The Museum's Library & Archives is closed to the public from June 16 – August 5. Further information can be found here.

RSS Feed

Art Review: Nathan Benn shares 1978 photos at Cape Ann Museum

Posted: 1/16/17

By Keith Powers, correspondent, Salem Wicked Local

Link to the article here.


 

Nathan Benn visited Cape Ann in the way that he visited many of the far corners of the world - carrying his camera, looking for images that captured the essence of the locale. For six months in summer and fall of 1978, Benn roamed Cape Ann looking for quintessence. He found much: Rockport on the Fourth of July, Emile Gruppé holding forth in his Rocky Neck studio, clammers on the Essex flats, Simon Geller looking disturbingly haggard in his Duncan Street radio station/apartment. His work was published in "National Geographic" in 1979, and now it's on view at the Cape Ann Museum. "Kodachrome Memory: Nathan Benn's North Shore, 1978" runs through Feb. 19.

Nathan Benn visited Cape Ann in the way that he visited many of the far corners of the world - carrying his camera, looking for images that captured the essence of the locale.

For six months in summer and fall of 1978, Benn roamed Cape Ann looking for quintessence. He found much: Rockport on the Fourth of July, Emile Gruppé holding forth in his Rocky Neck studio, clammers on the Essex flats, Simon Geller looking disturbingly haggard in his Duncan Street radio station/apartment.

His work was published in "National Geographic" in 1979, and now it's on view at the Cape Ann Museum. "Kodachrome Memory: Nathan Benn's North Shore, 1978" runs through Feb. 19.

Benn worked at "National Geographic" for two decades, before leaving magazine photography (and the analog world) to become a leader in digital archival work in the early 1990s. His compendium, "Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990" (PowerHouse Books), published in 2015, is available for viewing in the gallery.

Benn has described his work as "concerned photography." And although a photographic retrospective like this is necessarily nostalgic, and narrative of time and place, Benn has insisted that "when I had the camera in my hand I was reacting, I wasn't thinking."

These images are hardly a tourist's guide to North Shore vistas. Shots of the Back Shore are close-ups of the rocky coast, not outward looking views of the expansive sweep. Clam flats are dimly foreboding. The personalities-Geller, Gruppé, the sculptors Katharine Lane Weems and Walker Hancock, publisher Lovell Thompson, and, curiously, the famous Salem witch Laurie Cabot-reflect a kind of Wiki knowledge of Cape Ann in that era.

But the Kodachrome work-color that refuses to fade, and was beautifully intact when Benn began organizing his archives after a 20 year hiatus-makes these three dozen or so images alive and real. A selection of aerial shots add a different perspective. There is no narrative thread through this exhibition-none was intended-except for the memory that the viewer brings to these images.