Martin Karplus: IMAGES FROM THE 1950's THROUGH THE PRESENT
("The Visible Image Represents an Invisible Truth"; from a 10th century manuscript)
When I was completing my PhD at Cal Tech in 1953, my parents gave me a Leica IIIC. I brought the Leica with me to Oxford, England where I had a postdoctoral fellowship at the Mathematical Institute. Since I was only 23 years old and had studied continuously all the way through graduate school, I was eager for the sojourn in Europe to provide experiences beyond science. A National Science Foundation fellowship gave me a generous (at the time) salary of $3000 per year, which was sufficient to do considerable traveling. Outside of the three six-week university terms during which I was in residence in Oxford, I made numerous trips throughout Europe. Meeting people and being exposed to their cultures, art, architecture, and cuisines was an incredible experience, which has had a lasting effect on my life.
Thoughout these travels, I was intent on recording what I saw and took many photographs. They preserve my vision of a world, much of which no longer exists. Economic development, universal communication, and war have taken a heavy toll: Many of the towns and villages have been destroyed or replaced, everyday costumes of the time are at best worn at events for tourists, and much of the social fabric of the communities has been destroyed. Many of the people I photographed belonged to the last generation to live in a way that had existed for centuries. Each area I visited in Europe and America had its own traditions that have now disappeared as the world has been homogenized.
To record many of these images, particularly those of people, I used a Hector long focus lens. Its reflex viewer made possible recording an image while facing away from the subject. This permitted me to take close-ups of individuals and crowds without their being cognizant of what I was doing. It is only recently that I learned that Paul Strand and Walker Evans used the same stratagem in the early 1920 to obtain some of their famous black-&-white images.
During the academic year 1999-2000 I found myself again living in Oxford, as Eastman Professor. While there, I was introduced to an excellent photographic craftsman, Paul Sims (Colourbox Techunique), who scanned some of the slides so that digital exhibition prints could be made. The first exhibition was held at The Cloisters (National Institutes of Health) in Bethesda, Maryland (April 2005). This was followed by solo exhibitions at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University (November 2005), at the Panopticon Gallery in Boston (August/September 2006) and at the Wolfson College Gallery in Oxford, England (November/December 2006). A large exhibtion took place at the Stimultania Gallery in Strasbourg, France (May-July 2008).and a diaporama was shown at Transphotogeniques 2009 in Lille ,France (June, 2009). There was a group show at the Real Colegio Complutense in Cambridge, Mass. (April, May, 2011). A large solo exhibition took place at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris (April, May, June, 2013). There was a solo exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York
(September-Novenber, 2014) and in Washington DC (January-March, 2015). This was folowed by an exhibition at the Einstein Gallery in Berlin (October- December, 2015), a at the University of Vienna (May-August, 2015), and at the Palazzo Pirelli in Milan (April-May). An exhibitions for is planned in San Sebastian for September-October, 2016.
IN 2005 I replaced the Leica IIIC with a Canon EOS 20D. Working with a digital camera has led me to approach photography in a new way. I continue to focus on disappearing cultures and have developed exhibitions based on trips to China and India.