Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s

I recently visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see its new photography exhibition. If you’re interested in counter-cultures, and street photography,  this show is for you.


Last Saturday, I saw Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

From Kenneth Anger to Nan Goldin, this show is full of thought provoking shots, and lasting impressions. What’s more, it manages to flow seamlessly from artist to artist – despite the many differences in their narratives.

Being a fan of Diana Arbus, it was great to see some of her best known photos, but of all that I saw, I was most impressed with Carl Winogrand. The date and range of his work is impressive, and the curators did an excellent job in contrasting his shots of poverty and protest with those of the ruling elite. There’s a certain timelessness to it all, and given the current political climate in the U.S., it’s as relevant as ever.

As the above paragraph suggests, this is a distinctly American show, and it covers a time of great change and turmoil in U.S. history. That said, it is also a deeply humanistic show that highlights the coming of age of people previously pushed to the fringes. The room dedicated to Gordon Parks and his documentation of a struggling black family is especially powerful, as are the many unaccredited shots of cross-dressers on retreat.

All told, this exhibition forces the viewer to confront realities both past and present. We’ve come a long way since the 1980s, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s is at the AGO until May 29, 2016.