“Humans, unlike other living creatures, want to make and look at pictures.” So begins the introduction to the jaw-dropping array of photographs in Long Story Short, the latest in Fraenkel Gallery’s idiosyncratic surveys of photography since the medium’s invention 180 years ago.
A surprising and unconventional slice of photography’s history, Long Story Short is also an abbreviated tour of Fraenkel Gallery’s approach to photography. Published to mark the gallery’s 40th (and still counting) year, this sumptuously designed and printed volume presents work by photography’s masters alongside that of little-known artists and anonymous thrift shop finds.
Among the images to be discovered here are Eadweard Muybridge’s 1887 study of a contortionist performing extreme body movements; Man Ray’s 1923 ghostlike rayograph of an irradiated banjo; and a female impersonator applying her lipstick backstage, as seen by Diane Arbus in 1959.
Interwoven among these are anonymous photographs of a tornado touching ground near Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, in 1896; astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing beside an American flag on the moon in 1969; and a lawn mower flying inexplicably over a meadow in 1974. Presented in approximate chronological order, the unconventional flow of images conveys a profound sense of photography’s infinite riches, and is a meditation on the inexhaustible possibilities of the medium itself.