Saturday, October 02, 2004

JFK for President @ ICP (exhibition review)

JFK for President: Photographs by Cornel Capa

International Center of Photography 1133 Ave. of the Americas at 43rd St.

After the Republican Convention and Bush vs Kerry debate, observing the “JFK for President” exhibition could not be more in tune. Many of the photographs shown, look familiar. These images where taken by the renowned political photographer Cornel Capa, one of LIFE’s magazine regular photojournalist. The artist’s touch is visible in every piece due to its intimacy with the characters and surroundings. His storytelling techniques are warm and repetitive.

Approaching the first pictures which show Kennedy's relatives, Capa wants to transmit the feeling of a chronological family album. Afterwards, different sized crowds constantly appear in the photographs. Most of the people seem enthusiastic . The repetitiveness of these elements, are misleading and prevent the observation beyond the studium. Nevertheless, there is a hidden treasure (punctum) underneath Capa’s work. Mystery surrounds the photographs environment and out of place objects or characters are shown in a subtle way. For instance, Campaigning in Wisconsin displays Kennedy casually talking to a group of five ladies on the sidewalk. He is reclining his back on a parked car and casually on the background there is a Billboard with his camping ad. The punctum is represented by the tallest lady in the crowd. She is wearing a red barrette hat and her face shows disagreement and skepticism. Everything else is flowing in a normal way. She stands out.

Photojournalism can be quite a daunting job during a campaign. In this exhibition, it is clear that Mr. Capa was hired by JFK . The photographs are aesthetically perfect, nevertheless, they fail to show different sights of one of the most memorable president’s in campaign. Its as if looking at a newspaper and reading the headlines, we get the picture, but are not tempted to delve in it to discover the subtexts surrounding it.