Exploring how humans witness each other, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) presents an expansive selection of photographs in a new exhibition titled People Watching: Contemporary Photography since 1965. The show examines how people look at each other: as a recreational activity, an act of surveillance, a type of harassment, a sign of empathy, and a documentary form of expression. The idea for the exhibition came together in the wake of the global pandemic of 2020, when social distancing and shelter in place orders transformed the understanding of one’s relationship to others, as well as the recent social and racial justice movements, when people were demanding to be seen, heard, and respected. The exhibition brings together a group of images from 1965 to the present that investigate the ways in which artists represent individuals on the street, at home and at work, in the studio, and during journalistic assignments. More than 120 photos are featured by almost 50 photographers from the last 60 years, including Diane Arbus, Alfredo Jaar, Sally Mann, Irving Penn, Accra Shepp, Andy Warhol, and Ai Weiwei, among others.
“We could not help but be inspired by the sudden changes to how we view each other and ourselves in 2020. With People Watching we have mined the collection for artworks that will give us and our audiences a chance to analyze the ways in which we look at each other and portray each other,” said Frank Goodyear, co-director of the museum. “In doing so, the exhibition presents important works from the museum’s diverse collection, some of which are going on view for the first time. And while People Watching is about noticing differences, it is also about attempts to find common ground, an idea that is especially poignant at this point in time.”
The exhibition features more than 40 works acquired since 2020. This selection includes works generously donated by collectors Nancy Rutter Clark, Joseph Baio, and Robert Freson, among others. It also features many photographers, whose work has only recently been added to the collection, including Adou, Jules Allen, Larry Burrows, Chan Chao, Paul D’Amato, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Mikki Ferrill, Jona Frank, Katy Grannan, Graciela Iturbide, Rashid Johnson, Meryl McMaster, Daido Moriyama, Laurel Nakadate, and Farah Al Qasimi.
People Watching : Contemporary Photography since 1965
from June 24 to November 5, 2023
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art
245 Maine St.
Brunswick, ME 04011