Friday, April 29, 2016

AGO: The Outsiders. Thursday, April 28 2016

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is presently staging a photographic exhibition, The Outsiders, of the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s. These photographs are not formally staged or posed. They are taken, often with hand-held cameras, by photographers who knew their subjects intimately. The people presented are from communities often considered as outsiders by more mainstream Americans.

The photographers shown were depicting a side of the States not usually shown by the TV, media, movies, etc. This was a world far removed from the ideal of happy families living in suburbia in the well-ordered houses run by the wives and mothers forced by convention to remain imprisoned behind the white picket fences. That ideal has been exposed now for the false picture it gave. The truer picture is of many unhappy women forced to live lives of boredom and loneliness trapped in the god-forsaken wilds of suburbia. But it was still being touted as what everyone ought to desire. The photos in this exhibition portray other small worlds within the larger world of what was considered normal.

Those many minority worlds range from the top echelon of society who are the super rich, to bikers, nudists, drag queens, crossdressers, a poor family in Harlem, peaceniks, hippies, social agitators protesting everything, even animals. This collection of photographs certainly fills in the picture of the States during the years of tremendous social upheaval that followed the Second World War. It brings memories of life as it was, and how much it has changed. How even the ideal of how families ought to live has changed from that white picket fence in suburbia.

The curators of the exhibition present the thesis that these photographers and their photographs changed the way people viewed the world. They consider that the social changes that have taken place were prompted by these images. Perhaps it was the photographers who were reflecting the thinking of their times.

Interesting exhibition guaranteed to revive memories in all those who lived through those years. It also may illustrate for younger people how different the world looked in those days. It certainly makes clear how much attitudes have changed since then.

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