London part and its particular character: the desire for freedom, rock and roll, excesses and its icons. The group of mimes that appears in several scenes of the movie is there to characterize the London youth’s desire for freedom and all its eccentric traits. Another mythical scene of the movie is the one of a rock group’s concert and the hysteria that ensues among its groupies.

Rag-Day-Studenten / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans

If Thomas, the main character can seem indifferent to what surrounds him, this first presumption is quickly washed away once we understand the object of the first scene of the movie. In order to take a few shots, the character immerged himself in the daily life of a social center in London. Going through the shots that will make it in his project with his editor, we quickly notice the rise of unemployment, the difficult work conditions in factories and the daily lives of blue-collar England, these are the problems accentuated by the black and white photography of what will become a book.

David Hemmings / Blow-Up / 1966 par Arthur Evans

The Blow-Up exhibition is until next February 19 at the Museum of Photography C/O Berlin. If you are not in Berlin or won’t have an opportunity to go there, at least watch this cinema AND photography masterpiece. This exhibition was installed to be part of the Berlinale 2015 festival.

A little plus: the museum is open until 8pm.

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