The New York Public Library has a wide-ranging (sprawling one might say) show up right now entitled “public eye“. The show, the first such large scale retrospective survey of photography undertaken by the NYPL, is intended to explore the ways in which photography is and has always been both widely shared and encouraged such sharing. The ubiquity of the medium and its ability to be transmitted has made it uniquely able to move ideas between locations and over time. Photography was a sharing medium before social media.
Of the numerous books in the show, three caught my eye as being relevant to this blog. In KPB’s review of Lee Deugyoung’s Two Faces I noted that his book referenced Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Ruscha’s book is included in the NYPL exhibit beside a similar book published in Japan in the mid-1950s: Ginza neighborhoods & eight subdivisions of Ginza by the photographer Yoshikazu Suzuki (edited by Kimura Shohachi and published in Tokyo by Toho-Shuppan in 1954). A few steps away was a book that predated Ruscha’s and Suzuki’s books by almost a century: Eadweard Muybridge’s 13 panel panorama of San Francisco (in book form).
What struck me seeing these three books and thinking of Lee’s book was the way that variations of a single form could emerge in such different times and places, drawn from such different concerns and used with such differing intents. The cross-pollination that occurs between cultures, over time and across distance is difficult to map or to measure.
There are almost certainly other such connections to be made from the NYPL’s show. A single point of connection opens one up to potentially numerous connections. “public eye” is well worth seeing if one is in New York City.